Yesterday Microsoft hosted their official CRM 2013 launch event. Very well orchestrated, it was a combination of live professional video, prerecorded footage, and Skype calls between satellite events and viewing parties.
Honestly it was one of the best productions I’ve seen by them in quite a few years. I was reminded of the old Microsoft Extreme events around the turn of the century. They’d broadcast video feeds live to movie theaters across the country to show previews of their upcoming products (one of those was Office 2003 to set the time frame).
The CRM 2013 launch event revived that concept and took it to the next level. With Microsoft Studios in Redmond, the event at Convergence in Barcelona, and satellite events in NYC and Anaheim (at the CRM Extreme event, not related to MS Extreme referenced above). Microsoft showcased their offices, partners, and most of all their Dynamics customers who are excited about the new release…and spent quite a bit of time reminding folks to use their #CRM2013 hash tag (which has had some decent usage over the last 24 hours).
Microsoft kept the session very high level. They didn’t do feature/function demos or hype the technical capabilities of the system. Instead they focused on the experience–both for a CRM user as well as the customer. The consistent theme that was emphasized was that CRM can help “Make Happy”. While I’m not sure the slogan will resonate in any board meetings, the underlying message is critical and a key benefit of using the Dynamics CRM product.
Very excited for what’s to come!
The notable new functionality includes improvements to the CRM Outlook Client! This includes “process isolation” to split it out from the core Outlook process, an upgrade to SQL CE 4.0, and reduces performance issues with a large address book (among other things, it’s all in the KB)
Here’s the history of CRM 2011 update rollup version numbers and KB links.
With the relatively recent release of the “Polaris” release of Dynamics CRM Online, I couldn’t help but start to wonder what the new design direction might have in store for the Outlook Client. I’m psyched about the spiffier look of CRM, I see it as an important baby step, but what’s not clear is what this means for the ever popular Outlook experience.
The Microsoft CRM team highlights “…integration of key CRM information across Microsoft Office Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint” as part of the improved productivity experience in their published Statement of Direction. We can assume that means a boatload of new functionality to Office/Dynamics CRM are part of the release plan…but what specifically will the Orion release mean for the Outlook experience? Below are 4 things that would be great additions:
1. Less window switching
It’s pretty clear that this is a key aspect of the new design direction…and it will be ideal for this to follow through into the Outlook interface as well.
2. More flexible synchronization
Today there’s an automatic synchronization that happens on a periodic basis, comparing the local versions of records with the ones on the server. This can be initiated manually as well by either “going offline” or using the File->synchronize option. While that’s great, there are often times where users don’t remember that the appointment they just created in CRM hasn’t pushed to their local calendar yet (the one they created using the web form). The Orion release timeframe would be a great opportunity to address this.
3. Less intimidating navigation for new users
For those who are familiar with the Outlook plug-in, it makes judicious use of the left-hand navigation in Outlook as well as the context-sensitive ribbon. Even to an existing Office user, the sheer volume and variability in this setup can make the initial learning experience a bit challenging. Seeing this carry through to Outlook would be a huge win.
4. More seamless record interaction experience
This is the most nebulous item on my list…but follow my explanation. Let’s say you’re working with an Opportunity in CRM that you accessed via the Outlook interface. When you want to collaborate with a team member, you end up sending them a hyperlink to the record which results in a pop-up window (which makes sense, it is a web app at its core). But wouldn’t it be cool if instead that Opportunity record could take over the preview pane? You could work with the record, then move on to the next email.
This Opportunity scenario is just one example of many, and perhaps I’ll expand on some other possibilities like this that I see in another blog post, but for now I’ll leave it at the tip of this iceberg.
Sure, there’s a ton more that they’re probably packing into the upcoming releases but these are a few that I think most of them would line up well with the design direction of the product. Keep in mind, these are hopes, not predictions. A boy can dream… 🙂
If you’re like me, you didn’t have the chance to attend Convergence in New Orleans last month. While I may have missed this chance to see the Big Easy again, at least I can get some of the juicy conference details! Interested in digesting some of this information yourself? Read on!
Virtual Convergence – Microsoft
Convergence 2013 Recap: Review by a CRM MVP – Christopher Cognetta, CRM MVP
The Next Dynamics CRM User Experience: Orion – Jukka Niiranen
Information Week: Microsoft Gains Enterprise Clout With ERP, CRM – Doug Henschen
Customer Excellence Awards at Convergence 2013 – Matthew C. Anderson
The notable new functionality is that this release introduces support for Windows Server 2012. Other than that, the KB outlines a fair number of bug-fixes that they’ve made, including some annoyances that popped up with UR12.
2013 is a big year for CRM Online and CRM 2011 On-Premise. Microsoft has an amped-up roadmap with a ton of great functionality on tap. Some of this has already hit with the December Update for MS Online customers. One of the most notable is the UI refresh, which brings the “MS Modern Style” that is hitting oh-so-many MS apps. The visual update is fantastic as it takes great strides to free users from having so many windows open when using the application. This is fantastic news both on the desktop as well as on mobile devices. Business leadership (and most users) will expect to receive these benefits soon after they’re rolled out.
So, what’s the catch?
Well, I don’t really want to call it a catch, but this certainly introduces some additional considerations as you look forward with your CRM deployment. These considerations could have an impact on the user experience and ultimately impact productivity and usability if not addressed prior to upgrading. There are new wrinkles when it comes to form layout, in-form scripting, and plug-ins. Today, plug-ins are in my crosshairs.
