CRM Opportunities for SMBs

Monday, March 27, 2006
Posted by Brawlin Melgar
CRM opportunities growing?

27 March, 2006
By Alan Thwaits

Recent initiatives by Microsoft and Sage point to new opportunities in the enterprise and SMB spaces for CRM solutions.

Microsoft's recent introduction of Dynamics CRM 3.0 has been followed by a focus on enterprise-level organizations, as Microsoft has secured multi thousand-seat deals with large enterprises and across a wide range of product and service industries including pharmaceutical, the public sector, food and beverage, and telecom.

Recent enterprise customers include H&R Block Inc., which recently added to its previous deployment of 1,500 seats of Microsoft CRM with an additional 500 seats for the launch of a new line of business, and has announced a five-year plan to deploy 6,000 seats.

"We're hearing a lot about CRM and about how companies like Microsoft are targeting SMBs," said Michelle Warren, IT industry analyst, at Evans Research. "Organizations like H&R Block are large, but their needs are more SMB-like, so CRM is perfect for them. For larger companies, CRM is a little bit of a grey area. We're seeing CRM applications in the SMB space, but mostly at the larger end."

Microsoft's Dynamics is a line of financial, customer relationship and supply chain management solutions, offered with on-site and hosted CRM solutions being delivered through Microsoft's global partner network.

"Microsoft is in a good position, as it's more at the consumer end of the market," added Warren. "That means they're in a position to gain market share. It's definitely an area where they can improve, because CRM enables a broad range across verticals, and because Microsoft is really committed to its partner community, and likes working with their software partners."

Scottsdale, Ariz.-based business management software and services provider Sage Software has taken another approach to new opportunities in the CRM space with its recently-announced enhancements to its ACT! by Sage 2006 and ACT! by Sage Premium for Workgroups 2006 contact and customer management solutions, which now offer mobile and Web access options.

These enhancements speak to findings from Forrester Research, which in a recent report highlighted the impact mobility has on organizations, at both the enterprise and SMB levels. In the report, titled "Mobile Application Adoption Leaps Forward," Forrester stated that "companies are adopting mobile applications faster than planned because of advances in technology and increased competitive pressure," and that "mobility will continue to penetrate even deeper into business applications; and IT will start thinking of mobility not as a new and emerging technology, but as an integral part of the IT infrastructure."

Sage hopes that the new enhancements to its CRM solutions - which include providing data synchronization and other ACT! features to BlackBerry, Palm OS and Pocket PC handheld devices, and ACT! Premium for Web, which allows real-time Web access to centralized data that can be deployed for both remote and on-premises users  will push CRM adoption by both enterprise and SMB users.

"Offering mobility options is a tremendous productivity boost," said Larry Ritter, vice president, ACT! product manager, at Sage Software. "Customers are becoming ever mo