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Microsoft IT Uses CRM for Strategic Intracompany Relationship Management

Business Case Study

Published: April 2011

The following content may no longer reflect Microsoft’s current position or infrastructure. This content should be viewed as reference documentation only, to inform IT business decisions within your own company or organization.

Today, IT must anticipate, predict, accelerate, and even challenge both business strategy and technology strategy. This requires a new level of discipline in intracompany relationship management. To help its relationship managers drive business success, the Microsoft Information Technology (Microsoft IT) group created a customer relationship management (CRM) solution by using a hosted Microsoft Dynamics® CRM instance.


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Customer Profile




Products & Technologies

As the worldwide leader in software for business and personal computing, the vision of Microsoft Corporation is to enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential. Employing more than 80,000 people, Microsoft had revenues exceeding $62.5 billion US for the year ending June 2010.

Microsoft IT needed a customer relationship management solution to help its relationship managers better align IT services and solutions to internal business partner strategies.

Microsoft IT configured its own internal relationship management tool by using hosted Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

  • Elevating IT from technical resource to strategic business partner
  • Focusing IT on business-centric priorities with enterprise-wide impact
  • Providing a foundation for a changing future
  • Hosted Microsoft Dynamics CRM


The evolution of the IT function within large enterprises over the last 40 years has been a fascinating story, and it underpins the digital revolution experienced in everyday life. Originally, IT departments were chartered with simply providing and maintaining a company's necessary technology overhead. In a short time, technical infrastructure began to offer competitive advantages to reduce operational costs and increase speed of execution. Although this was a seemingly obvious step, it marks the beginning of IT being recognized as a strategic tool for the enterprise. Today, technology enables the internal operations as well as the external customer and product experience for the modern enterprise.

Just as the role of the IT department has changed, so have the roles inside the IT department. Within the last decade, IT teams have begun developing the discipline of relationship management. The IT relationship manager is focused on deeply integrating with the leadership team of key business units inside the company. As such, the relationship manager acts as a strategic advisor and technical liaison. At one turn, relationship mangers help define strategic business opportunities. At the next turn, they drive evolution and alignment of IT resources to the strategic goals of the business unit.

Although the implementation of an IT-to-business relationship management function at many large enterprises has existed for a number of years, an IT department’s ability to consistently serve as a strategic asset to each of its business partners is challenging. According to a 2010 CIO Executive Board industry survey, less than 40 percent of business leaders rate IT-to-business liaisons as effective. From the same multiple-company survey, a mere 26 percent of business leaders said IT was effective at applying IT capabilities to business needs. Microsoft IT believes that a key driver for the inconsistency in performance of both IT departments and IT liaisons is the lack of functional discipline in relationship management.

Today, relationship managers and IT must anticipate, predict, accelerate, and even challenge both business strategy and technology strategy to truly fulfill expectations. Accomplishing these tasks requires a new level of discipline in intracompany relationship management. As Microsoft IT reviewed this need, it decided to emulate the tested and structured approach to relationship management that existed in one of its key business partner teams—sales and marketing. The sales and marketing team at Microsoft uses Microsoft Dynamics CRM to enable customer relationship management. Microsoft IT decided to model this success for internal purposes.


In any interdependent relationship, the opportunities of highest impact present themselves when one party puts its traditional perspective aside and strives to deeply understand the other party's view. Specific to a company's approach to IT service delivery, when the IT relationship manager takes the initiative to become an integral part of the business units that it supports, high impact opportunities emerge.. For relationship managers in Microsoft IT, the Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform has become a critical tool in their pursuit of such breakthroughs.

Microsoft IT used a hosted Microsoft Dynamics CRM instance to create Relationship Management Experience (RMX): a flexible, on-demand, cloud-based internal solution for more than 40 IT relationship managers. Microsoft IT enabled this solution simply by configuring Microsoft Dynamics CRM—without requiring custom code. Microsoft IT chose the cloud-based version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM because it enabled immediate deployment, provided the scalability inherent to cloud-based solutions, and was cost efficient because of the product’s pay-as-you-go pricing structure.

“RMX is an important tool to help me provide a tailored, effective relationship with my internal business partners while also bringing opportunity to identify and attack cross-company business problems.”

