The CRM software will complement Microsoft Great Plains’ other enterprise solutions offerings. However, some in the industry claim it will damage Microsoft’s relationship with CRM vendors – in particular Siebel. This is unlikely: the smaller companies Microsoft CRM is targeting neither need nor can afford solutions from the best-of-breed vendors.
Microsoft is preparing to launch its own SME CRM offering in Q4 this year.
Microsoft CRM, the first Microsoft business solution to be built on the .NET platform, is scheduled to launch in North America in Q4 2002, and elsewhere in Q1 2003.
The software giant has been involved in mid-market enterprise solutions since it bought Great Plains in 2000. But although it supplies enterprise resource planning (ERP), supply chain management (SCM) and eCommerce applications to the mid-market, it has relied on close partnerships with CRM vendors (particularly Siebel), and its own bCentral online lead management product for small businesses.
The new product, aimed at companies with 25 to ‘hundreds’ of users, will offer sales and service automation capabilities across multiple channels, but will have little marketing automation or analytics capability. Microsoft claims it will fill the gap for companies that have outgrown bCentral but do not yet need a complex solution.
Some believe Microsoft CRM will harm Microsoft’s relationships with Siebel and other mid-market CRM vendors, such as Pivotal and Onyx. However, this is unlikely to be true. The solution will be easy to install in comparison with more complex CRM solutions. It will offer integration with Outlook and Office, and will also be accessible through a browser on a thin-client basis.
Too many CRM vendors try to sell enterprise-level applications to small business that cannot afford and do not need to install such solutions. Microsoft understands SMEs market far better than CRM giants such as Siebel, PeopleSoft, SAP and Oracle – not only does it have an army of resellers serving this market, but smaller companies tend to spend a much higher proportion of their IT budget with Microsoft.
However, Microsoft is not the only solutions firm with a good understanding of the SME market. A number of smaller local players in Europe and the US, such as UK finance software vendor Sage, are offering SME enterprise application suites. The competition will be fierce.