Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 – Fall 2013

In the fall of 2013 Microsoft will release their next major release of their Customer Relationship Management software, Dynamics CRM. The target date of this release is October 2013 and is a major step forward for those who desire a more intuitive, guided approach to CRM systems.  It also includes much needed enhancements in the realms of social collaboration and mobile access. Microsoft codenames intermediate releases after stars and originally planned for this release to be “Orion”. Microsoft has since made the decision for this to be a major release and have named it Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013. Some of the changes were partially available in the previous intermediate release named “Polaris”. This new release of CRM takes Polaris to an entirely new level. Below are a few highlights of the new platform:

Flat, Modern, Ubiquitous User Interface

  • The new user interface (UI) takes out much of the scrolling, clicking and “pop-ups” often associated with Dynamics CRM.  It has a more refined look and feel.

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  • The ribbon that used to be available across the top of the page has been streamlined and simplified, prominently displaying the most common used actions. Additional actions are available via the ellipsis drop down (which looks like three dots or “…”).  The redesigned ribbon is located in the top-left area just above the record type.
  • The enhanced UI simplifies the user experience and eliminates the classic navigation bar. This provides a great deal of additional real estate for higher valued, relevant information.

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  • The user experience has been significantly enhanced through an almost wholesale elimination of disorienting window “popups” in favor of a flat user experience, embedded window-quick forms and inline editing (including (finally!) support for the browser back button).
  • Until CRM 2013, customers requiring quote and order capabilities in CRM found the “popup” experience associated with these processes frustratingly cumbersome. A very significant enhancement we note is the streamlining of the Quote and Order processes which leverages the streamlined UI and inline editing of records (for example, Opportunity Products). Much better!

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Business Process Flow

  • In addition to the new UI, Microsoft provides a business process to be built into the records at the top of the page. This configurable flow allows a company to determine the recommended processes which need to be followed through a guided UI based on stages to complete various business practices, such as making a sale or servicing customer needs. There can be multiple flows depending on the needs of the business which updates dynamically based on user choice. The flow allows various records to automatically be opened based on a user’s present stage. This eliminates the decision work for the user. Like the stages, there are configurable actions in each stage to provide greater clarity and configured to meet business needs.

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Mobile Access

  • Previous releases of Dynamics CRM provided the lightweight “Mobile Express” which many found was not adequate for business needs. Many customers requiring mobile capabilities have relied on fully featured mobile ISV solutions. CRM 2013 has a mobile offering built in at no additional license fee freeing companies from the need to seek a third party ISV for a great mobile experience. For tablets, the iPad and Microsoft Windows 8 devices (including the Surface) are supported. Microsoft, iPhone and Android smart phones are also supported. Mobile will be accessible via a downloadable app from the device’s app store. The app will provide a user experience very similar to that of the browser, albeit scaled and adjusted to conform to the device’s screen limitations. This interface is optimized for touch.

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Social Media

  • Social media is a hot topic in business and is required for many companies. Microsoft has expanded on the “What’s New” and “Record Wall” features to make them more prominent on the CRM forms and dashboards, enabling internal communication in a social manner. In addition, with the acquisition of Yammer and its integration into CRM, companies may communicate not only with internal employees but with external customers and clients, all from a single application – Dynamics CRM. The relevant conversations from Yammer are pulled into the relevant records in CRM allowing users the ability to stay in the application and still receive the benefits of real-time conversations.*

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*Requires an additional license subscription. See Yammer for details.

There are many additional features and enhancements in the new CRM 2013 release. Some of these additional items include improvements to the native Outlook operation with CRM, searching across multiple entities, administration changes and business rules. As we get closer to release, we’ll learn many more details. Of course, if at any time you would like to discuss this or other CRM topics, feel free to contact us at crmdifference@fullscope.com.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Polaris

In  December  2012,  Microsoft  released  their  next  interim  release  to  significantly  increase  the  functionality  of  Dynamics  CRM.  Microsoft  introduced  a  brand  new  look  and  feel  in  their  user  experience  (UX)  which  they  call  the  “Flow  UX.” They’ve  given  this  overall  release  the  code  name  “Polaris”  (after the star of the same name).

