22 January 2003 Software giant Microsoft has released the first version of its customer relationship management (CRM) software in North America, with an international version promised before the end of the year.
Targeted at small and medium-sized businesses with less than 500 employees, the software is intended to help companies track sales leads, customer queries, orders and accounts.
Microsoft CRM will compete against applications from mid-market CRM suppliers including FrontRange Solutions and Salesforce.com, but not the much larger and complex software packages from the market leader Siebel Systems, as well as PeopleSoft and SAP.
To clear the way the new software, Microsoft ended an agreement to resell Siebel’s mid-market CRM applications last year.
Microsoft has designed its CRM software to interoperate closely with its desktop applications, such as the Outlook email client. Users can access Microsoft CRM both as a browser-based application and through Microsoft Outlook, although users must be running the Windows 2000 operating system.
Company executives claim that Microsoft CRM is the first application built on its .Net web services software platform. This should help companies connect Microsoft CRM to external web services, such as credit checking and automated marketing software, but only a few businesses have so far deployed any web services software.
Microsoft CRM costs $395 (€369) per user for the Standard Edition and $1,295 (€1,210) for the Professional Edition. The company claims that the Professional Edition provides more complex features, including workflow rules, customisation and back-office integration with leading enterprise resource planning software packages than the Standard Edition.
Both products will be sold by Microsoft resellers in North America from today. These partners will also sell the software as a hosted product.
However, Microsoft added that a more advanced version of its CRM software, capable of exchanging data with its Great Plains corporate accounting and financial applications would not be available until April.