Dynamics CRM 2011: Microsoft Puts on Their Game Face

On Monday, January 17th, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced the global availability of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online with the new Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 offering. It is now available in 40 markets and 41 languages.  The on-premises version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 will be globally available next, slated for a February 28, 2011 launch.

The Dynamics CRM Online announcement also included two very tempting promotions for those who have considered Dynamics CRM in the past, but never jumped. Microsoft is offering:

  1. Customers who sign up before June 30, 2011 get more than 30% off the monthly price, $34 per user, for the first year. On demand CRM from competitors often runs in the $125 to $150 per user per month price range.
  2. A rebate of up to $200 per user for companies that migrate away from Salesforce.com or Oracle.

Positioning to Rise Above the Rest

Microsoft’s Bill Patterson, the Director of Product Management for Dynamics CRM, noted that one area of Dynamics CRM 2011 that will stand out from Salesforce.com is improved reporting.  He said “Salesforce.com customers will be blown away by the real-time data, not static representations.” And that “We’re also excited about improvements in business intelligence through ad-hoc reporting in Office and Excel, and the new connection abilities for sorting, mining, and analyzing.”

The new Dynamics CRM 2011 release includes enhanced integration with Windows Azure and SharePoint 2010, which offers more tightly integrated document management capabilities within CRM processes.  Microsoft has also expanded and continued to evolve their xRM solution design capabilities. This is a key area where Microsoft can attract Salesforce.com customers who need uniquely designed and customized solutions. xRM offers a platform to design whole new workflow processes well beyond the out-of-the-box offerings, developed without the need for expensive custom coding.

A Peak at What’s New in Dynamics CRM 2011

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 is a major release for the Dynamics CRM line with many new features, enhancements, and benefits. Here is brief look at a few of the biggest improvements.

The Ribbon

One of the first things you’ll notice and one biggest user changes is Office 2010 style is the ribbon interface. It’s clean, well-organized, completely integrated into the Outlook 2010 ribbon for those using the Outlook client. This will allows users of Dynamics CRM to navigate using a familiar experience. And just like the Office 2010 suite of products, the new tab interface includes additional tabs that appear after clicking on related items.

Roles and Security

Another important set of new feature are role-tailored security and functionality, and the addition of field level security. While already a part of other products such as Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010, these key management features are now incorporated into Dynamics CRM 2011. Role tailoring removes the features and functions that users don’t need or use and cleans up their CRM workspaces. The result is that users quickly and easily find the information they need. Field level security allows for truly flexible security that can match any customer’s needs.

Real-Time Reports and Dashboards

Although Dynamics CRM 4 supported some dashboard capabilities, they were limited. Often, our customers required custom dashboards to meet their requirements. However, in Dynamics CRM 2011 Microsoft created a dashboard designer so customers can directly integrate real-time dashboards into their views or even their data entry forms using simple drag ‘n drop!

Reports have been enhanced to include many more out-of-the-box pre-built reports, report templates, and views. Users familiar with Microsoft Dynamics GP’s SmartLists will enjoy the same type of quick access to data. Dynamics CRM 2011 also includes real-time export to Excel, the ability to add and even delete data from Excel, pre-built PivotTable export.

The Future Look Bright

With the backing of a focused promotional campaign, strong set of new features and enhancements, and with a fresh new well designed interface, Dynamics CRM 2011 could significantly improve customer’s view of Microsoft’s CRM offering. User feedback was a key to Microsoft’s development of Dynamics CRM 2011. Many of the version 4 annoyances expressed to us have been eliminated in this new version with enhancements such as tabbed-navigation, call center-styled workflow wizards, and calendars.

Microsoft’s hybrid of both on-premise and on-demand offerings also looks like a competitive middle ground to fit a wide range of customers, including those who aren’t as sold on the Salesforce.com cloud computing model.  Time will be the true measure of this product’s success. But in the here and now, Microsoft can boast having a solution that competes well with and is positioned to beat the competition’s offerings from price to product.

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