Microsoft Dynamics CRM Interview | An Inside Look

Ricardo Wagner (Microsoft Dynamics CRM Product Marketing Manager) and Nelson Lopes (Microsoft Dynamics CRM Technical Lead) recently joined Carlos Ekkert from Encore Busienss Solutions to discuss many of the exciting changes in the Microsoft Dynamics CRM product line.

Carlos:  Tell me a little bit about your role in the organization?

Ricardo:  Sure.  So I am the Dynamics Product Marketing Manager for Canada and in this role I’m in charge of the Dynamics CRM business for Canada. In essence, in charge of pricing, promotion, placement and overall product management.

Basically, my responsibility covers the go to market discussion. In my position, I need to link all the aspects for the product. I need to represent Microsoft for all Microsoft Dynamics CRM conversations inside the company and as well as outside the company.  So no matter the subject, if something is related to marketing, sales, legal, etc. I need to somehow be involved and participate in the discussion.  The product image, perception and brand in the market are also part of my responsibility.  On top of this, everything related to marketing is my responsibility.

Working at Microsoft

Carlos:  What is something you enjoy about your role?

Ricardo:  The possibility to be connected with people is what makes this position interesting. Every day there is something new, every day there is something different. Working for Microsoft you have a unique opportunity to be close to every single new technology, new trend and new discussion.    In Microsoft you have an opportunity to have conversations with a variety of people. Microsoft combines a great community of people with diversity. As you can see with my accent, I just came from Brazil and as you know I am working in Canada.

In the case of Microsoft, it really doesn’t matter where you are from because you you can contribute no matter where you are from. No matter if you are born in a different country, or if you speak a different language, this diversity is something unique inside Microsoft and I really appreciate it.

Carlos:  Nelson, do you want to share about what you enjoy about working at Microsoft?

Nelson:  Like Ricardo said, just being on the bleeding edge of technology, being able to have an impact on the way business is and having people live more enjoyably because of all of our technology is why I enjoy working at Microsoft.  Microsoft software is used by 1.5 billion people on the earth.  1.5 billion people use some kind of Microsoft product, so that has huge impact on businesses in people around the world.  Just being a part of that is great.   It’s never boring.

There is just a lot of variety to the things that I do.  I like the mobility aspect of my job. I am really enjoying the fact that with our technology, I can literally work anywhere; on a park bench, on a taxi, on the way to a client.    At Microsoft, we use all of the leading edge technology even before it’s released to our customers and partners, so I enjoy that aspect as well.

Carlos:  Nelson, what can you share about the culture at Microsoft?

Nelson:  One of the things I appreciate about the culture is how open and honest it is. Before Microsoft I worked for a different company, I am not going to mention any names, but they weren’t that critical of themselves.

We have always had very tough competitors over the years.  From Sun Microsystems to Linux and others. People are not afraid internally to speak up and say that an area of the product is not up to par and we need to be better. I didn’t always find that in other companies that I worked for.  Many times in other organizations you wouldn’t dare be so critical of the product or the service.  At Microsoft, we can do that.

Carlos:  What you are saying is the organization isn’t complacent.

Nelson:  Definitely not. The other thing about the business is, and I think Ricardo would agree, is that the business changes so fast. There are always new initiatives, new competitors etc.  There is constant change and adaptability.

Carlos:  Ricardo, how long have you been working with Microsoft Dynamics CRM now?

Ricardo:  With Microsoft Dynamics CRM for three months and the Microsoft Dynamics business unit for two years. Two years at Microsoft is like six years.  As Nelson just mentioned, things change fast here.   You see that just in the fact of my career inside Microsoft here. It has changed a lot. There have been various project divisions that I have work for. I was responsible for managing Windows Vista in Brazil then I launched Windows 7, then I moved to Microsoft Dynamics to manage ERP. And now I am here in Canada just to manage the CRM product. You see how fast things change.

The out of the box dashboard functionality in CRM 2011 has greatly improved over the years …

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Dashboards

Carlos:  Nelson how long have you been working with Microsoft Dynamics CRM?

Nelson:  For just a little over 5 years.

Carlos:  How has Microsoft Dynamics CRM changed during the time you have worked with it?

Nelson:  I was just thinking about this yesterday. This product is so completely different from when I started working on it. Now the product can be completely in the cloud.  We have great mobility capabilities in Microsoft Dynamics CRM now. A lot of areas where we had fallen short over the years have slowly been taken care of one by one.

