Sonoma Partners Microsoft CRM and Salesforce Blog

Buy Microsoft CRM with almost no payments for six months

We just received details on a great new Microsoft Financing offer called the 6/50 promotion. Customers can finance the purchase of Microsoft products (including Microsoft CRM) and related partner services...and only pay $50 per month for the first 6 months! That's almost "no payments for six months". After the initial six months, the loan balance is paid back in 36 months at competitive financing rates.

Some of our customers have purchased products and services through Microsoft Financing and they loved it. The paperwork was very minimal and the approval went through quickly. Most importantly, they were able to spread their investment out over several years.

Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM

People-Ready versus Dynamics

I was able to spend a little time yesterday watching Tiger Woods demolish the competition in the British Open. I only watched 30 to 45 minutes, but I swear I saw about 6 or 7 television commercials for Microsoft's "People-Ready" software during that limited time. Microsoft is clearly dropping some serious money to spread the People-Ready word via TV commercials. I really like the Microsoft commercials quite a bit. Unfortunately the commercials I saw during the British Open didn't mention the Dynamics brand name AT ALL!

I really wish that these commercials could have said something like "Microsoft Dynamics is People-Ready". As you know, the Dynamics brand name is relatively young so pushing the Dynamics brand out via these mainstream TV commercials would be excellent. I understand that the People-Ready campaign is bigger than just the CRM and ERP products, but just adding that one word "Dynamics" into the tag line could have really helped all of us CRM and ERP resellers.

Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Hmmmm....cookies

When I heard that we received some cookies from a customer, my initial reaction was that their website was putting HTTP cookies on our browsers. However, when I realized that we got actual cookies I was much more excited!

We just helped them complete a fairly complex Microsoft CRM 1.2 to Microsoft CRM 3.0 upgrade, and they were kind enough to send us some treats as a little "thank you"! This was first time a customer ever sent us cookies, so it was very unexpected and appreciated.

Live from WPC - Sonoma out

With the Worldwide Partner Conference wrapped up, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the event…complete with the good, the bad and the ugly!

The Good

  • As expected, Windows Vista and Office 2007 got most of the attention at the conference but Microsoft CRM was easily the third most talked about product! There was an excellent Microsoft CRM demo during the Steve Ballmer keynote. Microsoft CRM is absolutely on fire, adding over 50,000 users in just the last quarter.
  • Speaking of Steve Ballmer, he was GREAT at the keynote on Tuesday. He’s obviously very energetic, but more than that you can just tell that he’s smart as heck. Most importantly, his speeches aren’t full of “marketing blah blah blah”. He explains the technology roadmap and Microsoft’s vision in a very down to earth and digestible format.
  • Big news about Microsoft CRM #1 – Microsoft will begin offering a Live! Hosted version of Microsoft CRM out of their data centers beginning in Q2 2007.
  • Big news about Microsoft CRM #2 – the pending release of the new mobile edition through the Microsoft CRM Sandbox in a few weeks.
  • We spent a lot of time in the Microsoft Kiosks on the Expo floor learning about some of the products coming out in the next six months. Some of my personal highlights included InfoPath 2007, Exchange 2007, and Groove 2007.
  • I was hurting to find a Starbucks throughout this conference, but I finally hunted one down yesterday morning.
  • Lots of goodies and swag from the expo floor.
  • Plenty of software and beta giveaways at the various sessions. We got Windows Vista, Office 2007, the Microsoft CRM VPC, and other DVD’s. Of course we could download all of this stuff too, but sometimes it’s nice to just have it on a DVD to save you time.
  • We were invited to participate in a focus group about the Microsoft Dynamics Snap add-ons. They just released some new snaps on the Sandbox, and we are asked for feedback on the direction of future Snaps. They have lots of very slick Snaps on the horizon to be released over the next 6 months.
  • Attendance at the conference was amazing with over 10,000 people from all over the world. That means that we were able to make lots of connections with other partners and talk with the real experts behind the Microsoft products.
  • The Microsoft CRM “Ride the Wave” party on Tuesday night was excellent. The food and drinks were flowing of course, but it was fun to talk with all of the partners and Microsoft employees that work on Microsoft CRM.
  • We heard from a reliable source that Microsoft will soon release a new VPC image that demos the integration between Microsoft CRM and Microsoft Dynamics GP (Great Plains).
  • Microsoft offered a mobile version of the event website at www.wpc06.com. This website allowed me to browse the session details from my smart phone (see below on why I couldn’t browse the website from my laptop).
  • The city of Boston was a great host. We were able to take in some of the local events, and had a good time despite the horrible accident in the tunnel.
  • Microsoft COO Kevin Turner gave an excellent keynote speech on Thursday morning. This was the first time I heard him speak, and I was impressed. His background is from Walmart and Sam's Club, so I'm looking forward to what he can bring to Microsoft from those other successful companies. My favorite quote from Kevin was "Demo! Demo! Demo! We need to do more demos!". Love it!
  • Overall, the conference was great and we'll definitely attend in 2007.

