Reimagining CRM: Can Microsoft crack adoption with the consumerisation of CRM?

23rd Nov 2012

With Dynamics CRM undergoing a period of rapid innovation, Microsoft says it will reimagine the way professionals work with CRM. Microsoft's Kirill Tatarinov tells why this change is so timely for CRM.

There has been a flurry of Dynamics CRM activity at Microsoft in recent weeks, with upgrades announced and integrations unveiled. And, it would seem, this is just the start – Bob Stutz, corporate vice president at Microsoft Dynamics CRM, has indicated that the latest activities represent "the first in a planned set of rapid innovation".
But then the software giant has lofty ambitions for Dynamics, with its sights now set firmly on the enterprise market for its CRM product, something that will require a significant deployment of resources.
All of this seems a far cry from the days when (unfounded) rumours were circulating that Microsoft was considering selling off Dynamics. Since then, Microsoft has upped the profile of its CRM product launches (starting with Dynamics 2011), and those inside the company have been enthused by the value of CRM as a driver for the wider Microsoft stack.
Reflecting Dynamics’ growing reputation in Microsoft’s halls of power, in 2010 Kirill Tatarinov, the president of the Microsoft Business Solutions Division responsible for the Dynamics portfolio, was moved to report directly to Steve Ballmer in 2010. As Tatarinov tells “We look at Dynamics as potentially the unifying fabric for the mass of innovations that are happening across the company.”
He continues: “Our vision for Dynamics is to turn every customer we have into a dynamic business – a business that doesn’t stand still, a business that is forward-looking, a business that embraces new opportunities, but also one that is buttoned down and knows how to manage its customer and drive through tough times in the economy.”
Reimagining the way professionals work with CRM
To achieve this, Dynamics CRM says it will “reimagine the way sales, customer service and marketing professionals work with CRM”, with the recent integration of collaboration tool Yammer and communication tool Skype being important pieces of the puzzle.
In addition, there has also been the acquisition of MarketingPilot, which commentators have noted will provide Dynamics with an automated marketing armthat it had previously lacked.
“It certainly was an area where in the past we haven’t focused on too much… We had some rudimentary capability, and we also had some of the partners supporting our customers when they needed marketing automation,” he concedes. “But as we saw in the market, the role of chief marketing officer and the role of marketer is certainly more important than ever before.”
And evidence suggests that this trend will continue, something that vendors have been keenly aware of as it has implications for IT procurement - Gartner for instance recently estimated that by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO.
But this is merely symptomatic of a much bigger trend that Microsoft expects Dynamics to capitalise on with its “reimagining” of CRM interaction, according to Tatarinov.
“It all plays into the overall trend that we’re seeing - the consumerisation of the enterprise,” he explains. “This is hugely important for every CIO and IT department because the world is changing and IT organisations need to change with it. The importance of the CIO and IT doesn’t diminish, but it changes and it must become much more closely aligned with the business. I think the needs of the business and the CMOs are being much better recognised by CIOs now. And providing the technology and relevancy to the business people is what is going to drive success – and that is what we’re looking to enable with our solutions.”
Consumerisation of applications
While the most common embodiment of the consumerisation of the enterprise has been the advent of BYOD (bring your own device), Tatarinov believes there is another personification of it, and one that is particularly pertinent to Microsoft Dynamics – the consumerisation of applications.
“There is a new generation of workers joining the workforce that grew up with computers and are accustomed to simplicity and intuitiveness, and they expect business systems at work to be formed that same way,” he says. “They don’t want to open menus or read big books before they can run the systems, they just want to get in and start using them.
“When you start thinking about the core differentiator of Dynamics - the design principles that we keep in mind every time we built something - it is precisely that consumerisation simplicity and most of the experience of the actual business application so that people can jump and start using it without ever reading a manual, it is immersive and intuitive and interacts with controls that they are familiar with. Building CRM that is a natural extension of Yammer, building CRM is a natural extension of email systems like Outlook if that’s what they’re using, building CRM that is really connected and is part of the device of their choice. It is an important point of differentiation and is the continued focus of our engineering team.”
And as adoption of CRM systems have traditionally been something of a hard sell for departments, this focus on ‘consumerisation’ and ‘simplicity’ is something that Tatarinov expects will be warmly embraced by businesses of all sizes - including enterprise-level targets.
“We remove the friction from any aspect of the adoption process and give people what they need out of the box so people can jump in and start running the system without having to customise it and build any kind of configuration. It’s all there. It’s out of the box. It provides built-in methodology. It even tells people how to sell."
He concludes: "Yes large companies will have their own methodology. But it can be imported. And most people today want to jump in today and start using the system. Then they can customise it and call the IT department and call their partners to do some fine tuning or to connect with the rest of the systems.”
A CRM system that staff can dive straight into and get to work? That really would be ‘reimagining’ the way teams work with CRM.

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