Microsoft believes it can dominate CRM market

19 Apr 2004

Microsoft is expecting that within 12 months 150 – 200 Irish companies will have adopted its customer relationship management product – Microsoft CRM – which is being officially launched in Ireland tomorrow.

At a pre-launch press briefing, Neil Tanner, Business Solutions group manager, Microsoft Ireland, said that the huge opportunity for CRM lay in its very low up-take in the SME space.

“The SME business market is very underdeveloped. Our figures show that only 6pc of Irish SMEs use CRM.” He also quoted Gartner figures, which predict that 100,000 European SMEs will invest in CRM within the next 18 months.

Tanner estimated that, in the Irish market, 500 – 700 companies would invest in CRM in the next 12 months, so if Microsoft’s customer expectations are fulfilled it could grab up to 40pc market share within 12 months from a standing start.

The biggest selling point for Microsoft CRM – and the aspect the software giant plans to push hardest – is the fact it that it integrates seamlessly with its email platform, Outlook. Users, in other words, won’t see CRM; they will see a high-octane Outlook.

According to Tanner, this has been the experience in the US where Microsoft CRM was launched 18 months ago.

“In the US, the big driver has been ease of use and integration,” said Tanner. “There is a large number of companies using Outlook, so what we’ve done is take the best of CRM and integrate it with Outlook. As a result we’ve seen a big take up of the technology in the US.”

So far, 1,500 customers have been acquired in the US market.

Microsoft CRM consists of two modules: a sales module and a customer service one. These can be purchased separately or together as a suite. Users also have the choice of choosing a Standard or Professional version of the software, depending on the size of deployment needed.

For now, the software will reside on customers’ own systems but Microsoft plans to launch a hosted version of the product next year and is currently evaluating partners through which it could offer this, said Tanner.

The product will be sold mainly though not exclusively through business partners. Already 60 of these have been appointed in the Irish market, although there are just five ‘launch partners’: those that have undergone the necessary training and certification to undertake immediate implementations. Tanner named these as Fujitsu, Mentec, Sysco, Capricon and Ventis.

Microsoft CRM is priced according to specification. A customer buying a single module in the Standard version will pay €300 per user. This rises to €1,000 per user for the Professional suite version.

Microsoft CRM has been developed on .Net, Microsoft’s development platform, and is thus fully interoperable with other Microsoft products such as its Navision and Great Plains ERP product set, as well as other vendors’ technology. Tanner felt that the ability to integrate the software with almost anything would be another key selling point. “If companies are buying this they need to be able to integrate it with any application, not just Microsoft applications.”

He added that the company planned to plough US$300m into R&D on its Business Solutions products, ie CRM and ERP, next year. “We’re really committed to this space.”

By Brian Skelly