The ability to use Microsoft CRM 3.0 from Office or Outlook has received criticism from Microsoft’s competitors who say as the product is too simplistic, but there is a less obvious aspect to the new release, which is that Microsoft is finding another way to reaffirm its ownership of the desktop.
While Microsoft believes in the product in its own right, it also sees a future for it as a front end to enterprise applications from other vendors, even when competing vendors have their own CRM system. According to Brad Wilson, general manager for Microsoft CRM: Microsoft CRM will end up attached to ERP systems, even if they would like to sell their own CRM system.
He said he is counting on market uncertainty and CRM’s poor track record for this particular strategy, looking to capitalize on organizations that need to rethink their application strategies in the light of consolidation and that fact that CRM does not have a perfect record for ROI. [Organizations] are coming to us because we use standard technology and are asking what we can do for them in the front office, said Wilson. CRM 3.0 is in the right place, at right time, in a consolidating market were customers need Microsoft for its stability.
Disappointed organizations and those concerned about the effects of vendor consolidation are a prime target. It is our best prospect. Enterprises have CRM and know what is and what it is not and have learned the lessons, he said.
Microsoft’s strong commitment to a best-of-breed CRM approach at a time when suites are in the ascendancy is surprising, but is a product of its own changing strategy around initiatives like project Green, now known as Dynamics, and market dynamics. No one has a CRM system in the enterprise, they have a CRM strategy and lots of CRM applications, said Wilson. His view is one of loosely coupled applications supporting the need for data roll-up and CDI, but not lock stepped to a CRM leviathan, he said.
Annette Giardina from Microsoft partner Aspective elaborated, pointing out that the organizations Aspective serves are interested in data exchange applications not integration. They want the choice to take products that are best of breed. CDI gave them the ability to do that and that is not point to point integration.
The problem if you have a suite it that it is built to work together but it needs to integrate just as easily to other applications and not just CRM to back office but wider than that, to systems that are doing very specific jobs that [organizations] will not rip and replace, she said. You need to integrate to them all. She said the Microsoft strategy is to bring everything under an umbrella but it does not force organizations to use one specific umbrella.