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Nimble and Microsoft are Getting ever Closer

It has been three months since I last talked with Jon Ferrara, CEO of Nimble. Back in February, he introduced me to their Nimble Smart Contacts add-in to Outlook Mobile. It delivered people and company social relationship insights for free to over 40M Outlook Mobile users. Since then, he and his Nimble team have been pretty busy working with Microsoft, as one could see from his Facebook posts – having one coordination session in Seattle after the other.
Nimble will soon announce that they extended the Nimble freemium Smart Contacts for Outlook Mobile add-in to become a free plugin into Outlook Desktop Windows/Mac and Office 365. This move recognizes that the world is going cloud and mobile and that the Microsoft stack of productivity applications is the most widely used set of applications in Enterprises of all sizes. Google applications, with the notable exception of Google Mail, do not stand a chance here. The same holds true for Salesforce, which acquired the productivity tool startup Quip in August of last year, or Zoho’s Docs, or any  other smaller vendor tools.
The logical next step is to …
… integrate Nimble into Outlook Desktop and Office 365.  I already speculated about this in my February post:
Imagine the following: The Smart Contacts App, or rather Nimble becoming part of the Office365 fabric, working with the full Microsoft application stack, like Outlook, Skype, Team, Dynamics, Office365, LinkedIn, PowerBI and Azure. Add the fact that many smaller businesses are still working without a CRM system, but merely use their mail clients and spreedsheets – and MS Office. Continue the thought with: Salesforce, SugarCRM, SAP, Dynamics are too expensive and too ‘clumsy’, user-unfriendly. Add the idea of a deep integration into the Office Graph/LinkedIn graph, and all of the sudden there is a powerful and affordable social sales and marketing solution for Microsoft Office365 users.
Mind you, there still would be gaps on the service, especially on the marketing side, but this is a story for another day. For now I do see huge potential in this partnership.
And unsurprisingly, this is exactly what Jon and his team did over the past three months. With this new integration the Nimble Smart Contact Manager comes up within all Office 365 productivity and business applications, plus Outlook, Skype, Teams, and etc., giving users the rich contact information that Nimble gather in real time. This is fully in line with Jon’s vision of Nimble “becoming the world’s individual and teams’ simple, smart and social contact manager”.

My Take

This is Big, for both parties!
The E-Mail inbox is still the most widely used de facto contact manager. There are estimations that more than 80 percent of companies worldwide do not use any contact manager or CRM application at all.
With this step of integrating deeper into the MS fabric, Nimble comes far closer to Jon’s vision by getting access to a huge number of potential business users who need just a bit more than just e-mail and for whom Dynamics365 and LinkedIn Sales Navigator is too expensive and too clumsy, or just plainly not useful to people with simple needs. By staying connected to Google, Nimble rides on the two most prevalent e-mail platforms.
But what’s in it for Microsoft, you ask?
Microsoft, as the other Enterprise CRM vendors (Oracle, Salesforce, SAP, SugarCRM, etc.) face increasing pressure by vendors that started off by addressing the SMB market, especially the lower end of it. Salesforce itself concentrated first on smaller companies or departmental solutions that brought them a foot in the door. With this sales approach, based upon the subscription and cloud software models, they disrupted the market – and moved on to become an enterprise player. SAP is clawing its way down with different solutions that target smaller companies than their usual clientele. Microsoft so far did the same upward move that Salesforce did. The origins of Microsoft’s business applications (Axapta and Navision) have been SMB-oriented. Now they are targeting Enterprises, of which there are only so many. SugarCRM currently moves similarly.
In brief, these vendors are vulnerable to aggressive SMB vendors like Zoho and others, which can disrupt them from below.
Microsoft needs a solution to address this vulnerability.
In comes Nimble to add simple social sales and marketing to Office365. At a reasonable price point, Nimble is likely to provide eighty to ninety percent of the functionality that small company salespeople need to grow their business. And this in a very usable way, automating a lot of the data gathering in the background. Not having to collect this data and enter it manually into the contact database adds immediate value. In comparison to learning to ride a bicycle, Nimble “will be like the training wheels” to Dynamics365 and LinkedIn Sales Navigator says Jon, “we will onboard millions of people to Microsoft Enterprise Apps and many will not need more than that”.
In summary, Microsoft gains the ability to attract a lot of smaller companies that might otherwise consider another vendor’s CRM, to their platform. With the foot in the door, Microsoft then has the possibility to easily upgrade these customers to Dynamics365 business applications.

Let’s see what the next steps are in this partnership. It has the potential to be very symbiotic. It also has the potential of Nimble becoming Microsoft’s entry solution to CRM.

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