Microsoft Readies New CRM Release, Online App Marketplace

A beta release of Dynamics CRM 2011, offering full parity between the capabilities of the on-premise and on-demand versions of the application, will be available in September, the company said Monday.

And Microsoft is offering new incentives for channel partners to work with the Software-as-a-Service version, providing resellers with increased margins and a referral fee and launching an online marketplace for developers of add-on applications.

Microsoft offers both an on-premise version of the CRM application, which competes with CRM software from Oracle, SAP and SugarCRM, among others, and the Microsoft-hosted Dynamics CRM Online that goes head-to-head with While a majority of partners sell the on-premise product, a growing number sell CRM Online or host the software themselves for customers.

To encourage Microsoft resellers who do not carry Dynamics applications to recommend Dynamics CRM Online, Microsoft will offer a referral fee equal to 5 percent of the first year of a Dynamics CRM Online contract when they influence the sale, said Bryan Nielson, director of worldwide product management, Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

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Nielson, in an interview at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference, cited solution providers who work with Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Standard (BPOS) Suite as an example of a channel partner who could take advantage of the referral fee.

Partners also will be offered 250 seats of Dynamics CRM Online for their own internal use.

The new incentives are all designed to help motivate more channel partners to carry Dynamics CRM, especially the on-demand version. ’We feel our differentiator in the market is our channel,’ Nielson said, noting that the services and customizations they provide are the packaged applications’ real value for many customers.

The online Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace, which will launch in September, will provide a way for ISVs and solution providers who build add-on software for Dynamics CRM and ERP applications, such as industry-specific applications and solution extensions, to make those products available to a wider audience, Nielson said. Links to the marketplace will be built into Dynamics CRM 2011, he said.

As for Dynamics CRM 2011 itself, the new release will include native Microsoft Outlook functionality and a look and feel closer to Microsoft Office applications. It will offer more role-based forms and views, and advanced user personalization; improved data visualization and real-time dashboards; cloud development tools; and flexible goal management and automated process guidance features.

Some partners in the past have complained that the on-premise version of Dynamics CRM has been more robust than the online version. But Nielson said the online and on-premise versions of Dynamics CRM would have ’full functional parity.’