Microsoft Moves into the CRM Space

By Heather Baldwin

If you’re a mid-sized business trying to make a decision about which CRM application to buy, wait a few more months and you’ll be able to add the biggest name in computing to your list of potential vendors. Microsoft just announced Microsoft Customer Relationship Management, a CRM solution for mid-market businesses, which will launch in the U.S. sometime during the fourth quarter. The international release is slated for first quarter 2003.

CRM has always been an important area for Microsoft, according to David Thacher, general manager of CRM at Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS). “What we’re doing now is increasing our efforts to tailor a product specifically for mid-market businesses that enables them to pursue hot opportunities.” The application will be tightly integrated with Outlook and other MBS business applications. It will be built on the Microsoft .NET architecture, which facilitates the connection of systems and simplifies use of external Web services such as credit checking, analytics and marketing automation services that extend the core functionality of Microsoft’s CRM.

There are two editions – standard and professional – and two modules – customer service and sales and marketing – that will sit atop the core CRM server. The standard edition of the sales and marketing module includes lead management and routing, opportunity management, correspondence/mail merge, account and contact management, activity and task management, security management, user management, calendar, business management, prebuilt reports and customization tools and utilities. The professional edition will include all that plus workflow, sales process management, product catalog, quote/order/invoices, quotas, territory management, sales literature, direct email, competitor tracking and back-office integration.

Pricing ranges from $395 per user plus $995 for the server for the standard sales level to $1,295 per user plus $1,990 for the server at the professional suite level. The solution will be sold through partners and resellers and will be available on-premise or as a hosted solution through select partners.