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Microsoft adds analytics to CRM

Microsoft is now offering a free analytics package for CRM based on BI technology from SQL Server, Business Scorecard Manager and Excel.

Microsoft has beefed up its Dynamics CRM with free analytics applications that borrow from its existing business intelligence (BI) tools.

Released this week, the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Analytics Foundation is based on Microsoft's wider BI initiative. It leverages BI capabilities from Microsoft's SQL Server, Office Business Scorecard Manager and SharePoint and will eventually incorporate PerformancePoint Server 2007 when it is made available later this year.

"This is a new set of tools and definitions on top of our existing products," said Christian Pederson, senior director of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. "We provide a whole new level of value to the business user. With SQL and business scorecarding we have great BI tools. With the CRM Analytics Foundation, we put that into the context of the CRM user and make it available in a business context immediately." @32256

Capabilities include dashboards that track performance, reports, and cross-sell and up-sell opportunities that are created via predictive analytics. Business performance management functionality allows users to access real-time graphical views of key performance indicators. Business users can also conduct reporting and ad hoc analysis on Microsoft CRM data without IT involvement, according to Microsoft.

The predictive analytics piece uses Microsoft's data mining algorithms from within SQL Server Analysis Services to detect customer patterns and make recommendations. For example, sales representatives might be able to see the probability that a lead will close.

"Based on industry, the size of the company, whatever parameters you define, this can be paired with previous incidents in the database and in that way provide information on how likely it is to close," Pederson said.

The Analytics Foundation is now available at no charge for customers and partners at CodePlex, Microsoft's Web site for open source project hosting, and the Microsoft CRM Sandbox.

The company has already previewed the application with some select partners.

"Microsoft CRM Analytics Foundation bridges the disconnect between information and action -- and we think that will result in extraordinary business results for our Microsoft CRM customers," Ryan Toenies, vice president of infrastructure and CRM Solutions at Chanhassen, Minn.-based Inetium Inc., said in a statement. "The tools available through Analytics Foundation enable our customers to leverage their existing Microsoft investment to provide critical business information to the right personnel at the right time."

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