Natural, Organic, Social - That's Where CRM is Going

Leigh Dow Founding Partner, Dow Media Group

Posted on April 12th 2011

Natural, Organic, Social - That's Where CRM is Going

I had an opportunity to sit down with Gary Bird, a Microsoft General Manager leading the internal IT implementation of Microsoft Dynamics CRM for their global sales organization. Gary is tasked with leading an effort at Microsoft to transform their own internal sales and marketing efforts through a fresh rethink of CRM. The team is transitioning from a legacy product to their own software.


As Gary and I were talking he said something profound: 


In the future you won’t need to separate social tools and workflow. You won’t see CRM as a product, you will see it as managing relationships through interactions.


I literally asked him to rewind. "You won't see CRM as a product." Think about that, let it marinate for a minute. That is exciting stuff. Interest is growing in social applications to support customer service business processes and Gartner says Social CRM application spending will grow at a faster rate than traditional CRM spending. 


In 2011 Microsoft introduced Dynamics CRM 2011. It embraces the “contextual ribbon” interface used in other Microsoft Office offerings, so it has the same features and commands you are used to using grouped in a visual format. Information access is simplified, with inline charts without having to navigate between screens or tabs. It is also more integrated with Microsoft Outlook. The CRM folders are presented in your email folders. This contextual ribbon makes Microsoft's product a solid foundation for an enterprise CRM implementation. 



Gary and his team have been working closely with the product group to co-develop Microsoft Dynamics CRM and deliver value to users. Gearing up to deploy the tool internally to Microsoft has allowed the company to analyze deployment from the IT practitioner's point of view and see what customers will encounter during their upgrade or new deployment efforts.


Microsoft uses their CRM system for salesforce automation of a large direct sales force of more than 10,000 and a large indirect partner channel of approximately 30,000. They are just putting the final touches on replacing their legacy system with a more contemporary approach to CRM. They are replacing the classic architecture with the more contemporary Microsoft Dynamics CRM to allow them more flexibility to support sales workflow process innovation. Their mission: drive productivity and effectiveness in this channel. 



One area of focus for the team is sales workflow. In this process, the seller is a key user and Gary’s team has focused on designing for the user experience and workflow to create natural experiences. He has found this to be incredibly important in driving user adoption and transition to the new CRM product. Integration with other Microsoft Office tools has been key to making the experience seamless and organic for the sales team. This has led the team to include social CRM (SCRM) in their roadmap for future deployments. Listen to the words he uses: natural, organic, social. Organic is a key component for this concept of managing relationships through interactions rather than through traditional contact or lead management workflows. Those are not organic, those are designed or scripted and pushed by the company rather than pulled or driven by the customer.


I’m really giddy to see this thought process at an organization as large as Microsoft. It’s not that companies didn’t know this. Some competitors are delivering on the promise of social CRM; but it is exciting to see IT departments planning for this in roadmaps.


I asked Gary: How do you think social impacts CRM? He told me it’s being used to manage relationships or enhance those relationships through heavily coupled capabilities with broadcasting and engagement tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. These components work together to drive improved communication and collaboration for how people find, buy and deploy products. Another key component for integration is knowledge management capabilities, working these into that organic CRM experience to drive better decision making for both the customer and the company. 



Well, of course some of the reason Microsoft IT is using this product is obviously due to the company connection. But in addition, Microsoft’s product offers very seamless and familiar integration with your other desktop applications and the integration/synchronization with Outlook is a big plus. Another great new feature is the improved data visualization in the dashboard. 



The Microsoft strategy is to continue deployments and co-development with the product team, integrating a new releases more frequently than in the past. They are currently using a hybrid model with some components server based and some cloud based, with the goal of moving to a complete cloud based model leveraging Dynamics CRM Online and Windows Azure. They will also deploy mobile capabilities in future releases. And, SCRM is definitely on their roadmap. 


I really enjoyed this conversation with Gary, we were really talking technology during most of the conversation but his words generated a spark. He made me think less about "Social CRM" and more about a concept of "Organic CRM". Aggregating information and contacts to have a more natural open dialogue with your customers, facilitating a less scripted and predetermined conversation. Like SEM vs. social organic referrals, CRM is evolving to become more natural, organic, social. The technology and behaviors are so close to making that a reality. That folks, is exciting.


Leigh Dow

Founding Partner, Dow Media Group

Constantly inspired and motivated by the ever-changing world of new media and marketing, Leigh is the founder of the Dow Media Group and the Director of PR and Communications for EXOS. Leigh draws on her 15 years of Fortune 100 experience in marketing leadership to provide clients with her deep expertise in crafting marketing strategies that work. She is an awarded change agent, driving successful strategies related to consumer behavior in diverse target markets and segments. Leigh has expertise in building brands, making advertising more effective, and market research. Additionally, she has lead company-wide change in response to evolving buying patterns, shaped the public profile and reputation for companies and delivered new marketing capabilities throughout a company via marketing transformations. Projects she's worked on have appeared in TechCrunch, Forbes, Fast Company, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Wired and more.

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Besides being a wonderful endorsement and ad for Microsoft Dynamics, how is this related to CRM in general?

I was looking forward to reading about changes in CRM and managing relationships, instead I had to read through a long advertisement for Microsoft Dynamics that told me not much about CRM.


Estaban, while I'm never one to discourage controversy on our sites, I do want to take issue with the implication here that Leigh, a respected blogger only recently arrived at The Social Customer, is either promoting Microsoft or has a client relationship with them. Also, I've talked to Leigh about her relationship with MS.  They are not a client.