The Dynamics CRM 2011 November service update, released Tuesday, adds activity feeds and configurable notifications; microblogging so users can post status updates and carry on conversations; automated activity updates for events like the closing of a deal; and mobile activity feeds to Windows 7 phones. Seth Patton, senior director of marketing for Dynamics CRM, said Microsoft will press the advantage it gets from controlling many of the other productivity tools workers use--for example, by letting users monitor activity feeds from within Outlook.
"Success will really land with those businesses and organizations that can cut through the chatter," Patton said, working in a dig at Salesforce.com's Chatter social collaboration tool. "Our focus is not on being more social, but on being productive."
[Chatter is coming under fire from every direction. Read Oracle Social Network To Challenge Salesforce Chatter.]
Since January, when Microsoft introduced a series of upgrades and began more aggressively pushing Dynamics CRM Online, the product has been looking increasingly competitive with Saleforce.com. As of January, Microsoft was claiming 23,000 customers for Dynamics CRM, and it now says it's up to 30,000. While those figures include both cloud and on-premises deployments, Microsoft said two out of three new customers are opting for the online version.
Microsoft is promising to deliver two updates per year to the Dynamics CRM platform, starting with this release. Dynamics CRM is now integrated with Office 365 and offers a single sign-on experience with both hosted and on-premises versions of SharePoint, Office, and Lync, Patton said. Provisioning and administration interfaces have also been unified across the platforms, he said. Microsoft is also introducing identity federation and backup and recovery features targeted primarily at large enterprises that want to operate some of this infrastructure in the cloud environment, he said.
Microsoft's approach to social software is to combine it with its existing collaboration tools, Patton said. "Our customers are telling us they don't necessarily want some separate application for social. They want it to be a natural extension."
Viewing the Dynamics CRM Activity feeds on the Web currently requires Internet Explorer, but Microsoft is promising to deliver a Dynamics CRM version that also reaches Chrome, Firefox, and Safari in 2012.
Doug Henschen contributed to the reporting on this story.
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