Microsoft to add mobile component to CRM software

Looking to boost the capabilities of sales personnel in the field, Microsoft Corp. intends to add a mobile component to its customer relationship management software.

Among other integration and technology announcements at its Convergence 2004 business applications user show here in Orlando, Microsoft Monday announced it would enable end users to handle CRM workflows right from a Windows-based Pocket PC. The company's CRM Sales for Outlook software, which will ship this summer, is designed to allow salespeople to do things such as review information before a customer meeting and then capture relevant data to feed back into a company's CRM system during synchronization.

Microsoft also plans to deliver more interfaces to enable integration between its CRM suite and its back-end ERP applications, such as Solomon, Doug Burgum, senior vice president at Microsoft Business Solutions Group, said during a keynote address. He also said all the ERP lines Microsoft has acquired, including Great Plains, Navision and Axapta, will be supported through 2013, and he assured the audience that the company had "very robust" research and development plans.

Other improvements Microsoft plans for its CRM line over the long term include a new campaign management module to automate marketing processes, as well as improvements designed to help workers who do more than field phone calls, said Holly Holt, group product manager for CRM. In addition, there will be tighter integration with the SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services application.

Microsoft also announced that it has enhanced its Great Plains 8.0 ERP software to have a Microsoft Outlook desktop look and feel and very tight integration with Office. That's particularly interesting to Bruce Townsend, vice president of finance at the United Service Organization (USO), a Washington-based nonprofit that provides entertainment and other services to armed forces personnel.

The new integration could enable users to securely pull data from the USO's Great Plains back-end system and put it into an Office format even if they don't have any special knowledge of the ERP application, he said. For instance, a user could easily extract customer names and addresses and drop them into a form letter while leaving the Great Plains data unaltered, ensuring its safety. Townsend said he has less interest in the mobile CRM, since his organization doesn't have a sales force.

Great Plains 8.0 will ship in July.

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