Welcome!  This is the second in a 6-part series on the benefits and functionality available to those who are upgrading to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 from either CRM 2011 or CRM 2013.  For an overview of the full series, refer back to the introductory article: click here.

If you're upgrading from CRM 2011 to CRM 2015, there are some game-changing upgrades to the user experience that will radically improve your teams performance, and your ability to ensure that everyone is using a consistent (but flexible) process.  

Business Process Flows

Business Process Flows (or BPFs) are possibly the most important upgrade that was introduced in CRM 2013 - and they have been significantly improved in CRM 2015.  BPFs can appear on the top of any form, and can guide the user through a series of steps, such as qualifying a lead, closing a sale, resolving a compliant, or submitting an expense report.  These are so significant, in fact, that an entire blog series could easily be dedicated to just them - but we will try to summarize here.

In the nearby image, you can see an example of a business process flow.  The blue tabs across the top of the page represent the different stages of a process.  The fields below the tabs represent the steps that need to be taken during the current stage.  The user can switch to the next stage by clicking the Next Stage button on the right-hand side of the BPF area (assuming that all required fields for the stage have been completed).

Some of the advantages of Business Process Flows:
  • Gives the user an easy guide to walk them through a process - without having to navigate all over a form to find the fields relevant to the stage that they are in.

  • Ensures that all the critical information for a process is captured.

  • Ensures that the most important best practice steps are followed consistently.

  • Provides a "guide" rather than a strict "process" - providing the flexibility for your team to have their own personal work styles and to work with the changing demands of your customers.

  • Very easy to setup - no programming required.

I recently delivered some CRM 2013 training to a very large organization that is still working with CRM 2011.  Once they understood Business Process Flows, most of them felt that they wouldn't work for them because their processes branched based on different conditions - and this functionality was not included in CRM 2013.  Good news … Microsoft has added BPF branching in CRM 2015.  Below is an image of a branching BPF.

The bottom line: Business Process Flows can radically improve the productivity of your team.  Even if you don't have a defined process you can start simple and use this as a way to build a single process that the entire team can agree on.  And, even if you have multiple teams that use different processes, BPFs can support that too!


The New User Interface

One of the most noticeable differences since CRM 2011 is the comprehensive make-over that the user interface has received.  This includes the navigation, the command ribbon and the forms.  The result is a much cleaner and modern user interface.  Long-time CRM users will be happy to learn that there are now far fewer pop-up forms to work through. And more information can be squeezed onto pages, while still having a clean and uncluttered feel. Clients have remarked that it is much easier to quickly see the history with an account or contact, and that forms feel less busy and confusing. The new navigation system, pictured below, takes a bit of getting used to.  The primary advantage of this new approach is that it opens up significant real estate on your screen, and is also always available.  Although there are some short-comings with the new navigation, once you've worked with it for a while you will find that you actually get around in the application far more quickly than you used to without ever experiencing the frustration of "losing" the home page and having to re-launch CRM.

Forms have also had a significant make-over with dozens of improvements, some small and some very significant, that improve productivity and ease-of-use.  An example form is below.  We'll save a detailed discussion for now - because we will be talking all about the forms in an upcoming blog.

Visual Hierarchies

New in CRM 2015 is a visual hierarchy view.  This allows you to view the parent/child relationship between virtually any records.  You can interact with these views to open sub-records, share records, view important information or to show the social view of a record.  For organizations that have to manage complex relationships with large businesses, this new way to visualize the relationship will be a boon.


Global Search Bar

At long last - Microsoft is including a single search bar in CRM that enables users to search all of CRM from one place.  You can search your accounts, contacts, leads, emails, opportunities - at once.  And without having to navigate to a separate area to do it - it's built into the navigation bar that appears no matter where you are in CRM 2015.  It is hard to appreciate what a time-saver this feature is until you use it for a while.   


Dashboard Updates

Dashboards have also had a make-over in CRM 2015.  The following features have been added or updated since CRM 2011.


  • Each area of CRM has its own dashboard group.  So, for example, dashboards appear under Sales, Service, Marketing and any other groups you establish.  And the default dashboard can be different in each of these areas.

  • Dashboards can be based on security role.  Although this is a subtle addition, it means that you can make dashboards visible only to the users that they are relevant to.  Businesses with hundreds or thousands of CRM users can quickly develop dozens of dashboards - making it confusing for a user to find the dashboard that they need.  The security roles improve this significantly.

  • Dashboards can now "drill into" fields from a parent entity.  For example, an opportunity dashboard can include the industry field from the account entity.  There are a few tricks to setting this up, but it can be a real time saver for analyzing CRM data.

    When displaying lists (or grids) in dashboards, the ability to add/delete records and to "zoom into" the full list view has been vastly improved.

Lead Conversion Process

If you are using leads in CRM 2011, then you are probably painfully aware of the pop-up process for converting a lead into an account, contact, and/or opportunity.  This process has received a significant make-over in CRM 2013.  There are some pros and cons to the new approach - but you can work around most of the cons.

To summarize the new process, you are now able to:
  • Create and track leads when an account and/or contact already exist.

  • Selectively create an account, contact or opportunity with much greater flexibility than you could in CRM 2011 or earlier.

  • Seamlessly flow the user onto the opportunity form without having multiple forms pop-up during the conversion process.

What's Next?

Stay tuned for next week when the discussion will be "All About Forms." 

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