Microsoft Strengthens HelpDesk Features in CRM

Looking to add key security features to its new Customer Relationship
Management (CRM) product, Microsoft has inked a deal
with Network Associates to marry a customer help-desk
system into its CRM software.

Microsoft CRM, which targets midmarket
enterprise customers
, will now be integrated with Network Associates’
Magic Solutions HelpDesk IQ, a single-software system gives help-desk staff
access to customer information, service requests, e-mail, and a variety of
specialized functions.

More importantly for Microsoft, which has struggled to deal with lax
security in key software products, the customer service help-desk system
from a known Internet security firm gives it a credible partner to build
into the CRM offering.

Financial terms of the partnership were not released. The integrated
product ships in June. Network Associates already has a deal to license its
anti-virus software to Microsoft.

By marrying the HelpDesk IQ system to Microsoft CRM, a customer service
worker can simply convert an e-mail message into a work ticket and vice
versa, simplifying the trail of messages needed to process a customer
query.

Magic HelpDesk IQ also promises to extend customization capabilities for
administrators using Microsoft CRM. In addition to the simplification of
work tickets and the processing of customer queries, it also offers
self-service Web automation, inventory tracking and jazzed-up audit
capabilities for complete visibility into the process of each service
request, the companies explained.

“By allowing IT and help desk information to be instantly available via
the self-service portal, help desk administrators can easily and quickly
reduce problem resolution times, facilitating increased productivity and
lower cost of ownership,” Microsoft said.

The deal was officially announced at Convergence 2003 in Orlando,
Florida, an event that lets Microsoft’s Business Solutions unit showcase new
applications and technologies. High on the Convergence 2003 agenda this
year is Microsoft CRM, the first business application built on the .NET
infrastructure.

The CRM offering, which puts Microsoft up against the likes of
PeopleSoft, Onyx and Pivotal, was designed to facilitate a simpler
connection of disparate systems and improve integration with external Web
services such as credit checking, analytics and marketing automation
services.

Microsoft CRM is priced at $395 per user plus $995 for the server. For a
more advanced version, midsized businesses must pay $1,295 per user plus
$1,990 for the server.

It is Microsoft’s first foray into the enterprise resource planning (ERP)
market since its massive $1.1 billion of Great Plains in December 2000. The
product launch of Microsoft CRM got off to a rocky
start
last December when technical hiccups pushed back its release to
resellers.

During beta testing, The CRM suite reportedly had trouble integrating
with the Small Business Suite, which was also part of the Great Plains
acquisition.

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