Last week, while attending Microsoft Convergence 2015, I wrote an article about what to expect in the Spring 2015 update of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The event also provided detailed information about many other Microsoft products that are related to CRM. If you’re not combining the power of Dynamics CRM with these products, then you’re missing significant opportunities to work together better with your customers and employees. This includes standard products such as Excel, Outlook, and SharePoint; as well as the Dynamics product line including Microsoft Dynamics Marketing (MDM), Social Listening, Parature and Unified Service Desk. There’s a lot to overview, so we will just summarize in this article.
For those who are not yet familiar with MDM, it is a separate product from Microsoft CRM with significantly expanded marketing capabilities. It can work completely independent of CRM, or it can be integrated. MDM places significant emphasis on marketing campaign planning and management and is designed to support the largest of marketing teams. But it also provides tactical marketing execution including email, social and other marketing channels. The MDM product was developed with a focus on campaign management in larger organizations – think market departments with 10 or more employees. But Microsoft seems to be expanding it to also work with smaller marketing departments. In my opinion, the product is still not meant for the small business with only 1 person in marketing (or maybe 1 person who wears a marketing hat as well as other hats).
For those of you who took a look at the earlier versions of MDM and decided to wait, now may be the time to reconsider. New capabilities include:
If you’re not practicing social listening yet, you need to. Social listening is the practice of “listening” to social channels (such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) to track marketplace, customer and prospect sentiment – and to respond to these sentiments. One specific example may be a manufacturer that listens for complaints about their product and, when they identify one, they respond directly to the individual to try to resolve the issue. It is difficult to overstate the power of social listening, but it is also difficult to explain it briefly, if there is interest I’ll write a follow-up on this topic. Microsoft Social Listening is a product specifically made to automate the process of social listening, and it integrates with CRM. Recent improvements made to the product include:
Microsoft has also announced that the product will be renamed “Social Engagement” to reflect the move from purely "listening" in earlier versions, to adding the ability to engage and interact via social channels in the Spring 2015 version.
Parature is a customer care application that goes beyond the capabilities found in the service area of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Like Social Listening and Microsoft Dynamics Marketing, Parature is available as an independent application, or as an extension to Microsoft Dynamics CRM. In our view, it is aimed at the mid-to-large sized organizations that need advanced customer care that goes beyond the basic case management, knowledge base and other capabilities built into Dynamics CRM. Recent updates include:
The Unified Service Desk (USD) while technically not an independent piece of software, does require a separate installation. In brief, the USD enables organizations to provide a single user interface that can access CRM, telephony, and multiple other internal systems – but within a single user interface. In effect, it gives reps (either Sales Reps or Customer Service Reps) a single interface to do their job. The target audience for the USD are desk-based reps (in other worlds Field Sales Reps are not generally a target for this product). New functionality includes:
As if all of this isn’t enough, Microsoft is rolling out significant updates across all applications over the next 12 months. This includes: SharePoint 2015, Office 2016 and – of course – Windows 10. Each of these releases will enable even more expansion of CRM. A few highlights – and guesses – about what this means include:
Needless to say, a lot is changing not only with Dynamics CRM, but also with a host of other Microsoft products that enhance and expand on CRM capabilities, and this doesn’t even begin to cover the third party applications and the improvements that are going on with those!
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