Microsoft pushes CRM offering in Aust

Microsoft launched Business Solutions CRM 1.2 to the Australian market today, claiming it was a "business strategy" created in response to real business needs.

Microsoft launched Business Solutions CRM 1.2 to the Australian market today, claiming it was a "business strategy" created in response to real business needs.

The Microsoft CRM offering has been in production for the last five years, designed specifically for the small to medium-sized business with divisional utility for larger corporations.

Ross Dembecki, lead product manager of Microsoft Business Solutions Australasia, said the four key features of the product were supply-chain management, customer relationship management, enterprise resource management and a combined analytics solution.

"Microsoft CRM will provide our strong network of partners and independent software vendors with a base platform on which to build and extend customised vertical solutions across a broad array of industries," said Dembecki.

Microsoft states its aim behind producing the CRM product was to simplify customer service, eCommunication, marketing and sales processes by creating automated business functions.

"'Easy' is a key differentiator that we strive for all the time," said Dembecki, adding "the automatic key processes make marketing, sales and customer service people more effective."

Dembecki says another key feature of the business solution is its ability to "integrate with familiar applications", such as Microsoft Office and Outlook, adding that the program can be integrated into a system with the users trained in the applications within 4 to 5 hours.

However, Will Arnott, executive general manager of Linfox who has been trialling the product, says in reality the program has taken around six months for his company to implement as, he explains, "it will force you to redefine the way you do things."

"Benefits are still being realised" said Arnott, however he "highly recommends" the product to any business prepared to revise its business practices.

Microsoft CRM has been available for nearly a year in the United States, with around 1300 customers currently using the system worldwide. The product is in its second release, with a version suitable for handheld devices expected to emerge in mid-2004.

Licensing options are packaged separately for small, medium and large enterprises, with the full product package starting at a retail price of AU$612 per user for the "Sales Standard" version, and AU$1425 for the server-formatted "Sales Module" product.