Microsoft CRM hits the spot

Dynamics CRM 3.0 is a refresh that refreshes

I’ve unlocked and loaded Microsoft’s recently refreshed customer relationship management solution, Dynamics CRM 3.0 Professional, and the preliminary results are quite good. The improvements run broad and deep.

Microsoft leapfrogged Version 2, going from a now-dated 2003 debut release to a “Version 3” product that is markedly more mature and usable. Not that Dynamics CRM is teeming with innovation -- at least not by today’s CRM standards -- but current Microsoft customers clinging to the hope of a worthy upgrade will not be disappointed.

The user interface, which runs in Outlook, offers clean integration ties and options for customization. Features including a universal calendar, good e-mail cues that sync with the CRM engine, and sales and pipeline dashboards are all easily accessible. Synchronization, too, is a breeze -- a welcome improvement over sync in the previous edition, which could prove quite frustrating for road warriors.

Policy-driven workflow is also nicely executed. The enhanced Workflow Manager interface makes it easy to build rules for automating processes and procedures, and you can now include customer-specific detail from the database in automated responses, which was not possible in the previous edition. New support for custom entities and better record association among them should make it easier to tailor the application to your line of business.

I’ll need to dig deeper to fully assess Dynamics CRM 3.0’s attractions for new customers, given its extensive requirements for Microsoft infrastructure (including SQL Server and Exchange). But at first blush, Microsoft’s rev seems to have resulted in a well-integrated sales, service, and marketing solution that will give current CRM users a boost.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 Professional
Cost: Professional Edition: $1,244 per server, $622 per user; Small Business Edition: $538 per server, $440 per user
Available: Now