• March 13, 2008
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Microsoft's Latest Convergence Theory

ORLANDO, FLA. -- Microsoft President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer brought his characteristic passion and energy to the 9,500 attendees of Microsoft Convergence 2008 here yesterday, discussing his company's plans in relation to the Microsoft Dynamics line of business applications. While Microsoft has been in the business software game for about seven of its 28 years, by Ballmer's estimate, it's where he wants to be. "The biggest decision I've made -- unless we close this Yahoo! deal -- the biggest decision I've made as CEO is pushing into the business applications area," Ballmer said. "It's one of the best decisions I've ever made, one of the most important decisions I've ever made, and the reason that brings us all here today." Microsoft's planned acquisition of Yahoo!, a rival in search marketing and other Internet-based activities, was not a focus of the day's keynote address, despite its currency in the news. Ballmer couched his speech in terms of the needs of today's businesses, as Microsoft sees them. Ballmer cited growing complexity and globalization as the two biggest concerns of business, referring to a recent PWC study of 1,400 CEOs in 45 countries. Combined with worries of a coming recession, business leaders have to ask themselves a number of questions, Ballmer told the audience. "Do I retrench? Partly," Ballmer said. "But do I also innovate, do I push forward, do I look for new sources of revenue and new sources of opportunity, and I think the answer to all of those questions is yes." Ballmer reinforced Microsoft's commitment to some of its core business-software design philosophies, notably role-tailored user interfaces and the expansion of business intelligence to each user's role. Building on Microsoft's goal of ubiquity in personal productivity applications, business users will appreciate the familiarity they find with team applications whether deployed on company servers or in one of Microsoft's hosted arrangements. Ballmer noted that while CRM may stand for customer relationship management, the increasingly broad options available in the technology meant it was re-emerging in various incarnations, managing relationships of all kinds -- a phenomenon he referred to as "xRM." Customization of those deployments was another important facet of Ballmer's presentation, and led to perhaps one of the only true pieces of news to come out of this year's event thus far: Microsoft's expansion of its 20-year-plus partnership with EDS. The consultancy -- which boasts of already managing some three million desktops and more than 100,000 servers running Microsoft applications -- will sell, customize, and deploy Microsoft Dynamics CRM, training more than 300 new consultants by the end of the year to do so. The flagship deployment for this new agreement is with the Department of Works and Pensions, a government agency in the United Kingdom that EDS CEO Ron Rittenmeyer hailed as the world's largest and most complex government implementation of Microsoft applications. Toward the end of his address, Ballmer repeated the question that is often on the lips of prospective customers: Why Microsoft? "We've been in this business now for about seven years, and I still get asked, 'Is Microsoft a serious player in business applications?' " Ballmer said. Before making the inevitable comparisons to other vendors, he pitched Microsoft Dynamics' merits in their own right: "We're going to bring raw innovation to these issues," he said. "We're going to bring integrated thinking about how ERP and CRM fit in the broader context of what people are trying to do with technology." Microsoft, he added, would approach business solutions "with the same kind of long-term approach and tenacity we bring to everything."

Related articles: Microsoft Bids $44.6 Billion for Yahoo! After repeatedly failing to come to terms on a friendly merger in 2006 and 2007, Microsoft's hostile advances for the No. 2 search company won't be spurned as easily this time. What does the proposed deal mean for CRM? CRM Drives Down-Market SAP and Microsoft make big moves to embrace smaller customers. Microsoft Unleashes a Titan The much-anticipated Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4 makes it to market in time for the close of Q4 2007, to the sounds of analyst praise. Microsoft Lowers Its Partnering Price The software giant lowers the price for Dynamics CRM 4.0 and unveils new functionality and partner news at its Convergence 2007 Copenhagen conference. Picking Partners All the happenings from Microsoft Corp.'s Worldwide Partner Conference in July. Microsoft: Partners Get 2007 Offerings and 2008 Roadmap Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference '07: Executives, including CEO Ballmer, outline a flurry of product announcements to support the corporate line: "software plus services." Microsoft CRM Pricing and Availability Go Live Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference '07: The company releases pricing, product information, and vertical templates for Dynamics Live CRM; one analyst suggests Microsoft lags in the on-demand race Feature: The 2007 Influential Leaders The Enhancer: Brad Wilson, General Manager, Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Feature: The 2006 Influential Leaders The Proselytizer: Brad Wilson, General Manager, Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Feature: The 2005 Influential Leaders The Remodeler: Brad Wilson, General Manager, Microsoft CRM. A New Flavor of Microsoft Dynamics CRM The latest version, called Titan, is released to the company's partner network as Microsoft gears up to begin hosting the solution itself via Dynamics Live. Microsoft: Expecting a Live Baby Has the software giant's on-demand application incubated for too long? Microsoft CRM: Friend or Foe? The software titan has dominated nearly every market it has entered. Will CRM be any different?
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