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At a recent event, Microsoft executives told me that Dynamics 365 Business Central was flying off the shelves. Over the years, I had occasionally peeked over the fence at Business Central, mostly out of curiosity. But “flying off the shelves” is a reason for me to look closer.

BTW, I did not record audio for this post because it has too many reference images.

The Next Logical Step

As a small business grows, one of the things it will outgrow quickly is its Bookkeeping software if using something like QuickBooks or Xero. Microsoft has positioned Business Central as an SMB product, but it feels more like the “next step” after bookkeeping software to me. It’s more like an entry-level ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), including things like essential “Supply Chain Management”. Many Business Central partners will disagree, feeling that Business Central is a full-blown Enterprise ERP, and that may potentially be the case with some addons, but not as delivered out-of-the-box.

Based on a 20+-year-old acquisition, Business Central and its prior versions have been deployed worldwide, at companies of all sizes, for a long time. Many Partners are supporting it, which is good since it seems to have entirely evaded the “Low-Code” revolution. But why, in all this time, have Business Central’s CRM capabilities continued to be so rudimentary? Few things are more depressing than the CRM capabilities of any Finance solution, including QuickBooks, Xero, Sage, SAP, and Business Central. CRM is not a part of their core purpose.

Microsoft’s Answer

One reason Business Central has not seen much advancement in its CRM capability, in addition to not being part of its core purpose, is that Microsoft has another product they would like you to buy… Dynamics 365 Sales. At $65-$135 per user per month, you can see why they have tried to make this as seamless an addon as possible, including a pre-baked integration via Dataverse.

Dataverse Huh?

I am intimately involved with another app built on Dataverse, our Simple-to-use RapidStart CRM. So I decided to explore the integration of Business Central with our app. It turns out Microsoft has already done most of the work for me. Integration for Dynamics 365 Sales is a two-step process. First, you integrate Business Central with Dataverse, then wire that up to Dynamics 365 Sales. That same process works for RapidStart CRM… integrate with Dataverse, then wire that up to RapidStart CRM.

Why RapidStart CRM?

Cost and simplicity are two primary reasons to use RapidStart CRM instead of Dynamics 365 Sales. If Dynamics 365 Sales is a 20-pound bag of “stuff”, RapidStart CRM is a 2-pound bag. Not only are those extra 18 pounds complicated, but they are expensive. The largest enterprise customers probably don’t use more than 10 pounds of “stuff”, and SMBs seldom need more than the 2 pounds we offer out-of-the-box. As an example, take a look at the screens below:

Dynamics 365 Sales Opportunity Record

And the RapidStart CRM Opportunity Record

Just for fun, let’s take a look at the Case record from Dynamics 365 Customer Service (An additional cost product)

And here’s the Case Record from RapidStart CRM (included with our app at no additional cost)

I think you can agree while similar, RapidStart CRM is just clearer and simpler at a fraction of the cost. Where Dynamics 365 Sales will run you anywhere from $65 up to $135 per user (and more with Customer Service), RapidStart CRM is free and runs on a Microsoft Power Apps license for as low as $5 per user.

Business Central

So let’s look at what Business Central looks like in RapidStart CRM so far (we’re still building it). First, there are two concepts to understand, “Integration” and “Virtual Tables”. Integration is keeping a table in Business Central “synchronized” with a similar table in RapidStart CRM. Contacts and Accounts to Customers, for example. A change to a phone number in one goes to the other, etc.

Virtual Tables, on the other hand, display data from Business Central within RapidStart CRM that does not exist in RapidStart CRM. Like Sales Quotes, for example. Alternatively, you could build a Sales Quote table in RapidStart CRM and go the integration route, but now you have duplicated the data, taking up capacity, and there is no advantage, as I will show you.

We made a few assumptions in our default design, all of which can be changed. First, we assumed that your Sales and Service team members would not have or need direct access to Business Central. They just need to “see” the data to do their jobs. For Accounts and Contacts, they can only update existing information. They can’t create new records in Business Central since there are probably many “Prospects” that will never become customers, and we don’t want to bloat Business Central with unnecessary records. A button could be added to create individual customer records on-the-fly. However, new Contacts or Accounts created in Business Central will be pushed into RapidStart CRM for the Sales or Service teams to engage with. To do their jobs more effectively, RapidStart CRM users can see Quotes, Orders, Invoices, and Inventory from Business Central. They can create a Quote Request from an Opportunity. This would be a blank Sales Quote linked to the Customer that is pushed into Business Central. Our thinking is that a Business Central user would fill in the Sales Quote. As an alternative, the Salesperson could potentially create complete quotes, but that would require tweaking.

