Sunday, May 16, 2010

What is Markinson up to?

I came across this article:

http://www.crn.com.au/News/174746,markinson-acquires-new-zealand-crm-vendor.aspx

So far Markinson have acquired Adexio and Acuere (the former Trialta) and now Zeron in New Zealand. What’s the big deal? There are not a huge number of active resellers for SalesLogix in Australia and New Zealand and Markinson seem to be gobbling up a good fraction of the active Sage SalesLogix reseller channel.

Are they just looking for more clout with Sage? No idea but interesting to see what gets bought next.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Review of the April 2010 CRM Statement of Direction

It is that time again when Microsoft throw out the latest statement of direction for CRM for us to glean morsels from. For those interested in reading it, this is where you can download it from.

http://cid-4d66c5ae1389f5d8.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Public/Dynamics%20CRM%204.0%20information/CRM%5e_StatementOfDirection%5e_April2010.pdf

Here is my take on the big-ticket news from the document.

Accelerators

The already released Social Networking (Twitter) accelerator and the Partner Relationship Management accelerator also got a plug but there was mention of future accelerators:

  • Portal Accelerators: Basically creating a web site, linking CRM and using CRM as a store for the content. Those that went to Convergence this year will have seen the foundation product of this, namely the ADXStudio Portal generation tool for CRM. Microsoft will make a 'lite' version of this available as an accelerator. Imagine you want a web site linked to CRM and don't want to use SharePoint as the CMS, you now have an alternative.

  • Customer Care Accelerator: This used to be a standalone set of tools called the Customer Care Framework (CCF). It's now been added to the CRM mix as an accelerator. The good news is this is already out in the wild:

http://blogs.msdn.com/crm/archive/2010/05/07/http-blogs-msdn-com-crm-pages-bio-karen-smith-aspx.aspx

If you have a bunch of old apps that need to talk to each other and don't want to re-create them on a modern platform, then the Customer Care Accelerator is your best friend. The evangelists will tell you it is much more than that i.e. it provides tools for CTI integration single sign-on etc. so feel free to check it out. Understand though this is a framework for development and not a solution as such.

Solutions

Microsoft is starting to play to verticals, leveraging the flexibility of the underlying platform of Dynamics CRM (often marketed as xRM). The first 'toe in the water' in terms of a commercial offering is the Non-Profit solution. This is an Online offering seeking to address common needs of Non-Profits (Donation/Pledge management, Member management etc.).

The downer is this is only available Online which means if you're not in the USA or Canada you're out of luck. However, if you're a partner or customer that think you could really get value from this, talk to Microsoft (if you're a customer, through your partner, if you're a partner through your PAM) as you may be able to get hold of the xml customizations which form the basis for the solution, no promises though.

Integration Tools

The CRM Adapter for GP got another plug. I've written about this before and I have big hopes for it (http://leontribe.blogspot.com/2009/10/dynamics-crm-gp-adapter-is-looking-to.html). Again, this was demonstrated at Convergence and as they are opening the API to it, potentially it could become a Scribe-killer, maybe not now though. For now, its lofty ambitions will have to settle for putting a serious dent in eOne's SmartConnect market.

The tool allows for connection between CRM, GP 10 and GP 2010 in any combination (it will also support CRM 5 when that comes out). Just as an aside, let's say you need a workflow engine to do x to Purchase Orders in GP when y happens in Sales Orders, or you need to replicate your vendors across multiple companies in GP. From what I can tell, this tool will allow you to do it, having source and target as GP, regardless of CRM.

In 2011, Microsoft will also update the adapter to work with AX6 and in 2010-2011 with NAV2009. We then have a workflow engine for those tools as well.

Developer Tools

The SDK has been updated to make life easier for developers. If this is something of interest, crack open the Statement of Direction because, as a non-developer, all I know is you can now use LINQ, there are a bunch of portal integration tools and the line count for setting up a connection to CRM via the web services has been reduced by about 1/10.

International Availability of CRM Online

Rumours abound on this one but Microsoft are getting more and more official on this every day. The Statement of Direction promises it will happen in the second half of 2010, in line with what Kiril said at Convergence. The promise at Convergence was 32 markets. This document commits to 29, of which New Zealand is included but Australia IS NOT! Remember Microsoft, Australians spell most words like Americans, we know who the first President of the USA is but few could name our own first Prime Minister and our dollar is practically 1-1 to the greenback, we are an obvious choice. Make us one of the missing 3 markets.

May's Online Service Pack

  • Better integration tools
  • Multi-lingual capabilities (I think it is French, Spanish and Portuguese for now, which makes sense for USA and Canada)

Finally a timeframe for CRM '5'

Again, rumours abound on this one and if you were at Convergence you may have heard dates mentioned. However, the Statement of Direction get us close to an official answer. CRM "5" will be released in the second half of 2010. So there you have it, no CRM "5" before July and given the historical release months, I'd say closer to December. Reuben Krippner has also been quoted as saying that Online will come out first followed by On-Premise a little later (see http://www.twitter.com/leontribe for details).

CRM "5" tidbits


An official screenshot of the CRM "5" ribbon! However, it doesn't give away too much. The only things which caught my interest are in the top right corner. 'Global Search' (could this be the holy grail of using a keyword across multiple entities?) and 'Sign Out' (Could this allow us to log in as different users or to different organizations easily and seamlessly?)

Other morsels include:
  • A reduction in the number of open screens and clicks
  • Allow users to select the views most relevant to their role (custom views at a user level?)
  • Configurable SharePoint integration (as opposed to linking them through code) as well as leveraging team management across both products
  • More complex territory management
  • Graphical visualisation and personalised dashboards
  • Better goal-setting and performance management of staff
  • Allowing for 'team selling' on opportunities (This could mean team ownership or a 1:N relationship between Opportunities and Users
  • They've 'fixed' emailing so you can now attach documents
  • Support for recurring activities
  • Custom solution management. Likened to the Windows Add/Remove Programs, this will allow solutions to be 'fenced' and added to CRM. Other solutions can build on top of them but now edit them
  • Plugins in "5" will be able to be run on the server i.e. we can now run plugins on a hosted solution (and maybe on Online?)