Microsoft is offering a service update for Microsoft Dynamics CRM with some new social-networking and cloud features, in a bid to keep the customer relationship management platform muscular in the face of significant competition from Salesforce and other companies.
"By bringing together new social-collaboration capabilities in Microsoft Dynamics CRM with familiar collaboration technologies such as Office, SharePoint and Lync, businesses will be able to expand their relationships with customers and gain even deeper insight and understanding," Brad Wilson, general manager of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Product Management Group, wrote in an Oct. 25 statement.
The new features include activity feeds, which offer real-time notifications on important relationships and business events; micro-blogging, with status updates and notifications of events and actions; and conversations, which let employees post questions and status updates. Microsoft is also offering automated activity updates, with information posted directly to the platform's activity feed, and mobile activity feeds, an application for Windows Phone that allows users to see their feeds on the go.
The service update also offers a common administration, billing and provisioning platform with Office 365, Microsoft's cloud-based productivity platform-a natural move, considering Microsoft's determination to sign as many businesses onto the service as possible.
Microsoft is very much concerned with blunting competitive forays by the likes of Salesforce.com and Google into the areas of CRM and online productivity.
Those battles have become increasingly intense. In December 2010, for example, Microsoft took a hard swipe at Salesforce, posting "An Open Letter to Salesforce.com Customers" in which it dangled a $200-per-user rebate for any organization that switched from its upstart cloud-computing rival. That followed on the heels of tit-for-tat lawsuits between the two companies over intellectual property, a situation resolved that August when Salesforce agreed to compensate Microsoft for its patents.
For months, Microsoft has emphasized how customers who chose its cloud option could leverage it in the context of other company software such as Office-in effect, creating a software-centric alternative to Salesforce's emphasis on Facebook-style social networking, or even Oracle's integrated hardware-and-software stack approach. Microsoft Dynamics CRM interoperates with Windows Azure, boasts certain contextual capabilities with SharePoint and gives users access to the Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace.
The new social aspects in this service update, however, suggest that Microsoft is also interested in competing on a feature-by-feature basis with its rivals.