While experiencing growing pains related to its 10-month-old Microsoft CRM product, Microsoft Corp. is pushing ahead with technology enhancements to the customer relationship management software suite for small and midsize businesses.
Microsoft over the next 16 months will add integration, client support and migration technologies that will build on usability and performance enhancements in a recent upgrade to MS CRM. The Redmond, Wash., company hopes these will relieve the headaches some customers are having.
By next quarter, Microsoft plans to offer back-office integration between MS CRM and the companys Solomon business applications. Integration will be extended to Microsofts Navision and Axapta applications by the first quarter of 2005, officials said. Such integration already exists between MS CRM and Microsofts Great Plains applications.
Microsoft will offer a migration path from Outlooks Business Contact Manager to MS CRM by the first or second quarter of next year and will add Pocket PC client support for MS CRMs Sales application in the third quarter.
New Features in MS
MS CRM 2.0, which is due by the first quarter of 2005, will support enhanced capabilities for lead management, solution selling and e-mail campaign management, officials said.
MS CRM 1.2, which shipped in North America this month, added features designed to increase users efficiency, mainly through improved workflows, officials said. Developers got improved capabilities for customizing MS CRM Sales for Outlook.
Microsoft says it has more than 1,000 MS CRM customers, ranging from five to 2,000 seats per customer. But the company has stumbled in keeping its products cross-compatible and has missed some release targets.
MS CRM 1.2 promised compatibility with the latest versions of Microsofts Windows, Office and Exchange platforms. However, customers still using earlier versions of MS CRM who upgraded to Exchange 2003 found out the hard way that the products were not compatible. Elite Flooring & Design Inc. migrated from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2003, only to discover that its MS CRM 1.0 install could not synchronize account and contact information with the new Exchange.
“There was a lack of communication from Microsoft that MS CRM was not ready for the latest version of Exchange,” said Sean McCarthy, principal of Elite Flooring, in Norcross, Ga. “We found that out when we installed Exchange 2003.”
A Microsoft spokeswoman confirmed that customers planning to upgrade to Exchange 2003 must first move up to MS CRM 1.2, which is a free upgrade.
Elite Flooring is now in the midst of an MS CRM reinstall. Such upgrade miscues could prove costly as Microsoft competes against hosted application service providers, such as Salesforce.com Inc., that claim to inoculate customers against IT headaches typically associated with upgrades.
McCarthy also expressed frustration that the Solomon integration is still not complete. Microsoft had planned to include it in the MS CRM 1.2 release that shipped earlier this month.