Taking a page from major enterprise software providers like Oracle and SAP, Microsoft announced this week Business Ready Customer Care, an initiative that includes major enhancements to its maintenance and support program for Microsoft Dynamics, ERP and CRM, applications.
The customer support initiative does three things: Extends for five years the time over which Microsoft will support its products; offers more creative financing solutions for buying its CRM and ERP products, and promises to create a more transparent environment for its channel partners and their customers about future upgrades and products.
Industry analyst Josh Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting, said the fact that Microsoft is offering an additional five years of software support is in recognition of how well Oracle's extended support program is working for its customer base.
Under the new Microsoft program there will be a total of five years of "mainstream" support for its products plus an additional five years of extended support, according to Christine Bell, director of global services product management, for Microsoft Business Solutions.
Greenbaum says the extended support is a smart move on Microsoft's part.
"Oracle found out that extending support for their applications does not mean customers are gong to stall on [buying] new releases. They [Oracle] have a good upgrade flow despite or maybe because of extended support," Greenbaum said.
In today's market, most vendors make upgrades a revenue-neutral event.
"You still get maintenance revenue either way, so why cause anxiety when you don't have to," added Greenbaum.
On the financing side, Microsoft is now offering more options, including financing both the cost of hardware and software.
Also available through March 2008 is a program called Smart Pay which will allow customers to select what their monthly payments will be for the first year.
Finally, Bell said that Microsoft is making the commitment to deliver statements of directions that look out to the next 12 to 14 months.
"It will be very specific and talk about features and functionality," said Bell.
Microsoft will include written documents on a special partner and customer Web site and will not require signing a non-disclosure agreement.
The roadmap details are expected to start in November.