MS CRM: if you build it, developers will come

Microsoft will look to its development partners for some of its CRM capability. The company presented its customer relationship management software roadmap to about two dozen attendees at its InterConnect conference last week.

Microsoft will look to its development partners for some of its CRM capability.

The company, which will release localised versions of its CRM suite for the Asia-Pacific region in the second half of the year, presented its customer relationship management software roadmap to about two dozen attendees at its InterConnect conference last week.

Business solutions executive John Watt says Microsoft will offer the basic building blocks of sales force and marketing automation, customer service functionality and channel management, knowledge management and order management. Development partners can then build applications such as computer-telephony integration for the suite, Watt says.

He says CRM is incomplete without access to financial applications and there’s no point to CRM if there is no benefit coming back such as increased revenue.

Though designed to be closely linked into Microsoft back-office applications such as Great Plains and Navision, the suite can be bought standalone — if organisations also buy SQL Server and Exchange licences. Active Directory will need to be “activated” in the Windows server version a customer is using, says Watt, though Crystal Reports and BizTalk are bundled — not a term Microsoft uses — with the suite. He says wizards mean those integrating the suite to the database need not be “SQL gurus”.

The presentation showed Outlook email and Internet Explorer screens taking a user through, for example, the handling of campaigns, contacts and opportunities in the sales order process. Users can create workflow rules, the “bark and bite” of the system, to remind and enforce procedures, says Watt.

The only hitches to the presentation came when Watt couldn’t quickly change the basic details of a newly created file and when an attendee asked about importing bulk files in other formats.

Watt says Microsoft is working on adding such capability, and functionality for the mobile workforce: a team of 18 in Redmond is busy porting MS CRM to the Pocket PC.

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