Microsoft Extends Dynamics CRM 4.0 Capabilities

Microsoft on Thursday announced three additional free extensions to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 that can boost the capabilities of the customer relationship management platform.

Microsoft calls these extensions "accelerators," and now offers three new types: a social networking accelerator, a partner relationship management accelerator and a portal integration accelerator. The company now offers a total of 11 free accelerators to its Dynamics CRM customers.

Essentially, accelerators are metadata customization solutions. For instance, the social networking accelerator lets users analyze customer chat data on social networking sites. The accelerator can integrate with the Twitter short-blogging service, and Microsoft plans to plug it into other such social networking sites in future releases.

The new accelerators will be available "in the next few weeks," according to Microsoft's announcement, and can be downloaded at the Dynamics CRM Web site.

The announcement comes just before the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), which is scheduled to begin on Monday in New Orleans. Microsoft is already hinting in its blogs about some of the features to come with Dynamic CRM 5.0, the next major version of the product. However, the WPC won't be the venue for that news.

"We aren't really disclosing too much more about Dynamics CRM 5 at this specific conference," said Bill Patterson, director of product management for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. "We've got some other things we will be talking about."

At the WPC, Microsoft will talk about its pliable Dynamics CRM platform. Microsoft refers to this flexibility as "XRM," or "anything relationship management," where the functionality of the platform can go beyond the traditional sales management database.

"We came out with our strong CRM system. It was highly customizable, and customers went and innovated like crazy on the raw platform capability," Patterson explained. "Some of them didn't choose to deploy [the platform for] sales, service or marketing."

An example of XRM in action is the Portland Trailblazers basketball franchise. They used Dynamics CRM to manage their ticketholders, their sponsorships and their interactions with fans during games, Patterson said.

Second, Microsoft plans to talk about the collaboration theme, such as social networking, which is just another interaction channel to tap in Dynamics CRM, according to Patterson. Lastly, Microsoft likely will describe its "Software plus Services" integration at the WPC. The same code base is used for both the online and installed solutions of Dynamics CRM, which stems from Microsoft's Titan project, according to analyst firm Ovum.

"We think that we have one of the best examples of a client plus cloud story with our native Office client that we have, and it then operates seamlessly with our cloud service," Patterson explained.

A Microsoft blog described some of the possible new features that Dynamics CRM 5.0 might have, including integration of a "Ribbon" user interface, which is currently found in Microsoft Office 2007. The blog indicates that Dynamics CRM 5.0 is "currently on schedule to ship as part of the Office 14 Wave." Microsoft has said that Office 14, now officially known as "Office 2010," will be available sometime in the first half of next year.

Microsoft sees Dynamics CRM as a growth element -- not just for the company and its product stack, but also for its partners. Patterson cited the "six times" growth of Ascentium, which just won Microsoft partner of the year based on its Dynamics CRM work.

"The last quarter, we had greater than 20 percent growth, and it's been just a very strong year for our business," Patterson said.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.