Microsoft has announced further details of the new version of its customer relationship management system.
To make it easier to use, CRM 3.0 will provide a complete suite of marketing, sales and service capabilities with the look and feel of a Microsoft Office and Microsoft Outlook user interface.
With CRM 3.0, Microsoft is also introducing a new subscription-based licensing model for customers that prefer a hosted offering, enabling Microsoft to compete against other companies in the hosted CRM space, such as Salesforce and Siebel.
Microsoft said CRM 3.0 is designed to address the three key challenges that determine the success or failure of most CRM initiatives - user adoption, business fit and total cost of ownership.
The new release also comes with a new service-scheduling module, designed to automatically manage complex scheduling requests that currently require specific people, skills and resources.
Microsoft said that new data objects can be also added to the system easily and linked to other pre-defined objects, with all underlying data storage and web services automatically generated by the system.
Microsoft is also introducing a small business edition of CRM 3.0, which is designed for companies that use Windows Small Business Server 2003 Premium Edition (SBS 2003). This version will deliver a simplified installation.
CRM 3.0 will be available to existing Microsoft CRM customers in the fourth quarter of 2005, and will be generally available in the first quarter of 2006. Pricing is yet to be confirmed.