It’s just a testament to the commitment of the product group, the commitment of business application set Microsoft has.    One by one, many things we didn’t have, we now have. I remember we didn’t have dashboards, now we have great dashboards and great business intelligence.  We virtually had no mobility, now we are leading in the mobility space.  It is so completely different, it’s night and day.

There are now many Microsoft Dynamics CRM mobile options.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobile Ipad

Microsoft Dynamics CRM in the Marketplace

Carlos:  What is something that stands out to you as a benefit about Microsoft Dynamics CRM versus other CRM products out there?

Ricardo:  When you require CRM technology to manage your relationship with customers or your internal relationship, it’s not just about the product itself it’s also about the integration – and that’s the beauty of our solution.    You can of course have a great CRM product and in that regard I am sure Microsoft Dynamics CRM is the best CRM solution in the market. But moreover, you can easily integrate Dynamics CRM with the entire Microsoft stack of solutions.    Microsoft Dynamics CRM includes Microsoft Office, Link, SharePoint etc.

Basically, you have a seamless experience leveraging all these technologies in just one single interface.  If you compare our solution with any other solution the competitor has, they don’t have these benefits and yet that’s what people ask for.  They ask for an ease of use solution.

When we show Microsoft Dynamics CRM to them they say “it looks like Office, it looks like Excel, it looks Outlook”. We need to explain them it’s not the same product.  When we explain to them that you can use Microsoft Dynamics CRM inside of your Microsoft Outlook they say “wow, that’s great.”   So from this perspective, I see that Microsoft Dynamics CRM definitely has the best position in the market.

Another important thing is the power of choice.  What I mean is, today we have a strong interest in the cloud.  With Microsoft Dynamics CRM, you can basically decide to either move to the cloud or stay on-premise. There are customers that definitely should move to cloud and there are customers more concerned about secured data etc. and want to be on-premise.

So for Microsoft and for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, it doesn’t matter if you want to move either to the cloud online or on-premise.  Our solution runs in both worlds.   So you can either choose to host your solution and can leave your data at a Microsoft data center or you can run everything on your server.

We respect competitors and its good to have them always setting benchmark see if you are doing well or not.  But basically, with the items I mentioned to you, if you take any other competitor in our market, they don’t have those benefits.

Carlos:  The ability to freely just move Microsoft Dynamics CRM from the cloud and back to on-premise with any customizations you’ve done is definitely an advantage.

Ricardo:  Exactly.

Carlos:  Nelson, I know you do demonstrations quite often of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. If you were to have someone choose between Microsoft Dynamics and a competitive product, what would you say to them?

Nelson:  Well, Ricardo summarized it very well. You know there are a couple of things that really make us stand out. The power of choice and the cloud on your own terms is one.  That’s no easy feat to go down these two lines and develop a solution that’s available for both on-premise and in the cloud. At Microsoft you know we don’t necessarily go down the easy route.

The only other thing I would add, which Ricardo also mentioned is the integrated innovation. The ease of use of Microsoft Dynamics CRM results in great productivity gains. To add to this, I would mention the flexibility as well.  The flexibility of Microsoft Dynamics and Microsoft Dynamic CRM specifically, is second to none.

New Microsoft Dynamics CRM Functionality

Carlos:  Is there any certain functionality you can share with us that will specifically be developed in Microsoft Dynamics CRM in the coming year?

Ricardo:  In my view, I think most people they don’t even see everything that they can extract now from CRM solutions.  In most cases, and I am now saying in most of the cases, in the majority of the conversations we have with companies they are still looking for something really simple to be honest like contact management.

They don’t see the full potential of things that they can do by leveraging the entire platform and use a real CRM solution such as integrating contacts, sales force information, marketing etc. and all the other possibilities you have with the xRM solutions.

We are now announcing that we are compatible with all the browsers in the market like Firefox and Chrome. You can use Firefox & Chrome with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, you can use Microsoft Dynamics CRM on your iPhone, on your Blackberry or on your Android.  The platform doesn’t matter.  Even more, you can now use Microsoft Dynamics CRM on iPads.

We see a huge the market for CRM. And in every product, in every market that we play, we want to be the leader. That’s the position we have and in the CRM space, we are working to be the leader.

