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Microsoft Pushes Apps To Larger Customers

The company has traditionally targeted its ERP and CRM applications to smaller firms, but a Microsoft manager says the push is on to attract enterprise users that might want tighter integration with personal productivity tools.

Peter Boit, Microsoft's newly installed vice president of enterprise partners, says the company is heating up its business solutions push to large customers.

Microsoft Business Solutions with its four ERP lines plus CRM has mostly targeted smaller businesses as well as departments within larger entities. Starting last year, however the company has been more vocal about how well CRM and Axapta, in particular, fit into large enterprise environments. The message was fairly clear by last July's Worldwide Partner Conference in Boston.

Asked last week if he saw opportunity for more joint MBS and enterprise partner group collaboration, Boit said: "It makes a lot of sense [but] you have to separate the CRM and the ERP business. We've seen huge demand by customers around how they can understand their customers better. A lot of implementations around CRM may not have fully realized the benefits they want. Sometimes the experience and the capabilities are not exactly what they need so the value proposition of our CRM product and how it integrates with familiar productivity tools and the ability to customize it is as a different value proposition," he said.

At the same conference in July, Microsoft said a free CRM server will be bundled with each ERP purchase going forward. Price of the CRM seats—sold on a named user basis—would not be included however. Clearly, the company, itself a large Siebel Systems CRM customer, sees a big opportunity in seeding the market with its own CRM wares.

Microsoft COO Kevin Turner has been vocal about his desire to stop paying Oracle—a huge competitor—for the Siebel CRM system Microsoft itself uses. And others at Microsoft say given CRM's current ramp—which mirrors SQL Server adoption a few years ago—it will probably be the company's next billion-dollar product.

As for ERP, Boit said it is best sold around vertical applications and expertise. "We found partners with vertical orientations—whether in manufacturing, financial services, retail—see value in the ERP portion of Dynamics as being an asset." Dynamics is the umbrella brand for the Microsoft ERP and CRM products.

He said all of Microsoft's enterprise partners---companies like Cap Gemini, EDS, and other large consultancies, either already have or are looking at starting an MBS practice. He puts the number of enterprise partners worldwide at somewhere around 50.

One simmering problem is that many Microsoft Gold partners already have long-standing relationships with enterprise accounts despite their own relatively small size. They complain that they often have to work with both the EPG group under Simon Witts and the Microsoft Services group under Rick Devenuti in order to serve their customers. They feel that leads to duplicated effort and would like to deal with one point person where they now often deal with more.

Boit said Microsoft is still sorting that out. "There's never a silver bullet but we want to make sure there's an open process, a mutual alignment."

"What we aspire to do is find, then develop, partnerships where we have mutual alignment on strategic initiatives." Boit said.

"We want to build out our joint value proposition so that it's clear to the customers that one plus one equals three, and have a clear way to engage the field that's consistent [across geographies,]" Boit added.

Jared Wheeler, who had been general manager of enterprise partners under Witts,is now GM of Incubated Sales within the EPG group where he will work closely with the Server and Tools Business Group and the field Special Team Units worldwide, according to a spokesman.

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