Microsoft took a critical step toward the release of its namesake CRM software today with the announcement that it will bundle in software from Crystal Decisions Inc.
Crystal Decisions Crystal Enterprise software will provide reporting and analysis capabilities in Microsoft Customer Relationship Management, which is due in customers hands by the end of the year. Analysis is a key component of any CRM package because it is essentially the brains that enable a sales or marketing organization to sift through customer data to fine potential sales opportunities and forecast product-related revenues.
Through a joint development effort between Crystal, of Palo Alto, Calif., and Microsofts Great Plains business unit, of Fargo, N.D., Crystal Enterprise was given a user interface that is similar to that of MS CRM. It give users the ability to view, filter, print and export about 125 canned reports.
"Our partners will see this as a great starting point," said Holly Holt, senior product manager for MS CRM. "Through the reporting in MS CRM we have provided that baseline [capability] for customers to gain efficiencies, such as in doing just-in-time inventory."
Todays agreement differs from previous ones between the two companies in that Microsoft Great Plains also agreed to resell additional Crystal Decisions tools through its reseller channel. The tools, which will include a version of Crystal Reports Standard with a special MS CRM driver, will enable users to customize the canned reports and create new reports. The Microsoft channel will also resell Crystal Decisions training and support.
The additional tools will let the small and mid-sized businesses that are the targeted to use MS CRM analyze customer data residing in other Great Plains back-office applications, said Mike Brooks, director of alliances at Crystal.
"Crystal Decisions is the standard in business reporting," Brooks said. "We have over 11 million units shipped."