Since you don’t see any differences in Business Central, I will show you the RapidStart CRM side, where you now see Business Central Virtual tables. Let’s start with the Account record.

This is an example of an “Integrated” record, and in fact, this particular record was created in Business Central and “pushed” into RapidStart CRM. Notice the new tabs for “Quotes”, “Orders”, and “Invoices”. These are Virtual Tables, and I’ll click on the “Quotes” tab to show you what I mean.

This list of Quotes may look and behave like any table in RapidStart CRM, but it does not exist in RapidStart CRM. It only exists in Business Central and is displayed here “Virtually”. I’ll open a Quote record by clicking on a link in the list.

I don’t know about you, but this looks like any other table record in RapidStart CRM, but again, it’s “Virtual”. We have set the fields as read-only as we probably don’t want salespeople making changes here, which would push back to Business Central, but we could allow that! I’ll open the Lines tab.

Still feeling like a Dataverse table, this is a Virtual View of the Quote lines that make up the Quote. I’ll open the one displayed.

Again, it looks like a Dataverse record. We have also pulled this item’s related inventory from another Business Central table.

Orders and Invoices work the same way.

So this looks great on Account records, but how about our RapidStart CRM Opportunity?

We decided that Order and Invoice were not necessary on the Opportunity. Once a Quote is accepted, the Salesperson would likely close the Opportunity as won… but not before a Quote was accepted. You can see the new “Quotes” tab. You may also see the new Quick Button to Request a Quote. In this scenario, the Salesperson does not create the Quote; a Business Central user does that. Clicking this button will create a blank quote in Business Central pre-connected to this Opportunity and the Customer in Business Central, ready for a Business Central user to complete. Let’s look at the “Quote” tab.

As you can see, a Requested Quote has been completed by a Business Central User and is displayed here “Virtually” for the Salesperson. I could open it and see all the details, but that experience is the same as above for the account, so there is no need.

Administration

I like having administrative stuff right in our RapidStart Settings app to save our users from having to go to other places to do things, and Business Central is no exception. Here’s what we are working on for Virtual Tables administration. Note: Integration configuration is done on the Business Central side.

As you can see, we added Business Central “Configuration”, “Table Relations”, and “Available Tables” to our Settings app. You can see 68 out-of-the-box Business Central tables could be virtually brought into RapidStart CRM if needed, and with some help from your Business Central partner, any custom tables you have in Business Central could also be brought in.

Why Use RapidStart CRM Instead of Business Central for CRM?

As I mentioned, Business Central’s CRM capabilities are limited since it is not part of its core purpose. Any customization that you would want to do would require development code. RapidStart CRM is a model-driven Power App built on Microsoft’s Low-code platform, meaning that most of the customizations you might like will not require a developer. RapidStart CRM is also purpose-built for Sales and Service. While your finance team needs Business Central, your sales and service teams will be more effective with a solution designed specifically for their roles.

Next Steps

We are still developing this, but it won’t take long. Once it is fully “Polished” and we write the documentation, we will launch it in AppSource as another low-cost RapidStart CRM add-on. Like everything else we create, this will also be completely customizable.

Feel free to share your opinions on what we have and what you would like to see!

Update Post regarding Case Management for Dynamics 365 Business Central

 

 

 

10 Comments

  1. Dominik Scheuringer

    Like your concept and idea very much.
    Could you please keep me posted, thanks a lot!

    Reply
    • Steve Mordue MVP

      Will do!

      Reply
  2. Sami Ringvall

    Rock On! This is fantastic!

    When you post to Johan can you please notify me too.

    Reply
    • Steve Mordue MVP

      Will do!

      Reply
  3. Johan Adenmark

    Looks good! Please let me know when you launch on AppSource 🙂

    Reply
    • Steve Mordue MVP

      Will do!

      Reply
  4. Maaike Meijer

    Really eager to know how this is established.

    Reply
    • Steve Mordue MVP

      Me too 🙂

      Reply
  5. George mocanu

    What is the minimum license required to run RapidStartCRM with D365BC?

    Reply
    • Steve Mordue MVP

      If you are referring to Microsoft license, the minimum would be the Power Apps Per App Plan at $5 USD PUPM

      Reply

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