MICROSOFT is beefing up support for its Business Solutions Customer Relationship Management (CRM) package with a bonus scheme for partners that become certified in the suite.
Its CRM certified software advisors (CSA) are eligible to receive a fee amounting to 20% of the recommended purchase price of the software when they assist end users with the purchase and implementation of the suite.
Microsoft CRM is the first Business Solution package available to the vendor’s full partner channel, but it is pushing for partners to increase their knowledge of the suite by achieving certification, which requires a company to have two employees pass three CRM specific exams between them.
The exams are Microsoft CRM Applications Professional, Microsoft CRM Installation and Configuration and Microsoft CRM Customisation, and are very challenging according to Business Solutions specialist Charlie Wood.
Certified partners who sell and deploy the package will earn the fee in addition to their margin on the sale of the software.
The fee would also become an additional source of revenue for partners that only implement the suite, but do not sell it to customers directly, such as Kinetics Group, which is in the process of attaining CRM certification.
However, the company’s policy is not to earn any margin on the hardware and software it deploys, as it aims to remain independent from vendors. Managing director Andrew Hunt is still evaluating whether accepting such a fee would undermine the company’s ability to provide impartial advice.
John Biggs of Complete Solutions says his goal in achieving CRM certification is to develop the skills to become a Microsoft CRM specialist rather than earning additional income from the CSA fee.
Microsoft’s Wood says the two companies are among six local firms that have completed two of the three certification exams.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is also offering incentives to independent software vendors to develop applications around Microsoft CRM. This includes access to development tools, official certification of their applications by Microsoft’s Redmond head office and exposure on its global website.
Zeacom is the only local ISV to have achieved this so far, with a few others waiting in the wings, according to Wood.
To drive uptake of the CRM package locally, Microsoft is extending a promotion offering a five-user version of the suite to Premium Small Business Server users at around a third of the normal price, to the end of September.