There's a great article over on Mary-Jo Foley's "All About Microsoft" blog on ZDNET that talks about some of the things that Microsoft has done differently with the release of CRM 2011. Microsoft has learned some lessons over the last few years since launching CRM Online, and they've adapted their approach to this release to match those lessons and the trends in the marketplace.

Specifically, Microsoft has responded to the consumerization of IT. In short, consumerization means that, increasingly, it is the end user who is driving the functionality and delivery model for business software and services. Just as people are accustomed to browsing an app store from their phone and instantly adding some new functionality to their device, business users are coming to expect the same level of immediacy and continual upgrades from business applications.

Foley talks to  Craig Unger, the head of R&D for Microsoft CRM, who pinpoints several key ways that this consumerization changed the company's approach to CRM 2011:

  • The Online version of CRM 2011 was released first, in January of 2011. The traditional installable software that many associate with Microsoft is scheduled for release at the end of February. This is a big change for a company that created the boxed software market.
  • CRM Online is supported in 40 international markets and languages. This points to the company's efforts to deliver software to consumers and end users the way they want it. This multi-language support was immediately available with 2011, not just promised in future service releases.
  • Free trials are quick and easy to sign up and immediately available. "Try before you buy" is what consumers expect, and it's what businesses are coming to demand as well.
  • Windows Updates. Foley didn't touch on this in her article, but this is an important upgrade in functionality for CRM 2011. If users have the Outlook add-in installed for CRM 2011, they can opt into receiving updates automatically through Windows Updates, just like they receive updates for Windows and Office. Business users expect this level of automated security and bug fixing from Microsoft, and CRM 2011 delivers it. (Windows Updates is also the channel for updates to the server components that will be installed for on-premises customers).

If you're itching to be a "consumer" of this latest release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, you can sign up for a free trial of CRM Online here.