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Microsoft Opens Up at Convergence
Company comes out of its cocoon to help customers get the most value from IT investments.
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Microsoft in mid-March announced advances in integrated marketing, embedded social capabilities, and new cloud and mobile scenarios enabled through Microsoft Dynamics CRM solutions.

"To realize the promises and possibilities of a world ahead, organizations must be united," Microsoft Business Solutions President Kirill Tatarinov said in his opening keynote at Microsoft Dynamics Convergence in New Orleans. "Microsoft Dynamics solutions reimagine what's possible for businesses, helping them unite to unlock innovation and creativity in people and to enable more meaningful experiences for their customers. When a business is truly united, great things happen."

To help businesses achieve integrated marketing, Microsoft revealed an updated version of MarketingPilot, which the company acquired in October. MarketingPilot 15 features a new user interface, business intelligence functionality, and deeper integration into Microsoft Dynamics CRM. With MarketingPilot, marketers can plan, track, and optimize customer interactions across digital, social, and traditional channels.

Microsoft also announced an initiative to embed social monitoring capabilities across its Dynamics CRM offerings. This effort has been accelerated with its March acquisition of Netbreeze, a social media analytics and monitoring solutions provider. The MarketingPilot and Netbreeze acquisitions demonstrate a new direction for Microsoft, which Tatarinov later said "has become more acquisitive" to deliver expanded functionality to customers.

In addition, Microsoft has announced plans for a mobile CRM sales application with the next Microsoft Dynamics CRM release later this year. Optimized for tablets, this application will help sales professionals manage opportunities from lead to close and connect with customers and colleagues, regardless of location. The application brings guided selling to Windows smartphones and tablets as well as Apple's iPad.

Jujhar Singh, general manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, said that the next-generation CRM solution will see a confluence of mobile and social, real-time intelligence, as well as a focus on analytics instead of transactions.

To that end, Microsoft's stated goals are to extend productivity applications, such as Outlook and Excel, with integrations into CRM, to proactively push data to the people who need it at the right time, to enable access from any mobile device, to provide flexible deployment options with online, on-premises, and hybrid plans, and to more tightly incorporate social media capabilities, Singh said.

Also within Microsoft's new CRM landscape, the social fabric will be extended with advances in viral marketing, federated support knowledge bases, social prospecting and shopping, brand monitoring, collaborative service issue resolution, and greater sales effectiveness, Singh explained.

Additionally, social media, Singh said, "will become a core part of [Dynamics] CRM, and should be available to everyone."

Microsoft also plans to push forward with cloud deployments, which Seth Patton, senior director of Microsoft Dynamics CRM product marketing, calls "a key part of our strategy."

Since the global launch of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online in January 2011, 60 percent of new customers have chosen the online model, making the cloud "a default way of doing business" at Microsoft, Patton tells CRM magazine.

"Customers, when they choose Microsoft, do so for a number of reasons," he adds. "Cloud is definitely one of them."

Others, he says, include the breadth of the company's offerings, a common identity and sign-on for all applications, and integrations with other business applications, such as Lync, Outlook, Excel, and SharePoint.

The integrations are now working in other ways as well. For starters, Microsoft has taken a more open stance beyond just the Windows platform and operating system environments. "We are working toward having much more open systems," Singh explained.

Recognizing the need to have Windows devices integrate with other platforms and environments, Microsoft plans to embrace competing devices, platforms, and applications providers. Some elements of the Dynamics CRM product line already integrate with Facebook, Twitter, and Google AdWords, and more integrations are on the way.

Patton explained that Microsoft's new motto is "CRM Everywhere," highlighted by "the myriad devices and ways people want to access their CRM information."

Microsoft, Patton says, will continue to build out applications using HTML5, not just the Windows 8 platform, and will also extend apps for use with Apple's iOS and Google's Android. "We need to do this if we want people to be productive and support them wherever they are," he states.


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