Microsoft CRM Thought Leader Brad Wilson In His Own Words

Brad Wilson

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Fit, Differentiation, Strengths and Evolution 

As the General Manager of global product management and marketing for Microsoft CRM, Brad is responsible for driving awareness, demand and revenue on a worldwide basis. In this conversation, we discuss new releases—including new social CRM—and flush out Microsoft's CRM positioning and several of Dynamics 365 CE competitive advantages.

"Giving customers choice [of on premise or on demand] from one code base gives business the comfort of knowing whichever way the go they're not locked in."

— Brad Wilson, Microsoft CRM GM

Key take away points in the discussion with CRM Thought Leader Brad Wilson:

  • The Microsoft Dynamics CRM target market is broad, and essentially crosses businesses of all sizes. The CRM application is largely horizontal thereby offering core sales, marketing and service capabilities irrespective of vertical market. For small and midsize businesses (SMBs), Dynamics CRM often appeals to buyers seeking out of the box packaged CRM delivery, with simple tailoring of the system using point and click graphical configuration. For larger enterprises, Dynamics CRM may be favored for its for its extensibility and framework, including its deep software customization and system integration capabilities.
  • Microsoft Dynamics 365 offers choice in terms of procurement and deployment models. The CRM application uses a common code set which can be deployed on-premise in a traditional software licensing purchase or on-demand in the Software as a Service (SaaS) subscription pricing model. The majority of new customer acquisitions are electing Dynamics CRM in the cloud.
  • Additional unique value in a competitive Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software marketplace includes a familiar user experience for people who are accustomed to other Microsoft products such as Office, SharePoint, Exchange or Outlook. In fact, Dynamics 365 CE seamless integration with Outlook permits users to manage email and CRM business processes in a connected fashion and without necessarily switching between applications. Users with Microsoft desktop products will benefit from decreased learning curves and common, role based processes, thereby, accelerating adoption and utilization.
  • Microsoft leverages its mature ISV (independent software vendor), VAR (value added reseller) and business partner channels to supplement the horizontal CRM software for industry and geographical fit. Third party and partner software solutions can be viewed at the Microsoft Dynamics AppSource (previously called Microsoft Pinpoint.)
  • Microsoft suggests that its Dynamics CRM delivers differentiation and advantage due to its vendor managed integration with its own platform stack, such as SQL server, windows operating systems, Windows client, Office and desktop apps, .NET development environment and other platform tools. This is a relatively unique product strength that can only be claimed by one other competitor, Oracle. Dynamics CRM is being further connected and extended with market share leading Microsoft products such as Sharepoint as well as new cloud services such as Office 365 or Windows Azure. The company believes its product portfolio delivers tighter integration and a solution where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
  • Dynamics has accelerated the pace of new releases to twice annually, delivered in the Spring (Q2) and Fall (Q4). Microsoft further divides these semi-annual Service Updates into the two types of Automatic and Scheduled. The Scheduled updates are somewhat unique in the SaaS CRM industry as they possess the deeper functionality enhancements and permit customers a one year window to schedule and deploy the upgrades. This atypical advance notice period gives customers more control and is helpful in testing items that may have upgrade implications, such as system integration or software customization, as well as preparing users for changes in their CRM system. The 12 month opt-in period allows customers to schedule their CRM software upgrades in conjunction with other technology refresh cycles and support a more flexible change management process.
  • The customer relationship management application may be hosted directly by Microsoft or a Microsoft partner. Customers outside North America or Microsoft data center locations seeking local data residency, vertical industry solutions or highly customized solutions may be best served by a local Microsoft hosting partner.
  • Microsoft is aggressively building out new data centers internationally, with the goal of managing multiple data centers in EMEA, Asia Pacific and the Americas. This will further support Microsoft's goal of "In-Region Disaster Recovery" whereby in the event of fail-over, the data center transfer will occur to a data center in the same region—and ensure that a customer's data stays within the region.
  • The application includes global support for 40 international regions and 41 languages. The bulk of cloud CRM sales continue to be in North America, where sales processes and demand is highest. However, over time Microsoft expects the majority of new global business to be international business.
  • Despite being a laggard in social CRM, the most recent Dynamics Statement of Direction suggests the company will pursue a two-fold strategy for upcoming social collaboration. Microsoft will first include new social tools within existing Microsoft products such as SharePoint, Lync and Office. This is underway but falls short of social CRM. The second phase is to empower Dynamics CRM with new capabilities of micro-blogging, activity feeds and social intelligence. In order to aid 'social productivity' Microsoft is designing social tools in a way that includes the social experience as part of the existing user experience. The approach to seamlessly embed social capabilities within CRM and desktop tools that users are already using, as an integral extension (and not a separate, disjointed or Alt Tab experience) puts social in context of existing business processes.
  • Microsoft Azure—a public cloud and platform as a service (PaaS) used to deliver scalable compute, storage and hosting of web experiences from Microsoft data centers—continues to grow and acquire market traction. However Azure is complimentary to Dynamics and not a specialized cloud to host Dynamics. For example, customers may deploy a customer facing portal on Azure, which then forwards sales leads or support tickets to Dynamics CRM online hosted elsewhere. Microsoft collocates Azure and Dynamics online in the same data centers. However, Azure traditionally delivers lower level programming access and services for compute and storage in the cloud, while Dynamics online delivers more sophisticated, oftentimes mission critical, business applications in the cloud.
  • Dynamics CRM offers pre-built connectors to each of Microsoft's four ERP software products—F&O, Business Central/Nav, GP and SL. The connectors support pre-defined process flows such as inventory lookup, prospect to customer conversion and the quote to cash cycle.
  • The Microsoft Software + Services vision and tag line is designed to support choice in deployment, pricing and IT management objectives. Its a vision that extends to include hybrid deployment models. For example, a customer may elect to run Dynamics ERP on premise and CRM online in the cloud.

The next podcast discussion is with Sage CRM leader Larry Ritter.