Microsoft Marches into CRM
Online exclusive: Redmond will unveil its customer relationship management suite next month, sources report. Are customers and competitors ready?When Microsoft unveils its plans and strategy for its MSCRM customer relationship management software offering next month, the software giant will have a lot of explaining to do. A number of Microsofts CRM "partners" say that Microsoft still has not told them of its plans to enter the CRM market. And the Redmond, Wash., companys foes are likely to cry foul and hold up Microsofts entry into the market as yet another example of Microsoft using its monopoly muscle to advantage.
But it is customers who likely will need the most detailed descriptions of where Microsoft is going with its CRM strategyand how MSCRM will dovetail, or not, with CRM software from third-party vendors, as well as with the Great Plains-Siebel Front Office software bundle that Microsoft already sells.
According to an MSCRM vision document viewed by Baseline, Microsoft is building a full CRM suite, consisting of sales-force automation, customer-service and marketing-automation modules. (Marketing automation, which will encompass campaign planning, telesales scripting, campaign management and ROI analysis, isnt slated to debut until 2003 or later, in Version 2 of MSCRM.) Microsofts core CRM platform will include a full range of features, including a business-rules engine (code-named Dragonfly), as well as contact- and lead-management facilities, e-mail, chat, routing and other Microsoft-developed technologies, according to sources familiar with Microsofts plans. A Microsoft public relations representative declined to comment in any way on MSCRM. When asked if Microsoft would launch the product at the Convergence conferenceas Microsoft executives in January told some of its reseller partners that it planned to dothe representative said, "There is not typically news announced at Convergence." Microsoft has been rumored to be considering options for entering the CRM market for several years. At various times, Microsoft was said to be close to buying a number of mid-market CRM companies, including Pivotal Corp., Onyx and Saleslogix (now The Sage Group). One of Microsofts soon-to-be CRM rivals questions Microsofts move into the CRM space. "In his heart of hearts, Gates believes any software that needs implementation services is dumb software. And Gates doesnt do dumb software," says Bo Manning, CEO and president of Pivotal. "Microsoft would need a different mindset" to address the level of complexity of a CRM suite, Manning adds. Seemingly, the Redmond juggernaut thinks it has what it takes. But where this will leave current Great Plains customersand customers of other Windows-based CRM waresremains an open question.