When Brad Wilson, GM for Microsoft Dynamics said the upcoming release of Dynamics CRM 2011 will raise the bar in the CRM market, he could be accused of being a tad presumptuous. However, the new release due for public beta in September looks set to challenge Salesforce.com's (news, site) dominance in this space.

The irony of the announcement, which was made at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, will be missed by few following the recent spat in the courts between Microsoft and Salesforce over patent rights, the former being described by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff as “alley thugs”.

While there’s nothing like a row to shake off sunshine lethargy, the bottom line here is that there is more than just summer fireworks with the release of the beta in September, and it's likely to provide a developer environment that should provide a serious challenge given Microsoft’s business reach.

Dynamics CRM 2011

However, this all just speculation until the September release. What is definite, however, is Microsoft CRM 2011, known as CRM 5, will provide better integration with other Microsoft applications like Outlook and Office, as well as new collaboration and visualization features.

Furthermore, while Microsoft announced at Convergence 2010 that it would make the new versions of CRM available in 32 countries, the announcement at yesterday’s Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference said there would be eight additional markets, bringing the total to 40 markets in 41 languages.

So what will users get with the new product, which is marketed under the dubious slogan “the Power of Productivity”? Leaving aside the new apps store there are three principal areas in which Microsoft has said they have improved.

Familiar Experiences

Microsoft says it has built the new version to ensure that users would be working in familiar environments. Improvements here include:

  • Easy use of native Outlook functions including previews and conditional formatting through tighter Outlook integration
  • Contextual CRM Ribbon for both Outlook and browsers enabling easier Office navigation
  • Role-based forms containing data relevant to those roles
  • Customized views with records and personal dashboards to monitor performance

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Dynamics CRM 2011 familiar views

Intelligent Experiences

The new version of Dynamics will give better enterprise information, Microsoft says, by:

  • Easy creation of inline charts with business intelligence taken from across the enterprise
  • Easy creation of real-time dashboards based on up-to-date information to monitor business performance
  • Easy goal definition to measure enterprise and individual progress

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Dynamics CRM 2011 intelligent tools

Connected Experiences

Microsoft also says this version will have better connection capabilities for people working inside, and connection with those working outside the enterprise. Features include:

  • Organizations using SharePoint can embed document repositories directly in Dynamics CRM
  • Easy development and deployment of custom code for Microsoft CRM
  • Creation and management of solutions from creation to distribution through versioning, dependencies and security features
  • Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace. Customers can quickly find, download and apply custom solutions and extensions embedded within Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

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Dynamics CRM 2011 easy connection and collaboration

CRM MarketPlace

The other new element of the new release that many will be watching closely is the launch in September of Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace, which, like Salesforce Apps will provide a space where developers and partners will be able to add Dynamics CRM applications to a wide market.

The new Marketplace will be available directly from Dynamics CRM so that users will be able to search for, find and deploy specific Dynamic solutions. Users will also be able to find solutions and extensions for their ERP software.

There’s isn’t a lot more information available on the new beta, but even with the enhancements that they have announced it should be interesting.

In addition, as part of the October launch of the Microsoft Partner Network, Microsoft is announcing that companies registered in the Microsoft Partner Network will be able to receive 250 seats of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online at no charge for internal use. If you want to make sure you don’t miss the beta launch you can sign up to get automatic notification once it is ready.