Microsoft to announce cloud-based CRM offering for public sector

Over the last decade, a technology known as customer relationship management (CRM) has slowly crossed over into the public sector. That migration from private to public sector use is about to get a boost with an announcement today from Microsoft that Dynamics CRM will be available online through the cloud.

Traditionally used for winning over new customers, keeping them happy, and perhaps up-selling them to buy more products, CRM in the public sector context is slightly different, says Senior Director of Dynamics Public Sector Amir Capriles.

“The ability to manage, track and report remains the same weather you’re talking public or private sector,” Mr. Capriles said in an interview with CivSource. But instead of tracking customers and sales leads, governments may want to track teacher certifications, public records, citizen requests, or federal grants. “At the end of the day, you’re essentially doing the same thing: you’re managing, tracking and reporting on something,” he said.

In order to help more governments leverage the power of CRM, Microsoft has announced the availability of Dynamics CRM Online, a cloud-based version of their on-premise CRM 2011 solution. Mr. Capriles says the online availability of Dynamics CRM will have many benefits for state and local governments.

“There are a number of scenarios from economic development and 311 non-emergency calls, to Freedom of Information requests and branch management applications that will be available. There are already a number of solutions out there. What’s happening is that depending on the partner, some are more ready than others to quickly move their IT to this model,” he said.

Mr. Capriles highlighted a company called Rock Solid Technologies, which provides service request-tracking software, called Respond, to municipalities and government agencies. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online will help Respond improve reaction times to service requests and citizen interactions, as well as streamline the agencies that utilize the technology. Rock Solid is currently working with the City of Carmel, IN to migrate to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online for its 311 solution to intake citizen concerns and provide a closed loop response.

By utilizing the cloud, Capriles said, “Governments will reach constituents more quickly and provide a level of service we’ve all grown accustom,” despite declining budgets and staff levels.

Beyond quicker deployments, Capriles says the biggest driver of CRM Online will be the solution’s lower cost and access to a wide variety of hosted partner solutions. With lower budgets and lower staff support, a lot of governments see the ability to leverage someone else’s capital investments as a smart way to invest.

“Traditionally, there is an initial capital, upfront investment, needed to buy licenses and ongoing maintenance that goes along with this kind of solution. Oh and by the way, there’s the hardware and the personnel resources,” Capriles said. “Because CRM Online is more of a subscription model, organizations are able to pay for it through their operating budgets, like a phone bill or light bill.”

According to Capriles the list is price will be around $44 per user per month, though he expects that number to be flexible during this initial announcement period and depending on the number of users.

“This is a big deal for the company. Microsoft is known for being a platform and infrastructure company,” Capriles noted, “Business application is not necessarily something we’re known for – it’s a big bet for the company.”

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