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Dynamics CRM software review

on demand crm Microsoft Dynamics CRM Software Review

By Sharon Kotz

Table of Contents

Executive Summary
Company History
Products and Pricing
Dynamics CRM Live
Partner Hosted
Sales Force Automation
Marketing Software
Customer Support
Information Security
Workflow Automation
Business Intelligence (BI)
CRM Software Customization
System Integration
Services, Support and Training
Other Comparable Solutions To Consider

Executive Summary

Dynamics CRM 2011 is Microsoft’s latest Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software offering. The Dynamics product suite is targeted to the small to medium sized business (SMB) market. Dynamics CRM 4.0 was released in early 2008 and 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.

CRM buyers considering Microsoft Dynamics CRM may also be interested in the recently published Microsoft Dynamics CRM review.

Dynamics CRM is a balanced front office suite that includes impressive Sales Force Automation (SFA) functionality, basic Marketing functionality and a sufficient level of Customer Support functionality for the average small or midsize business. This latest offering delivers an increased number of benefits and flexibility to small and midsized companies that are invested and committed to Microsoft technologies and have modest requirements in the customer service and marketing lines of business. Larger enterprises, in general, or smaller ones with complex marketing or service needs should evaluate this latest release carefully to determine if the feature sets are adequate to meet their business requirements.

Company History

Consistent with Microsoft’s reputation with its 'release and improve' approach to product evolution, Microsoft's CRM software entry began in early 2003 with Small Business CRM 1.0, which was at best, an extension of the MS Outlook client with limited functionality that allowed users to organize accounts and contacts with basic supporting details. As the name implies, the initial release was aimed exclusively at small business customers that desired to improve their ability to manage accounts and contacts and replace the traditional contact management solutions such as ACT! and Goldmine. However, a series of technical challenges when installing, configuring and operating the CRM software solution, coupled with the limited functionality and minimal flexibility, resulted in relatively few adopters of the initial release. Microsoft continued to add fixes, features and service packs throughout 2003 and released an improved version 1.2 in late 2003, which improved the setup experience and also added multi-language support.

Dynamics CRM Version 3 was released in late 2005 and included more robust feature sets to the Marketing and Service modules as well as the capability to access the CRM application in an on-demand model when using Microsoft hosting partners. The Dynamics moniker was inserted to suggest an affinity and integration with the Great Plains Dynamics line of accounting and ERP (enterprise resource planning) products. This software release added a number of features to the CRM solution in the Marketing and Customer Support areas. It also included limited page and form customizations to entities and attributes as well as basic workflow processing creation that allowed users to create and manage business process automation events and rules. Integration with MS Outlook remained strong, with support for Outlook and Exchange 2007, and added to that was tighter integration with the MS Office suite. This version also added future support for Vista when that operating system (OS) became available giving IT staff options of which OS to deploy the solution.

Dynamics Version 4.0 further increased the front office feature sets, however, the most publicized new capability was the multi-tenant support which permitted different companies to share a central database in a hosted or software as a service model when hosted either by Microsoft directly or through one of Microsoft’s hosting partners (a benefit for small business customers, however, often rejected by enterprises). Dynamics CRM 4.0 also took advantage of the many improvements Microsoft has made to its SQL Server technology stack. It leverages Windows Workflow Foundation (WWF) and Communication Foundation components as well as improved reporting through SQL Server Reporting Services (for simple reports) and Analysis Services (for business intelligence). The newest technology adoption provides improved system integration and intersystem collaboration flexibility as well as better reporting and analysis capabilities. Lastly, in an attempt to scale toward enterprise customers, CRM 4.0 included support for additional languages through Multi-language User Interface (MUI) packs and multi-currency support.

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