MS makes users wait for new CRM suite

Users will have to wait until mid-2005 to get hold of version 2.0 of Microsoft's customer relationship management suite, the...

Users will have to wait until mid-2005 to get hold of version 2.0 of Microsoft's customer relationship management suite, the company said last week.

This will mean the upgrade is set for release more than 18 months after the much-hyped launch of the original Microsoft CRM product and six months later than some resellers expected.

Microsoft said more than 60 UK customers have signed up for the current version of Microsoft CRM - version 1.2 - but most are in the US. Its first UK customer is Airclaims, a 40-year-old aerospace loss-adjuster and consultancy. The company began to implement CRM 1.2 in April, starting with a 15-user system, and integrating it into its existing back-end systems.

Airclaims plans to complete the first phase of the implementation by the end of July, when it expects to be able to measure its success.

The firm said it was rolling out Microsoft CRM to boost its sales team's productivity by improving the collection, management and use of customer information. It also hopes to improve cross-selling and up-selling opportunities.

Airclaims switched from a product called Maximizer, which it had mainly used for keeping sales records, said Paul Rayson, managing director of Airclaims' consultancy and information division.

He said the firm evaluated Microsoft CRM against many other products, including the incumbent Maximizer, SalesLogix, Goldmine, CustomerFocus, Commence and Siebel.

"Our project management group made them jump through a lot of hoops. And many of them fell by the wayside. But we were comfortable to be the launch customer for Microsoft in the UK," said Rayson.

He dismissed some of the criticisms from US users who have found Microsoft CRM 1.2 "buggy" and thin on features compared with the alternatives.

"We have not fully explored the depths, but initial feedback from the sales team is good," said Rayson.

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