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Microsoft CRM focused on wireless device market

Canadian footwear firm dicusses success story at Convergence 2004rn

Orlando, Fla. — Microsoft will build its position in the customer relationship management market by offering sofware for mobile devices like PDAs, executives told its annual Convergence customer solutions conference.

The software company’s plans follow the release of Microsoft Business Solutions

CRM 1.2 last December, an application that allows sales reps at the smallest doctors’ offices or huge manufacturing facilities to review and collect data linked to customer meetings.

Microsoft’s strategy against its well-entrenched competitors is to pursue companies with an employee base of 25 to 500 people and departments in larger organizations, said Krista Kuehnbaum, CRM product manager at Microsoft Canada in Mississauga, Ont. She said the company already has more than 1,600 worldwide customers and 700 partners of its CRM solutions.

Many large CRM vendors, which have sold systems to equally big customers over the years, are struggling because they don’t know how to cater to mid-market firms, said Steve Poelking, an analyst with IDC Canada in Toronto. He said CRM providers are also finding that buyers want to gravitate to one strong platform.

This is an opportunity for Microsoft to step up to the plate, because software buyers are looking for stability, added Michelle Warren, an analyst at Evans Research in Toronto. For example, when Microsoft bought Great Plains Software in 2000, in a move to help smaller firms become more efficient by automating connected business processes, it sent the message: “”We’re going to keep this. We’re going to put some money behind this. It’s not going to go away,”” she said.

Options Software & Consulting Inc. of Burlington, Ont., a Microsoft partner, jumped into Microsoft’s beta process early, said president Dave Savel. “”In our pipeline, at least 75 per cent of accounts have interest in CRM products,”” he said. The range of clients now using CRM varies from firms with 25 users to ones with 300.

One client is The Orthotic Group, a Markham, Ont.-based custom foot care company that’s been using CRM 1.0 since last April. The firm was looking for a way to track the customer service activity of its 34-person mobile sales force as it visited physicians’ offices, said Chris Patten, vice-president of IT.

As a result of the implementation, “”customer service reps and account reps (are) on the same page. Now we record every contact we have with a customer. Everyone has equal access to information,”” and customers can be served more accurately, Patten said.

Some of the challenges the Orthotic Group faced revolved around connecting the back and front offices, said Patten.

“”There’s not a great audit trail in the event of an integration failure,”” he added.