Microsoft CRM App Update Adds Social Networking Features

The on-premise Dynamics CRM and cloud-based Dynamics CRM Online are currently used by some 30,000 customers with 2 million users, said Seth Patton, senior marketing director for Dynamics CRM, in an interview. More than 1,200 solution providers are now certified in the CRM competency within the Microsoft Partner Network program.

Dynamics CRM Online has been gaining "huge market momentum among customers and partners" since Microsoft made it available worldwide earlier this year, Patton said, with two out of three new customers choosing the cloud-based applications and one-third going with the on-premise version.

Microsoft is in heavy competition with in the market for cloud CRM services, as well as with Oracle, SAP and others in the CRM arena.

When Microsoft launched the 2011 release of Dynamics CRM earlier this year the company committed to updating the software twice a year and the November 2011 service update fulfills that promise, Patton said.

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Microsoft's strategy for adding social networking capabilities to Dynamics CRM includes integrating it with other Microsoft collaboration applications, such as SharePoint and Lync, and adding new capabilities directly into the CRM applications. Patton said that approach is more productive for users than Salesforce's Chatter social networking application.

"It's not about being more social. It's about creating better customer interactions," Patton said.

The November 2011 update includes a new activity feed capability that provides configurable, real-time notifications on significant relationships and business events. And those activity feeds can be seen on Windows Phone 7 devices through a new application developed for that mobile operating system.

The new Dynamics CRM release also offers new micro-blogging and conversations capabilities, the latter for posting questions, observations, suggestions and status updates.

While Dynamics CRM is already integrated with Office 365 from a user standpoint, the Dynamics CRM November 2011 update is based on the same administrative, provisioning and billing platform as Office 365, simplifying those chores for IT administrators. Patton said the unified administrative interface should make it easier for channel partners to sell the Dynamics CRM Online service.

Also new in the November 2011 release are improved disaster recovery features with in-region replication for data protection and business continuity.