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For many years, Microsoft's CRM strategy was to provide updates in a big-bang approach; every few years it released a new version with a host of new features. Today, that schedule has changed, and Dynamics CRM 2016 will be updated more rapidly than in prior versions.
With cloud computing, the mega-update approach to product updates shifted, and now new features are rolled out regularly. To help CRM administrators keep up with what's around the corner, Microsoft has published an entire website dedicated to product changes, called Microsoft Dynamics CRM Roadmap. It is an outstanding resource for reviewing features that range from early-stage ideas to actual functions in the Dynamics CRM 2016 release.
While the CRM roadmap website provides valuable insight, CRM administrators now face the challenge of quantifying the business value of new functionality and determining how new features may affect users.
To help with this, let's look at three features on the docket for Microsoft Dynamics CRM to decipher the business benefits.
1. Dynamics CRM 2016: Document templates
Challenge: Previously, if a user -- or an administrator -- wanted to display CRM data in a richly formatted Word or Excel document, the only way was through the mail merge process or by writing a custom report. The skills required for building these documents are sparse, and, inevitably, requests go unfulfilled.
Answer: Document templates in Dynamics CRM 2016 enable any CRM user with the right permissions to create a document in Microsoft Word or Excel. The templates provide all the features of those programs and allow you to enter CRM references into a document and distribute it in your CRM organization.
Benefits: Give someone a report and you will keep him happy for a day; teach someone how to create document templates and you will keep them off your back forever -- almost. CRM administrators can show users how to use document templates themselves. Users get their documents quicker and can access them whenever they wish. This results in cost and time savings -- and happy end users.
2. Mobile offline capabilities
Challenge: With so many users relying on Microsoft Dynamics CRM mobile apps, the ability to access, update and analyze CRM data on the move has gone from nice-to-have to must-have in a CRM deployment. The challenge comes when you need to provide a rich mobile experience, even when users have little to no data connection.
Answer: Enhanced Dynamics CRM mobile offline capabilities. This update provides users with a richer experience, opening up features that were previously available only with a data connection. Users no longer have to save items as drafts to be uploaded later. In addition, conflict resolution is handled smoothly.
Update Roll-Ups comes of age
Beginning with Dynamics CRM 2013, Update Roll-Ups, historically nothing more than a glorified patch with bug fixes, came with greater frequency and with significant functional improvements. No longer did users have to wait two years for the next version for the functionality they needed; it was available every quarter.
From a user-acceptance point of view, this is priceless. Incremental changes are much easier for users to adjust to rather than huge jumps forward. Especially when those changes involve the user interface -- CRM 2013, we're looking at you.
Ultimately, this means two things. First, Microsoft has caught up with the pack and, according to Gartner, Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a "market leader" in sales force automation, a space previously dominated by only Salesforce. Second, it has made life easier for CRM system administrators.
Benefits: The biggest compliment we could pay to this feature is to say that users won't notice whether they are truly online or not. The user experience in the app is so seamless, with or without data, that users won't be distracted by connectivity issues that affect performance. (There's no more dangling from the meeting room window to get a signal.)
3. Guided User Navigation
Challenge: One of the key strengths of the Dynamics CRM 2016 platform is flexibility. While customizing how a product works for your business processes is great, a heavily customized system can be difficult for end users to take advantage of.
Answer: The Guided User Navigation feature allows you to add live, scenario-based guided tasks and sidebars personalized to users based on their role to show them what they need to do and how to do it. These are fully customizable and can provide users with a resource that can be dipped into at any point in your business process.
Benefits: In terms of onboarding users, this is a huge benefit. Imagine giving your users the ability to click a sidebar at any point to get contextual help content, even video, that tells them what they need to do -- all of it linked to their job role. In terms of onboarding users, this will dramatically speed up the process and potentially reduce the need for instructor-led training.
From these features, we can clearly see one thing: Microsoft is serious about Dynamics CRM and it is here to stay. Not only that, but they really want everyone -- from users to organizations implementing the customer relationship management platform -- to see real tangible benefits.
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