Express Data has claimed it is the first distributor in the world to get Cisco and Microsoft resellers to cooperate on solutions based around Cisco Unified CRM Connector 3.0. The free middleware application integrates Cisco Unified Communications products with Microsoft CRM to provide a host of features including database recording, click-to-dial and call duration tracking.
Resellers are often reluctant to work together because it means putting a competitor in front of their customers. But Express Data marketing manager for Cisco and Microsoft, Harris Loefti, claimed its new initiative was an opportunity for resellers that didn't have skills in both Cisco Unified Communications and Microsoft Dynamics CRM to benefit from collaboration. Unified CRM Connector 3.0 is targeted at SMBs with less than 250 users.
Loefti said Express Data was currently working on the project with two partners in Sydney and another two in Melbourne but was not willing to disclose details because contracts had not been finalised. The distributor is fully funding these partnerships in conjunction with Cisco.
But will partners be keen to introduce potential competitors to their customer base? Andrew Leigh is technology director at unified communications specialist, Allcom Networks. He is currently evaluating the idea but said the sales process was more likely to be driven by CRM partners.
"I think it's far easier to develop the business needs around CRM. We're a real enhancement to it but I don't know if we can sell CRM in the same way as an enhancement for unified communications," he said. "If you have an organisation where you have identified the needs for unified communications it doesn't mean there is a compelling business reason for CRM." He also highlighted the challenges of selecting a partner that does not compete in other areas. Allcom is a certified Microsoft gold partner.
Director of Microsoft CRM integrator, Snapdragon Consulting Services, Guy Riddle, said he was interested in the solution. "One of the big failings of all CRM systems is the lack of telephone activities that are being recorded. I think it's a marriage that is long overdue in terms of bringing together a telephony solution with a Microsoft CRM application," he said.
"We are prepared to put another reseller in front of customers because I don't have the skills to be able to deliver a telephony solution and I'm guessing a telephony integrator would not have the information to implement a business CRM application."