Microsoft's CRM Is Put On Ice, Again
Fresh from last month's departure of Senior Director of CRM Dave Batt and the company's recent appointment of former PeopleSoft and E.piphany exec Brad Wilson to its general manager of CRM post, Microsoft is delaying the release of its Microsoft CRM 2.0 solution from next month to fourth quarter 2005. The company, which cited its motivation to postpone its highly anticipated upgrade as wanting to boost its installation, integration, and process-workflow functionalities, is looking for Version 2.0 to further extend its reach into the SMB space.
Microsoft's first foray into CRM came just over two years ago when it unveiled its first CRM solution in January 2003--despite the company's plan to release the tool during fourth quarter 2002. The company's current installment, Version 1.2, includes improved Outlook synchronization and more support for its Outlook client and development environment, support for Crystal Enterprise 9.0 Reporting, and additional tune-ups from Version 1.0. Customer response to Version 1.2 has been mixed--there have been complaints about its functionality--so the push back may spur potential customers to question the viability of 2.0. Conversely, customers may be encouraged by the company's decision to tie up a few loose ends.
Industry pundits say they are not surprised by Microsoft's decision--there is a history of pushing back release dates. "They hadn't really come up with a road map for a while, and they were making some changes with their management team, so I can certainly see how it was pretty much expected that [Version 2.0] was not going to launch on time," says Sheryl Kingstone, The Yankee Group CRM program manager. "Am I shocked? Eh-eh. They pretty much went quiet."
According to Martin Schneider, The 451 Group's enterprise software analyst, however, there hasn't been so much pent-up demand to the point that pushing it back will have that much affect on its success. "If it's done for any kind of technical-bug reason, it's probably all for the best," Schneider says, adding that he has heard of several bug problems with the first edition. "It was a little too early to market, and it can only be a good thing to get it as close to perfect as possible before releasing it, [moving] people away from the kind of typical Microsoft fears of crazy bugs and major problems."
While Schneider contends that the delay can only be a good thing if the delay is in fact for technical reasons, as the company says, he is interested in seeing the finished product "because the first edition was not so greatly received. It was much more hype than actual bite. [With] this one, there's a lot more functional enhancements promised, so we'll see if the actual look and feel measures up. [We'll] see if it actually does
give some of the midmarket players a real run for their money where it actually didn't their first time around."
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