Saturday, December 17, 2011

Stuck behing the CRM cloud

As I have already wrote on this blog, CRM in the cloud is all the rage now. All important software vendors in a CRM industry are offering their cloud solution, and some of them depend only on the SaaS business model.

Microsoft is of course one of them, with their flagship product "Dynamics CRM 2011" being offered in the "on premise" and "online" model. But, few people know that Microsoft has another product that has characteristics of a CRM application, namely the Business Contact Manager for Office 2010. It is not cloud based, far from that, it is offered as an add-on for Outlook 2010 and cannot be bought separately, only as a part of volume licensing for Office.

Although it's more of a contact manager application that enables small businesses to move all of their contacts in personal Outlook folders to one location, it has more advanced features that could classify it as a CRM application - opportunity management, marketing management and basic project management. It even has an offline capability, a feature that is lacking even in some professional CRM applications.
On another hand, BCM has many limitations: it's bound to Outlook and cannot be used separately, it can be obtained only through an Office volume licensing (although, Microsoft has recently relaxed this requirement) and it has only limited customization capabilities.

In spite of all of this, I found BCM to be very interesting to small businesses that are already using Microsoft Office. It seamlessly integrates with Outlook, offering well known environment to the user and it works very well as a contact management application without overwhelming user with features he basically doesn't need.

Unfortunately, the future of BCM seems to be questionable at best. Microsoft is obviously not paying much attention to further development of this product, which can best be seen if you visit official BCM blog, that hasn't been updated for more than one year. I would not be surprised if Microsoft doesn't continue to offer BCM with his next version of Office. It has already done similar thing few years ago when he discontinued the Office Accounting - a basic accounting package which was offered in almost the same model as BCM. Microsoft is obviously using such add-on products to boost the sales of Office, but as long as they don't endanger their other products. In the case of BCM, it is in some sense the competitor of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, so it would be logical, and desirable from Microsoft's point of view, that current users of BCM gradually move to Microsoft's online Dynamics CRM.

It remains to be seen what will happen - will BCM continue to exist, or it is living his last days. Until then, BCM is living in some kind of Limbo, stuck behind the CRM cloud.