Bob Familiar, an Architect Evangelist out of the Boston area, posted a nice interview with Dennis McCarthy, software architect at Kronos. Kronos is a very large global ISV with a focus on workforce management.
Dennis talks about a recent project building a software+services solution. He describes how they looked at various alternatives including building their own or using something like salesforce.com and why they eventually settled on the Dynamics CRM platform. They actually hid the sales, service, and marketing pieces completely and exploited the horizontal platform features to build a completely different type of application. I loved hearing back a lot of the things we’ve been saying about the platform.
For their project they started by sketching out the information model on whiteboard and Visio. From there they went right to the web client and built a custom model right in CRM. They customized their own entities, attributes and forms. They also built, from the beginning, with multi-tenancy in mind (kind of easy with CRM ) and used a lot of the other “stuff” like reporting, workflow, security and access-control.
It was interesting to hear that they feel that the building of the model will be done by business domain experts or business analysts as opposed to developers. I hadn’t thought of that and do agree that this is probably a lot faster to get to the right end result. One area where developers are required is in UI design. Although analysts can design simple forms and views, to get to task-oriented UI that is easier to use, they use developers. That requires pulling information from multiple sources and so requires a little more technical depth.
The platform provided them the ability to quickly translate UI into other languages. I guess that would be important to a global ISV. He also talks about reporting and workflow. They use a 2-tier approach with the domain expert using the provided tools for the simple reports and workflows and developers using Visual Studio to build the more complex ones. Dennis also mentions a few areas he’d like to see improved including skinning for branding and solution deployment.
I loved that his comment on how working with Dynamics CRM reminds him of when Visual Basic 1.0 first came out.
“… with Dynamics CRM, when you look at it as a platform, it’s sort of like that VB empowering experience only for hosted multi-tenant enterprise applications”
Watch the volume on the first 20 seconds or so as there’s a loud news flash style intro. Also, unfortunately the screen captures were done at a high resolution so it’s a little difficult to see some of the details.