Microsoft upgrades CRM

Microsoft Corp. launched version 1.2 of its customer relationship management (CRM) software Monday, making it available for the first time outside of North America.

In Europe, the company is hoping to make inroads into the fragmented small- and medium-sized business (SMB) market.

The upgraded software is immediately available in North America and has been released to manufacturing in 47 other geographies worldwide. It will be commercially available outside North America from January 2004, Microsoft said.

The software is available in eight languages and will be priced between US$395 and US$1,295 per user, depending on the configuration and the local market, said Laurent Delaporte, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) vice-president of Microsoft’s small and midmarket solutions and partners group.

Microsoft’s CRM 1.0 has been available in the U.S. since January and has been “pretty successful. We hope to replicate that here within 12 months,” Delaporte said.

CRM 1.2 includes language options, simplified installation and support and improved security. It can be installed on Windows Server 2003, Windows Small Business Server 2003 and Exchange 2003, and Microsoft Office 2003, the company said.

Europe is a more fragmented market than North America, with more players in the CRM marketplace, and with less of a focus on formalized customer relationships, Delaporte said. “We’ve done a lot of work in making people value their customer relationships, and showing them how to use tools,” he said.

Business software supplier Erudite Systems Ltd. in Milton Keynes, England, has been beta testing CRM 1.2. with some of its customers. “I think this is what the SMB market has been waiting for. We’ve been talking to prospects for over a year, and I know a lot of companies who heard it was coming out and decided to wait,” managing director Hela Giddings said.

Customers like the software because it has a familiar Microsoft look and feel to it, Giddings said.

One of Erudite’s customers is the Federation Against Software Theft Ltd. (FAST) of Maidenhead, England, which is in the process of integrating a new Great Plains enterprise resource planning back-end system with the CRM software, Giddings said. “We’re partnering with a Great Plains specialist to do that,” she said. Microsoft acquired Great Plains last year.

There are two main reasons why customers will be keen on a Microsoft solution, Peter Tranberg M

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