Support Builds for Microsoft CRM
Partners begin to jump aboard the software giant's bandwagon
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With third-party developers and partners set to get their hands on the first beta release of Microsoft Corp.'s MS CRM this month, the software giant is predicting the number of CRM partners will equal that of its BackOffice solutions' partners within in a year. Microsoft executives say interest from customers, partners, resellers, and independent software vendors (ISVs) in its forthcoming CRM product, which is slated to ship at the end of this year, has been very high since it was first officially unveiled in February. "Lots of solutions developers and ISVs raised their hands and came to us," says Holly Holt, Microsoft's senior product manager of global CRM. "Our partners and ISVs realize this is an opportunity to be part of driving new business and broadening the CRM market. And for customers it means they will get the strongest solutions available." Because the forthcoming MS CRM offering is aimed at the mid-market, which typically does not have large IT staffs, there are a lot of opportunities for resellers, solution providers, and ISVs, Holt says. In fact, the Redmond, Wash.--based software maker expects to have nearly CRM 500 partners onboard within the next 12 month, Holt says. Two thirds of those are expected to be independent software vendors providing add-on products and compatible horizontal and vertical solutions, and one third will be industry partners, she says. Several partners have already unveiled products for Microsoft CRM, including Minneapolis-based Worldtrak Corp., which is a development partner for Microsoft's Great Plains Business Solutions suite. "Not only is Worldtrak a beta developer for the new solution, but we will also provide enhanced value through vertical templates that we will develop around the Microsoft core," says Clark Dircz, founder and chief executive of Worldtrak. Since purchasing accounting software developer Great Plains about 18 months ago, Microsoft's newly formed Business Solutions Group has about 400 solution-developer and ISV partners, with two thirds focused on enhancing Microsoft's offering and the other third focused on selling to vertical markets. The total number of partners for that group is expected to reach nearly 500 by this time next year. While Microsoft anticipates its forthcoming CRM offering to garner lots of support from third-party developers, the company is also looking to include some of that additional functionality into the core of MS CRM. Holt says Microsoft is currently in negotiations with a third-party developer to purchase a report writer that would be included in MS CRM. She declined to provide any details of the potential deal. In addition, Microsoft is also looking to streamline the development process for its existing BackOffice developers, as well as the CRM developers. To that end the company will eventually create a unified code base for both products, according to Holt, who would not give a time frame for the single code base. --Lisa Picarille
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