Dynamics CRM Online Is Now Online
Published: April 23, 2008
by Alex Woodie
Microsoft is now officially a player in the market for CRM software services. Yesterday, the software giant announced the general availability of Dynamics CRM Online, a new release of its customer relationship management software that it's hosting in its data centers and delivering to customers over the Web via the software as a service (SaaS) method. And with an introductory rate of $39 per user per month, Microsoft will seed the market with hopes of swaying users from Salesforce.com.
The GA of Dynamics CRM Online has been a long time in coming. First announced nearly two years ago, the service was initially called Dynamics CRM Live, and was slated to become available in the second quarter of 2007.
So what is Dynamics CRM Online? In short it's the SaaS version of Dynamics CRM 4.0, which Microsoft quietly shipped at the end of 2007. All Dynamics CRM offerings provide access to basic CRM capabilities, including management of customer service, sales, marketing, training, human resources, and other business tasks. The software runs on a SQL Server database, and includes reporting and business intelligence analysis capabilities. \r\nUsers interact with Dynamics CRM either through a Web browser or their Outlook e-mail client. When users access it via a browser, the AJAX interface boosts screen response time over what you'd typically get with a browser. But the software's strongest configuration arguably is when users access Dynamics CRM through Microsoft Outlook, which everybody seems to be familiar with. Better integration with Outlook 07 is one of the core new features of Dynamics CRM 4.0.
Microsoft is delivering two editions of Dynamics CRM Online. The Professional edition gives users full access to the product, but limits the service to 100 configurable workflows, 100 custom entities, and 5 GB of data. This offering will eventually cost $44 per user per month after the low, low introductory rate of $39 is over. The Professional Plus edition increases the number of configurable workflows and custom entities to 200, boosts data storage to 20 GB, and adds support for offline data synchronization. This version costs $59 per user per month.
During a Webcast made available at crm.dynamics.com yesterday, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gave his highest praise. "I think you'll agree this is the best version of our product, or any product, we've ever brought to market," he said.
While the jury's still out on whether Dynamics CRM Live will surpass Windows 95 for all-time product supremacy in the Redmond, Washington, company's lineup, the offering looks destined to add worry lines to the faces of Salesforce.com executives.
The Professional edition of Dynamics CRM Live stacks up quite well against Salesforce.com's Professional Edition. According to a comparison provided by Microsoft, the 5 GB of storage in Dynamics CRM Live dwarfs the 1 GB provided by Salesforce.com, and the 100 configurable entities in Dynamics CRM Live is double the amount in Salesforce.com. Also, Salesforce.com's Professional Edition doesn't offer any workflows; the Microsoft offering has 100.
How well Microsoft manages its data centers could be a deciding factor in the success of Dynamics CRM Live. Microsoft is touting its multi-billion investment in building data centers to run the new collection of Web-based applications, but it doesn't have a long-term record of running mission critical applications, such as CRM, for customers. Several high profile outages at Salesforce.com has somewhat tarnished its reputation.
CRM Live is aiming for a wide range of customers, from the smallest businesses to the largest corporations. "If you think about what CRM can do for a small business, in some ways what it can do is help small business beat out larger business," Martha Rogers, a founding partner of the CRM consulting firm Peppers and Rogers, said during yesterday's Webcast. "So larger business need CRM more than ever because they're going to be up against smaller business that can turn on a dime and make decisions more quickly."
For more information, visit crm.dynamics.com.
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