Microsoft debuts CRM for small business

Microsoft Australia made its foray into the small-business CRM market this week with software aimed at making service and sales professionals in SMEs and divisions of large companies more productive.

"CRM is not an application, it's a business strategy", Microsoft business solutions lead product manager Ross Dembecki said.

Launching Microsoft CRM 1.2 in Australia at Customer Contact World in Sydney this week, Microsoft CRM product unit manager Alex Simons emphasised the key design features of the solution.

Simons said the system is aimed at boosting sales team productivity by focusing on their core business processes, like automating placement of a sales order, checking the status of an order or invoice. Secondly, it has flexible deployment options which let users configure the system to run their own business processes and get small or large sales teams running on the software, usually within five hours, Simon said.

Thirdly, the applications integrate with organizations' existing business systems such as financials or desktop productivity tools and also link business flows across departments.

The product is available through an e-mail client (Microsoft Outlook) or through a Web browser. It's key functionality includes sales force automation, customer service and marketing tools giving users visibility into their sales management data for analysis and forecasting, and integrates with Microsoft Office applications and Exchange.

In Australia 20 early adopters are installing Microsoft CRM 1.2, including logistics giant Linfox, electronic motor company Teco, Tesa Tape Australia, Quickflix, and Bullseye Internet Solutions.

Worldwide, only 2 percent of small businesses and 20 percent of mid-size companies have adopted CRM, according to research firm Gartner. However, Gartner analyst Joseph Outlaw believes Microsoft's CRM 1.2 is ideal for SMEs as it is based on Microsoft's .Net architecture and is tightly integrated to Microsoft Outlook.

Microsoft CRM 1.2 is the second major release of the company's CRM solutions. Version 1.0 was released in North America just under a year ago.

CRM 1.2 is available here in sales and customer service modules. The modules come with Standard or Professional level licensing options. The full version product is priced at $612 per user for Sales Standard and $1425 for the Sales module for the server.

Microsoft said prices may include one year's maintenance and GST.

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