Microsoft Previews Next Release of CRM

Earlier this week, Microsoft took the wraps off its upcoming CRM 3.0 suite, which includes several new features and the opportunity for customers to choose between on-site licensing or subscription-based licensing for customers that prefer a hosted offering. Because the same code is used in both models, customers can change their deployment model to either hosted or on site as their business and IT needs change, Microsoft says.

Microsoft previewed its long-awaited, next-gen release on Tuesday at the Microsoft TechEd 2005 conference in Europe and the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2005 in the United States.

According to Microsoft, Microsoft CRM 3.0 is designed to address three key challenges: user adoption, business fit and TCO. The release focuses on three themes:

Works the way you do. Microsoft CRM 3.0 offers a user experience familiar and comfortable to anyone who uses Microsoft Office or Microsoft Outlook. The Outlook client and Web client interfaces are completely redesigned to provide a look and feel consistent with other Microsoft products, allowing work to be completed more easily. Customers get instant visibility into trends and issues through pre-built reports and views and can also take live CRM data directly into Microsoft Excel for online or offline analysis. Microsoft CRM 3.0 provides a complete mobility solution, with a new high- performance engine for role-based synchronization of laptop data as well as an improved client for Microsoft Windows Mobile.

Works the way your business does. Microsoft CRM 3.0 completes the CRM suite by offering a rich marketing automation module for list management, campaign management, marketing resource management and closed-loop response management. The new release also will introduce a sophisticated new service scheduling module, which automatically manages complex scheduling requests that today require specific people, skills and resources. These new modules, along with enhancements to the sales and customer service capabilities previously available in Microsoft CRM 1.2, are highly configurable and workflow driven, enabling consistent execution of CRM business processes, automated handling of exceptions and alerts, and closed-loop reporting and analysis across the organization.

Works the way IT wants it to. The new release extends the configurability, customizability and integration options for Microsoft CRM's service-oriented architecture. New data objects can be easily added to the system and linked to other predefined objects, with all underlying data storage and Web services automatically generated by the system. A new environmental diagnostics wizard automatically checks more than 100 system and network settings to help ensure a fast and reliable installation, and a new upgrade adviser streamlines the upgrade process for Microsoft CRM 1.0 and 1.2 customers. Integration with Microsoft Operations Manager simplifies the management of the overall system.

Microsoft will also introduce a Small Business Edition designed for small businesses that use Windows Small Business Server 2003 Premium Edition.

Microsoft CRM 3.0 will be available to customers who are licensed to use previous versions of Microsoft CRM in the fourth quarter of 2005 and generally available in the first quarter of 2006. Pricing will be announced when the product is close to availability, the company says.