Jon Ferrara
Tech veteran Jon Ferrara is trying to bring enterprise-level CRM to small and medium businesses with Nimble

Microsoft wasn't the only company making announcements during its Inspire partner conference last week. 

Its partners got into the action as well, announcing a number of releases and additions for Microsoft products.

Of these, Nimble’s new add-in for Office 365 and Outlook stands out. While add-ins generally slip under the radar, Nimble Smart Contacts App is the latest in an ongoing strategy by Nimble to make itself an integral part of Microsoft's continued push of Azure in the enterprise.

The Nimble Smart Contacts App freemium add-in for Microsoft Office 365, Outlook desktop and iOS delivers business insights on people and companies.

The app doesn't aim to replace the face-to-face contact that drives any relationship, including sales relationships, according to Jon Ferrera, CEO of Nimble. Instead, the app aims to make it easier for people to connect, taking the cold out of cold-calling.

Putting Contacts in Context in the Inbox

Ferrara founded the Santa Monica, Calif.-based Nimble in 2009 to give small-to-medium businesses the advantages of customer relationship management (CRM) that large enterprises enjoy, without the expense.

Nimble is not Ferrara's first foray into CRM. He previously co-founded GoldMine, one of the earliest CRM software companies in 1989. The company later sold for a reported $125 million in 1999.

Nimble pulls together CRM, unified communications and conversations, social media tools and team collaboration in the same application.

The tool aims to create deeper context around your contacts and meetings within the email inbox.

The thinking here is smart. Because despite the rise of social media and networks, workers still spend many hours of their days in their inboxes. While the inbox provides a direct communication channel with contacts, it rarely provides information about them.

The new add-in combines calendars and contacts in the same place so that for every customer, partner or personal email exchange you have, the add-in will provide a wider context for that exchange.

In short, it surfaces social business details about your contacts and companies to help you engage in an effective and informed manner.

“What’s missing is connectivity between Outlook and the calendars and contacts that workers are using now. You don’t get any information from your calendar and social to that you can use,” Ferrera said.

“Nimble solves that by unifying your Gmail with G Suites, or iCloud or Office 365 with your calendar and contact list. It synchronizes individual emails, calendars and contacts into a shared team relationship manager enriched with rich social and business profiles available to users everywhere they work.”

The Coming 'Enterprise Cloud Turf War'

In a wider context, Ferrera noted Microsoft iterates, rather than innovates. It waits for other companies to build the market before moving in with its massive sales and marketing machine to dominate it, he said.

Nimble’s role here, he said, would be to introduce SMBs to the Microsoft products available through the Azure cloud.

Microsoft already provides Nimble to its entire partner channel and will also distribute Nimble's freemium edition to Office 365 users worldwide. Microsoft also named Nimble a Microsoft Gold Certified ISV (Independent Software Vendors) Partner.

“The next enterprise cloud turf war will be decided flat out by ISVs and enterprise developers and where they decide to build applications. So far, AWS is winning with ISV, Azure with enterprises, but that could change,” he said.

Nimble comes in two versions: a free Nimble Smart Contacts Add-in and Nimble Business edition at $25 per user, per month. The new Nimble Smart Contacts Add-in is available for Office 365, Outlook desktop on Windows and Mac and Outlook.