Microsoft Convergence #CONV13 – Four Major Takeaways

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Microsoft Converge 2013 was a great show indeed. Touted as “the largest and most globally attended” of its kind by Redmondmag.com, with more than 11,500 attendees, Convergence brought together some of brightest minds in the industry. What was drastically different this year from all years before was the focus on customer stories and the value of Microsoft Dynamics as a complete business applications platform. Features took a back seat – it was all about business outcomes and a compelling end-to-end IT story, combining front and back office technology to equip marketers and businesses to compete in the new world of real-time, cloud-based marketing, sales and service. Here are my four major takeaways from this year’s Convergence:

The Power of Story Telling

Microsoft is indeed humanizing its marketing, messages and products, as Louis Columbus pointed out for Forbes. Complex product roadmaps gave way to Customer Excellence Awards, honoring leading businesses achieving strong business outcomes and innovation using Microsoft technology. Scribe continues to support the success of Microsoft’s best customers with more than 50 percent of these award-winning customers using Scribe to connect their business systems together. The keynote address from Microsoft Business Solutions President Kirill Tatarinov talked about how companies powered by Microsoft are now deeply engaging with customers, building brand relevance and collaborating with employees to “stay ahead of the changing roles across all levels in business”. Revlon was one of the examples shared during the keynote. Revlon is transforming the way its employees work and collaborate, starting by replacing 21 disparate business systems and 531 point systems with Microsoft Dynamics AX.

All Things Integrated Marketing

As Doug Henchsen pointed out for InformationWeek, the focus of the conference was all things integrated marketing, including mobile, social and cloud, all now part of the Microsoft platform offering. There is no doubt that Microsoft is aiming for increasing mindshare from today’s CMO, which according to Gartner, is going to outspend their CIO counterpart by 2017.

With a string of recent acquisitions – including MarketingPilot, Yammer and Swiss-based NetBreeze, which offers social-monitoring tools in 28 different languages (read more on the NetBreeze acquisition by Mary Jo Foley) – Microsoft is building an integrated marketing tool suite to address one of the biggest pain points for marketers. Part of the challenge with such acquisitions, especially with a broad technology such as MarketingPilot, is that there is still a fair amount of confusion as to what this technology would actually do. Touted as Marketing Resource Management, email and marketing automation all in one, MarketingPilot has a long way to go to match the capabilities of best-of-breed marketing automation solutions provided by technology leaders such as Marketo, Silverpop, ExactTarget and Act-on.

Bringing Together All IT Assets

In Kirill Tatarinov‘s own word in Forbes, Microsoft is bringing together all IT assets – front office and back office, devices and services, customer facing, back-end systems, devices, and application. This statement was certainly a nod and recognition for the changing priorities of the marketing organization and the fact that technology does need to provide 360-degree marketing, reporting and analysis for businesses to drive results and reduce total cost of ownership. Needless to say, such a vision still remains unattainable.

In my session on Thursday dubbed The CMO Imperative – see below for the full slideshare – my colleague Brendan Peterson and I shared that unless marketing gets access to the critical customer data, and increasingly in real time, 360-degree marketing will still have a long way to go.

The fact is, only 15 percent of businesses have fully integrated their customer-facing systems today – based on a 2012 State of Customer Data Integration survey and report by Scribe. And before you chide me for stale data, let me offer an advanced look at fresh insights based on our 2013 survey – the percentage of businesses reporting full integration among their customer-facing systems in 2013 gained only one percentage point with 16 percent of the 760 businesses who took part in this year’s survey reporting full integration. The core CRM challenges remain consistent year over year – employees not buying into CRM and companies not knowing which data to use to best understand customers (more on this challenge from SearchCRM’s Albert McKeon).

Best-of-Breed Will Continue to Lead

I firmly believe that at the end of the day businesses and their marketing leaders will still opt for the best-of-breed solutions to meet their diverse and dynamic marketing needs. It will continue to be the norm for companies to use a variety of marketing automation platforms for their diverse needs, from marketing resource management, email marketing and lead scoring to web engagement, web analytics and social engagement … and beyond. CMOs at top performing organizations will recognize that integrating customer data across these platforms, as well as CRM and the back office, will drive a new level of targeted and personalized engagement with customers and prospects. At Scribe, we are excited to help power this new world through data integration.

Peter Chase
Peter founded Scribe Software along with Jim Clarke in the beginning of 1996. As Executive Vice President, Business Development, Peter is responsible for establishing and growing partnerships with other leading technology companies in support of Scribe's overall market and product strategy. Prior to founding Scribe, Peter held senior positions in sales, product marketing, and finance at SNAP Software, an early pioneer in CRM software that was acquired by Dun and Bradstreet. He has published numerous articles and whitepapers and is a frequent speaker and panelist at industry events.

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