Microsoft CRM Goes Global
Six months after having entered the CRM market Microsoft is taking aggressive steps to strengthen its position in the mid-market space.
Today the company announced plans to accelerate the release of an international version of Microsoft CRM; to revamp MS CRM's licensing agreements; and to change its certification process for resellers.
Since it's release in January MS CRM has acquired nearly 1,000 customers, along with more than 1,300 partners, including resellers, distributors, and third-party developers. The program has been downloaded more than 6,000 times via the Microsoft Developers Network.
Microsoft originally planned a global release for January 2004. That date has been moved up several months to fourth-quarter 2003. Called Release 1.2, the new version supports 9 languages (Brazilian Portuguese, Dutch, French, German, International English, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and U.S. English), and will be sold in 20 countries.
Erin Kinikin, an analyst with market-researcher Forrester, says that a global release is a must: "You can't service the customers in English if they are global customers. It is essential to be able to talk to customers in other languages--it's really just table stakes."
Version 1.2 also adds new features, including more support for Microsoft's Outlook client and development environment, enhanced Outlook synchronization, support for Crystal Enterprise 9.0 Reporting, streamlined set-up, and a handful of small fixes from early customer feedback of Version 1.0, according to Holly Holt, senior product manager of CRM at Microsoft Business Solutions Group, in Fargo, ND.
In May Microsoft announced plans for integration with its back-end Great Plains accounting program. That feature is due out by the end of this calendar year. Integration with Microsoft's financial program Navision is also due out by the end of the year.
"We have been in launch mode since January," Holt says. "Now we are realizing there is a lot of demand. The interest is there. People all over the world want to get the product now."
According to Holt, Microsoft is changing its licensing for MS CRM, and will start selling the product using a volume licensing agreement. To date MS CRM has been sold with separate pricing from other products, and included an 18 percent per-year charge for maintenance.
This altered pricing platform is more in line with how Microsoft's resellers do business. It also gives users more purchasing power by making the MS CRM license cumulative with other Microsoft products. Microsoft's Open Value or Open License lets users sign up for three-year program licenses and also pay over the same three years.
"Microsoft must think that CRM is a volume market and that it needs to have more of a volume product," Kinikin says.
In addition, Microsoft is removing the requirement that all partners must be certified for the Professional Edition of MS CRM. Originally only the Standard version did not require certification. But according to Holt, there are incentives for resellers who chose to go through the certification process.
"Partners hate restrictions and training," Kinikin says. "However, it implies a shift of power away from Microsoft and into the hands of the resellers. VARs have been saying, 'Give us the product and get out of the way.'"