When most marketers use the word ‘data’, what springs to mind are large sets of numbers, Excel spreadsheets, cloud-based IT systems and complicated algorithms. Big data speak is the mot du jour. There is even a big data Week in London called the Festival of Data.
Microsoft is poised to release a major update to its Dynamics CRM and marketing applications in a bid to gain market share against rivals such as Salesforce.com.
Dynamics CRM 2015, an update to Dynamics CRM Online and a new version of Dynamics Marketing will all be generally available in the fourth quarter, Microsoft said this week.
The fact that a CRM update is coming isn't hugely unexpected news in itself. Microsoft releases new versions a number of times each year for the products, which share the same code base. What's more significant are moves Microsoft is making to tie its marketing application more closely to CRM, in terms of both functionality and release cycles.
A new Sales Collaboration Panel in Dynamics Marketing gives salespeople the ability to work together with marketers on campaigns. They can also track how campaigns are going, keep tabs on messages that are targeting their specific customers and receive related alerts, according to a release preview document.
The Dynamics Marketing update also will introduce a new graphical email editor, enhancements to the campaign management console and a new marketing calendar that provides a visual way for marketers to track their campaigns over weeks and months. In addition, the update will include Lync click-to-call capabilities, and new language support for Japanese and Russian, Microsoft said.
On the CRM side, the upcoming release adds improvements for guided sales processes, tools for configuring product bundles and additional capabilities for territory management.
This last feature adds the ability to view sales and territory data via hierarchical charts. A sales manager could start by looking at what a particular account's total revenue is, then drill into the chart to figure out where deals are originating, find out which salesperson is working on it and see the latest activities and messages, according to the release document.
Like Oracle, SAP and Salesforce.com, Microsoft is presenting its CRM and marketing software as part of a customer engagement suite that also includes social media monitoring.
Microsoft's entry, Social Listening, is the result of its acquisition of Netbreeze. New updates to Social Listening include the additional of a sixth language, Italian, for social message sentiment analysis. News sites can also be used as a source for analysis along with Facebook, Twitter, blogs and videos, Microsoft said.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is differentiating Dynamics CRM from products by competitors such as Salesforce.com by continuing to offer both on-premises and cloud deployments. To the latter end, CRM Online is now available in 17 new Latin American markets, and will be launched in more than 130 markets by the end of this year, Microsoft said.
Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com