Everyday, whether consciously or subconsciously, we balance risk vs. reward in virtually everything we do. It could be as simple as deciding what clothing we put on in the morning; is it going to rain, is it going to be hot and sunny, am I going to be comfortable in these shoes. Now, of course, this is usually a very uncomplicated decision, at least it should be. When looking at what technologies you introduce in your organization it can be a little more complicated and could have serious consequences if it’s the wrong fit for your organization.
Making a technology selection should be like deciding on your personal investment strategy. Why shouldn’t it be? You would want to identify the level of risk with implementing the new technology, how it fits within your current technology stack or how it will solve your business needs, now and in the future. You would also want to ensure that you are getting it for a fair market price not over paying and in some cases not under paying either, as under paying could be an indication of increased risk if it leads to reduced support or instability in the providers market share.
When looking at these factors in relation to portals for Dynamics 365/CRM, typically we see people evaluate three options; custom developed portals, PowerApps Portals, and The Portal Connector. Each of these options have their strengths, weaknesses, risks and rewards.
Custom Developed Portals
Strengths: Probably the most significant strength of a custom portal would be that it can be designed and developed to your exact specifications. From user experience, performance, process and functionality it will surely be exactly what you want and in the technology that you want.
COST Custom development is expensive. It may be easier to justify if you have a development team on staff consisting of Dynamics developers, Database Analysts, UX developers and a few backend developers as well but those resources cost money, a lot of it. After you get over the sticker shock of custom development you must also focus on the cost of maintaining the project.
TIME. A lot of time is required to build a portal from the ground up without starting from an existing platform because every little element and component needs to be planned and executed on through code.
CHANGE MANAGEMENT. After all is said and done, and the portal is functioning to spec, there are bound to be changes pushed down from marketing, your executive team or changes in direction required to stay competitive. Once this happens you’re back into the same development cycle.
Risk vs. Reward: Pretty easy to summarize a custom developed portal. You could get exactly what you want but at significant time, cost and the risk of it being obsolete before it is even completed and in production. Another concern would be the risk of having key knowledge people moving on to new opportunities leaving “the next guy” to figure out how everything works.
Power Apps Portals
PLATFORM. It’s a Low code/No code platform that has some drag and drop, point and click functionality but many of its features are record based meaning it’s managed through Dynamics 365 entities. There are so many other advantages to starting with a platform. It’s structured, meaning the user experience you get throughout is consistent and likely always will be as the UX is typically managed to some degree.
MICROSOFT. It’s a Microsoft product so you can rest assured that Microsoft will be around to address your platform issues. What you also get is a community of folks that have used and developed for it. These folks, likely, have already done the heavy lifting on the more technical requirements needing to be accomplished and they could help you out when you are in a bind. You can also rest easy knowing that it will always function with the most recent version of Dynamics 365.
SAAS. Power Apps Portals is also very easy to deploy as it is a managed SaaS solution. Microsoft has thousands of partners that could potentially engage with you to build your portal.
DYNAMICS VERSION. At the time of writing this it only works with Dynamics 365 Online. That could be a problem if you are required to be on premise or if you are not on Dynamics 365 yet and are still using a previous version of Dynamics.
HOSTING. PowerApps Portals is a SaaS solution hosted in Azure and that is the only option you have.
COST. This could come into play if you expect a large amount of users as PowerApps Portals is licensed by individual login, you can find more details here: Licensing Costs Matter.
EXTENSIBILITY. The weakness we see the most from customers and partners that come to The Portal Connector is the difficulty in extending Power Apps Portals. With Power Apps Portals being a SaaS offering it is not a simple process to extend Power Apps Portals to solve very complex requirements or integrate with other technologies easily. There are workarounds for this with “companion apps” and such but that does introduce some risk into your solution.
Risk vs. Reward: Power Apps Portals is a great option and would likely fit best for a basic out of the box solution and it is backed by Microsoft. The risk is whether it will be able to grow with your needs in the future. With it’s limited or complex customization capabilities will it be customizable to deliver on your complex business processes. Cost uncertainty, how is Power Apps Portals licensing model going to impact your bottom line when it’s in production and your customers are using it?
The Portal Connector
PLATFORM. It’s a Low code/No code platform, this is truly 100% a citizen developer platform with full drag and drop, point and click functionality and also has the other platform advantages mentioned above.
CUSTOMIZATION. The Portal Connector can be easily extended, customized and integrated with virtually any other modern system using familiar developer technologies on the client side as well as the server side.
HOSTING IS FLEXIBLE. The Portal Connector is not a SaaS solution, it is essentially a .Net web application so it can be hosted in any environment that supports .Net.
COST CERTAINTY. The Portal Connector is licensed perpetually which means when you buy it, you own it, no additional costs for logins or users.
DYNAMICS VERSIONS. The Portal Connector has support for Dynamics CRM 2011 all the way up to Dynamics 365, online and on premise.
SUPPORT. The team at The Portal Connector provides a multitude of support options with many of the options being free. Access to our daily developer Q&A sessions, access to widget source, forums, licensed support tickets, blogs and training.
CONTENT MANAGEMENT. If you are looking for more than just a portal, it is also built on an award winning Enterprise Content Management system which comes with its own suite of functionality.
DEPLOYMENT. In comparison to PowerApps Portals deployment could be viewed as a weakness as it requires an initial manual deployment to your hosting provider of choice. This isn’t a difficult process but it’s not as simple as a button click.
We’re not Microsoft, that’s not to say we haven’t been around the block a few times as our company has been successful for over 50 years and The Portal Connector has been delivering value for eight of them. The Portal Connector has partners throughout the world that are very knowledgeable in portal development but not nearly as many as Microsoft.
Risk vs. Reward: Again, The Portal Connector is not Microsoft but it is a mature organization with deep customer service values and roots. Cost certainty with no hidden fees. The ability to grow your portal with your organization with confidence. Same day access to configuration and development support allows you to get answers quick.
When assessing your needs and balancing risk and reward it’s important to focus on what matters most to your organization, ensure that the chosen technology fits in with your short and long term goals, is affordable and presents an acceptable amount of risk.
Interested in The Portal Connector? Reach out to us for a free Fit Assessment and see if The Portal Connector is the right portal technology for your needs.