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The advantages of Microsoft CRM Online: Support, flexibility and cost

In this expert tip, Richard Smith discusses the standout features in Microsoft CRM Online and explains how Microsoft is directly competing with Salesforce.com

What about Microsoft CRM Online helps it stand out from other Software as a Service (SaaS) CRM vendors? How will Microsoft CRM Online help the company compete with other SaaS vendors like Salesforce.com?
Over the last several years there has been a fundamental shift towards the Software as a Service CRM model from customers across the spectrum – including midmarket and enterprise customers. Once positioned as the "easy" and economic choice for smaller companies of 50 or fewer employees that lacked the infrastructure to support an on-premises CRM solution, there has been increasing interest from the midmarket and enterprise customers in the SaaS or hosted model of software delivery. Driving this push is a common set of goals shared by organizations. The advantages of Microsoft CRM Online include:

  • Significant spending on prior failed CRM implementations
  • The need for a simple system for sales force automation and forecast automation
  • The need to quickly configure new functionality, including screens, reports and business logic

    Microsoft CRM Online is Microsoft's answer to the call for a SaaS CRM solution, providing organizations with the ability to host their CRM environment with Microsoft for a very reasonable cost. There are several significant advantages to Microsoft's offering.

  • Dual-client support: Users can opt to use either the Web-based or the Outlook-based client with Microsoft CRM Online, so users have access to all of the functionality provided by an on-premise solution.

  • CRM Online or on-premise CRM is the same product: Dynamics CRM Online is the exact same codebase as the on-premise client. This means that all of the configurability and functionality available with the on-premise client is also available online. This also means that a customer who starts with CRM Online can decide to move to CRM on-premise without losing any data, configuration or customization, and can be up and running in a matter of days. This alone eliminates one of the greatest challenges associated with a SaaS solution, which is being forced to keep the greatest disadvantage of SaaS offerings – being locked into a hosted-only alternative, even when it may become less expensive to bring the solution on premises.

  • Cost: Microsoft CRM Online is available in two offerings. The Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional solution is promotionally priced at $39 per user/month for both the Outlook and Web clients. (This price will increase to $44 per user/month for subscriptions starting in January 2009). The Professional Plus solution costs $54 per user/month and adds offline access and additional customization and workflow capabilities. Generally, both offerings are significantly less expensive than the corresponding Salesforce.com offerings.

    Microsoft CRM Online is not the only front on which Microsoft is directly competing with Salesforce.com. The Microsoft CRM 4.0 platform provides some exceptional new features and functionality that enable larger enterprises to model ever more complex business functionality in CRM. Specific key improvements in the Dynamics CRM 4.0 release include a multi-tenant architecture (allowing customers to run multiple instances of CRM for different divisions or subsidiaries on the same infrastructure), support for multiple languages, currencies and time zones, and an advanced workflow engine. Dynamics CRM 4.0 also provides users with an easy-to-use report wizard and more powerful tools for modeling complex customer relationships.

    In addition, Microsoft is expanding CRM's interoperability with other core Microsoft technologies. Dashboards, advanced search and portal functionality can be provided through SharePoint. Microsoft is working on even more advanced reporting and analytics offerings for CRM that will be delivered through additional integration with SQL Reporting Services, SQL Analysis Services and Performance Point for the monitoring and tracking of key business performance indicators. Dynamics CRM already provides intuitive and comprehensive integration with Outlook, and Microsoft is expanding this integration to include new products like Communication Server. Also, Microsoft overhauled the integration with Word and Excel, providing more intuitive mail merge and reporting integration with both products.

    For those of you who are eager to learn more about Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0, there are several ways to evaluate the new features and functionality provided by the 4.0 release and Microsoft CRM Online.

  • Visit the Microsoft Dynamics CRM website

  • Download the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Virtual PC environment

  • Download a Microsoft Dynamics CRM trial

This was last published in May 2008

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