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With its recent release of Dynamics 365, Microsoft has taken on the consulting world by providing products that do not require costly platform implementation and that will require less dependency on platform experts. Instead, there is a growing need for domain experts and end-user support specialists.
When IT evaluated the implementation of platforms such as SharePoint or Dynamics CRM in the small and medium-sized business (SMB) space, it was found that these platforms required a significant amount of consulting and technical expertise to install and maintain. Consultants are usually necessary to perform the initial platform implementation to ensure all the pieces of the application are configured and function properly.
Because of the complexity of the Dynamics and SharePoint platforms, many enterprise and SMB clients typically leveraged Microsoft partners and consulting firms that specialized in the implementation of these solutions. IT is always willing to get assistance for installation, deployment and training services, despite the high costs.
Fast forward to the end of 2016 and platforms like SharePoint and Dynamics are not available in a subscription model, and many SMBs are realizing that they no longer have to plan for large upfront costs to implement these solutions. Furthermore, they are also not as dependent on consultants as they were in the past. There are a number of stages during the implementation of these solutions that will be completely eliminated, and a significant amount of the consulting fees will go away with them.
Some of the other gains expected from moving toward SharePoint Online or Dynamics 365 include the following.
Ease of deployment of the platform with zero expertise
Platforms like SharePoint Online and Dynamics 365 can be provisioned and deployed in just a few clicks. Having these solutions offered online eliminates the high costs associated with licensing, infrastructure and installation services, as well as the complexity and knowledge required to deploy them on premises. On the other hand, on-premises systems require several days of setup and configuration, as well as a robust infrastructure on which to run.
Accessible training material
Online training for SharePoint Online and Dynamics is becoming popular. More organizations are turning to Lynda, Pluralsight and others to get access to instructor-led training videos that can help train staff on the platform. Some companies are substituting the general training offered by consultants with training available online, giving users more on-demand-based training.
Direct purchasing through Microsoft
License purchasing is another critical turning point for SMBs. Prior to having Dynamics online, companies were required to purchase licensing from partners who specialized in the platform. Now, a company can either add the licenses to its enterprise agreement or purchase Dynamics licensing from the Microsoft portal directly. This eliminates the fees that are typically included by partners and consultants.
Extendibility and customization of the platform with zero code
With the release of PowerApps and Flow, Microsoft is sending a message to companies interested in rolling out Dynamics 365 and SharePoint Online that they can now create custom forms and interfaces with zero development knowledge or programming expertise. This is another indicator that Microsoft is signaling that customers have the option to customize the platform themselves, without the need to hire consultants.
There are some limitations to how far the customization goes, however, since PowerApps focuses on delivering data capture forms, but the tight integration and support of PowerApps in Dynamics and SharePoint highlights how clients will require fewer consultants and application developers to assist them with some of the basic and simple customizations.
But before SMB companies can completely write off consultants, there is one critical capability that would be hard to replace and do without, and that's the alignment of many of the product's capabilities with business needs. SharePoint and Dynamics mean different things to different organizations, and in order to successfully implement them, a company must comply to best practices and to the planning needed to ensure a successful platform implementation. Not leveraging consultants for those needs can result in failures, and can also be more costly in the long run to the company than the costs they might have saved by trying to do things on their own.
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