Microsoft  has  invested  a  great  deal  of  time  enhancing  CRM  to  bring  it  into  today’s  technology  age.  The  flow  of  the  sales  process  has  been  drastically  refreshed  and  is  much  more  intuitive. They have also spruced up the service case entity. The following is a review of the UX improvements:

  • Lead,  opportunity,  account,  contact,  and  case  entities  have  a  new  UX:
    • Pros:
      • Overall,  the  flow  within  and  between  the  entities  feels  a  lot  easier  and  more  intuitive
      • Within  lead  and  opportunity  entities,  there  is  now  a  built  in  set  of  sales  stages  and  sales  steps  to  help  guide  one  through  the  sales  process  and  an  equivalent  Service  stages/steps  in  the case entitypolaris graphic 1
      • There  is a built in social feed,  a type of Facebook-like conversation flow which  can  include  Yammerpolaris graphic 2
      • Creating tasks and phone calls got a lot easierpolaris graphic 3
      • Viewing and creating notes is easierpolaris graphic 4
      • Data  is  automatically  saved  upon  closing  a  record  or  every  30  seconds
      • Bing  Maps  integration  is  included  on-scree
      • Skype  support  is  imbedded  to  auto-dial  outgoing  calls  (by phone or Skype to Skype… a Skype account is required)
      • The  navigation  side-bar  is  automatically  minimized,  but  still  accessible
      • Ability  to  revert  to  the  classic  screen

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      • Existing  Dynamics  CRM  2011  Online  users  can  choose  to  opt-in  to  the  new  UI  –  it  is  not  forced  (but once opted in, the conversion con mentioned below adjusts permanently
    • Cons
      • Conversion  from  lead  will  now  automatically  create  an  opportunity  record  whether  you  want  to  create  one  or  not
      • There  is  no  ribbon  access  on  the  new  form  without  completely  reverting  to  the  classic  formpolaris graphic 6
        • Cannot create of any new, related record (such as an activity). The  +  sign  add-option  works  somewhat  but  is  clunky  (but is not available at all for entities
        • No  recalculate  option  for  opportunities
        • No  “Add  to  Marketing  List”,  “Follow”,  “Run  Workflow”,  or  “Start  Dialog”  options  along  with  other  missing  options
      • The  new  sales/service  stages  and  steps  are  one-size-fits-all  and  there  is  no  ability  to  make  them  required
      • There  is  no  auto-conversion  of  classic  forms  into  the  new  format
      • Jscript  is  not  available  on  the  new  forms  OnLoad,  OnSave,  or  OnChange
      • Auto-saving  of  data  becomes  a  training  issue  not  to  adjust  records  for  “demonstration  purposes”

In addition to the UX changes above, Polaris included some additional changes:

  • Browser  support  for  Firefox,  Chrome,  and  Safaripolaris graphic 7
  • Multiple  organizations  are  available  in  a  single  deployment  without  having  to  pay  for  additional  licenses
    • A  potential  application  would  be  to  have  test  and  production  organizational  instances
  • The  Resource  Center  has  been  removed  from  the  main  left-hand  navigation  menu

Presently,  Microsoft  has  made  the  availability  of  Polaris  to  CRM  2011  Online  customers  only.   If  you  have  an  on-premise  implementation  of  CRM,  the  Flow  UX  won’t  be  available  until  the  release  of  CRM,  code  named  “Orion”  coming  out  sometime  in  Q3  2013.   Until  then,  on  premise  users  can  at  least  experience  the  browser  updates  via  Update  Rollup  12.

Overall,  the  Polaris  release  is  a  good  next  step  forward  and  will  help  in  combatting  some  of  the  weaknesses  of  the  classic  UX  as  compared  to  some  of  Microsoft’s  competitors.   For  organizations  already  accustomed  to  using  Dynamics  CRM,  some  of  the  drawbacks  in  the  new  Process  UX  may  present  some  challenges.   Organizations  new  to  Dynamics  CRM  may  not  notice  all  or  any  of  the  drawbacks,  depending  on  their  needs.   Generally  speaking,  it  feels  like  there  are  several  additional  components  that  Microsoft  would  have  included  but  decided  to  postpone  to  a  later  date.   What  exactly  these  were,  I  hope  will  be  additional  activity  options  and  putting  back  in  the  loss  of  some  of  the  ribbon  options.   We  will  have  to  wait  for  Orion  to  find  out  for  sure.   In  the  meantime,  Polaris  provides  many  new  opportunities  to  provide  customer  relationship  management  than  we  had  before.