In the past few weeks there have been two interesting announcements by Nimble. First, on June 14, 2018 Nimble announced a partnership with Velosio, one of the largest Microsoft Dynamics VARs in North America. Velosio and Nimble entered into a global reseller agreement. As a part of this agreement Velosio’s 200 channel partners can purchase, manage and resell Nimble CRM bundled with Microsoft Office 365. Velosio is the latest prominent name in among the growing number of Microsoft/Nimble partners.
One week later, on June 20, 2018 Nimble announced a revamp of its application homepage with the Nimble Today page. This dashboard page gives the user a clear and customisable view of their sales pipeline, calendar appointments, tasks and social signals with relationship insights directly embedded in the widgets. As a start the page offers 6 widgets
· Highlighted Contacts
· Stage Funnel
that can get freely rearranged. The Today Page is also available for iOS users now and will be available to Android users soon.
The Bigger Picture
The enterprise CRM market is saturated. There are at least 4 tier one players for every major CRM function that are competing for supremacy. Customer demands have evolved from requiring transactional applications to getting high value solutions that allow the delivery of high-end customer (and user) experience.
The market itself has morphed from a suite market to a best-of-breed application market, and now to a platform and ecosystem market. In this market it is important to excel in two, maybe three areas:
· Platform as a Service (PaaS). The platform itself must support current and future technologies that enable the fast and easy creation of value through applications that are developed within its ecosystem
· A broad ecosystem. This creates the reach and relevance that is necessary to become and remain a relevant player in the enterprise software market.
· Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). While IaaS in itself is a commodity, it can become an asset when it is combined with a strong application platform (PaaS) and ecosystem. The right combination affords the tremendous opportunity to provide (anonymized) data for machine learning models that can then provide value to all customers
This is exactly the chance for young and hungry SMB players with enterprise ambitions like Zoho or Freshworks to become significant players, to name just two.
The risk for enterprise software makers is to be disrupted from below – similar to what Salesforce did to the Oracle’s and SAP’s of the world when CRM was still more of a suite game turning into a cloud-based best-of-breed application market.
The big players have understood this.
All of them.
And they are pursuing different strategies to achieve, maintain, or protect their respective leadership positions.
My PoV and Analysis
Microsoft is one of these contenders. With the help of Nimble, Microsoft has one of the stronger strategies in the field.
Here is why, coming from the Nimble perspective. I will write about Microsoft’s side when I refresh my Clash of Titans article. It’s been almost two years since I wrote it and all vendors have moved enough to warrant this update.
So stay tuned.
But I digress; so let’s get back to our topic.
Nimble’s latest partnership with Microsoft channel partners, as well as the revamp of what I would call their app home page, cater to the needs of, but not only, small businesses. They also show that Nimble is quickly maturing as a valuable part of the Microsoft ecosystem. Partnerships like the one with Velosio are a tremendous growth opportunity for Microsoft, Velosio, and Nimble, because they provide high value to their joint customers. This can potentially have a very good impact on Nimble’s growth figures and give Microsoft quite an edge in the contest for winning the race for the fast growing SMB CRM business.
Following my definition of a CRM system as an enabler of the marketing, sales, and service pillars, I still wouldn’t name Nimble a CRM system; but then contact management, account management and SFA are some of the core challenges facing every business, especially the smaller ones.
So, with the Nimble partnership Microsoft has a solid and credible foot in the SMB CRM market.
That foothold is solid and credible for two reasons.
First, because both Nimble and Microsoft have strong, smart ecosystems plays and because Nimble’s functionality is maturing at a rapid pace.
Nimble is an important entry point for fast-growing companies into the Microsoft ecosystem. Because Nimble can enrich Dynamics profiles and deliver them in the browser, in Office 365 and on social media, these companies can grow via Nimble into the Dynamics suite of software.
Second, because Nimble is hungry.
The company is essentially following the successful strategy of Goldmine, Jon Ferrara’s earlier CRM play. This includes partnering with Microsoft and partnering with a range of high profile resellers while providing helpful functionality.
This is evidenced by both recent announcements: the strong ecosystem play that Nimble is pursuing by partnering with Microsoft, and its announcement regarding the new Today Page. Providing this dashboard seems to signify a move away from the focus on Social Media that was seen until now. This dashboard page makes the application a bit more mainstream but at the same time gives users what they need and want – support for outreach beyond social media.
Now, after all this raving, I have some suggestions for Nimble on how to become even better.
Although Nimble relies a lot on Azure there could be more usage of Azure’s machine learning/AI capabilities. This holds true especially for lead scoring and opportunity scoring. Providing enabling functionality like this becomes increasingly important with the complexity of deals handled. The goal is to provide even more value to sales representatives and their managers by indicating which customers and opportunities to focus on. Companies like Clari are showing the way here. Salesforce and SAP have solutions for this, too. Azure offers the technology – and Nimble already collects the data for providing pre-learned models that can be optimized for its customers.
This sounds like a clear win-win situation to me.