The Bad

  • There’s always way too much marketing fluff in the presentations, particularly the keynotes! Out of a three hour session, we might only see the software and/or a demo for about 15 to 20 minutes. That’s brutal. Of course we need some background and vision to set the context but they could easily eliminate 50% of the PowerPoint slides I had to sit through. My dream is that the agenda would list ahead of time how many PowerPoint slides each session will contain. This way if someone wanted fluff, they could pick the sessions with a lot of PowerPoint slides. But if someone (like me) wanted to see more software demos they could chose the sessions that contain the least number of slides.
  • I confirmed that Windows Mobile devices don’t support some basic (expected) functionality that other phones do. In particular, you can’t copy/paste or multi-select records on a Windows Mobile 5.0 device. Bummer.
  • I missed the “fabulous Matt G”! Microsoft had some guy named Rodney Sherwood MC’ing the event. He was marginal, and he’s definitely no Matt G. I think they should use real Microsoft employees for these events instead of using these cheesy hired guns.

The Ugly

I have attended six or seven different Microsoft conferences over the past few years, and this conference had some of the worst logistic problems I’ve seen. Of course, the event logistics are NOT run by Microsoft, instead they rely on CRG Events to handle these issues. So while I don't hold these grudges against Microsoft, CRG Events is now #1 on my bad list. Among the snafus:

  • They ran out of food at every single meal I attended. If you didn’t hit the meal within the first 20 minutes of its start time, you’d be out of luck.
  • Internet connectivity was non-existent for me. They had a free Wifi network BUT it turns out that my Intel Pro wireless card isn’t supported so I could not get online. The conference help desk experts informed me that many of the Intel wireless cards aren’t supported by the particular Wifi hardware (Aruba) used at this conference. This is particularly ironic because Intel was a platinum sponsor of the event! Therefore, I could not get online wirelessly. To make matters worse, they didn’t offer any wired connections where laptop users could plug into the network! So…basically I couldn’t get online with my computer all week. That sucked.
  • They needed more power outlets for users to plug into. Conference attendees were fighting like cats and dogs to plug their laptop into one of the few open outlets.
  • The structured networking area was way too small and it was booked to capacity. It was difficult to setup all the meetings we wanted because there simply were not enough tables for people to meet.
  • Conference feedback forms were only to give feedback to the sessions and presenters. I didn’t see any way to submit feedback on the many logistic issues we experienced.

Another issue about the conference (outside the control of CRG I assume) was the location of the event hotels. They were FAR from the convention center, and it would literally take 30 to 60 minutes to get from the hotel to the conference. I think most of that is just due to the layout and traffic from Boston, so there isn’t too much flexibility to improve that in the future.

"Sorry Intel, I know you're a platinum sponsor but we don't support your wireless cards here!" - CRG Events

Live from WPC - new Microsoft CRM mobile client!

