Microsoft's CRM partner & product strategy revealed
With the acquisition of Navision, Microsoft's general manager for CRM has spoken out about the software giant's overall CRM systems strategy, its value proposition, ongoing support for partners and resellers, strengths of the company's business solutions channel, and the increasingly important role of web services in the CRM industry.
David Thacher, general manager of customer relationship management (CRM) at Microsoft Business Solutions, speaks of the upcoming release of Microsoft's CRM solution for midmarket businesses: "We built Microsoft CRM on the Microsoft .NET foundation to open up opportunities for internet service vendors and partners to extend their systems using web services."
.NET strengths The company's CRM offering is the first of its business applications built on the .NET platform. Thacher explained that .NET facilitates easy connection of systems and enhances solutions with external web services such as credit checking, analytics and marketing automation services.
And using either Microsoft Outlook or browser-based clients, the CRM product will provide midmarket businesses with the tools they need to build profitable customer relationships through increased sales and more consistent customer service. Microsoft says that the mid-market is largely under-served, and presents a compelling opportunity for both Microsoft and its partners to collaborate. Microsoft and its partners will combine their collective experience and expertise in both CRM and the medium-sized to small-business marketplace.
Customisation Thacher also points out how easily customers can use and customise the solution to suit their own needs. The whole solution, which is expected to be available in North America in the fourth quarter of 2002, can be used either as a standalone product or it can be integrated with the company's Great Plains business applications: Dynamics, Solomon and eEnterprise - and eventually its newly acquired Navision Attain and Axapta applications.
Thacher added that CRM has always been an important area for Microsoft. "What we're doing now is increasing our efforts to tailor a product specifically for midmarket businesses that enables them to pursue hot opportunities," he said. Last year's acquisition of Great Plains, and the recent acquisition of Navision Software A/S, have also contributed to Microsoft's ability to serve the space.
Joe Outlaw, research director at Gartner, commented that "Gartner estimates the respective penetration rates of CRM solutions by small business and medium-sized business are 2% - 3% and around 20% respectively. These markets are at early stages of adoption with large opportunities for CRM vendors that approach them with the right products and messages. SMBs don't want large-enterprise solutions at discount prices or with minor modifications, such as a few features turned off. SMBs want products and services designed, priced and delivered from vendors that understand their needs and are committed to meeting them."
Packaging and pricing Microsoft CRM will have a simple-but-flexible licensing model, where companies may choose Sales, Service or Suite licensing at Standard or Professional levels of functionality. The pricing model is designed to encourage companies that previously considered CRM systems unaffordable to start systems and expand them as their businesses grow, ranging from US$395 per user (plus US$995 for the server) for the Standard Sales level, up to US$1,395 per user (plus US$1,990 for the server) at the Professional Suite level.
The product will be sold and implemented through Microsoft Business Solutions' reselling partner channel, and support will be provided by partners and also by Microsoft's own customer support team. The solution will be available on-premise or as a hosted solution through select partners.