• July 11, 2008
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

The Last Word from Microsoft's WPC

Microsoft dropped a ton of announcements at its Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Houston this week, and many of them would deserve full news coverage in their own right. Rather than overtax our staff and your eyes, here are some of the highlights.

Microsoft is introducing Exchange Online Deskless Worker and SharePoint Online Deskless Worker, new offerings intended for people who typically spend a small portion of their workday using a computer but still need to communicate and collaborate with colleagues and partners. It is composed of:

  • Exchange Online for desktop and mobile email and calendars with Outlook Web Access and full Office Outlook integration;
  • Office SharePoint Online for portals, collaboration, search, and customized team sites;
  • Office Communications Online for instant messaging and presence; and
  • Office Live Meeting for Web conferencing and video conferencing.
The suite will be available for $15 per user, per month. Customers can also subscribe to each service independently.
To help its partners (both CRM and otherwise) take advantage of the growth of software-as-a-service (SaaS), Microsoft has expanded its partner program with discounts to qualified partners in the U.S. and Canada for use of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online in their own organizations. The discounted monthly price is $19 per user -- rather than the sticker price of $59 -- and will be available in Q3 2008. (All prices are in American dollars.)

Furthermore, in a move to help partners and independent software vendors (ISVs) bring to market a larger number of SaaS-capable versions of their offerings, the company has developed a Microsoft Dynamics CRM ISV SaaS Readiness tool. The tool helps ISVs analyze an existing on-premise offering in order to understand what's needed to deliver that application as an on-demand service.  

The company is also sweetening the SaaS pot with a new partner revenue model. Partners that sell Microsoft Online Services applications will receive a recurring revenue stream for as long as the customer remains subscribed. Partners that sell the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite, Deskless Worker Suite, or any of the included components receive 6 percent of the annual subscription revenue in perpetuity, with an additional bonus of 12 percent of the first-year contract price -- in other words, partners could receive up to 18 percent of the value in the first year of the customer relationship with new Microsoft users.

To further ease delivery of Microsoft SaaS options, the company has opened Microsoft Pinpoint, an online community to connect prospective Microsoft customers with experts, products, and services to answer business needs. It’s a marketplace, superficially similar to Salesforce.com’s AppExchange, but with a consultative backbone rather than AppExchange’s test-drive approach to business applications. Pinpoint will include all of Microsoft’s products, not just those related to Dynamics CRM.

Since WPC is a partner conference, many partners naturally had their wares on display, building on Microsoft’s own advances and announcements. Nikhil Hasija, senior product manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, highlighted a few of them in an interview with CRM magazine:

  • Mitchell Humphrey unveiled FastTrackGov, a software solution for municipal and county governments. FastTrackGov is designed to provide local government bodies with a full suite of automated tools for business license and permit issuance, tracking, and reporting; it accommodates the citizen and the departmental back-office worker, while providing auditability for external review and approval as well as oversight for high-level officials.
  • Mondo introduced the Solution Selling Accelerator for Microsoft Dynamics CRM. This unites Sales Performance International’s methodology of Solution Selling with Microsoft Silverlight to create a visual workflow that identifies the pain points of multiple individuals at a customer company (the so-called "pain chain") and guides the sale based on each individual’s needs, power, vision, value, and control.
  • CourseMax has a unified learning-management offering for the training and continuing-education markets. Training service providers now can manage the complex networks of educators, facilities, students, and courses, as well as provide calendars, communication, maps, and ratings.
  • AlfaPeople has taken a "meta" approach to SaaS, delivering rapid deployment of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online as a service of its own. AlfaPeople accelerates adoption through near-instant activation of new CRM deployments; customers can be fully provisioned and begin porting over their data in as little as one minute. A one-page activation screen and an email confirmation are all that’s necessary to get up and running, as AlfaPeople creates the instance and its databases behind the scenes.
All four of the previous examples are currently available. They are just a sample of what Microsoft and its partner community have going on in the CRM space, and competitors are sure to fire back with big announcements of their own.

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