Microsoft is rolling out a service update for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online for both the partner-hosted and on-premises deployments.
The update includes its promised “Activity Feeds,” as well as administrative enhancements and stepped-up disaster recovery practices.
Microsoft has put Dynamics CRM on a rapid release schedule, Brad Wilson, general manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, told CRM Buyer. “We are introducing new features every six months, bringing different capabilities to our customers with every iteration.”
Chief among the new features is Microsoft Dynamic CRM’s Activity Feeds — its answer to Salesforce.com’s Chatter feature.
These are configurable, real-time notifications on relationships and business events. They can apply to anything business-related, from a customer to a sales opportunity.
Users can post information directly to the activity feed based on event rules — say, when a sales opportunity is closed, or when a new person has joined a team. The feed is then subscribed to, or followed, by whomever is interested in that particular event.
Other new social features include microblogging, enhanced with status updates, notification features, and more functionality around conversations — meaning users are able to post questions, observations and status updates to more easily collaborate and gather feedback.
“Microsoft is making a lot of investments in social right now,” Wilson said.
Oftentimes, this investment originated with other product research and development, and Microsoft leveraged it to be used across a suite of products, he explained.
One example is Microsoft Office’s social connector, shades of which can be found in Dynamics CRM and Sharepoint.
“What we are doing is leveraging the line of business relationship model we have built over the years,” Wilson said.
‘A Good Package’
In addition to the new social capabilities, updates include new features around business intelligence, such as more advanced charting and reporting. The dialogue function has been souped up so a greater number of topics can trigger conversations.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM is also gearing up to offer cross-browser functionality for the first half of next year, with plans to support Chrome, Firefox and Safari.
Further, Dynamics CRM now has a stronger focus on disaster recovery and more robust back-end administrative functionality.
The bigger picture to these changes, Wilson said, is a more unified experience with Office 365.
The application has unified the different interfaces for Dynamics CRM and CRM Online for the back end, such as administration, provisions and billings. The disaster recovery process has been shored up, with service rolling over to another data center located in the same region when one data center fails. So if a data center located somewhere in North America fails, it is backed up by a data center also located in North America.
Taken as a whole, it is a good package, Nucleus Research Vice President Rebecca Wettemann told CRM Buyer. “The BI capabilities will be an important differentiator for Microsoft, for example.”
The social media features also are significant, she said. “Microsoft recognizes that there will be multiple social networks any organization will want to manage, such as outside groups or customers or partners. It is laying the groundwork for new tools that can best target these groups.”
The application is strengthened by Microsoft’s stepped-up focus on integration of its product lines, she also noted.
“A lot of the value proposition for Microsoft Dynamics CRM has been integration with other Microsoft technology,” said Wettemann. “It is clear that Microsoft’s focus is on driving a productive enterprise.”