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2/14/2007
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Microsoft Adds Analytics To Its Dynamics CRM Software

The plug-in for Dynamics is part of Microsoft's grab at a multibillion-dollar BI industry.

Microsoft this week made new analytics software available for download to help bolster its Dynamics CRM customer information software platform and target a burgeoning business intelligence market.

The software vendor said the new Analytics Foundation works with the business intelligence technology in Microsoft's SQL Server 2005 database to create software modules -- or dashboards -- and other predictive analytic software. The Dynamics CRM user interface is based on Outlook.

"Customers can just download the Analytics Foundation and plug it into the Dynamics CRM and SQL Server they already have to get up and running," Christian Pedersen, senior director of Dynamics CRM for Microsoft, says.

The new software can be configured to deliver specific data categories such as sales teams, marketing department, or customer service, Pedersen says. The process is made available because of SQL Server's OLAP (online analytical processing) capabilities and data-mining algorithms.

With Analytics Foundation, Microsoft is adding business intelligence that wasn't previously available in existing versions of Dynamics CRM, Pedersen says. The software maker hopes to differentiate the product in the market by providing analytics while a person works. For example, a customer service rep working with a company could automatically receive data on products similar customers have bought. Such information could be used to try to sell more products during the call.

In addition, Microsoft hopes to drive more sales of the customer relationship management system by offering the new technology at no additional charge, Pedersen says. "[Analytics Foundation] provides immediate value for our business customers."

Microsoft's current business intelligence stack includes SQL Server 2005, SharePoint, Office Business Scorecard Manager, and Excel. The company plans to add PerformancePoint Server 2007 this year.

Building such capabilities in mainstream applications for everyday decision making by all types of employees is part of Microsoft's plan to capture market share of a red hot business intelligence industry. Sales of predictive analytics are expected to grow 8% annually to $3 billion by 2008, according to IT research firm IDC.

Microsoft has a leg up in garnering new business intelligence clients, considering its Office productivity suite holds more than 95% of the market. Other BI vendors such as Business Objects are also leveraging Office.

Microsoft's fiscal second quarter financial report, released in January, credited SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005, and Dynamics CRM 3.0 with contributing a combined $1 billion in revenue over the last 12 months.

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