Microsoft unveiled some of the new functionality to expect in Dynamics CRM during the Microsoft Convergence show in Atlanta this year.  For those of you who are using CRM – particularly those who use CRM Online – there are some exciting new innovations coming.  Let’s take a quick look:

What’s Coming in CRM 2015 Spring

New CRM Spring 2015 SiteMap MenusThe most noticeable immediate improvement will be the navigation structure (also known as the Site Map).  Microsoft has realized that the scrolling menus first introduced in CRM 2013 slowed users down.  Now the main navigation system will be collapsed into a smaller area – so less clicking and scrolling to get to what you want.  Changes to form navigation and recently viewed items is also receiving a makeover.

Microsoft is making many improvements to how CRM will integrate with other applications.  One of the most long awaited integrations will be with OneNote.  You will now be able to take notes in OneNote and have those directly available within CRM.  Many sales reps love the openness and flexibility of OneNote compared to the limited note taking features in CRM. But finding the notes for a contact, account or opportunity is difficult, to say the least.  Now you will be OneNote Excel Dynamics CRM 2015 Integrationable to have the best of both worlds.

Another exciting area of integration will be Excel.  Analytics spreadsheets from Excel can be embedded directly into the application as their own dashboards.  Although I did not see a demo, I also heard that it may be possible to do data entry into Excel embedded within CRM – which would make updating lists of data much easier.  I can’t confirm this one yet, but certainly hope to see that in the spring release!

imageCRM will now also integrate better with your overall Office experience.  Group calendars, conversations and SharePoint documents in Office will be available within CRM.  Switching between Office applications and CRM will be much more seamless to users – like using a single application. Our research has shown that user satisfaction with CRM drops significantly when they have to use more than 2 applications (including CRM) to get their job done – this type of integration will help to improve usability. 

There will also be much deeper integration with Microsoft Exchange, making it possible to track emails more seamlessly, and even making it possible for non-CRM users to track emails in CRM.  Folder-based tracking will also be introduced, to track emails on any device by creating a folder in Exchange and linking this to a CRM record.  And improvements to the CRM App for Outlook will be rolled out, including a low footprint light-CRM functionality version.  Non-Windows users will even be able to enjoy some of the email integration benefits that until now were reserved for Windows users.

Power BI CRM 2015 Integration ScreenshotIf you’re not yet familiar with Power BI, you should start to check it out.  Power BI is Microsoft’s platform for Business Intelligence, and it is impressive.  You can combine data from multiple sources (such as CRM and ERP) into Power BI dashboards.  Dynamics CRM will now include role tailored dashboards for Power BI.  We’ve been experimenting with some of these dashboards and have really enjoyed the interactivity and ease-of-use.  Although I did not hear this discussed directly at Convergence, I suspect that Power BI may eventually replace the dashboards that are built into CRM.  Power BI is also available on mobile devices for dashboards on-the-go.

The Excel export/import process has also been completely redesigned. This will make it easier to export, update and re-import CRM data in Excel. This will make rapid data entry of multiple records much more efficient.

The mobile version of CRM will also get a makeover in the spring release.  Currently, Microsoft supports different versions of CRM for different mobile devices.  Starting in the spring, a single version will be supported across all devices, providing a consistent experience.  And this experience will support business process flows - so sales processes can be more tightly managed even on mobile devices.  On a more subtle level, Microsoft is updating the technology framework for mobile CRM, proving a more flexible way to extend it.  So now you will be able to deploy expanded mobile applications that include support for JavaScript and Business Rules directly on the mobile device.

The social capabilities, and the integration with Microsoft Social Listening, will also get an upgrade in the spring release of Dynamics CRM 2015.  This will include the ability to directly convert posts from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn into CRM leads, cases or opportunities.  Social listening dashboards can now be surfaced directly within CRM, and social information can be made visible directly on account and contact pages in CRM.

New functionality is also appearing in the customer service area of CRM.  KnowledeBase articles will now be easier to search, view and attach.  A new web-based surveying capability will be included, so that voice of customer information can easily be gathered directly into CRM.  And Microsoft is rolling out a web portal to enable customer self-service through the web that is directly integrated with CRM.

Integration with Cortana, Microsoft's voice responsive digital assistant, will continue to see refinements. With Cortana making her way onto PC's with the release of Windows 10, expect to see an increasingly voice activated CRM experience.

Microsoft is also rolling out performance improvements.  For those organizations that have struggled with CRM responsiveness issues, these promise to make a significant impact on how quickly the application responds.  New global data centers are also being brought online, so that there will be more options for nearby CRM servers – which also impacts performance.

In addition to providing better integration with other Microsoft products, CRM will also have a refined integration engine – making integration with other applications more efficient.

Other improvements will be made to: calculated rollup fields, workflows, record updates from activities (social, email, etc), business rules, business process flow navigation, and a host of other CRM administration features.

Coming in Fall 2015

Microsoft also announced a number of other improvements scheduled for the fall release of CRM.  Highlights of these updates includes:

  • Offline mobile – data will synchronize with your mobile device so that you can still use CRM when you are not in a network area.
  • Predictive analytics – Microsoft is adding predictive capabilities to CRM to identify best prospects and products automatically.
  • OneDrive integration – file management, but also for having private files in CRM that are only shared with selected users.
  • XRM – it appears that Microsoft is getting serious about making CRM a development platform for entirely new applications and will not only roll out a number of developer tools, but also new licensing options. Dare we hope that Microsoft will finally include record types as an extension of multiple forms?  Or a vastly improved report designer?
  • Search – the search capabilities that appeared in CRM 2015 will gain more intelligence and flexibility.
  • Delve / Office Graph – Delve is a new product available from Microsoft that is somewhat like FlipBoard, but it summarizes news generated within the business (I am not clear on what Office Graph is or how it differs from Delve – the two seemed to be used synonymously during the demo, so I left both here for reference). This integration appears simple enough, but in my opinion this will be one of the game changers in how people interact with CRM and how executives collaborate with the front lines.
  • Outlook – even more updates will come to the CRM for Outlook application and, it appears, mobile email as well.

It seems that we’re just starting to digest all the changes in CRM 2015, and the next release is already almost upon us!  If you’d like to review what is new in CRM 2015, check out this blog.  Stay tuned for more updates on the spring and fall Dynamics CRM releases!

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