Monday, May 23, 2011

Scribe Online

Scribe Online is Scribe's latest product offering. The current offering is limited to work with Microsoft CRM and basically allows for a CRM Online solution to be replicated locally. The value add of such a solution is perhaps a little less obvious than Scribe's flagship offering: Scribe Insight. Simply put - whenever you are entertaining the notion of building any sort of integration with Microsoft CRM (or for that matter standalone databases, or any of the other Scribe templates such as GP, Salesforce etc.), Scribe Insight is going to have to be one of the options considered for accomplishing this. The benefit of using a tool such as Scribe Insight over say, a custom built solution, is fairly substantial and I've reviewed some of the considerations in a former post.

The Scribe Online Replication Service though has - at least to me - a somewhat less obvious niche.

First and foremost, this offering is not meant to be a backup solution which - in fairness - Scribe has made fairly clear. Although CRM Online cannot be backed up as you could for say an On Premise implementation, I think that it has to be kind of axiomatic of the cloud model that your data is secure (I'm sure Google and SalesForce would agree...). Having said that, it could provide companies with a "sense of comfort" that their online data is also available locally. But I personally would not encourage that type of thinking as it goes against the kind of thinking that is necessary in order to move into the cloud.

I think it can also be argued that Scribe Online's Replication Service is perhaps a little anachronistic in that it kind of defeats the purpose of going online in the first place. The major driver for going to CRM Online in the first place is so you can subscribe to the SaaS model and not have to deal with servers, environments, maintenance etc. But yet - here we have Scribe Online that will require you to have a local server with SQL installed in order for it to work...

If so, I think it is fairly clear that the Scribe Online Replication Service is going to be required in a given number of scenarios. So what are these? Below I will attempt to outline where I think such as service can come in handy which is based both on my own considerations and information garnered from Scribe demos:

  • Reporting - As highlighted previously, reporting in CRM 2011 Online is significantly more robust than it was in 4.0. And therefore for most companies - at least initially - you should be able to handle the reporting requirements that you have using the CRM Online model. But what if you have sophisticated reported needs? Or better yet - what if you want to create a data warehouse that you can use for setting up Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to enable you to slice/dice your data in various ways that you cannot do using your operational database (i.e. CRM Online)? Such reporting is typically a more sophisticated requirement to see trends, perform data mining, etc. in order to analyze your business. In such a case, Scribe Online can be a perfect complement to your CRM Online offering allowing you to bring the data into your local environment where it can be combined with Business Intelligence (BI) tools to deliver the goods. I believe that Scribe may also be looking at partnering with BI vendors that may facilitate the delivery of pre-packaged metrics or something along those lines. Time will tell...
  • Data Cleanup/Import etc. - Another use could be if you have a need to clean up (e.g. de-dup) your production data but do not want to do it in the live environment. This requirement combines the capability of Scribe Insight with Scribe Online Replication Services. Using this approach, you could bring your data to a local environment, perform all the clean up in that environment, and when you're done you could use Scribe Insight to update your production data.

These are the major benefits that I can think of right now. And based on this, I believe Scribe Online only has value when using CRM Online as opposed to Partner Hosted. With the latter, although your data is still "online" you typically will have more access to your environment, database etc. than in the pure online model. I think it also bears mentioning that the cost of Scribe's Online Replication Service is fairly nominal at $99/month which makes it that much easier to take the plunge should you wish to experiment.

It's still very early days with regards to Scribe's Online offering and the Replication Service is only the first offering using this platform. It will therefore be interesting to see where this product heads as more capabilities get added. For those who want to know more about the strategic direction of this product, you can review Lou Guercia's (Scribe's president and CEO) interview with IT Business Edge.

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