Microsoft Brings IT Together
Xbox 360 may be all fun and games, but at its Convergence 2006 conference on Monday Microsoft executives meant business, unveiling technology to support real-time enterprises.
"In the future you won't have a dedicated PBX, you'll have phone-type devices but they'll connect to the same network as the PC. The ability to say who should this call go to based on who's available, who knows that customer, will be very sophisticated," said Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman and chief software architect, during his keynote presentation. "If the call is transferred, if there's a history with the customer, all that context goes with it, bringing in this real-time communication. That's not just voice, it's also screen sharing and video, but using the Internet so that it's fully integrated, as well. That's a powerful element."
To facilitate these and other real-time enterprise efforts, Microsoft is offering CRM third-party connectors, enabling the integration of customer data from disparate databases from Oracle, SAP, and Siebel Systems. "This is further proof of our commitment to deliver in heterogeneous environments," said Brad Wilson, general manager of Microsoft CRM.
The company also unveiled its Microsoft Dynamics GP Extensions, which includes enhancements to the Microsoft Dynamics GP ERP solution, improving user mobility, compliance tracking, and reporting capabilities; increases business process functionality; and extends the standards-based tools available for developers. "It's not a small undertaking by any means," said Jon Pratt, senior director of product marketing and partners for Microsoft Business Solutions. "We're using the entire Microsoft stack now, trying to drive all of the extra costs out of the technology to give customers a high ROI."
The general idea is to bring all of Microsoft's business applications together. For one customer, Brian Ketchman, technical development manager at Wilson Language Training, the connectors had been a necessary component that prevented his company from upgrading to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0. Now that it's available, he said, "We're excited about 3.0. We can't wait to get there." The company is planning roll out version 3.0 to its 60 users in the fall.
Following up on its promise to deliver a hosted CRM solution, Microsoft also announced that one of its partners, Streamline Solutions, has two customers running a hosted version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Streamline Solutions will make its Microsoft Dynamics CRM hosted option generally available on April 1. "In the next few months you'll see hundreds of businesses around the world using hosted [Microsoft] CRM," Wilson said.
Addressing concerns of limited customization capabilities in hosted applications, Wilson said, "You could run third-party code in a hosted model as you would on premise." This is where partners like Streamline Solutions adds value. "We think [Microsoft] is going to kill the market with this product," said Lance McLean, president of Streamline Solutions, regarding version 3.0's upgrades and customization capabilities.
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