Out on the Dynamics CRM website you can find details around the upcoming Polaris release. This is a big one! Microsoft has been steadily increasing their investment into their CRM platform and these next few releases (Orion, Leo, and Vega) promise to showcase some great new functionality.
Q4 Release Preview
Microsoft recently published a preview guide for the upcoming Q4 service release. Inside are details around the first steps toward a UI that will rely less on pop-ups. Reducing the number of windows has been a long-time request, so this is exciting news. We also see a general theme update in this release, dropping some of the images displayed on the main CRM window. Skype (or Lync if that’s your preference) integration with the forms is now available in a click-to-dial fashion. The redesigned “flattened” forms will be seen in Account, Contact, Lead, Opportunity, and Case for Q4.
The other notable addition is the introduction of the process-driven UI. The potential here is very exciting, as it gives a dynamic visual representation (and quick access to) the steps that are involved when working with this record type. The Q4 release appears to bring this Process UI for Lead/Opportunity (viewed as one record, rather than two) as well as the Case entity, with more entities to follow in future releases. By surfacing (no pun intended) these key components of the process, it should help to make a user more productive since they are given better guidance by the user interface.
Lastly, this update brings the first iteration of cross-browser support, though I’ve heard conflicting answers on whether Safari on iPad will be supported in an on-premise environment in Q4…I hope so! We do get confirmation of Chrome and Firefox on Windows (I’ve seen live demos with both) and Safari on Mac OS.
Statement of Direction
Alongside the preview guide, Microsoft has published an updated Statement of Direction for the CRM product, which gives an idea of what to expect as a CRM online/on-prem customer or partner over the next 3 years.
Continued investment in sales force automation functionality. We can see this already in the Q4 release with the Process UI, but they’re also discussing improvements in team collaboration, quotation/pricing/ordering components, prospecting, planning, and performance management.
Increased investment in customer service. This will include emphasis on the sharing of knowledge, improved contact center capability, and multi-channel service.
Major increased investment in marketing automation. While some of this will undoubtedly be newly developed IP for Microsoft, their recent acquisition of MarketingPilot should give them a (much needed) jump-start in this area.
When I got my first taste of the next updates to CRM, I got really excited. Now it’s time to be patient, as these releases are made up by a lot of baby steps.