2012 Channel Champions: CRM Software

Riding high scores for usability and competitive pricing, Microsoft is this year's Channel Champion in the highly competitive CRM Software market. But rivals Oracle and SAP weren't far behind in a new category in this year's survey.

While Microsoft has been in the CRM application market for nearly a decade with Dynamics CRM, it had been playing catch-up with competitors for much of that time. But a major release of the software in 2011 and the worldwide availability of the online version of the application last year put the company on a more equal footing with its rivals and likely boosted its technical satisfaction scores.

While other vendors sell CRM software as point products, Microsoft partners have opportunities to connect Dynamics with other Microsoft systems, such as the company's SharePoint collaboration and document sharing software, said Alex Beletsky, CEO of Sentri, a Microsoft partner in Westborough, Mass. "Microsoft has the most comprehensive vision to integrate the workforce solutions across the board," he said. CRM "really is about process management and document management."

In the support satisfaction criteria, Microsoft received the top score for education and enablement, but lost out to its competitors in other areas such as presales and postsales support. And in financial factors, Microsoft scored highest in competitive pricing and services attached, but was bested by competitors in product margins, SPIFs and rebates.

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"Partners tell us they can build highly profitable businesses delivering repeatable solutions and differentiated services," said Dennis Michalis, general manager of Microsoft's CRM product group. "These allow them to make solid margins on a deal-by-deal basis in addition to increasing gross revenue through a higher volume of customer wins."

As for the high education and enablement scores, he pointed to last year's creation of the Dynamics Academy, which offers training for Dynamics software partners in sales, marketing, project management and solution delivery.