Sometimes organizations need to extend outside of their CRM community and share selected information with non-CRM users. The aim is to provide users with additional features that standard CRM cannot. This is where Web Portals come to play.

Let me first explain in simple words what a Portal is. A Portal is a web page frontend that interacts with only those parts of your CRM system you want those outside your organization to access. With a CRM portal, you can create custom branded systems with multiple different security and permissions depending on the user. It builds a bridge that connects your organization with your customers and your partners allowing you to empower business communication and create more profitable relationships with your customers.

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Be careful not to confuse the Portal with your Website. Dynamics 365 portal’s purpose is not to substitute but rather to co-live with it, to increase your online presence beyond the homepage and to drive customer satisfaction. Furthermore, the Portal can be skinned to reflect the same look and feel of your organization’s branding.

What can your organization benefit from a Portal?

What you can practically achieve with a portal for Dynamics 365 is an increase of expertise in web engagement, knowledge and case management, membership, profile, and self-service capabilities to Dynamics 365.

The list of reasons why to use CRM Portals is very long but I will list below just a subset of all the activities a Dynamics 365 Portal will allow your organization’s external users to do:

  • Display information from various sources in one place
  • Access information in real time
  • Update account information
  • Information accessible based on the user’s security profile
  • Submit support cases or orders/view the submitted information
  • Register for programs or events
  • Receive notifications
  • See their invoices/pay bills
  • Enable Customer Self Service
  • Design a Knowledge Base
  • Advanced search capabilities across the platform, etc.

 

Out-of-the-Box CRM Portals vs. Custom Designed Portals

When deciding to adopt a Portal for your Dynamics 365 installation, there are two alternatives you can consider: out-of-the-box CRM Portals or custom designed options.

You can choose to implement Microsoft’s pre-configured CRM. This is a native portal ready to use with your main Dynamics 365 modules (sales, marketing, and customer service). Even more, if your organization is a CRM online customer, you can benefit from a free portal with your subscription. Also with a Dynamics 365 Enterprise subscription, you are more likely to have a Dynamics 365 portal license available immediately.

On the other side, your organization could use a Dynamics 365 on-premise solution, so you may need a more complex tool than the out of the box CRM Portal to cover the non-CRM related workload of Dynamics 365. In this case, you can custom develop a Portal (which could be anything from customer to support related) and customize it according to your business needs. Your Portal could be built and maintained in-house and then integrated with your Dynamics 365 instance.

PROS and CONS of using Dynamics 365 Portals

PROS

  • You should know Dynamics 365 Portals is hosted online from Microsoft and resides within the framework of Dynamics 365 in Azure.
  • If you are looking for a fast and economically convenient solution that will not require future customizations but still does the job, you can benefit from. Dynamics 365 preconfigured Portals. The ideal situation would be needing to use only one of the portal types offered from Dynamics 365 Portals.
  • Another good reason to use Dynamics 365 Portal is if your organization has the in-house technology that is required to customize the Portal.
  • Undoubtedly one of the main reasons organization could be tempted to use Dynamics 365 Portals is the fact that you can ‘win’ one for free with your Dynamics 365 instance.
  • Anyway, it is important to consider the other side of the coin before hurrying to redeem your prize.

CONS

  • Additional portal sites for development, QA, and user acceptance testing come with a considerable monthly cost.
  • If you want to make changes to your web portal and require specific functionality, you will need to find a programmer that has experience in the underlying portal technology of Dynamics 365 Portals – which can get expensive.
  • Customizations or new functionality that require solving complex needs may not be able to be accomplished as you cannot use .Net code to customize the portal.
  • You have no access to the site files or source code for the portal.
  • As you grow in the future, you may need to provide additional portal experiences to your customers than those offered by Dynamics 365 Portal. This future need may result in custom development which can get time-consuming as well as expensive.
  • It is not so easy to integrate Dynamics 365 with your company’s website if you want the two to communicate easily. This integration would require achieving a series of iFrames.
  • Dynamics 365 Portals is only available online as mentioned earlier, within the Azure framework. Unfortunately, this means that Dynamics 365 on-premise solutions cannot benefit from using it.

The Portal Connector

The Portal Connector is a content management system that provides all of the tools you need for a fully functioning website.

The Portal Connector for Dynamics CRM and Dynamics 365 allows an organization to create a portal solution that provides immediate communication with its non-CRM users. This activity can be tracked and reported.

Most importantly, it does not require complicated set up configuration or software development, and there is no restriction of the CRM versions available.

Drag and Drop tools allow you to make changes to your own portals, in your own time.

One license provides unlimited web portals for one domain. You can have a portal for any aspect of your customer engagements, for one price.

The Portal Connector is the only option available for past versions of Dynamics CRM, and Dynamics 365 OnPremise, which may be valuable for those who have not upgraded to Dynamics 365 Online.

Conclusion

Dynamics 365 Portal could be a great tool to use if your organization feels the need to reach out to external users and make their CRM experience better and easier while enjoying the associated benefits as a business. Growing sales, increased revenue opportunities, customer segmentation and targeting, improved communication, satisfaction with your customers and partners, reporting features to help decision-making, marketing campaigns and communication are just some of the benefits to consider.

Written by Alexandre Painchaud Content Marketing Specialist @ SherWeb

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