Introduction

Last year when I left Microsoft for the second time it was with the ambition of launching as an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) and as a consequence ideally stop the weekly flights across Europe.

At the same time a previous customer approached to see if it would be possible to create a cheaper Customer Relationship Manager solution that more accurately met their needs. While they were using Dynamics 365 I think we had spent longer removing functionality instead of adding to it (as is often the case) as they really only needed a means of track birthdays, basic leads, opportunities and send customer service requests to the appropriate person / team.

So taking their money and focussed very much on the new $10 per app per user per month license we set to work and created the solution they needed – the solution that now forms the basis of BareBones CRM.

On finishing the work we delivered it and then started to talk to a few other partners to see if they had customers who had similar needs – and although they did we also discovered a fundamental problem so we left things there.

Background

Over the last two weeks, however, a couple of things have changed and that meant we dropped everything on Friday to open source BareBones CRM so let’s explain what they are.

  1. For the past year I have had a number of conversations regarding Restricted (and other) entities that appear in Microsoft’s Common Data Model but do not appear in the none Dynamics 365 / core Power Platform Common Data Service Dataset. About 2 weeks ago I had a linkedIn conversation with Ben Vollmer which implied the idea was no longer on the radar – see https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6706920588767739904/?trk=public_post-embed_share-update_comments-text
    Now this is important for a reason we discovered last year and that we will get to in a minute.
  2. at roughly the same time Steve Mordue announced ISV Connect ED a website designed to create a community of ISV to provide support and advice – now I have no problems with that but it’s interesting that he’s done that when
  3. on Thursday (September 10th) Steve Mordue announced that RapidStartCRM was now free with a change in focus to grow the market and sell custom development instead.

There can be only one (Entity Reference)

Now, you may remember in the Introduction that when we finished the Barebones CRM we started to talk to other partners and then stopped. There is a simple reason for that, the way Entity References work means that if you are creating a solution that enhances opportunity management and you create a connection between your new entity X and Dynamics 365’s opportunity entity you cannot then modify that link to talk to the opportunity entity in BareBones CRM or RapidStartCRM – the ISV needs to start again almost from scratch. Which poses a serious problems for ISVs who may wish to target both Dynamics 365 and Power App users with the same solution.

Now I was hoping (see point 1) that Microsoft were aware of the issue and were working towards making the entity definitions available. If that had occurred things would be easy for ISVs as anyone providing core sales functionality could create an Opportunity entity with the same name as the one within Dynamics 365 and the ISV could just point at the opportunity entity and instantly support any and all core sales solutions. But sadly Ben’s comments implies that whatever attempts Microsoft have made in that direction have failed.

And with that news our original plan to keep Barebones CRM ticking over as an internal project until we had access to the core entities definitions and could create an ISV (and customer) friendly solution which allowed everyone to target a single entity definition disappeared. So we made a decision that we would find time in the next few months and release the BareBones CRM as open source for others to use.

Then Thursday arrived and we discovered that we probably should hurry things along – so we have.

Which means

  1. if you are an end user who wants a free simplified CRM solution that runs on the Power Platform there are now two options – and while BareBones CRM isn’t on Appsource now but we aim to have it there within the next 2 weeks. Equally we expect to finish the website, add documentation and a support forum for those who need it
  2. If you are a partner / ISV who wish to offer such a solution to their customers there are two options – one of which is “Free as in Beer”, can be downloaded via Appsource and is supported by a company who would like to do your customer’s customisations themselves and BareBones CRM which is you can find at https://www.barebonescrm.com with unmanaged solutions available at https://github.com/BareBones-CRM/Core which you can enhance and develop however you want.

And finally, if you find BareBones CRM useful we would love your contributions (be it translations, enhancements, bug reports, bug fixes)…. but there is no pressure…