My recent trip to the Microsoft Convergence Conference really put into perspective where the futures of business applications are evolving towards. The most obvious two are Cloud Computing and Social Media. Realizing that residual income streams can make as much money as selling software products, Microsoft continues to invest heavily in bringing all of their solutions into the cloud.
Showcased at the conference were Azure technologies, integrated into on-premise applications. Connectors taking cloud based data and bringing it into and conversant with applications such as Microsoft CRM and others is allowing installed and heavily leveraged Microsoft users a little flexibility and breathing room as well as choices in terms of how they want their applications served up. Users have the option of on premises or hosted applications depending on their circumstances and resource availability.
The new version of Microsoft CRM 2011 is great. You can use local outlook and integrate with the hosted solution. A simple program installed by the user allows for quick connectivity between the cloud based solution and the local Outlook installation. The hosted solution allows for rapid implementation and configuration without significant administration or any real technical expertise needed.
Tightly integrated with many .ISV Social Networking Solutions, the new Microsoft CRM now has a new role – that of listener. You have to listen to the social conversations, pick up on key data and then be able to turn it into Marketing and selling intelligence that is useful.
The ability to reduce the noise of some key social posts and be able to filter useful information from garbage will determine who in the end wins the business deal. Having this competitive advantage by using CRM to filter social conversations is the key to the monetization of social media and on line success.
What it comes down for you, the small business is: the trend today is moving towards the cloud and to social media. In a nutshell, you have many low cost options available to get in the game. It costs little if anything (except time) for you to have a presence online and a low-cost-to-own powerful business tools.
Choose wisely and beware when it comes to social media because it has yet to really monetize on the business side. Invest in but go slowly. It’s still the traditional marketing that works and works well. Social Media Marketing still emerging and the monetization for both B to C and B to B is still a work in progress.