This week I've had my first opportunity to set up CRM Online for a client. It's been a learning experience for sure. CRM Online, Microsoft's hosted version of the product, looks like a good choice in a number of scenarios. My current customer is a substantial company with a network infrastructure and several servers. But at this point, only a handful of users need CRM. Rather than spend several thousand dollars to install a new server to run SQL and CRM, they can use the Online version to see how the product will work for them, especially the 30 day free trial. I expect they will eventually move up to On-premise as they see the value of the program. Other possible fits for this would be branch offices of larger corporations, like banks. In this scenario the local branch manager may see the value of CRM for their business development, but convincing the IT folks and management at the corporate headquarters may be an uphill battle, at least at first.

There were a few pitfalls in my first Online setup experience. I went to the customer's office on Tuesday fully expecting to spend the afternoon setting up CRM and showing him how to get started using it. Well, not so fast. When you sign up for an Online account, you must wait for someone from Microsoft to contact the customer and verify that they are in fact a real live company wanting to use CRM and not a spoof trying to sabotage the system. I left after about a half hour having only been able to apply for the account. Later that afternoon, I received notification that my customer had been approved. So today I returned and had to set up the account. I fully thought it would be a quick process. Once again the system told me that we would be notified when the new CRM system was ready for use, hopefully within 24 hours. I was looking at another wasted day. But after a short wait (30 minutes?) I tried logging on the their organization and I got it! Never did receive that e-mail notification.

So, my recommendations when you are setting up a new client is to apply for the account ahead of time. It can really be done from any computer. Once you get the go ahead, you can also do the initial set up remotely as well. Once up and running, you can go to the customer's office and set up the Outlook client and show the customer how to use it. You will need a Windows Live ID for your client and a credit card in order to set up their CRM.