Carlos:  Recently I was reading a Gartner report that talked about Social CRM and the big potential of Social CRM.  It stated that Social CRM was to exceed over a billion dollars in revenue last year.  What is Microsoft Dynamics CRM doing in the Social CRM space?

Microsoft CRM has social streams available to stay connected with your peers … 

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Social Stream

Nelson:  Microsoft Dynamics CRM has social CRM for both internal social CRM and external social CRM. Social CRM can be divided into these two parts.  Our social CRM effort started in the Fall with the introduction of a capability called activity feeds which allows people to collaborate on leads and opportunities.

In the spring 2012 release, we have actually enhanced that and this Fall we are going to take that little bit further with some LinkedIn integrations.  So we’re moving more towards the external social CRM in our development.

Ricardo:  One thing that people don’t realize that social is not something that’s just outside your company, often it would be more inside your company.  In this perspective, we have full capabilities available today where you can track, where you can chat, where you can post anything or everything you want with internal integration.

The experience is really interesting because not only is it inside Microsoft Dynamics CRM but it’s together with Microsoft Outlook.  And to date, they are more third party solutions available in the market where we can combine this scenario of social media tracking inside the company and outside the company.

This is all a really key hot opportunity in the market and we have some more things to come in near future but we can’t announce at this time unfortunately.

Analyst Reports on Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Carlos:  Forrester had this interesting study. The report stated over a 200% return on investment for Microsoft Dynamics CRM customers in a study they called The Total Impact of Microsoft Dynamic CRM. What would you attribute a huge return on investments to?

Nelson:  A lot of the return on investment has to do with productivity gains and time saving.  Before people have Microsoft Dynamics CRM, they spend a lot of time putting data in to their CRM, trying to find things and then trying to analyze it.

Given the ease of use of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM solution with the integration of things like Microsoft Dynamics Outlook and Excel,  it just makes it so much easier to put data in, define it, analyze it, and be able to make the right decisions to take your business forward.

Carlos:  Nucleus Research, in one of their assessments stated that Microsoft Dynamics CRM is easier to use than some of their prime competitors and essentially half of the cost.  Why such a huge price difference between Microsoft Dynamics CRM and some other key competitors?

Ricardo:  You know it’s a good point, we should correct that. You’ve convinced me to increase the price. Just kidding.   In all seriousness now, in our solution we leverage the entire Microsoft solutions and the entire Microsoft solutions that precede them.  When we have an opportunity to leverage the entire equity and R&D investments that were made before us, we make really good products and are able to offer them at very competitive prices.

Nelson:  Ricardo makes a very good point. For example, I’ll give an example with work flow.   With workflow other CRM vendors would have to go off and essentially develop that piece themselves, whereas within the Microsoft Dynamics CRM team, we will basically leverage all of the work that the Windows workflow foundation team did already. The Dynamics CRM team doesn’t have to be workflow experts they just need to know how to plug the solution into Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

There are lots more examples of that throughout the Microsoft Dynamics CRM product. For example, unified communication with their integration with Link, the Excel integration, SQL integration etc.   Microsoft always likes to democratize technology and brings technology to the masses.  So as a company, Microsoft can offer products that are at a slightly less price point than some other vendors out there because of scale.

Carlos:  Are there any new Microsoft Dynamics CRM vertical solutions on the horizon?

Nelson:  Yes, there are the 311 solutions and there are also healthcare verticals.

Carlos:  Is that something strategically that Microsoft will continue in the future?

Nelson: Yes, the industry solution is something that’s kind of interesting because historically Microsoft has been is good at developing the framework or the platform and then working with our partners.  Our partners are the one’s that will usually develop the solutions because they have the industry expertise.

Our partners build the IP, they then build the solutions on top of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform. The last couple of years our customers and our partners have been asking for more examples of the possibilities, because the product CRM is so incredibly flexible.

Probably more than 50% of our customers and partners don’t use Dynamics CRM for traditional CRM around sales marketing and customer service.  Many of them are looking for examples of industry templates. The industry templates that we have available and that are being put on to the Dynamics marketplace are not in anyway to an attempt to compete with a peer play Independent Software Vendor.

They are really there to give people examples and ideas of the flexibility of the software.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Mobile

Carlos:  Microsoft recently announced major enhancements to the mobile platform. How is the mobile platform from Microsoft Dynamic CRM going to become even better in the future?

