Q

Is Microsoft CRM a good option for five employees?

Read about CRM Small Business Edition from Microsoft and expert Richard Smith's take on how it integrates with Outlook.

We have only five people on staff at my small business. Is CRM Small Business Edition from Microsoft a good option? We'd like to customize it to handle some IT tasks, since we can't afford to hire a full-time IT staff member. Have you heard of anyone using CRM Small Business Edition to handle IT?
Dynamics CRM is a great solution for small businesses like yours because of its ease of install, usage, and customization. Microsoft includes a streamlined installation and configuration option when Dynamics CRM is used in conjunction with Microsoft Small Business Server, making it simple to quickly get CRM up and running for your organization. Since Small Business Server includes Microsoft Exchange, Internet Information Server and SQL Server, you get to bypass the individual installation and configuration of each of these applications.

Dynamics CRM also offers extensive configuration options that are within reach of experienced business users. Individual

users can change the look and feel of CRM by creating custom views of data – for example, a sales representative can quickly build a list of prospects in New York and Boston and save that view for managing outbound prospect calls. Power users and administrators can access the layout tools to change field names and values (drop-down lists), add new fields / sections / tabs to CRM, or even develop completely new components for tracking business data. In your case, you might be able to leverage Dynamics CRM's support and service functionality for tracking internal IT tasks; if that functionality does not address your specific needs; however, you can create a new IT Task tab in CRM for tracking the specific IT task data.

The best feature of Dynamics CRM, in my opinion, is the direct integration with Microsoft Outlook. This is a significant productivity advantage over other CRM solutions because it provides instant access to all CRM data and functions directly from Outlook, the most commonly-used business communication tool. Users can access CRM through Outlook (the same user interface) whether they are in the office or on the road – and even the customizations you make, from forms to custom tabs, work both online and offline without custom development. Users love having their contacts, appointments, and tasks synchronized with their normal Outlook folders and with their BlackBerry, Treo, or other PDA devices, as well as being able to manage all of their CRM tasks directly from the Outlook interface.

This was first published in August 2006

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