Exploring Microsoft’s Adxstudio Portals: Part 1

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With the exciting announcement that Microsoft has acquired Adxstudio Inc., Dynamics CRM as an overall platform has just gotten even better!

While we have been implementing Adxstudio Portals for years, now that it’s an actual component of Microsoft Dynamics CRM and not just an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) provide, it’s yet another compelling reason to utilize this technology to create a customer facing portal solution that isn’t just an integration, but rather a way to surface Dynamics CRM functionality to your external clients and partners.

This blog series will serve as a great primer for anyone interested in getting Adxstudio Portals up and running as quickly as possible.

Anyone who is planning an implementation project using Adxstudio Portals should definitely take the training classes and read over the documentation on their website, however, the amount of information and features will be like drinking from a fire hose in terms of quantity. This blog series will take a more methodical and step by step approach, providing the very basics and getting to a simple “hello world” web page, surface a Dynamics CRM view on the portal and continue to work from there.

More and more CRM customers want to be able to connect their web sites directly to their CRM systems; from anything as simple as lead gathering to selling product, and registering and paying for events.

Over the years there have been a number of different ways to accomplish this. Integration tools can be setup to transfer data to and from CRM to the website databases. Web applications can be modified to read and write directly to CRM following various methods. Specialized web applications can be written from the ground up that tie directly into CRM.

The CRM Software Development Kit (SDK) provides some good information on creating portal applications and new application program interfaces (APIs) make it easy to integrate to existing websites.

There are also a number of ISVs that provide various types of portal solutions that work with Dynamics CRM. Before becoming a part of Microsoft, Adxstudio was one of the well established players in providing a customer facing portal solution powered by Dynamics CRM.

Other examples are CRMVertex, PortalConnector and TKDialogs to name just a few. Each of these solutions has their strengths and weaknesses and also would depend on the business requirement and potentially what other Content Management Systems (CMS) the customer already has in place. With Microsoft’s acquisition of Adxstudio, I am sure these vendors will look for ways to differentiate themselves and potentially provide specific vertical options.

From a high level, here is what I like about Microsoft’s Adxstudio Portal Solution:

  • The solution essentially surfaces the already powerful Dynamics CRM platform to a client and partner facing portal.
  • Web data is stored 100% within Dynamics CRM, no separate databases or data stores.
  • The backend CMS is Dynamics CRM. If you can navigate views, forms, etc. in CRM, you can configure a portal application.
  • There is a good set of Portal Templates to use as examples or starting points in a project.
  • Most of the portal source code is written in C#, and readily available so you have unlimited possibilities to developer unique and specific solutions.
  • You do not require any other third party CMS systems.
  • Any customizations, including plug-ins can be triggered and utilized by the Portal.
  • The product is constantly improving and has an established track record. The recent addition of support for Liquid templates is a good example of how the product is evolving.
  • This is now a Microsoft product!

What I find challenging:

  • Some of the Adxstudio features like Web Forms (think website dialogues) can be a bit awkward to setup using the CRM interface (but extremely powerful once working).
  • The lack of a drag and drop type editing for web page layouts.
  • Multiple price list implementation and multiple language can be a bit cumbersome to setup (but not impossible).

I fully expect that Microsoft will readily address some of these challenges and make the Portal solution even more powerful.

Stay tuned for part 2 of my web series, where I will provide an overview of exactly what the Portal product is (and isn’t).

Nick Doelman
CRM Manager at BDO Solutions
Email Nick Doelman

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