EPartners, CDW Team To Bring Microsoft Business Apps To The Masses


EPartners unveiled the deal at Convergence 2005, MBS' annual customer show this week in San Diego. Under the arrangement, the Dallas-based solution provider in effect will be offering services SKUs in CDW's catalog.

"We want to take the SG&A out of new sales to small companies," ePartners CEO Dan Duffy said, referring to the selling, general and administrative expenses that solution providers incur in attracting new customers.

Plans call for ePartners to offer services-only SKUs for the MBS lineup of Microsoft CRM, Great Plains, Navision and Axapta. Pricing wasn't disclosed, but as an example Duffy said the company would implement Microsoft's Small Business Financials, a low-end Great Plains offering, for $9,800. That price includes a week of on-premises service at the customer site for implementation and training for five seats. Customers can order optional Hewlett-Packard hardware as well.

To penetrate the millions of small companies that Microsoft and its partners say are underserved by business technology, the cost of implementations must fall, according to industry observers. Enterprise ERP and CRM applications, for instance, have earned a bad reputation for being costly and complex to install.

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"We need to price 'em low and stack 'em high," Duffy said, echoing Microsoft's high-volume, low-price software mantra. He hopes that by winning converts to the technology, ePartners will be able to go back to customers to sell additional software and services based on Microsoft's software stack.

Brad Wilson, Microsoft's new general manager for CRM, is bullish on that concept. He and Microsoft Senior Vice President Doug Burgum said one reason hosted CRM has taken hold is that customers are spooked by horror stories about on-premises implementations.

"We need to make on-premises software competitive," Wilson said. "The typical hosted solution is cookie-cutter. If you diverge [or customize], it gets real expensive."

The next iteration of Microsoft CRM is due out late this year and is expected to be better-architected for hosting, but Microsoft seems intent on pushing the on-premises model. "It's rent vs. own," Wilson said. "If you're young, it's OK to rent for a while, but why pay forever and never have an asset?"