Microsoft Dynamics Update Promises 'CRM Anywhere'
Greater attention on mobile functionality is at the heart of the next release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. That is "very important now with so many companies operating in the mobile environment," said Nucleus Research VP Rebecca Wettemann. "We see a considerable increase in productivity coming from companies that employ mobile CRM access."
Microsoft has taken the wraps off of its forthcoming service update to Microsoft Dynamics CRM, which will be released in Q2 2012.
The service update will build on Microsoft's rollouts last year in such areas as social CRM and mobile, Craig Dewar, director of Microsoft Dynamics CRM's product management group, told CRM Buyer.
"We are on the path to deliver a significant new set of capabilities," he said.
The reason for the early overview is that enterprise customers like to see a road map of forthcoming features as soon as possible, Dewar said. "It allows our customers to do their planning."
A recurring theme in the changes is the product's tagline, "CRM Anywhere."
"The new set of capabilities we will offer enable people to access the application from a broad range of mobile devices and a broad set of browsers, noted Dewar.
With this update Microsoft is introducing Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobile, a hosted service that lets customers access the application from just about any mobile device, regardless of the deployment model they have chosen. In addition to Windows Phone 7, platform options include iOS, Android and BlackBerry.
The company used xRM, the application development framework of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, to integrate what happens in the mobile environment to the existing Microsoft Dynamics CRM environment.
"This is a true native client," Dewar explained. "That matters, because it eases the integration headaches that can occur between dialing, mapping, geolocation and email capability."
For example, the service offers click-to-call, which is a common mobile feature, he said. "But then the system asks you if you want to track the call in the CRM application. So it will take note who the call was to, the duration of the call, notes about the call -- and store it all in the CRM app."
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobile will be available at a starting price of US$30 per user, per month. It supports the use of up to three devices per user.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Q2 2012 service update also builds on the company's push to support as many browsers as possible. This iteration includes support for Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox and Safari running on PC, Macintosh and iPad devices.
"This was done because of customer demand and general market usage trends," Dewar said. "We have customers in different countries and industries, and they require different browsers for their operations."
Emphasizing Social Media
The new service update also supports more social functions with features such as Activity Feeds that let users "like" and "unlike" status updates, improved status filtering, and the ability to view all statuses related to a particular record view.
"This is to give the user as much control as possible for what they see in their activity feeds," said Dewar.
It could be that a customer service rep cares only about status updates for particular accounts. Ditto a sales rep.
Business Intelligence, IT Certifications
The service update is also providing more support for Microsoft Dynamics' business intelligence modules, giving users more options to visualize and display data.
Finally, there are new IT certifications available for the application, which is very important for some customers, Dewar said. Companies that operate in the EU have to comply with specific requirements for privacy, for example, and IT certifications can help meet those requirements.
More Usable, Accessible
All in all, the service update scores big in terms of usability and accessibility, Nucleus Research Vice President Rebecca Wettemann told CRM Buyer.
"The ability to view Microsoft CRM data from the mobile perspective is very important now with so many companies operating in the mobile environment," she said.
"We see a considerable increase in productivity coming from companies that employ mobile CRM access," noted Wettemann. "The same with browser access -- it is a smart move on Microsoft's part to provide this."