Historically in MSCRM, users would have to click a Save button when they’ve worked with a record (Save, Save and Close, etc.). The MS Modern Style form brings the web 2.0 concept of automatically saving a record that is being edited. From a user’s perspective, that’s mostly good (though an undo button would be nice). The specific mechanism triggering this save is a timer, which saves saves changes to the CRM database every 30 or so seconds if there have been changes.
Right there, that’s a little interesting. It’s time-based, not event based. Sure there’s still a Save button you can click, but if I take 90 seconds to update a record, 2-3 saves will have taken place during that time. So, let’s consider a plug-in that fires when a record is updated. In the soon-to-be-old-world, it would have executed one time (when I clicked save). In the soon-to-be-new-world, it will have executed 2-3 times (or maybe even 4 if I ended up clicking the save button manually when I was done).
This can get you thinking of a handful of questions about existing plug-in design…
So what do the answers to these questions mean? They give a picture to how much of an impact some of the 2013 updates may have on your users. Generally speaking, these aren’t likely to stop the business in its tracks. That said, it would be unfortunate to introduce performance and user experience issues that cloud the positive impact of the fantastic new functionality users are getting this year.
In a quiet nod to this, the CRM Team Blog recently posted a couple of items. One detailing the specifics of the save behavior (along with a note that it can impact the items called out above), another about plug-in design. The posts are quite technical, so if you’re not feeling geeky today you can instead read the following commentary:
The CRM SDK describes plug-ins as “custom business logic (code) that you can integrate with [Dynamics CRM] to modify or augment the standard behavior of the platform”. This means plug-ins are beyond the platform that MS is responsible for (Read: it’s your problem if it’s not working right). MS felt like it’s important to post information about plug-in design in parallel with the news about product updates. Change is a-coming, and it may not play nice with your existing customizations.
Talk with your CRM Administrator about the plug-ins you’re using and assess the type of impact these updates will have. Most of these issues can be addressed…but remember: plug-ins are written in .NET, which means you’ll need a developer, which means you’ll need regression testing, which ultimately means you’ll need cycles from multiple teams of people.
Now is the time to get the conversation going.
After years of anticipation, the first official browser support for Safari on the iPad has come to CRM Online customers. This is a huge step forward for Dynamics mobile support, and more importantly an important milestone in keeping relevancy with the changing needs of the workforce.
Recent updates to the CRM Online technology are a key enabler with the December service update from MS, which brought customers the “New Style” forms. Specifically, the New Style forms drive activity without relying on pop-up windows. This is a must on a mobile device, as there’s not an alt-tab to rely on or consistent ability to show two windows side-by-side: It all has to be on a single page.
The downside to this, of course, is that it requires an administrator to opt-in to the new user experience and means only a selection of the entities currently leverage the New Style form. This is going to begin a game of tug-of-war for some organizations, as there are more considerations beyond iPad support that come along with opting-in to the new forms. A big example here is in-form Scripting support (JScript) which is not supported in the New Style forms. (yet?)
Much more detail can be found at the CRM Team Blog, where they recently posted details regarding iPad support.
On-prem folks still have some waiting to do, with this initial release set for the Orion release later in 2013. Still, this is a great step forward and a slick looking alternative to buying a separate app to view CRM.
Oh how I wish I was going to Convergence this year. Time for a little shameless bragging 🙂
Heads held high, the Hitachi Solutions CRM team has two clients that are 2013 Customer Excellence Award winners in the Productivity category (Sales Force Automation and Customer Care categories), and the broader Dynamics team has four total winners and many more finalists! We’re also a Platinum sponsor and I’m extremely proud of the presence we have planned for the event (I’ve seen the booth layout…so cool!).
Way to go team!
For those of you who will be at Convergence, make sure to stop by the Hitachi Solutions “Café Du Monde” (booth #2013) to learn more about the other exciting things our team does.
P.S. I may have forgotten to mention the complimentary coffee and beignets at our booth…
With the January CRM update from Microsoft, there are now more mobile access options for Dynamics CRM than ever. While this is great news when it comes to flexibility, it adds a wrinkle when it comes to making a decision on which method to use. Fortunately, there’s an upcoming webinar that will explain many of the available options. See the details below:
Please register for Microsoft Dynamics CRM – Mobile Productivity Overview on Feb 27, 2013 11:00 AM CST at:
Microsoft is making large investments to expand and enhance Microsoft Dynamics CRM’s mobile productivity capabilities.
Join us to see a broad overview of mobile CRM productivity capabilities and options. We will also demonstrate leading edge mobile solutions for CRM Clients.
Don’t miss this exclusive opportunity to see the latest and greatest features and functionality in Microsoft CRM.
Register now – attendance is limited.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
Full Disclosure: This webinar is hosted by my employer, Hitachi Solutions
I’ve seen an uptick in the number of Internet Explorer 7&8 Add-on related support issues for Dynamics CRM. Not sure what’s causing the spike, but I’m getting the word out so you can take some preventative measures. 🙂 Issues can surface in many ways, including:
If your web browser looks like this….…you will want to start removing (or at least disabling) these.
Microsoft has a detailed FAQ that covers details on how to deal with these, and how they may have gotten there in the first place.