Microsoft does CRM

Last month, Microsoft Corp. rolled out an upgrade to its customer relationship management software. That's right, Microsoft sells CRM. According to AMR Research of Boston, SAP expected to ship $1.7 billion worth of CRM software in 2005; Microsoft was looking at $232 million. Still, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 is a significant upgrade (the previous version was 1.2), designed to integrate tightly with Microsoft Outlook 2003 in order to make the job of CRM easier.

Sig Behrens, director of business solutions for Microsoft's U.S. public sector group, said Dynamics CRM 3.0 was aimed at agencies that need software for citizen response or constituent service management. We couldn't wait to get the software set up in the GCN Lab to test it. But according to a spokesperson, Microsoft decided 'not to support in-depth technical reviews' because it was focused on meeting customer and partner demand. That sounded strange'almost like a Hollywood movie studio not previewing a film for the press because it wasn't sure how it would be received. So we talked to an end user.

Richard Christman has been rolling out Dynamics CRM 3.0 at the Missouri House of Representatives (a 'constituent relationship management system,' he calls it). The Missouri House went with Microsoft mainly because it was cost-effective, Christman told GCN, but also because it runs as part of Outlook. 'The mean time to usability is much shorter,' he said. Christman should know. He's a member of the state's CRM committee and a former administrator of Siebel CRM systems. Any limitations? 'It's not as flexible [as other CRM platforms], but it doesn't require the same level of expertise. It fits nicely in the mid-market.' The Missouri House will eventually have almost 400 people using the software. Pricing starts at $622 per user and $1,244 per server for the professional edition.

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