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… 🙂