Now general manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Brad Wilson’s career trajectory has allowed him to deliver CRM to the market from many different vantage points — and levels of resources.
Wilson began at HP as a database software architect, moving into product management and marketing after a few years. He then moved to a startup company that was eventually acquired by one of the early CRM providers, E.piphany. After that, it was on to PeopleSoft and then, in 2005, to Microsoft to lead its then still emerging CRM application into the market.
Clearly, Microsoft is the largest company of them all, and has one of the largest global footprints of any of the tech vendors. Viewed through his particular career prism, CRM for Wilson has changed quite a bit. At the same time, though, Wilson has noted another change in the industry that is very relevant to his current mission of promoting Microsoft’s product lineup in this space.
“CRM went through a period where there were a lot of inflated expectations that were not met,” he told CRM Buyer. “The biggest problem for a lot of people was that the technology wasn’t well suited for the people who were using it.” People — in other words — who didn’t have Ph.D.’s in computer science or advanced training in analytics.
“User adoption has been the biggest problem in CRM for the last 10 years,” Wilson concluded.
When Microsoft Dynamics CRM launched a little less than five years ago, executives at the company knew that if it could target this disgruntled user group — basically almost the entire CRM universe at that point — it could sweep the market. CRM Buyer spoke with Wilson about how Microsoft’s vision has succeeded thus far.
CRM Buyer: Every time I ask, your number of customers seems to have jumped exponentially. What’s the latest?
More than 12,000 companies.
CRM Buyer: I know you just released Titan to manufacturing and I want to talk about that in a moment, but first tell me what you have planned for 2008 for the product.
Next year, we will be focusing on expanding our global reach with 4.0 [Titan] and taking CRM Live to open access here in the U.S. and Canada.
CRM Buyer: I thought CRM Live was available now.
It’s limited availability through the Early Access program. We started that in September. We will be expanding it in the first half of 2008 so that any one can sign up. Right now, it is invitation only.
Next year, you will see us make two main thrusts — broadly pushing out 4.0 globally and ramping up CRM Live in North America.
Microsoft’s SaaS Maneuver
CRM Buyer: Explain again the difference between 4.0 and CRM Live.
They are the same application, the same bytes. We are calling it CRM Live when it is run and supported in Microsoft’s data centers.
CRM Buyer: Analysts say this is Microsoft’s answer to the Software as a Service competition.
I am completely neutral as to how my customers choose to deploy the products. Most analysts will tell you that SaaS will make up 20 to 25 percent of the [market] five years from now [so we want to address that constituency].
Calling All Call Centers
CRM Buyer: What about functional areas? Will there be a new direction in the feature set in 2008?
There will be a big focus on contact centers. We’ve been selling there already but we will be spending more time and building awareness in this space in 2008.
CRM Buyer: How is Titan — now 4.0 — going for you?
As you know, we shipped the product from our engineering group this week, putting it in the hands of a lot of customers through multiple distribution mechanisms. We’ve had more than 600 partners working on the Titan in prerelease form since January of this year, so we are pretty excited about it.
CRM Buyer: Did you make any changes to it since the last time we talked?
We made a late addition integrating the presence indicator into the Unified Communications platform.
CRM Buyer: Longhorn was named after a mountain. Where did you get Titan from?
It’s the second largest moon in the solar system — Saturn’s moon. We know we should have named it after the largest moon in the system, but Ganymede just didn’t sound right.