Q

Evaluating Microsoft CRM for an SMB

Jim Berkowitz, SearchCRM.com's midmarket expert, discusses pros and cons of Microsoft CRM for an SMB in this expert tip.

We're evaluating Microsoft CRM and I'm trying to get some real answers. Microsoft's CRM product seems popular because it's easily integrated with other Microsoft products, but what about the functionality of the CRM product itself?

Other Microsoft products like Office offer huge suites of tools, but a lot of them are never used or understood by the end user. And while integration with other parts of the enterprise is helpful, it takes a patient, coordinated approach and it must be embraced throughout an organization. In most SMBs this is tougher than it sounds!

Do you know of any studies or reports regarding the actual use of Microsoft Dynamics CRM to debunk my suspicions?

The latest version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a significant improvement functionality-wise over previous versions. The product now contains core functionality that covers sales, marketing and customer service. Is the included CRM functionality everything that any company, or your SMB in particular, might need? Only an analysis comparing your specific needs with the capabilities of the Microsoft CRM solution can determine that.

The CRM space is both mature and crowded. As a result, many of CRM solution developers are participating in a "function and feature war," which, in my opinion, is a game of diminishing returns that results in "bloatware" that's overly difficult to learn and use.

Microsoft; however, is still relatively new to the CRM market and it has not yet entered the "function and feature" war --hopefully it won't.

I will say this -- any SMB that currently has a significant investment in Microsoft technology -- like Exchange Server/Outlook email, SQL Server, IIS, SharePoint Portal Server, etc. -- and has the technical skills to support this infrastructure should definitely have Microsoft Dynamics CRM on their shortlist of CRM solutions to consider. Of course if the company is also using a Microsoft accounting solution like Great Plains, all the more reason to consider "popping in" the CRM component.

As far as your comments concerning the integration of CRM with other enterprise applications goes -- it is my belief that integration is one of the most critical success factors for CRM. The day of standalone CRM solutions that don't integrate with other business solutions is over. Anyone who says that this integration is too difficult to achieve and is not needed by small and midsized businesses (SMBs) is out of touch with today's reality. Don't fall for it. Put a plan together that seeks to ultimately integrate all of your company's business software.

This was first published in August 2006

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