At the Microsoft Partner Conference today, Microsoft announced a new mobile version of the Microsoft CRM software that will offer great new benefits for mobile users. Customers can install the new mobile software on their Microsoft CRM server, and then users can browse to the CRM data through an Internet-enabled device such as a cell phone or a PDA. Users do not need to install any software on the device, they just need Internet access to browse to the mobile CRM website! Because the mobile software outputs standard HTML 4.0, almost any Internet enabled device should be able to access Microsoft CRM data using this software.

In addition, system administrators have the option to configure the various entities that the mobile software enables users to access. Admins can enable entities as "read only" or "edit", and then choose the fields to display on the mobile form. The best part...the mobile software supports custom entities and custom attributes.

Last, but not least, Microsoft will post the new mobile software on the Microsoft CRM Sandbox for free complete with source code so that customers and partners can enhance (or customize) the software per their unique requirements.

They did a demo of the mobile software at the conference, and the software will be posted on the Sandbox website in the coming weeks. Very cool, can't wait!

Live from WPC - CRM Live hosting from Microsoft!

Well there have been plenty of rumors about Microsoft offering a CRM Live service, and today the rumors were confirmed! Microsoft announced at the Microsoft Partner conference that Microsoft CRM Live will be offered as a hosted service to customers and partners in the next release of Microsoft CRM! Microsoft GM Brad Wilson and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gave a quick demo of how Microsoft CRM Live might look, complete with an excellent mashup of CRM with Windows Live Local.

The Microsoft® CRM Live service will be operated and managed by Microsoft within its Windows Live™ datacenters, and will offer Microsoft’s partners another fast and flexible way to solve the unique CRM needs of each customer. Microsoft CRM Live will use the same code base as the on-premise and partner-hosted versions of Microsoft CRM, a strategy that reinforces Microsoft’s leadership in allowing customers to choose the best deployment option for their business and IT needs as their business needs evolve.

We could not be more excited for Microsoft to offer this hosted deployment option to customers! Of course, customers can still purchase the Microsoft CRM software and deploy it on premise if that meets their preference. The choice is up to you.

Our experience with smaller businesses is that many of them do not have the system requirements (Active Directory, SQL Server, etc) in place to properly deploy Microsoft CRM. Therefore, this hosted Microsoft CRM Live service from Microsoft will let these smaller businesses get up and running on Microsoft CRM very quickly. Because the software is same regardless of how you deploy, Microsoft CRM allows customers the option to switch back and forth between deployment models...which of course other CRM service providers like Salesforce.com can not offer. We were so excited about Microsoft CRM Live, we even got a nice little quote in the official press release!

Microsoft Dynamics CRM allows us to deliver CRM solutions that our customers rely on to provide consistently superior service to their customers,” said Mike Snyder, principal for Sonoma Partners LLC. “The new Microsoft CRM Live service will give us even more flexibility in how we address our customers’ business and IT requirements.”

Some other tidbits on CRM Live:

  • Pricing has not been announced yet, but there will be several pricing options and no limit on user counts.
  • Availability is currently scheduled for the second calendar quarter of 2007.
  • Early Access Programs through partners will begin this fall.
  • Stay tuned to www.crmlive.com for more information.

With Microsoft CRM growing like crazy (they added over 50,000 users last quarter!), we know that Microsoft CRM Live will also be a great success.

Live from WPC - checking in

We're live in Boston gearing up for the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. This is my third conference and I can't wait to get started.

We just checked in our hotel at the Partner conference in Boston. The hotel stinks, literally. The first room they gave us must have been used by a smoker because it smelled terrible. After we switched to a different room we are next to the world's loudest talker! Also, the hotel charges for Internet access which is a minor pet peeve of mine.

Oh well regardless of the hotel issues, we're very excited for the conference to start tomorrow. I'll try to update the blog as quickly as possible with any new and exciting announcements...we're expecting at least one or two about Microsoft CRM (hint hint).