When Microsoft released the 2011 version of Dynamics CRM and introduced the solution management functionality they also introduced the Dynamics Marketplace: an app store for CRM solutions, integrated right into the CRM user interface. Here’s an excerpt from the blog post Driving Success with the New Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace:
The Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace is a new online service – based on Microsoft Pinpoint — that helps our customers maximize the relevancy and value of their Microsoft Dynamics investments by connecting them with valuable, high-quality applications and professional services from our worldwide Microsoft Partner Network (MPN). At launch, the Marketplace has more than 1,400 solution listings, including over 700 application listings and over 700 professional services listing forboth CRM and ERP
So, if you want to find the best listing of CRM solutions and other related applications, Dynamics Marketplace must be the place to go, right? Umm, actually not. You’re better of going to Microsoft Pinpoint to perform your search. Let me demonstrate this to you through a real life example.
Today I saw an announcement from Sonoma Partners, one of the most high profile companies in Dynamics CRM consulting business, about a new, free solution called Universal Search. As I followed the link on the press release onto “Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace”, I actually found myself at Pinpoint instead. It’s not a huge difference in the user experience, as Dynamics Marketplace is a subset of the Pinpoint platform. However, on this occasion I paid attention to the fact that the solution had actually already been published there on August 30th. Hmm, how come I didn’t notice it when scanning the Marketplace listings just last week?
I decided to do a little side-by-side test and opened up the US versions of both Dynamics Marketplace and Microsoft Pinpoint, narrowed down my search to applications only, selected Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 and sorted the list by release date. Here are the results:
- Dynamics Marketplace: 197 applications
- Microsoft Pinpoint: 584 applications
Wow! A search on the generic Pinpoint site gives you three times more CRM 2011 apps than the dedicated Marketplace. Click the image below to see an example of search results that you’d be missing out on if you only use Dynamics Marketplace. 4 out of the 6 latest CRM applications listed on Pinpoint are not available on the Marketplace search.
Why is this happening? Ignoring the chance of technical errors in the search indexing, the difference is caused by the more strict requirements imposed on submissions to the Dynamics Marketplace. If you read the blog post I mentioned earlier, you’ll find the following summary information:
A Microsoft partner needs to have either the CRM or ERP competency in order to get listed on the marketplace. For solution listings, partners must be an authorized reseller of Microsoft Dynamics solution or have a solution that is verified as Microsoft Platform-Ready. Additionally, there is an optional Certified for Microsoft Dynamics (CfMD) designation available for an additional fee.
That’s a perfectly valid explanation to the difference and the intentions behind the verification processes are surely good. Some customers may well decide to minimize the risk of causing harm to the operation of their business critical CRM systems by only choosing add-ons that are CfMD. Of course, if even solution vendors like Sonoma Partners are releasing products outside of the Marketplace criteria, one might ask if that is a sensible guideline for customer organizations to follow or not.
For anyone who wants to keep track of the useful ISV add-ons released for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, they’ll get a much better experience browsing Microsoft Pinpoint rather than Dynamics Marketplace. I myself fall into this category and also try to do my share in promoting the ISV offerings by maintaining a list of Dynamics CRM Links to interesting apps I come across. Another result of the Marketplace limitations is that the majority of the valuable, free tools for CRM developers and customizers are published on CodePlex. So, in effect, we have three separate “app stores” from Microsoft. Or perhaps the term store is inaccurate in this case, as none of these three have cashiers in place, so maybe they should rather be called “app galleries”.
We haven’t seen much development on the Marketplace front since its release, which is quite a shame as we could really use some help from Microsoft in building a more vibrant ISV ecosystem around the Dynamics CRM product. There’s just so much more potential in the app store model, as illustrated by this awesome vision of a better Dynamics Marketplace that Neil Benson & Matt Wittemann. With the nearing commercial launch of Windows 8 and the accompanying Windows Store, the expectation levels of customers and developers alike have surely grown beyond the basic application listing that Dynamics Marketplace currently offers.