Microsoft customers and partners will get their first detailed look at the upcoming Dynamics Live Customer Relationship Management service during Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmers Keynote on March 14 during the Convergence 2007 conference in San Diego.
Microsoft will demonstrate its hybrid approach to software as a service by showing Dynamics Live CRM running on-stage in a browser and in Outlook as an on-demand application. “And that is using live code in live data centers,” said Brad Wilson, general manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
Dynamics Live CRM is based on new edition of Dynamics CRM, code-named “Titan,” which will be the first full multi-tenant version that can serve multiple customers simultaneously in an on-demand service, said Wilson.
Microsoft plans to start deploying the Titan edition of Dynamics CRM through the on-demand Live CRM service during the 2007 third quarter. The company will release on-premise and partner hosted editions in the 2007 fourth quarter.
The idea is to give customers as many options as possible in terms of how they deploy and use Dynamics CRM, said Brad Wilson, general manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
Customers will be able to run Dynamics CRM either as an on-premise application or access it across the Web as an on-demand applications. Microsoft Partners will also have the option of hosting the on-demand version or reselling the on-premise version along with vertical industry extensions and applications, Wilson said.
“You can run it on-premise and then move it to on-demand, or you could move it from on-demand to on premise, and its the exact same model,” he said.
Partners can start “building extensions or solutions on the product that still works for all three models—on-premise, Microsoft-hosted as well as partner-hosted,” said Wilson.
Titan will also make it easier for customers and partners to support multiple languages and multiple currencies. The current version, Dynamics CRM 3.0, supports 22 different languages, but each language instance has to be deployed on a separate server.
Titan will support up to 24 languages, which can deployed with the application from the same service, Wilson said. Customers will also be able to readily “mix-and-match” currencies depending upon where they are doing business around the world, Wilson said.
However, it remains to be seen whether Microsofts hybrid approach to CRM will catch on with customers, who also have a choice of working with companies who have been out in the market with CRM systems that are entirely on-demand service, said Denis Pombriant, president of Beagle Research Group, a CRM market research firm in Stoughton, Mass.
“I take a dim view of the [hybrid] approach for the simple reason that it is neither fish nor fowl,” Pombriant said. The problem with the hybrid approach is its “more of a strategy of trying not to lose rather than of trying to win,” he said.
“Microsoft has been late to the market with CRM, and they have been playing catch-up for a number of years. So maybe they have caught up all the way. But I can tell you the market buzz is with companies like Salesforce.com and RightNow Technologies and Entellium” because they are focused almost entirely on delivering CRM as an on-demand service, he said.
While Pombriant hasnt studied the Microsoft CRM product, he said its an open question whether its CRM product will be as efficient and cost-effective as the pure-play on-demand products.
These companies represent the CRM market disrupters and “a lot of the time what gets missed that that the disrupter has a better product” irrespective of how it is deployed in the market, whether it is an on-premise or a hosted, software as a service product, said Pombriant.
However, Wilson said he really isnt focusing on what competitors are during in the CRM market. He is more focused on giving customers and partners choices on how they want to use CRM.
“Software-as-a-Service just allows us to go ahead and open up an even broader footprint with our customers and for our partners to help deliver CRM solutions,” he said.
Regardless of how customers have chosen to deploy CRM, “we are seeing a tremendous amount of growth in our program,” Wilson said. Microsofts CRM business has grown 112 percent over the past year, he said.
Customers shouldnt have the idea that CRM is some how a separate and distinct business function. “CRM shouldnt be something different. It should be part of what you normally do for your job,” said Wilson.
CRM should be so integrated into the other business applications that customers dont necessarily know or care that they are using CRM tools, Wilson said. Microsoft, he said, has customers that have deployed several hundred seats of Dynamics CRM. Some of these customers say, “my people dont know they are using CRM,” said Wilson.