Mike Strand Microsoft IT Relationship Manager
Microsoft Corporation

RMX enables relationship managers to perform customer profiling, activity tracking, and opportunity management. Additionally, RMX features scheduling, reporting, and dashboard capabilities. Microsoft IT credits its RMX tool with helping business relationship managers achieve a greater consistency and efficiency in dealing with supported business units. Improvements include the following:

  • Establishing a business relationship discipline based on best practices

  • Formalizing and standardizing account planning

  • Driving a more business-centric culture within IT by rallying virtual teams around business priorities

  • Improving stakeholder satisfaction with IT problem ownership

  • Providing IT leadership with an aggregated view of relationship manager activities

  • Ensuring continuity of service during personnel changes

Though compelling, the above improvements are foundational to the following larger aims:

  • Bringing the full scale of IT resources to bear for business benefit

  • Providing macro-level business intelligence that otherwise might be viewed as distinct or isolated

  • Elevating business-to-IT conversations from tactical to strategic

  • Changing planning discussions from technology oriented to business capabilities oriented

  • Empowering IT with a larger influence on business process architecture decision-making, with a primary focus on reducing redundant and unmanaged technology deployments

Figure 1 shows how RMX captures customer information to provide a disciplinary foundation for business enablement through IT.

Figure 1 Example of RMX interface

Figure 1 Example of RMX interface


Using hosted Microsoft Dynamics CRM to configure its RMX tool has helped Microsoft IT and its relationship managers to achieve the following benefits.

Elevating IT from Technical Resource to Strategic Business Partner

IT has long been at the foundation of helping businesses to succeed. Encouraging a new level of discipline in IT's approach to relationship management through tools such as RMX helps increase IT department value for intracompany business partners. Applying CRM best practices inside the company enables a relationship manager to go beyond simply responding to technical requests to engaging the customer about what he or she is trying to achieve at a strategic business level. This elevates the conversation, as well as the relationship manager, from technical-requirements gatherer to strategic business partner.

Focusing IT on Business-Centric Priorities with Enterprise-Wide Impact

Bringing a record of all relationship manager and business stakeholder activity into a central repository provides a wealth of information that yields a transparent view into the challenges and opportunities that IT faces in serving business units across the enterprise. Comparing (and where possible, aggregating) the IT needs of different business units enables IT to serve a greater role in advising and shaping technology decisions that work on both a business-unit basis and an enterprise basis.

Providing a Foundation for a Changing Future

The pace of technological change and businesses' dependency on IT is increasing. For IT relationship managers and the broader organizations that they represent to keep pace and fulfill a more strategic charter, the discipline enabled via intracompany CRM is essential. Just as CRM solutions are a cornerstone to external customer relationship success, Microsoft IT believes that the application of CRM to IT-to-business alignment is critical inside the modern enterprise.

Best Practices

In the process of creating RMX, Microsoft IT learned several lessons that developed into the following best practices.

Design for Relationship Managers, Not Management

A clear benefit of RMX is providing IT leadership an overview of activities for all relationship managers and their respective business partners. However, in a CRM deployment, the primary goal should be service of individual relationship managers. And although a management directive may drive basic usage, it will not create the wide adoption and frequent use required for true strategic value.

A simple test to apply during CRM design and configuration is whether the approach supports existing relationship manager activities or creates new activities. Decisions leading to new activities should be critically evaluated, whereas opportunities for using CRM to enhance existing activities should be given priority.

By configuring RMX primarily for the benefit of individual relationship managers, Microsoft IT helped ensure that relationship managers would embrace it and use it to its full potential.

Define the Discipline of Relationship Management

Before configuring RMX, Microsoft IT defined the best practices and deliverables that compose relationship management for internal customers. Microsoft IT then embedded these common best practices in the RMX configuration. Specifically, Microsoft IT relationship managers focus on the following:

  • Discussing and capturing customer satisfaction drivers and associated dependencies

  • Establishing a predictable, recurring business engagement rhythm

  • Identifying and embedding relationship managers in strategic decision-making processes for key business partners

  • Clearly isolating satisfaction with relationship managers versus broader IT service delivery in formal surveys and feedback

Balance Cross-Group Consistency with Individual Innovation

Creating templates in a relationship management tool can help to formalize the structure of tasks and reporting while also simplifying use. Conversely, the tool should provide the flexibility for relationship managers to easily capture business intelligence that templates may not include.

With an actively used tool, relationship managers will likely identify new uses for CRM. When deploying a CRM solution for internal relationship managers, decision makers should embrace and support this in both culture and tool design. These unforeseen uses are often future best practices for broader discussion and implementation.

Increase Adoption and Use by Integrating with Existing Workflow and Tools

Because the dominant information worker tool is email and almost all relationship interactions will be represented in that medium, out-of-the box integration between Microsoft Dynamics CRM and the Microsoft® Outlook® e-mail client has been an adoption catalyst for Microsoft IT. Enabling users to take advantage of the already familiar interface of email reduces the learning time and required behavioral changes. Integration features include synchronizing of emails, contacts, and calendars, and easily converting email messages into CRM activities and opportunities.

For More Information

For more information about Microsoft products or services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Order Centre at (800) 933-4750. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information via the World Wide Web, go to:



© 2011 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Microsoft, Microsoft Dynamics, and Outlook are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

This document is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.

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