Consultants, Integrators Prep for MS CRM

Delivery of Microsoft Corp.'s customer relationship management package may have slipped from the end of 2002 to early 2003, but when the highly anticipated release finally ships there is likely to be a slew of third-party enhancements and add-ons. To date a mix of more than 500 systems integrators, resellers, and independent software vendors have signed on as partners for Microsoft Business Solutions CRM, says Holly Holt, senior product manager of CRM at Microsoft Business Solutions. "Microsoft's goal is to have a significant amount of partners, resellers, and integrators," says Brian Bingham, manager of CRM services research for IDC, a market research firm in Framingham, MA. "From a strategy perspective, Microsoft is really trying to attack the market and gain market share. Those partners help them do that. They are getting into a very competitive space, and as the newer player they are going to use shear numbers of partners to crack the market." All that attention focused on MS CRM is good for users. They can expect more customization, better integration, specialized applications and a wide variety of vertical solutions, modifications, and tweaks, Bingham says. Terry Petrzelka, president and chief executive of Tectura Corp., a premier Microsoft reseller and ISV partner, has been working with MS CRM since it went to beta in September, says MS CRM presents a tremendous opportunity for all Microsoft's resellers and partners to offer even more to their customers. Watertown, MA--based Green Beacon Solutions, a consultancy and integrator focused on the mid-market, is among the first wave of MS CRM partners to announce specific enhancements. Benjamin Holtz, president and CEO of Green Beacon, says the company, which is fully trained and certified as an MS CRM partner, took careful steps to critically evaluate the business needs of mid-market clients to provide MS CRM enhancements. Holtz claims that Green Beacon's enhancements, which include Lead Capture, Forecast Manager, Relationships Manager and Organizational Chart, will increase revenues, reduce customer service costs, streamline sales lead generation, and simplify business processes. One of the gaps that Green Beacon has identified, not only in Microsoft CRM, but in most other packages as well, is the ability to deal with organizational charts within a CRM application. Green Beacon's Organizational Chart provides a consolidated, hierarchical view of Microsoft CRM accounts, contacts, and the relationships between them. Organizational Chart offers a visual roadmap of organizational parent/child relationships, including identifying employees at each branch. When used with the company's Relationships Manager, which enables representatives to track bidirectional relationships between any two account and contact records in the application, the Organizational Chart provides a visual display of key relationships between accounts and contacts that are not necessarily related. For example, users have the ability to track client/partner relationships with resellers. Green Beacon will also be offering Lead Capture, which automatically lets companies convert Web-site visitors into Microsoft CRM leads; and Forecast Manager, which provides both representatives and management with an up-to-the-minute snapshot of the sales pipeline that can be accessed and modified via an HTML screen.
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