In a clear shot at Salesforce.com, Microsoft has rolled out a cloud-based version of its new Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 release. The online software targets what Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer called the heart of almost every successful business: Sales professionals.
"Microsoft Dynamics CRM redefines productivity by offering an industry-leading product that is fully embracing the cloud," Ballmer said. The Microsoft chief pointed to a familiar user experience that enables collaboration, streamlines processes, and accesses real-time data as key competitive benefits of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
If Microsoft can deliver on those promises, Salesforce.com -- and Oracle, for that matter -- may be forced to find a response. Microsoft's latest innovation also targets Oracle's CRM on Demand product.
Microsoft's Stack Advantage
Microsoft Dynamics CRM offers a native Microsoft Outlook client, browser-based and mobile access, RoleTailored design, and advanced user personalization. Microsoft Dynamics CRM also offers what Microsoft calls "intelligent experiences" through guided process dialogs, in-line business intelligence for performance and goal management, and real-time dashboards. These experiences promise up-to-date information for sales, service and marketing professionals.
Finally, the software giant's announcement stressed "connected experiences" through flexible cloud development, Windows Azure interoperability, contextual Microsoft SharePoint capabilities, and the new Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace.
"The new version has a bunch of new improvements, but probably the most important new thing is that it now is able to provide identical functionality on premises and in the cloud. This is a differentiator for them compared with Salesforce.com, which is a cloud-only solution," said Al Hilwa, an analyst at IDC.
"Additionally, they have the deepest Outlook integration in the industry, which of course you would expect them to. In fact, the full Microsoft stack itself is a big asset for the product since Microsoft is a full portfolio player. I think they are also relaunching their partner marketplace, which is much more competitive today than it ever was. This is a significant move for the product."
Switching from Salesforce.com
More than 11,500 customers and 2,000 partners have used Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 as part of the beta program, including customers who switched from competing solutions. Microsoft offered Magma Design Automation, an electronic design automation (EDA) software development company, as one example. Magma switched from Salesforce.com to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.
"The EDA space can be very complex and business processes can rapidly change. We needed a system that was flexible enough to fit us and our specific business needs," said Vickie Flores, vice president of information systems for Magma. "With Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online we can quickly change our work-flow and business processes. Improving user adoption is a priority for us, and the native Outlook user interface delivered by Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online makes this extremely easy, as there isn't a steep learning curve."