Microsoft CRM: Buy Now or Wait?

Microsoft’s announcement that the 2.0 release of its CRM package will be delayed another few months has created a dilemma for many small to mid-size businesses (SMBs).

Some had put off their purchase of CRM software, waiting for Microsoft’s new version. Now, they are wondering whether they should go ahead and buy it or pursue another product.

It all depends on what the company seeks from CRM software, according to Forrester Research’s Liz Herbert. The fact that Microsoft has pushed off the release of version 2.0 does not necessarily mean that companies should avoid it altogether.

First Come, First Served

Companies that already own Microsoft CRM 1.2 will be first in line when 2.0 hits the streets, said Herbert. That may be reason enough to go ahead with a purchase. The new version will include long-awaited reporting improvements that allow users to slice-and-dice CRM data in Microsoft Excel.

In addition, the current version of Microsoft’s CRM application has a very friendly user interface and strong support for Web services, Herbert adds. What makes Microsoft’s other products so easy to use — their interface — means that both front-office and back-office staffers have little trouble learning the package.

Now for the Bad News

The current Microsoft CRM package has "very little marketing functionality," said Ben Holtz, CEO of SMB tech consultancy Green Beacon Solutions. Many of his clients are waiting impatiently for marketing automation to be rolled into the package, and now they must wait a while longer.

Many have been forced to turn to third-party add-on products to support necessary marketing processes, Herbert notes.

In fact, any customization of Microsoft CRM requires substantial involvement from I.T. personnel, Herbert says. That can be prohibitive for smaller companies whose technical employees already are overburdened.

In addition, getting information out of version 1.2 and into other systems — for sophisticated analytics, for example — requires either batch transfer or transaction-triggered export. Microsoft has provided good integration with its own Great Plains business software for SMBs. But it has failed to do so for other frequently used accounting and planning packages.