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Microsoft Convergence: The European perspective on the marketing message

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11th Mar 2009
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The seasonal Microsoft Convergence conference in New Orleans was notable less for new product announcements than the subtle shifts in the company's marketing messages. John Stokdyk talks to Microsoft Dynamics UK product marketing director Gary Turner about the company's latest manoeuvres.

By John Stokdyk

There wasn't a lot to detain European students of the Microsoft Dynamics ERP family at the Convergence conference in New Orleans this week. Microsoft Business Solutions corporate vice president Kirill Tatarinov announced some enhancements to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, but it will be 2010 (at least!) before that application is available from Microsoft itself in Europe.

New Dynamics CRM Accelerators are available for no additional charge to users of the on premise or hosted version of Microsoft's CRM suite and apart from that, the most interesting announcement for EPR users was the launch of an "unleash your potential" initiative that will see resellers working with customers to highlight unused functionality within their Dynamics systems.

"With no new ERP products planned in this calendar year, our conversations are different."

Gary Turner, UK product marketing director, Microsoft

UK product marketing director Gary Turner was unapologetic about the absence of new ERP products. "We had a lot of product action last year with new Dynamics NAV and AX releases that brought in a whole load of new features such as web services interfaces," he said. "With no new ERP products planned in this calendar year, our conversations are different."

A year ago, Microsoft's marketing was based around growing your business and moving into new markets. The tone had changed by last autumn's European Convergence conference in Copenhagen, which reflected an economy that was slowing but had not yet been officially recognised as being in recession. Since then, Microsoft itself had to bite the bullet and lay off 5,000 employees - many from the business solutions division.

"Today, it would be foolish to not recognise the economic conditions as a business and as a supplier," Turner said. "Things like 'Unleash Your Potential' are about how our partners can help their customers to streamline their finances with our tools and programs. Change is absolutely the order of the day."

ERP is a "boring" label

One thing that needs to change, he added, is the nature of traditional business software. "ERP is a boring label. We see this as an opportunity to redefine what ERP and CRM mean," said Turner. "Down the years ERP has earned a dubious label in terms of big, long, scary and costly implementations. Forget the recession for a moment - the world has changed anyway. While Dynamics NAV and AX belong to that category of ERP application, they do not share the characteristics of unwieldy, hard to modify, adapt and scale software."

The current economic climate will really expose the weakness in "old classic, clunky ERP systems", he added. "I think economic pressure will really put the squeeze on some of the older systems and negative associations."

"We see this as an opportunity to redefine what ERP and CRM mean. Down the years, ERP has earned a dubious label in terms of big, long, scary and costly implementations."

Gary Turner, UK product marketing director, Microsoft

In contrast, over the past three years, Microsoft has built the Dynamics range around more modern useability, implementation and integration features, including web services and role-based dashboard reporting. "We're trying really hard to define that category," Turner said.

To back these claims, he explained that much of Microsoft's new business has come from replacement sales for legacy ERP systems. "That was the core activity before the recession and in the current context we think it will drive more activity in our direction," he said.

"Whilst we will be subject to the same prevailing economic conditions as everyone else, we have a stronger argument than we did a year ago. The whole point of the Dynamic business is that we have an ability to change that legacy vendors don't offer."

Related articles:

Microsoft Convergence: Creating a dynamic business to survive

Microsoft Convergence: New CRM partnerships announced
 

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