Microsoft Broadens Dynamics CRM, Moves Up-Market

With three strategic acquisitions, Microsoft Dynamics CRM can now be considered a complete offering for sales, marketing and customer service. In addition, Microsoft’s CRM offering is showing its ability to move up-market into large enterprises.

These were two points that became evident during the Microsoft Dynamics Convergence conference this month in Atlanta.

By way of history, Microsoft introduced its Dynamics CRM product in 2003, its first Dynamics product written from scratch, though it did not experience significant market uptake until several years later. Until the past year or so, Dynamics CRM was largely a salesforce automation system, with a bit of case management on the service side. As such, it was not well positioned against the CRM offerings of SAP and Oracle, which offered complete solutions. Though also started as a sales automation system, over the past few years it has also built out its capabilities for marketing and customer service.

The previous deficiencies of Dynamics CRM have been apparent in our software vendor selection work, in one case where we facilitated a CRM selection in 2010 for a midsize high tech manufacturer. The company had implemented Dynamics CRM but decided to abandon it for lack of customer service functionality. In another CRM selection deal, in 2012, Strativa consultants did not even short list Dynamics CRM because of its lack of support for marketing and customer service.

Filling out the Footprint

But now, as the result of three strategic acquisitions, the picture is completely different:

  • Marketing Pilot: Acquired in 2012, Marketing Pilot is the basis for the newly announced Microsoft Dynamics Marketing. Product capabilities include campaign management, content management, approval workflow, media planning, email marketing management, and integration with sales force automation. The product also supports multichannel marketing, with social media management (e.g. automated posting to Facebook and Twitter) and digital advertising (e.g. integration with Google Adwords). With the latest version of Dynamics CRM, the product is completely integrated with a consistent user-interface.
  • NetBreeze: This acquisition by Microsoft in 2013 allows organizations to monitor social media conversations of interest to the organization’s brands. It also provides “sentiment analysis” on social media conversations. In other words, it can monitor whether people are speaking positively or negatively about the brand. Microsoft executives claim that Netbreeze is the only provider that does such sentiment analysis in native languages (five, at present). This, they say, is in contrast to competing offerings, which for example have to translate tweets into English and perform the sentiment analysis on the translation. Anyone who has attempted to use Google Translate or Bing’s translation engine to communicate in a foreign language knows the dangers of relying on machine translation. Netbreeze now forms the heart of the newly announced Microsoft Social Listening.
  • Parature: This most-recent acquisition, in 2014, brought a complete customer service solution into the Dynamics CRM product set. Parature, built exclusively in the cloud, supports customer self-service, knowledge management, issue management, and service workflow. The product is built with multi-channel in mind with support for call center, web self-service, text chat, and social media channels. Parature is the basis for Microsoft’s newly announced Unified Service Desk. In a subsequent interview with Microsoft’s Bill Patterson, who has now been named Senior Director over the Parature operation, he indicated that Parature does not need much help to build out more functionality or even to integrate it with Dynamics CRM. The focus, he said, will be more on execution, raising its profile in the market, scaling its business operations globally, and training partners to sell and support it. Interestingly, Microsoft currently has no plans to migrate Parature from Amazon Web Services to its own Azure cloud. The product will interoperate with the rest of Dynamics CRM, no matter if the customer is running on premises or with Microsoft or partner hosting.

These capabilities fill out Dynamics CRM into a complete offering, although there are still partner products needed in some cases, for example, for field service, which Microsoft views more as an ERP function than a CRM function. Partner solutions are also needed for configuration, pricing, and quoting (CPQ).

Competing on Value

Although Dynamics CRM can now position itself well in terms of capabilities, there is also an economic angle to its market strategy. Microsoft is simplifying licensing for Dynamics CRM and releasing much of the new capabilities at no additional charge. Specifically, for Microsoft-hosted deployments, which comprise the majority of new deals for Dynamics CRM:

  • CRM Online Professional, priced at $65 per user per month for customers with 10 or more Professional users, will give users access to Social Listening at no additional charge. For on-premises customers (the minority of new sales), there will be a $20 per user per month charge.
  • CRM Online Enterprise, priced at $200 per user per month, essentially delivers the whole enchilada: the core sales functionality, plus Dynamics Marketing, Social Listening, plus the new Unified Service Desk.

As it stands, the new pricing appears to be quite competitive. Buyers may find the pricing attractive against a similar bundle from, where costs can rise quickly as Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, and Service Cloud are priced separately. Throw in a few AppExchange solutions and the total price can be quite steep. Of course, large customers can and do negotiate significant discounts. Still, Microsoft’s offer of a complete CRM solution at a reasonable price should work to limit the premium pricing ambitions of Salesforce as well as Oracle and SAP. And, that’s good for buyers.

A more complete description of CRM pricing and licensing can be found in a Microsoft blog post by Paco Contreras.

Moving Up-Market

The expanded CRM footprint will certainly help Microsoft compete for CRM deals in larger enterprises. However, Dynamics CRM was already moving up-market even before these most recent announcements.

During Convergence, we conducted an interview with Patrick Berard, senior vice president for southern Europe at Rexel France. Though not a household name in the U.S., Rexel is an $18 billion distributor of electrical supplies, operating in 30 countries worldwide. Starting three years ago with its operations in France, Rexel implemented Dynamics CRM to provide a 360 degree view of its customers. It may not sound exciting except that Rexel, having grown through many acquisitions in various markets, has dozens of ERP and other transactional systems that contain customer information in multiple languages. Bringing this information together for the first time in a single view was no small feat.

Rexel’s approach was not to disturb these transactional systems but to pull information from them into Dynamics CRM and make it available for real time display on desktops and mobile devices and to use it for sales force automation. The company also leverages Microsoft Lync and Yammer to create communities of interest around this customer information.

As good a case study as this is, Rexel may not be finished implementing Microsoft Dynamics. With Microsoft building out its CRM footprint, Berard plans to look at Dynamics Marketing to see whether it would provide a way to better manage technical specifications and other content. Finally, some of the ERP systems in Rexel operating units are “sub-standard” and candidates for replacement. Microsoft Dynamics AX may be a good fit for these divisions, which may lead to an even broader commitment to Microsoft throughout Rexel.

For a system that was only born 10 years ago, Microsoft has made great progress in building out a complete CRM offering. It positions well against SAP CRM as a smaller-footprint alternative. Against Oracle, Dynamics CRM has a simpler story to tell. There is no doubt that Oracle has deep CRM capabilities, but they come in a variety of acquired products, such as Siebel, Rightnow, and Eloqua, as well as Oracle-developed products, such as Oracle Fusion CRM.

Against all competitors, including the market leader,, Microsoft is signaling that it is willing to challenge their premium pricing.

With Microsoft now offering a complete CRM solution and demonstrating that it can scale up-market, there are few situations now where Dynamics CRM does not deserve consideration.