Microsoft Puts a 2011 Face on Dynamics CRM

At Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference this week, the software company offered up more details and demonstrations of its Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 solution, formerly titled CRM5. According to Brad Wilson, general manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, the release focuses on the "power of productivity" and will follow up on many of the promises outlined at Microsoft's spring Convergence user conference. Microsoft also announced a forthcoming marketplace that will enable partners to market and distribute solutions to Microsoft Dynamics customers.

CRM 2011, Wilson says, will be available as a Beta release this September, taking the shapes of CRM online, hosted CRM, and on-premises CRM. The updated solution will feature a sleeker interface, thanks to native Outlook functionality that will feel similar to email with preview panes and email-like formatting.

The software also makes more use of Microsoft's ribbon interface and what the company calls "role-tailored design." "We make sure people have quick access to the right information," Wilson explains, "And that they only have access to the data they are allowed to see."

In terms of business intelligence, or what Microsoft calls "intelligent experiences," CRM 2011 relies heavily on dashboards that Wilson says enable users to "sprinkle BI elements throughout the application." A new feature is "flexible goal management," which enables users to define performance metrics and health indicators and then to track their progress. 

CRM 2011 also makes inroads into "connected experiences," which involves integrations with applications such as Microsoft SharePoint and development programs. New to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is a cloud development portal in which developers can deploy custom code using tools such as Microsoft Visual Studio.

In addition to the preview of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, the vendor announced an expansion of CRM Online into new geographic locations. In April, Microsoft launched CRM Online in 32 markets internationally. This week, it brings that number up to 40 with added coverage in Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Cyprus, Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Perhaps of most interest to partners and soon to customers, Microsoft shared plans of its Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace, an application exchange which will be up and running in September. The Marketplace will be connected to CRM 2011 so users can search out applications within their CRM solution.

China Martens, senior analyst with The 451 Group, notes that this once-called CRM5 release has been in gestation for a very long time, but she says that Microsoft seems to be nicely targeting several burgeoning trends in CRM.  She mentions in particular the new marketplace and the tighter integration with desktop applications. "It will be very interesting to see the partner ecosystem Microsoft comes to market with around Dynamics CRM 2011 via Dynamics Marketplace," she adds, "particularly who it teams up with in service and marketing automation."

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine.

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