Ricardo:  The announcement that we just made is that now you can now have Dynamics CRM mobility on your iPhone, on your iPad, and on your Blackberry, Android and Windows phone.   The mobility also supports multiple languages. Interestingly, you can even work offline. Then there’s also the price.  Basically you pay just $30 a month and you can use up to three devices.

Nelson:  The beauty of the mobility is piece is that the interface takes advantage of the device.  It’s often changes based on the form factor and any capability that’s inherent in that device.    So for example if it’s a smartphone or a slate or tablet, it will very likely have a GPS built in to it.  In that case, there will be capabilities in the CRM software that are installed on the device that can take advantage of that.  Likewise, if you finish with a customer early and you bring out your iPad or your Windows 8 Slate and you say “hey, where is the next closest customer”, it goes back into the CRM system, it looks at where you are and tells you where to go next.   Microsoft Dynamics CRM can plot out where are all your customers are based on where you are standing on the street and says “your next customer is about two and half blocks away”.

Ricardo:  Another example you can imagine with the new platform has to do with the way we interact with our mobile.   An example I like to share involves Canadian Tire.  I go to Canadian Tire and I broadcast to each of my friends that I am inside Canadian Tire.  By letting Canadian Tire know that I am inside Canadian Tire they can reach me and show me different items I may want to buy and make the shopping experience a personal interaction.  This way, the salesman knows who I am, and they can have a really interesting conversation to support and help my shopping experience.    So maps and destinations they are just the beginning of the changes that we are about to see. That’s the beauty of CRM, you don’t always use everything from the CRM solution but one of the items to come in the future integrates the mobile experience.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM ISV Community

Carlos:  One of the big benefits of going with a Microsoft Dynamics solution is that Microsoft has a large set of ISV’s which we call Independent Software Vendors. ISV’s provide a lot of great add on solutions.  If you are to recommend one ISV solution for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, who might you recommend?

Nelson:  There are quite a few great ISV’s.  The one I find very interesting right now, and I do use it every single day to track my activities and interactions with my partners is Inside View. Inside View is a technology that takes your contacts and company records in Microsoft CRM and it will go to the internet, off to hundreds of sources, hundreds of different data sources like Brad and Dunn Street, Nexus etc. and find different sources to augment the data in your own CRM system.   It uses public information and it allows you to basically bring that data into your CRM system to enrich it and to enhance it so that you have more meaningful conversations and insights on that customer.    I’ve been playing around with it lately and it’s very interesting. For example, I have a partner record in there and with Inside View I found out that they were just acquired by another company. So I was well prepared to have that conversation with the partner.

Ricardo:  Like you just mentioned, if you go to Microsoft Dynamics Market place, that’s our store.  You will find all subscribed Microsoft Dynamic CRM solutions available there.

Carlos:  In essence, XRM means “anything relationship management”.  Microsoft Dynamics CRM is making a lot of head way in the XRM space as being the go to XRM platform.  Have you see some industries where there is a lot of Microsoft Dynamic XRM solutions and a lot more adoption?

Nelson:  I always found this interesting ever since I started working with the product because I came from different products that were very focused on different industries and verticals as that.  There really is no Microsoft Dynamics CRM and XRM industry vertical. Extended CRM can really be used by any customer of any size, or any industry or vertical.    Every day we are surprised by what people are using the product for; micro verticals and industries that we didn’t even know existed.  Every organization whether it’s a commercial organization, private sector, public sector has some kind of relationship management that they need to manage. For some it’s stake holder management, constituent relationship customer, client management, vendor management etc. They have things that they need to manage beyond people relationship management things like grants management, facilities management etc.    Really a technology that can be used by any industry, any vertical, any customer size and it’s just as applicable in government as it is in the commercial space.

Carlos:  Can one of you expand on how customers are supported after the implemented Microsoft Dynamics CRM?

Ricardo:  Basically, in practically all of the CRM implementations we have our partner consistently play an important part. So from the software perspective, Microsoft is in charge of supporting software.  Everything related to the software, that’s Microsoft call. If you are looking to add specific customizations you work with one of our partners.  Of course, we’ll support the partner.    You can also get online support from CRM forums etc. We have blogs and we have support online. With Microsoft, there many options for support.

Carlos:  Thank you, both Ricardo and Nelson. Appreciate working together and you taking the time for our discussion surrounding Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

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