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Cisco Offers IP Connector For Microsoft CRM

Cisco Systems Inc. on Monday said it had co-developed with Microsoft Corp. an application that helps small and medium-sized businesses connect Microsoft's customer relation management applications with Internet-based communications systems.

Cisco and Microsoft are trying to penetrate the SMB market by delivering products that can be sold as an integrated package, Helen Chan, analyst for The Yankee Group said. In this case, if a SMB wants a CRM package that can leverage an Internet telephony system, then Cisco and Microsoft can deliver it all, thereby reducing the cost and complexity of having separate vendors provide the different packages.

"The channel partners don't have to go in there and develop the solution themselves," Chan said.

In addition, Cisco and Microsoft are leveraging each other's large number of partners to try to get their offerings in front of more SMBs, Chan said. CRM products present a good opportunity, because so few SMBs use the software, which is seen as too expensive and too complex.

At most, 20 percent of SMBs with between 100 and 500 employees use CRM applications, according to the Yankee Group. That number is far less among companies with less than 100 employees."It a pretty much untapped market," Chan said.

The Cisco CRM connector stems from a collaboration agreement the two companies announced in February to provide new products for SMBs.

Using the new connector with Microsoft CRM and other Cisco software, SMBs will be able to connect their CRM software with an Internet-based telephone system to open contact records and record new phone call activity through a PC as a call arrives. In addition, users can create screen pops from click-to-dial calls and from manually dialed outbound calls.

Other features would include tracking the duration of a phone call and associating it with a phone activity record, capturing incoming and outgoing call information and simplifying the process of creating a customer record when a call arrives. Communications Connector integrates into Microsoft Outlook or Internet Explorer as the primary client for managing tasks and contacts.

The Communications Connector for Cisco CallManager Express is available immediately at no additional cost to Cisco channel partners. It will be available later at no charge for Cisco CallManager and IP Contact Center Express.

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