Pursuing Integration

By Joseph C. Panettieri  |  Posted 2004-04-12 Print this article Print

Sonomas strategy isnt unique. Predictably, many solutions providers are tying Microsoft CRM to other Microsoft server applications. "One of Microsoft CRMs great strengths is its ability to leverage classic technology such as SQL Server, Exchange Server and BizTalk Server," said Eileen Stribula, a Microsoft CRM consultant at Tectura Corp., a solutions provider in Tempe, Ariz. "Its attractive to companies that seek integrated functionality."

Although Microsoft CRM has received mixed reviews from the media, sales appear to be picking up. "Microsoft expects to double last years [CRM] customer number by June of this year," said Stribula. "We expect our customer base to follow that trend."

Microsoft CRM is particularly attractive to businesses that are seeking rapid application deployments. Sonoma, for instance, completed the initial rollout for Equity Residential in a scant seven weeks. Active since August, the first rollout spans roughly 20 desktops and manages one property involving 700 condo units.

Through additional enhancements, Sonoma empowered Equity Residentials sales agents to quickly generate purchasing agreements, closing worksheets, tax letters, warrantee deeds, paid assessment letters, bills of sale and titles. Software from ActivePDF Inc., of Mission Viejo, Calif., works hand in hand with Microsoft CRM and manages the document generation. "The instant creation of these documents eliminates errors and saves hours of time for each condo unit sold," said Snyder.

Satisfied with the current rollout, Equity Residential has big CRM plans for the future. By next year, the CRM system will manage more than 10,000 condo units across 50 property locations, according to Baker.

Rather than depending on Sonoma for the large-scale rollout, the solutions provider trained Equity Residentials internal development staff to manage the system.

Sonoma makes Microsoft CRM sound like an easy sale. Yet two other solutions providers tried—and failed—to deploy such a system for the real estate company. "Sonoma Partners displayed a solid understanding of the product and were quick to comprehend our business needs," said Baker. "We talked to other integration firms, but Sonoma had the best solution for the functionality we needed. We consider them a trusted adviser."

Sounds like Equity Residential is ready to pass "Go."

Joseph C. Panettieri (joe_pan5@yahoo.com) is editorial director at New York Institute of Technology (www.nyit.edu). He has covered Silicon Valley since 1992.

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