There's nothing original about the phrase "new and improved" when it comes to vendors attempting to pitch their modestly updated solutions. But in the case of Microsoft, the Redmond giant's new incarnation of Microsoft CRM is generating some worthy buzz. That's because Microsoft Dynamics CRM for 2007 Microsoft Office System and Windows Vista is following in the steps of Salesforce.com and NetSuite by offering its CRM technology as both an on-demand and on-premise solution.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM is offered through the licensing model that is used with Microsoft Dynamics ERP (enterprise resource planning) products, making it simpler and more convenient for customers and partners to buy and deploy a full Microsoft Dynamics suite solution that spans CRM, financial management and supply-chain management. Licensing options include both Business Ready Licensing and Modular Based Licensing.
"This version is probably going to have more impact on the market than any previous Microsoft version," forecasted Tim Hickernell, an Info-Tech Research Group senior research analyst. "Microsoft is finally getting software-as-a-service right." What's more, Hickernell said that Microsoft Dynamics CRM's "very aggressive pricing" will allow the company to compete with today's CRM upstarts.
So what's new about Microsoft Dynamics CRM, other than offering customers "the power of choice," in the words of Brad Wilson, general manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM at Microsoft? Special features include:
An enriched user experience based on the 2007 Microsoft Office system. The new release of Microsoft CRM lets salespeople access rich, roles-based CRM capabilities through Microsoft Office Outlook, Microsoft Internet Explorer and a broad range of mobile devices.
Richer data visualization with Microsoft Office Excel 2007. Rich data visualization and business-intelligence enhancements to Microsoft Office Excel 2007 enable better analysis and decision-making for CRM managers and users.
Desktop action and insight using Windows Vista gadgets. New Windows Vista gadgets allow Microsoft Dynamics CRM activities, analytics and alerts to be placed directly onto the desktop or the home page.
Unified communications with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007. The new release of Microsoft CRM enables users to store voice-mail messages in Outlook and track them automatically in Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
Enhanced security with BitLocker Drive Encryption in Windows Vista. The new BitLocker capability in Windows Vista helps protect confidential CRM data on laptops from being accessed by unauthorized individuals.
Certainly, this isn't the first — and probably won't be the last — time Microsoft announces a new version of its software. But according to Hickernell, "With Microsoft, the joke always is wait a few versions and then they'll get it right. But I think [Microsoft Dynamics CRM for 2007 Microsoft Office System and Windows Vista] is going to be a really significant version release." Only time will tell if he's right.
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