Microsoft Kicks CRM Distribution Up a Notch

Microsoft is pushing distributors and resellers to enlarge its CRM market share through the introduction of two new initiatives: a new professional Dynamics CRM edition for service providers that has been enhanced to make both hosted and on-premise deployments easier; and new prepackaged connectors to help enterprise-sized firms connect Microsoft CRM to their back office.

The ultimate goal of both programs, according to Kevin Faulkner, director of product marketing for Dynamic CRM, is to make the product as easy as possible for partners to use when they are dealing with their own customers.

“Most customers don’t want a generic, one-sized solution, even with a hosted application,” he told CRM Buyer. “They can be difficult to customize and integrate into a back-end system.” Microsoft relies on channel partners to deliver the value-add functionality, he says.

Easing Hosted Deployments

The enhancements in the new edition include new management provisions and other features — such as choice of client user interface through a hosted or hybrid deployment model — and easier migration methodologies to simplify a hosted rollout, Faulkner says.

The hosted initiative is the result of a beta program Microsoft launched at the end of last year. “Our goal with our on-demand offering is to take this globally,” Faulkner said. To gain maximum reach, Microsoft knows it must empower partners with the latest tools, he added.

One of the early adopter firms was Echopass, a provider of hosted contact center and CRM applications. Echopass was able to construct a more seamless integration between Microsoft CRM and its own application through the enhancements Microsoft rolled out during the beta program, according to Bruce Dresser, Echopass chief marketing and strategy officer.

“Demand for hosted contact center applications [is] growing phenomenally,” he told CRM Buyer. The new Microsoft initiative “will help us further penetrate this space.”

Plug-Ins for Enterprise Growth

Microsoft is also introducing several prepackaged connectors and templates that connect its enterprise resource planning (ERP) products, as well as third-party CRM and ERP applications, such as those from Siebel, SAP and Oracle.

An updated connector to Microsoft Dynamics GP, formerly Microsoft Business Solutions-Great Plains, will be released immediately.

Connectors for Microsoft Dynamics NAV, formerly Microsoft Business Solutions-Navision, and Microsoft Dynamics AX, formerly Microsoft Business Solutions-Axapta, will follow.

“These are all part of the building blocks partners need to push a global rollout of Microsoft CRM,” Dresser said.

Enterprise-sized firms — a market segment in which Microsoft is making great strides, according to its own recently released figures — are best suited for these connectors, he added.

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