The long-awaited midmarket suite arrives with a hosted option and extensive language support, among key features.
Posted Dec 6, 2005
Microsoft today brought the latest version of its CRM software to market after a delay of about two years. Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 includes a number of improvements to the company's offering in terms of configuration and customization, including a choice of hosted or installed deployment, solid integration with Microsoft Outlook, and eventual availability in 22 languages.
It ships with four separate client structures for maximum customization of deployment; two Outlook clients, one with local storage for the road warrior; a thin client using HTML for remote access; and one tailored for Windows Mobile phone and PDA users. The suite is available as a hosted service and as installed software, both versions using the same code and providing the same features. Microsoft is ensuring ease of deployment and seamless integration with its own Outlook and Office products. "I'd like to get people away from talking about CRM 'integrating' with Outlook," says Brad Wilson, general manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. "It's better to think of CRM as embedded into Outlook. Our goal is for the user to not know where Outlook ends and CRM begins."
In keeping with the vendor's global dominance of the software industry, version 3.0 will be available in a wide assortment of languages. Starting January 1, 2006, the English-language version will be joined by the Dutch, French, German, and Russian. Shortly thereafter, Microsoft will be adding the Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian and Iberian), Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish.
Though the Redmond applications vendor typically competes on features rather than price, the pricing model for Microsoft Dynamics 3.0 is attractive. Starting January 1, 2006, Microsoft's 1,500-plus partners will have access to a subscription-based price of $24.95 per month for the full suite. Microsoft is not providing partner pricing guidelines, allowing market forces to govern competition based on a partner's added value. The packaged software is available through volume licensing programs in two editions, with the only difference being the size of the servers for which it is optimized. Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 Professional Edition is priced between $622 and $880 per user, and $1,244 and $1,761 per server. The Small Business Edition sells for between $440 and $499 per user, with per-server cost ranging between $528 and $599. All licenses include one year of tech support and maintenance.
Refinements and language support aside, the major additions to Microsoft's CRM functionality are resource management and marketing automation. The new Web services-enabled, object-based resource management module allows scheduling and billing of services and tools, not just products for sale. For example, a real estate broker can create an "apartment" object for showings and rental. The marketing module, a feature notably lacking from previous Microsoft CRM efforts, enables direct marketing and robust lead qualification.
"With Microsoft CRM," Wilson says, "we're not giving the end-user any more CRM than they need--just enough to get the job done. The idea is we don't want to overload them." Denis Pombriant, managing principal of Beagle Research, says, "It looks like Microsoft's primary goal in producing this product was to ensure that it ran well with other Microsoft products." He also notes that the news release itself is short on descriptions of new or enhanced functionality, other than to tout the integration with Office and Outlook. "As important as those things are, I think it's not enough."
Sheryl Kingstone, CRM program manager for Yankee Group, likes what Microsoft has added. "They've done a lot of good work on the product, and have improved integration with Outlook and Office. Microsoft is jumping to software-as-a-service, because it's what the customers want and it gives more options in terms of TCO and ease of use." However, it's too early to talk about its effect on end-users, according to Kingstone.
Microsoft, which repeatedly delayed and eventually scrapped Microsoft CRM 2.0 in favor of the more full-featured 3.0, "is playing catch-up with its own product integrations," Kingstone says. Avidian, RightNow Technologies, and Salesnet all have produced competitive Outlook integrations. However, "The thing you really need to look at is the gaps between Microsoft and Siebel and Salesforce.com," Pombriant says. "Regardless of how competent Microsoft CRM might be, you must consider that it was designed and built under fundamentally different assumptions than the market has today. So, how state of the art is it? That's the fundamental question."
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