Over the last several years, the Microsoft Dynamics 365 team has been working on the Dynamics 365 App for Outlook, otherwise known as the “Lightweight” App, a component that works with both the Outlook on desktop, Outlook on the web (aka Outlook Web Access), and in Outlook on a mobile device. As of the fall release in 2017 for Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement (I’ll use the old prior nomenclature of “CRM” going forward), I feel the App is ready for prime-time use. But what about the classic Outlook Client software application that’s been around for as long as we can remember? Does it still work? While Microsoft announced that is was deprecated in late 2017, that decision was reversed in Q1 2018. Most users still have the lingering question: What is the difference between the two? Let’s answer that.
First off, the look and feel of the Dynamics 365 App for Outlook is fresh and updated (more on this soon). A single icon remains where there once were many options in the Ribbon.
But what happens when you click on the Dynamics 365 Icon? A world of change!
First, a little refresher… With the Outlook client, there is a “Track” button with a few additional options in the client related to emails, contacts, tasks, and appointments. When a record was tracked, it pushed a copy of the record to CRM and there is a panel below indicating CRM status info:
Functional, but a little (shh, I didn’t say this) boring. We did have a nice icon that indicated the email was tracked, we could tell to which record the email was set regarding (or if it was not), but not a lot more.
In the Outlook client, you could use CRM inside of Outlook without opening CRM in a browser, which admittedly, was quite useful for those that were anti CRM-in-browser. It also enabled CRM to be downloaded for offline access… VERY useful as until the last few years, you could not go offline on mobile.
So, what has changed? (I know, you keep asking…) But before we discuss that…
Don’t forget: The Outlook Client was a separately installed software application. It had to be configured before it could be used. Because it was an added in separate application, it was not uncommon that Outlook took noticeably longer to open and even when open, the performance was also reduced.
Now, finally, about the Dynamics 365 App for Outlook. First, it is NOT an installed application. The user does not need to configure it. It doesn’t have the same propensity to slow down the Outlook application either.
How does it work? As stated before, you click on the Dynamics 365 button in the ribbon:
(it loads – but it doesn’t take long…)
Initially, the contact related to your email is presented. High level info such as its related account, recent activities and upcoming activities are also present. You can then track the email as could be done before. It just looks a bit different.
Did you take it in? Unlike the old tracking approach, record tracking appears along-with actual data from CRM!
While the Dynamics 365 App for Outlook doesn’t provide stand-alone CRM access, Microsoft has not done away with access to CRM data in the new App. You can use the menu ribbon to navigate around CRM doing nearly everything you could do with the Client!
The panel can also be expanded by Click-Drag so that the information has a larger viewing area on the screen. Some users may prefer this. Let’s now do some side-by side comparisons of Client vs new App approach to Appointments, Contacts, and Tasks:
Appointments: The client has the standard tracking dock vs the App which also continues the email-style CRM imbedded panel.
Contacts: The client has the standard tracking dock vs the App which has no tracking in an out of box setup.
When a contact is added in the web, it will flow down and appear in Outlook; however, in the out of box setup, an added contact in Outlook does not flow into CRM. For some configurations, an additional Dynamics 365 Icon appears in the folders area of CRM. By using this, a user may track a contact. This does not appear OOB though.
Tasks: The client has the standard tracking dock vs the App which as no tracking in an out of box setup. This works similarly to how a Contact works.
Finally, the Dynamics 365 App for Outlook does not have an offline mode. For now, Microsoft is relying on Mobile or use of the Outlook Client to deliver this functionality.
In summary, here are the things to keep in mind about the App vs the Client:
- The App experience is faster than the client but the client can track all four record types (Email, Appointment, Contact, and Task) Out of Box
- The App can only track Emails and Appointments (for now – hopefully the rest are coming) Out of Box
- Both the App and the Client will have data added to Outlook if the record is created in CRM
- The App doesn’t go offline like the Client can
- The App is enabled by the CRM administrator for Outlook users while the client must be installed on the user’s computer and then configured
- Choose one or the other – there are conflicts if you use both
Here is a link to additional information comparing the two options.
As a bonus extra, for those who wish to use the Outlook Client for the very latest version of CRM, follow this link to download a patch to your Outlook Client software. It will be needed.
Watch the video, Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement — Outlook App Demo to see and overview and demonstration of the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Outlook App.