ISV Hosting Toolkit for Microsoft Dynamics CRM – Part 1

The Proverbial Toolkit

The Proverbial Toolkit

In Part 1 of this series of posts I’ll summarize the parts of a toolkit an ISV needs for hosting Microsoft Dynamics CRM.  In the spirit of keeping my posts much shorter (based on good feedback), I’m going to break this topic down into bite-sized pieces.  I’ll follow-up with additional posts explaining in more detail the various pieces of the toolkit we built and some of the challenges we faced.

I mentioned in one of my first posts back in January, A Primer on Multitenancy for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, that at CourseMax we built an ordering, billing, and provisioning solution for our SaaS solution.  We host CourseMax ourselves at a colocation facility.  The toolkit is built almost entirely on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0.  In other words, we use CRM to provision and manage CRM.  That’s an intersting paradigm, isn’t it.  I always found it fascinating to think about early programmers writing text editors (vi, ed, etc.  No, don’t even say “edlin”) that they would use to edit source code to build their text editor, to build their text editor, to build their…  Is that recursion?

Control Panels, Self-Service, and Free Trials

There are many vendors out there that offer software to hosters called “Control Panels“.  These are generic and sometimes extensible.  However, a control-panel is only part of the solution.  As an ISV, you want to offer customers a simple sign-up process that starts with a free-trial and is completely self-service.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk to them, but if they don’t ever want to talk to you, they don’t have to.  If they have to call you to order your software, many potential customers will move on to the next option, your competitor.

The Tools in the Toolbox

Here are the parts of an ISV Hosting Toolkit:

  • Customer Sign-Up Forms
    • Free Trial, Buy Now
  • Tenant Provisioning Workflow
    • Automatically Provision CRM Organization, Customizations, etc.
  • Conversion Workflow
    • Can We Help, Free-Trial Expiring, …
  • Free-Trial Conversion Form
    • Payment Method/Term, Process Payment, etc.
  • Automatic Billing Workflow
    • Send Monthly/Semi-Annual Invoice
    • Send Invoice Reminders
    • Update Payment Status when paid
    • Disable CRM Organization (Payment late)
    • Redirect CRM URL to Payment Page (When grace period begins)
    • Backup CRM Database
    • Delete CRM Database (When grace period expires)
  • Tenant Self-Service Seat Management
    • Manage Licenses (Increase/Decrease Number of Seats)
    • My Account
      • Account History
      • View Invoices
      • Pay Invoice
    • Manage CRM Users
      • Apply Licenses to Users
      • Add Users
      • Disable Users
  • Operational Control Panel
    • Update Customizations on Multiple CRM Organizations
    • Deploy Reports…
    • Register Plug-Ins
    • Deploy Data-Maps

Making it Easy

The key is making it easy.  By that, I mean make it easy for you and easy for your customers.  That’s why computers were invented, wasn’t it.  Having a click/try/buy option on your website is a big advantage for you over your competitors that don’t have this option.  Having automatic billing means that you don’t have to hassle as much with billing and collections.  I promised to keep it short so that’s all for now…

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