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Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Independent Software Review

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Competitive positioning in the cloud CRM market is highlighted with the following strengths and weaknesses.

Dynamics CRM Strengths

  • A top Dynamics CRM strength is its feature rich yet easy to use SFA module. The SFA software optionally operates within an Outlook client and mimics an MS Office environment promoting a consistent look and feel and increasing ease of use for Windows savvy users. Additional ease of use features include a contextual ribbon bar, role-tailored design and simple user personalization of workspaces and views.
  • Strong Business Intelligence. Flexible wizard-driven inline visualization workspaces, support for PowerPivot and Excel cubes, time-based queries, and easy to create dashboards empower business users to analyze information without IT support.
  • Dynamics CRM offers the most flexibility among software delivery alternatives—including on premises, SaaS or partner hosted. The Dynamics online and on-premise versions share the same code base thereby also permitting customers to change delivery models. Further, Dynamics is hosting agnostic, permitting customers to choose among a plethora of hosting providers or bring the software in house. Dynamics also operates in the Microsoft Azure cloud, however, it remains to be seen whether Azure may become the first cloud to bring true portability to CRM customers.
  • Dynamics includes robust customization and deep platform software integration tools which collectively increase product flexibility and extensibility while delivering technology efficiencies. Dynamics CRM highly leverages the MS SQL Server stack, including Reporting Services for reports, Analysis Services for data warehousing, Windows Workflow Foundation for business process automation and the .NET framework for integration. SharePoint integration offers a powerful and integrated content management solution. Such top to bottom leverage tends to facilitate straight-forward IT efforts in terms of reducing complexity, time and cost.
  • Microsoft is ahead of the pack in business process automation capabilities. Dynamics leverages the Windows Workflow Foundation platform for comprehensive and sophisticated workflow creation and customization.
  • Excellent desktop integration. Office users can seamlessly integrate with the CRM database to create mail merge documents from Word, use document or email templates for distributions or use Excel pivot tables or other data messaging for data modeling and analytics.
  • Decent offline system utilization via an offline sales version with automatic synchronization when online connectivity resumes.
  • Good quotes and sales order entry for sales staff. Integration with any of the four Dynamics ERP products for continued sales order fulfillment is more technically challenging than it should be.
  • A global CRM solution that provides localized functionality in 40 regions, 41 languages and covers all the 'multi's' – such as multiple company, multiple currency, multiple languages and multiple time zones. To compliment a multi-national product, Microsoft has over 2000 CRM VARs (value added resellers), 100 ISV (independent software vendor) partners and hundreds of hosting partners in 85 countries. Without a doubt, Microsoft has the mature global business partner channel in the world.
  • While corporate viability is never guaranteed, Microsoft's size, growth, brand, diversification and profitability provide a much greater assurance of corporate longevity that many of the much smaller, emerging growth competitors.
  • With a combination of impressive features sets and the lowest subscription pricing among all short listed CRM vendors, Dynamics offers the best value proposition in the market.

Dynamics CRM Weaknesses

  • Customers seeking a balanced CRM suite beyond SFA may require third party solutions, system integration and/or software customization to accommodate missing functionality in the marketing module or the limitation of only straight-forward business processes in the customer service module.
  • Microsoft's mobile CRM strategy is to support all devices which can render HTML pages. This lowest common denominator approach provides wide support, but fails to take advantage of the unique strengths of any particular device. This approach may actually appeal to IT shops with policies to support every mobile device, however, will likely be unappreciated by users who crave their iPhones, Androids or BlackBerrys.
  • The marketing and customer service modules are improving however do not keep pace with the SFA module. Fortunately for Microsoft, with the exception of Oracle CRM on Demand and RightNow, most competitors also do not possess impressive marketing and customer support functions.
  • Despite Microsoft's company strategy of aligning along industry markets, Dynamics does not venture into verticals markets. Instead the company relies on its ISV and business partner channels to accommodate select industries. The strategy is not unreasonable, however, creates a layer of abstraction between the publishers and its customers.
  • Microsoft supports a partner product portal called Pinpoint which is a decent online partner marketplace, however, lacks the breadth, social rating features and usefulness of publisher eco-system destinations such as AppExchange.
  • Microsoft has morphed CRM with the Outlook client providing a familiar and user friendly presentation layer. However, customers desiring to use Exchange to better scale the management of syncing contacts, tasks and calendar appointments must incur third party partner solutions.
  • Microsoft also offers four market leading accounting and enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications—Dynamics AX, Nav, GP and SL. While front to back office integration is powerful in delivering company-wide visibility of the customer relationship, such vision has been hampered. None of the ERP systems are native cloud applications and integration among Microsoft's ERP and CRM software systems is available, however, has always been clunky and unnecessarily complex. Executive interviews suggest Microsoft will improve CRM to ERP integration in late 2011 or 2012.
  • Microsoft does not provide Dynamics Online coverage for several prominent countries, such as Argentina, China and Taiwan.
  • Dynamics CRM does not provide ubiquitous browser support. CRM only runs on IE 7, 8 or 9, with Windows XP or later.
  • The company does not provide sandbox environments for testing or QA.

Next - Microsoft CRM Sweet Spot and Alternative Solutions >>

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Microsoft Dynamics CRM Review






With a combination of impressive features sets and the lowest subscription pricing among all short listed CRM software vendors, Dynamics offers the best value proposition in the market.




Microsoft Dynamics CRM Evolution
  • Microsoft CRM 1.0 launched January 2003
  • Dynamics CRM 3.0 released December 2005. Version 2 was skipped and the product was renamed as Version 3 in order to include it with the rest of the Dynamics family.
  • Dynamics CRM 4.0 released December 2007. This was the first multi-tenant version and ushered in CRM Online, the first Microsoft hosted CRM product.
  • Dynamics CRM 2011 was released in February 2011. This version delivered code parity for on-demand and on-premise solutions.


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