Microsoft Dynamics Steps Out of Shadows
Microsoft Dynamics CRM may have felt like the wallflower at the big dance when Microsoft's global strategic integration with Salesforce.com was announced last week, but it is nevertheless moving forward with new functionality -- and chin held high. Pluckiness might not be enough, though. "To a certain extent, Microsoft Dynamics CRM has been something of a dud to date," said Pund-IT's Charles King.
Microsoft on Monday announced global availability of the latest feature set in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, which was introduced earlier this year. It offers new marketing functionality, enhanced customer service features, a Unified Service Desk for call centers, and additional social listening features.
The marketing functionality in this version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM has been rebuilt with the technology gained from MarketingPilot, which Microsoft acquired close to two years ago. Its strength is in managing multistage Web campaigns; it has strong reporting features, new lead management and scoring capabilities, and new email marketing features.
The Unified Service Desk automates repetitive tasks for agents so they are better able to handle multiple interactions simultaneously. It also provides more choices to customers for delivery mode -- that is, they can opt to offer self-service via support portals, Facebook, Twitter, Web chat or video capabilities, or some combination of those channels.
Microsoft Social Listening allows users to assess and then act on market intelligence from social conversations. It also can measure sentiment across a wide array of social channels -- tracking by product, brand, competitor and campaigns globally and in real time.
The Microsoft Dynamics offering is a good platform, Laura DiDio, principal of ITIC, told CRM Buyer.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM is in the top five of providers, she said. "They are rolling out some pretty good stuff, with social listening and the Unified Service Desk."
In addition, Microsoft Dynamics CRM has a good reach and the new changes will further cement its place among its strong SMB base, Didio continued.
The spring debut of this version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM follows by several days the announcement of a new strategic partnership between Microsoft and Salesforce.com.
Under the deal, Dynamics CRM competitor Salesforce.com will be tightly integrated with Microsoft Windows, as well as Office 365, Microsoft's cloud-based productivity software.
Though this arrangement might appear detrimental to Microsoft Dynamics CRM at first glance, "the Salesforce.com transaction will get their name in the news more often now and before a potentially new customer base," DiDio suggested.
'Something of a Dud'
There isn't universal agreement that Microsoft's progress with its CRM platform has been impressive, however.
"To a certain extent, Microsoft Dynamics CRM has been something of a dud to date," Charles King, principal of Pund-IT, told CRM Buyer.
It is not necessarily a CRM-specific problem, he added.
"The company has tried several times to get traction in business applications outside of the productivity space," King said, pointing to the acquisition of Great Plains some 15 years ago, a deal aimed at knocking Intuit out of the market.
"Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Microsoft does not do well when it goes head-to-head against more expert providers," he observed.
Some of the functionality touted as new in the latest version of Dynamics CRM -- such as social listening, for example -- has been available as a feature in other apps for some time, King pointed out.
Then again, it is easy to mistake what industry observers consider essential to what the rank and file -- that is, actual CRM users -- consider necessary, Didio noted.
"It usually takes CRM users, especially small business CRM users, at least two years to get comfortable with a new technology or feature before they are ready to adopt it," she said.
From their perspective, the latest version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM might be right on time with its enhanced social listening and unified service desk functionality.
Of greater interest to small business users, perhaps, is the integration for which Microsoft is renowned.
"That is what Microsoft has always had going for it -- its strong, careful integration with its other features, such as Skype. Also, Microsoft embeds a lot of security and documentation and tech support around its offerings," DiDio pointed out. "These are underrated in the general tech analyst community sometimes, but users love that about Microsoft."