Microsoft will release their next major release of their Customer Relationship Management software, Dynamics CRM. The target date of this release is October 2013 and is a major step forward for those who desire a more intuitive, guided approach to CRM systems. It also includes much needed enhancements in the realms of social collaboration and mobile access. Microsoft codenames intermediate releases after stars and originally planned for this release to be “Orion”. Microsoft has since made the decision for this to be a major release and have named it Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013. Some of the changes were partially available in the previous intermediate release named “Polaris”. This new release of CRM takes Polaris to an entirely new level. Below are a few highlights of the new platform:
Flat, Modern, Ubiquitous User Interface
The new user interface (UI) takes out much of the scrolling, clicking and “pop-ups” often associated with Dynamics CRM. It has a more refined look and feel.
- The ribbon that used to be available across the top of the page has been streamlined and simplified, prominently displaying the most common used actions. Additional actions are available via the ellipsis drop down (which looks like three dots or “…”). The redesigned ribbon is located in the top-left area just above the record type.
- The enhanced UI simplifies the user experience and eliminates the classic navigation bar. This provides a great deal of additional real estate for higher valued, relevant information.
- The user experience has been significantly enhanced through an almost wholesale elimination of disorienting window “popups” in favor of a flat user experience, embedded window-quick forms and inline editing (including (finally!) support for the browser back button).
- Until CRM 2013, customers requiring quote and order capabilities in CRM found the “popup” experience associated with these processes frustratingly cumbersome. A very significant enhancement we note is the streamlining of the Quote and Order processes which leverages the streamlined UI and inline editing of records (for example, Opportunity Products). Much better!
Business Process Flow
In addition to the new UI, Microsoft provides a business process to be built into the records at the top of the page. This configurable flow allows a company to determine the recommended processes which need to be followed through a guided UI based on stages to complete various business practices, such as making a sale or servicing customer needs. There can be multiple flows depending on the needs of the business which updates dynamically based on user choice. The flow allows various records to automatically be opened based on a user’s present stage. This eliminates the decision work for the user. Like the stages, there are configurable actions in each stage to provide greater clarity and configured to meet business needs.
Previous releases of Dynamics CRM provided the lightweight “Mobile Express” which many found was not adequate for business needs. Many customers requiring mobile capabilities have relied on fully featured mobile ISV solutions. CRM 2013 has a mobile offering built in at no additional license fee freeing companies from the need to seek a third party ISV for a great mobile experience. For tablets, the iPad and Microsoft Windows 8 devices (including the Surface) are supported. Microsoft, iPhone and Android smart phones are also supported. Mobile will be accessible via a downloadable app from the device’s app store. The app will provide a user experience very similar to that of the browser, albeit scaled and adjusted to conform to the device’s screen limitations. This interface is optimized for touch.
Social media is a hot topic in business and is required for many companies. Microsoft has expanded on the “What’s New” and “Record Wall” features to make them more prominent on the CRM forms and dashboards, enabling internal communication in a social manner. In addition, with the acquisition of Yammer and its integration into CRM, companies may communicate not only with internal employees but with external customers and clients, all from a single application – Dynamics CRM. The relevant conversations from Yammer are pulled into the relevant records in CRM allowing users the ability to stay in the application and still receive the benefits of real-time conversations.*
*Requires an additional license subscription. See Yammer for details.
There are many additional features and enhancements in the new CRM 2013 release. Some of these additional items include improvements to the native Outlook operation with CRM, searching across multiple entities, administration changes and business rules. As we get closer to release, we’ll learn many more details.