Microsoft has some significant updates in store for its Dynamics customer relationship management (CRM) software, and in many respects they mirror some of the trends currently reshaping the broader enterprise software market.
First, on March 19 during the Microsoft Dynamics Convergence 2013 conference in New Orleans, the software titan made waves by announcing that it snapped up social analytics application company NetBreeze. Bob Stutz, corporate vice president of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, revealed what made the Swiss company such an attractive acquisition in a company blog post.
"Netbreeze technology is unique in the way it combines modern methods from natural language processing (NLP), data mining and semantic text analysis to support 28 different writing systems. ... This is a huge benefit over competing solutions that translate to a common language then analyze sentiment from there," wrote Stutz.
It also helps that NetBreeze keeps its finger firmly on the pulse of the social media scene. "Additionally, they offer their customers the ability to monitor a wide array of social channels, including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, as well as 6,000 online news Websites, 18 million blogs and 500,000 message boards," added Stutz.
Describing the development as "the best news at Convergence 2013," Mani Ramachandran, a CRM specialist and consultant, noted in another Microsoft Dynamics CRM Blog post that the NetBreeze add-on for Dynamics CRM will be offered as part of the base product with no additional licensing costs.
He added that the Dynamics-NetBreeze combo will offer users customized dashboards that display information like the volume of social mentions and top influencers. Other features include trend charts, sentiment analysis and the ability to respond to Twitter and other social networks directly from the product.
Microsoft also unveiled a new version of MarketingPilot, which the company completed its acquisition of on Oct. 17.
As its name implies, MarketingPilot is marketing automation software that blends business intelligence capabilities to help marketers plan and track their campaigns. "This capability, when combined with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, fulfills the Holy Grail of marketing—omni-channel marketing that enables top-line revenue growth while managing costs and measuring return on marketing investment," boasted Microsoft in press remarks.
On the mobile front, Microsoft is readying a tablet-optimized Dynamics CRM sales app for the second half of the year. The "guided selling" app will be available for Windows 8 and RT tablets as well as the iPad.
While Dynamics CRM basked in the spotlight, Microsoft hasn't neglected its enterprise resource planning (ERP) product Dynamics AX.
In its next refresh, also planned for the second half of 2013, Dynamics AX will gain new mobile, social-enabled applications for Windows 8 and RT, iOS and Android. These include new time- and expense-management apps in addition to an approvals app and time tracking.
Microsoft is banking on these and future upgrades to help the company keep its momentum and compete in a competitive market with fast-moving rivals such as Salesforce.com. Redmond reports that Dynamics CRM has more than 3 million users and in excess of 39,000 customers.
Similarly, Dynamics AX is on a "strong growth path," claimed Microsoft. The ERP suite has attracted more than 18,000 customers and notched a license growth rate of more than 50 percent license growth in the last fiscal quarter, according to the company.