Microsoft has released the latest version of Microsoft CRM 1.2 in North America, the first revision of the product since its January 2003 introduction.
In addition, the software behemoth has announced it will offer the new release in nine languages and in more than 47 countries. The company expects this global version to become available during the first quarter of the 2004 calendar year.
Holly Holt, group product manager for Microsoft CRM, told CRM Buyer that version 1.2 is available in Standard and Professional editions and comes with a choice of sales modules, customer-service modules or a suite containing both.
While the cost of CRM 1.2 varies depending on different organizations’ volume licensing agreements with Microsoft, Holt said, the Professional Edition starts at less than US$1,000 per seat. Customer service is included with all licenses because “we want people to have great initial deployments,” she noted.
According to Holt, Microsoft’s introductory CRM release, CRM 1.0, gained the company more than 1,000 new customers during its first eight months of availability. Holt said she thinks the program’s interoperability with other Microsoft product offerings has made it a good, safe bet for its customers, which are mostly small- and mid-size businesses.
The new version works seamlessly with Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, Microsoft Office 2003 and Microsoft Small Business Server, according to the company. As a result, the company’s CRM product can achieve tight integration with information stored in Outlook, Active Directory and other Microsoft applications.
Holt said Microsoft believes it is important for businesses to be able to share information. As an example, she said it is much better if someone can call a business when an employee is on vacation and obtain information from another worker, rather than being told, “Sorry, she’s on vacation. Call back in a week.”
Whereas CRM 1.0 focused on core business productivity, such as sales, customer service, integration with ERP and financial applications, version 1.2 provides continuing functionality in those areas as well as improved usability and performance, Holt said.
Aberdeen Group research director Karen Smith agreed that Microsoft CRM 1.2 offers better functionality than the previous version. She told CRM Buyer that the product provides good sales and service capabilities along with limited baseline marketing functions and does a very good job for mainstream business users.
Microsoft is targeting CRM 1.2 primarily toward small and medium businesses (SMBs), as well as divisions and departments of larger organizations. Smith called it a natural fit for small enterprises, many of which run an all-Microsoft environment.
Resources To Develop
In the short time it has been available, Microsoft CRM has gained market share and should continue to do so in its target market of SMBs, Smith said.
She noted that Microsoft has huge financial resources even in a down economy and, unlike some of its competitors, has continued to increase spending on research and development.
In addition, she advised industry watchers to expect continued improvement in each future release as Microsoft invests more resources to execute and bring those new versions to market.