Microsoft Dynamics CRM Software Review
By Sharon Kotz
Table of Contents
Price and Service Offerings
Dynamics CRM Live
Sales Force Automation
Business Intelligence (BI)
Professional Services Support and Training
Other Comparable Vendors To Consider
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 is Microsoft’s latest Customer Relationship Management (CRM) offering in its Dynamics line of business software targeted at the small to medium sized business market. When the prior version Dynamics CRM 4.0 was released, it marked the third generation for the product line (version 2 was skipped entirely) and a significant improvement on many of the issues that caused Microsoft’s CRM offering to fall short on many industry analyst evaluation scales, as well the majority of CRM evaluation short lists for mid market and enterprise businesses.
Dynamics CRM 2011 is a balanced CRM offering that includes strong Sales Force Automation (SFA) functionality, basic Marketing functionality and a sufficient level of Customer Support functionality for the average small or mid market business. This latest offering continues to offer a large number of benefits and flexibility to small and medium sized organizations that are committed to the Microsoft technologies and have modest needs in the customer service and marketing areas. Larger enterprises, in general, or smaller ones with complex marketing or service needs should evaluate this latest release carefully to determine if the functionality is adequate to meet their requirements.
Consistent with Microsoft’s historical “release and improve” approach to product management, Microsoft Small Business CRM 1.0 released in early 2003 was, at best, an extension of the Outlook client with limited functionality that allowed users to manage accounts and contacts with a few more details. As the name suggests, it was targeted exclusively at small businesses that wanted to improve their ability to track accounts and contacts and replace the traditional contact management solutions that run as desktop applications. A host of technical challenges with installing, setting up and using the product, coupled with the limited functionality, resulted in relatively few adopters of this initial release. Microsoft continued to add fixes and features throughout 2003 in service packs and released version 1.2 in late 2003, which added language support for a small number of languages and improved setup.
Version 3.0, released in late 2005 added the ability to access CRM through the web via Microsoft hosting partners and added a more robust set of features to support Marketing and Service functions. The Dynamics moniker was added to emphasize the integration with the Great Plains Dynamics line of Accounting and ERP products. This release also added a number of features to the product line in the Marketing and Service areas. It also included page customizations to entities and attributes as well as workflow capabilities that allowed users to easily setup and manage their own rules. Integration with Outlook remained strong, with support for Outlook and Exchange 2007, and added to that was tighter integration with the Office suite of products. Lastly, Microsoft also added support for Vista when that became available giving IT organizations options of which OS to deploy the solution on.
The newest Dynamics CRM version adds a number of additional features and functions, the most prominent being the ability to support multi-tenancy and the ability to access the entire application as a service hosted either by Microsoft directly or through one of Microsoft’s hosting partners(more about both of those features later in this paper). Dynamics CRM also takes advantage of the many improvements Microsoft has made to its technology stack. It employs Windows Workflow Foundation and Communication Foundation components as well as improved reporting through SQL Server Reporting and Analytic Services. These will provide a better degree of integration and intersystem collaboration flexibility as well as better reporting and analysis capabilities. Lastly, Dynamics CRM supports a larger set of languages through Multilanguage User Interface (MUI) packs and has multi-currency support now as part of Microsoft’s continued effort to entice larger organizations to consider Dynamics CRM as an enterprise level solution.