Microsoft was kind enough to invite me to its fall analyst event at its headquarters in Redmond, WA on October 22. It’s a two-day event packed with product, strategy, customer, and partner information. About two dozen industry and independent analysts attended this event, including Forrester’s Paul Hamerman.  Here are my thoughts of this event with a focus on the CRM news:

  • The Dynamics product is doing well. The numbers speak for themselves: 12% revenue growth in FY13; Dynamics AX and CRM growing by double digits worldwide and 30% in the Americas and Asia; and CRM Online growing by 80% in FY13, with two out of every three new customers opting for cloud. Microsoft Dynamics has 359,000 customers and 5 million users, while Microsoft Dynamics CRM has 40,000 customers and 3.5 million users.
  • The Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 product solidifies.The Dynamics CRM 2013 product, available in the cloud in July and on-premises this month, delivers a cleaner, more usable UI, simplified data entry, an integrated business process workflow, consistent experiences across devices, integration of Yammer, and more. A writeup of the new version’s features are available in its release preview guide. These enhancements mature the product, yet still leave gaps in multichannel management, knowledge management, and web self-service.
  • Customer testimonials uphold the product’s value proposition. Microsoft solicited a range of customers in various industries to highlight their user experience with the Dynamics product. There were few CRM customers; those that presented had small deployments. The overriding impression of why customers chose Microsoft Dynamics CRM was usability and total cost of ownership — a sentiment that Forrester hears often. Microsoft reported good momentum for larger CRM implementations, and it would have been useful to have seen one of these deployments highlighted.
  • Partner momentum continues. Several years ago, Microsoft cleaned up its partner certification program and raised the bar on its silver and gold partners and those receiving industry badges. This attention to high-quality partnerships continues, and Microsoft reported a number of premier partners added to the fold. In addition, Microsoft has a global services team dedicated to enterprise accounts.
  • The Microsoft reorg remains an area of concern. In July, Microsoft announced a companywide reorganization, which dismantled existing siloes around each of the various business units, in an attempt to be more nimble and competitive in a post-PC world. The Dymanics product team is run as a separate team; however, Dynamics sales, marketing, and core engineering services such as cloud report into companywide functional groups. Both Tami Reller, EVP Marketing, and Wayne Morris, corporate marketing VP of Microsoft’s business solutions, spent time with us discussing the focus on more unified messaging and strategy, which is still very much a work in progress.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a solid product with a strong road map, good success in delivering value to its customers, and support from seasoned partners. It is seeing greater traction in enterprise accounts. As Microsoft focuses on reworking its organization to manage by function instead of product line in order to maximize resources, it needs to make sure that the Dynamics product gets the attention that it needs in order to thrive.