MS CRM Nears 1,000 Customers

Six months into the release of Microsoft's CRM suite, the company is already exceeding its expectations as its customer count approaches the 1,000 mark.

Six months into the release of Microsofts CRM suite, the company is already exceeding its expectations as its customer count approaches the 1,000 mark.

"Were well into the hundreds [in customers], it wont be long before we can say were over 1,000," said Holly Holt, group product manager for Microsoft CRM.

Holt added that in Microsoft CRMs first quarter of existence, its already surpassed the business that was done during a three-year partnership with Siebel Systems Inc., when Microsoft and its Great Plains Software predecessor resold the Siebel Mid-Market Edition Suite.

"This is a product thats designed very specifically for the target market its being sold into," she said. "The technology base is easier to manage. And Microsoft is considered by customers to be a safe bet."

Size of customer deployments varies, from pilot sites with as little as five seats to one customer with 1,500 seats, which Microsoft expects to announce shortly, Holt said. The typical customer seat total is in the high 20s, she added. Theres about a 50-50 split between customers licensing the software and customers using it as a hosted service, according to Holt.

Microsoft is relying on partners to build vertical-specific functionality on top of the platform, Holt said. To date, MS has signed up 1,300 partners altogether, though it has irked some with plans to open up all versions of the software to all Microsoft partners rather than just Microsoft Business Solutions CRM-certified partners. This is being done since Microsoft CRM is being added to Microsofts volume-licensing plan, which gives customers discounts based on how much Microsoft software they buy.

Holt defended the practice, saying it results in lower prices for customers.

"It gives the customers more purchasing power," she said. "As they purchase more volume [of Microsoft software] they get bigger discounts."

The next release of Microsoft CRM, version 1.2, is slated for the fourth quarter and will support additional languages, bringing the total to nine; stronger reporting capabilities based on Crystal Decisions Inc.s Crystal Enterprise 9; improved setup and development capabilities; and back office integration with Microsofts Solomon and Navision brand applications.

Down the road, Microsoft plans to unify its CRM products—Microsoft CRM and its Navision and Axapta sales and marketing modules, which are used mostly in Europe, into a single product, Holt said.


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"Well take the best of breed functionality and roll it into future CRM releases," she said, though she gave no timeframe for when this integration would occur. "If customers are happy where theyre at, they can stay where theyre at, but eventually there will be a convergence."

Though quick to gloat over Microsoft CRMs success vs. its previous partnership with Siebel, Holt said she expects there will still be plenty of room for Siebel in the mid-market, which Siebel CEO Tom Siebel has pledged his companys commitment to.

"Itll be interesting to see how the mid-market shapes up. But I think there will still be a lot of opportunity for Siebel as well as Microsoft in the future," she said. "Theres a lot of deals out there."