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Microsoft's Brad Wilson on the Future of CRM

I don't write much about CRM in this blog, but I recently had a conversation with Brad Wilson, who is the general manager of Microsoft CRM. Brad knows the CRM business up and down, so... I thought it would worthwhile to post some highlights of our conversation. Here they are:
  • Geoffrey James: Brad, what's different about Microsoft CRM, compared to other offerings?
  • Brad Wilson: Three things. First, Microsoft CRM delivers a familiar user experience. It runs inside Microsoft Office and thus works as a native component with Outlook and interoperates with other programs such as Word, Excel, SharePoint, etc., thereby improving user adoption and creating a more familiar experience. Second, we deliver more intelligent user experiences by adding analytics capability throughout the application to help sales managers and salespeople better visualize how to move opportunities forward, enabling them to make more better decisions in real-time. Finally, we deliver connected experiences across people, applications, and databases, emphasizing the ability to use CRM to connect and collaborate across sales, marketing, and customer service.
  • GJ: Your chief competitor,, remains popular in part because it has a wealth of add-on applications. What does Microsoft CRM have that's either competitive or better?
  • BW: Add-on applications are popular because they let businesses customize their solution to meet specific business needs. Microsoft Dynamics CRM has a flexible built-in framework called xRM that makes it possible for customers to build extensible applications, either as part of their CRM solution or completely separate from it. We've seen companies build applications on the xRM framework as diverse as property management, project management, in the public sector, legislation management. It addresses a wide range of things that people want to do. Customers get xRM as part of their Microsoft Dynamics CRM solution at no charge.
  • GJ: Smartphones and tablets are becoming almost ubiquitous in the sales world. While there's obviously value in being integrated with Office, what are you doing to support these devices?
  • BW: We deliver CRM technology to the wide range of devices and applications that people use. One example is the Office environment, which we've already addressed. The second is the browser environment, which in itself supports most devices. Then there are native applications that run on various smartphone and tablet platforms. We have third parties developing native clients for non-Microsoft environments, and we are working on some powerful capabilities that will run on Microsoft Windows based handheld and tablet devices.
  • GJ: Is that enough? The iPhone and Android devices are becoming awfully popular.
  • BW: I think it's important to differentiate between what might be called a "consumption device" and an "authoring device." The smartphone and tablet environment are valuable for simple jobs, like emailing and maybe entering a few fields after a sales call. And they're also good for displaying presentations to customers, and so forth. However, if you're going to do serious work, like running a marketing campaign or writing a sales proposal, you need a device that has the capability to do more than is practical in those environments.
  • GJ: Do you think that will always be the case?
  • BW: Actually, I don't. I think that if any company is going to solve this problem, it will be Microsoft. Over time converged mobile devices are combining the kind of features that people associate with Office and Outlook with lightweight and easy-to-use devices like tablets. I might note, too, that even traditional laptops are getting more "tablet-like." For example, I just got a new Samsung series 9 PC that's so light I can barely notice it in my briefcase.
  • GJ: Where do you see CRM going in the future?
  • BW: I believe that there's been a blurring of the lines between marketing, sales and customer service. Experience shows that removing the barriers between the three groups makes each more successful. Marketing groups are more effective when they're close to the sales teams, and call centers are a key channel for cross-selling and upselling. Technology in general and CRM technology in particular needs to support and encourage collaboration across organizational boundaries. I also expect the cloud, mobility and analytics are trends that will continue drive the future of CRM.