New Microsoft CRM chief targets SMB needs

Redmond's senior director for CRM promises better communication with partners and a ramped-up road map, while targeting SMBs.

Dave Batt has seen CRM from multiple perspectives.

He has seen the difficulties that go with launching a CRM initiative inside a business. He said he has seen it from the enterprise vendor position when he "went over to the dark side and [he] was called by Siebel [Systems Inc.] in their Camelot years." He's seen it from the Oracle perspective when he worked in Redwood Shores, Calif. He's seen it from the perspective of running a Salesforce.com implementation.

Now he sees it from the perspective of Microsoft CRM, and he likes what he sees.

Batt, the senior director of CRM at Microsoft, has been on the job for eight months, but he knew that Microsoft had already shown good growth in the CRM market both on the annual growth side and the customer growth side. Batt said he is part of Microsoft's efforts to add some domain expertise to its CRM unit.

Microsoft now has nearly 3,500 customers, nearly 2,000 global partners and more than 500 independent software vendors working with the company, Batt said.

While Microsoft's entrance into the CRM market might not have played out exactly as people expected, it has been able to capitalize on several factors.

Microsoft has been able to upsell its CRM application to existing customers. It has also been able to take advantage of the fear and prospect of CRM failure. Companies have turned to applications they are familiar with, like those within the Microsoft Office suite, Batt said. In fact, integration with Outlook has been trumpeted by every vendor from Salesforce.com to Siebel.

Yet, Microsoft is still poised to take advantage of the ubiquity of its Office applications, Batt said.

"Others are working on the integration side, for us it's a look and feel," he said. "There are people saying, 'I don't want to work on another application. [Other CRM vendors integrating with Outlook] hasn't been an impediment for us. I don't feel we've given up the family secrets."

Finally, Microsoft has been able to capitalize on the upsurge in interest by the small and midsized business (SMB) market.

"We're 100% focused on establishing a leadership position and using mindshare in the midmarket and upper small business market," Batt said.

While some might consider Salesforce.com the leader in that area, Batt said the San Francisco on-demand CRM company had not been an impediment to the growth of Microsoft, and in fact its success has been more damaging to Siebel.

And while Microsoft will always consider its own hosted CRM offering, it has so far allowed its partners to take care of that delivery model, Batt said.

"We're not convinced that purpose-built CRM is the dream state for companies," he said. "It's hard to say what's sustaining when a lot of [Salesforce.com's] customers haven't gotten to their first anniversary. It's hard to say where the attrition will come from."

Batt also said that the company will work to put more into the CRM product than they originally promised in the product road map and will better communicate with its partners.

"Before I came aboard, Microsoft CRM did some things I was really impressed by," Batt said. "The thing we really needed to work on was the guidance we gave our partners."

As the product develops, Microsoft will also leverage CRM and its whole family of applications under one architecture, Batt said.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

See the grade an early adopter gave Microsoft CRM

Read about Microsoft's other plans for SMBs

Dig deeper on Evaluating CRM software

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