I was not admirer of Microsoft CRM Technologies but sometimes you just need to realize that you hang around with same perception about a technology without realizing that sometimes you become a laggard and technology march forward. This is true about Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft is betting big time on this technology. In 2009, the Microsoft customer relationship management (CRM) product, then at its fourth major release, grew notably and surpassed 1 million licensed users. In 2011, the product crossed the “2 million users” mark in more than 80 countries and 40 languages. The CRM software-as-a-service (SaaS) market has grown substantially in the last few years, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM has been the predominant beneficiary of that market demand.
Microsoft competitors and market observers might poke fun at the company’s occasional product flops and/or “to market” tardiness, but Microsoft Dynamics CRM would not be that example. Quite the contrary, the offering is seeing success in customers of all sizes, across many industries, and in all available geographies. The flexible CRM solution provides the power of productivity through familiar, intelligent, and connected experiences for organizations of all sizes. Another stellar product for Microsoft is Microsoft SharePoint. It is interesting to note that many customers use Microsoft Dynamics CRM and SharePoint in tandem, partly due to SharePoint’s Web site and portal capabilities.
Meet Mr. Avatar 2011
In early 2011, Microsoft brought significant innovation and value to its customers with the launch of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 worldwide. This was another significant milestone for the Microsoft Dynamics CRM program. Why? Few points to consider.
· New markets—Prior to the release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, the online version was available only in the United States (USA), Canada, and Puerto Rico; outside of North America, Microsoft partners had to host the solution for customers to use the product. As of Jan , 2011, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is available in 40 markets and 41 languages.
· Additional capabilities—The 2011 release delivered a broad range of new capabilities for its customers, including role-tailored dashboards, a new level of Microsoft Outlook integration, expanded business process management(BPM) through guided dialogs, and a brand new Performance Management module.
· Customer wins—Customers reportedly continue to choose Microsoft Dynamics CRM over the competition. For example, Century Payments switched from salesforce.com to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and is realizing $300,000 (USD) in annual savings. The switch took just 2 weeks and in the first 6 months, the company was able to triple the number of sales agents, from 50 to 160. In addition to using Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online for lead management, the company took advantage of the product’s flexibility and used it to support other business needs. Other examples of customers that have switched to Microsoft Dynamics CRM and are realizing financial benefits include Hitachi Consulting, BioMedix Vascular Solutions, Jones Lang LaSalle , and IGH Solutions.
· Market success—The combination of new markets, customer wins, and additional capabilities has seen the continuing success of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM program overall. At its recent worldwide partner conference, Microsoft announced that the product had surpassed 30,000 customers, 2,000,000 users, and had achieved 29 consecutive quarters of double-digit growth. These results are a testament to the value customers see from Microsoft Dynamics CRM. One major revelation was Microsoft’s immense efforts in making Microsoft Dynamics CRM social in terms of collaboration and crowd sourcing (to listen to their customers). The vendor admits that salesforce.com might have sucked the air out of the social CRM room with its Salesforce Chatter and “Social Enterprise” themes. If anything, Microsoft believes to be ahead of the game with its Office 365 integration capabilities (Chatter is not yet in the unified communications [UC] game).Another revelation was in regard to the product’s lesser-known customer service (care) capabilities, which even entail knowledge management (KM) capabilities. Again, RightNow (soon to be part of Oracle), salesforce.com’s Service Cloud 3,KANA Software ,Consona CRM , and Oracle (with Siebel CRM and the recent acquisition of InQuira) typically come to mind as leaders in that space. Native marketing effectiveness capabilities are also notable.
In late October 2011, Microsoft announced the general availability of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM November 2011 Service Update. This release delivers new integrated social collaboration capabilities, as well as a common experience with Office 365 and enhancements for enterprises using Microsoft Dynamics CRM in the cloud. These new features are delivered at no additional cost to customers and are directly integrated into the tools they’re already using.With the new release, Microsoft Dynamics CRM introduces new social collaboration capabilities that include:
· Activity Feeds: Configurable, real-time notifications on important relationships and significant business events via a blended view of micro-blog posts and all interactions for a person, customer, or sales opportunity.
· Micro-blogging: Status updates and notifications regarding business events and actions, bringing simple experiences for users similar to Facebook and Twitter.
· Conversations: Users can post questions, observations, suggestions, and status updates, allowing them to collaborate quickly and efficiently, locate information or expertise, and gather feedback from others.
· Automated activity updates: Users can post information directly to the activity feed based on configurable event rules, e.g., when a sales opportunity is closed. People can subscribe to or “follow” these activity feeds, and consume them in a variety of ways.
· Mobile Activity Feeds: A new Microsoft Dynamics CRM Activity Feeds for mobile application for Windows Phone 7 allows users to be able to view their activity feeds while away from the office.
Some “Real Deal” CRM Capabilities
· Mobile Express for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011—provides users with a Web-based CRM client that works on any HTML rendering device, small or large. The UI can be customized to show only the types of objects that an organization wants to expose to mobile users.
· Microsoft Dynamics CRM Activity Feeds—The November 2011 Service Update will deliver the first of several waves of social innovation for Microsoft Dynamics CRM. This release will deliver activity feeds, which simplify business insight and collaboration across internal communities. Activity feeds will enable a user to follow and listen in on important activities that take place around the people, accounts, contacts, leads, sales deals (opportunities), or anything else that they care about. This frees users from having to keep track of a lot of information—instead they can utilize Microsoft Dynamics CRM to provide them with the information they need in an intelligent and timely manner. The status for all activity feeds can be posted manually by users or automatically updated based on predefined system rules through workflow, e.g., post a status when an opportunity is won. Activity feeds can also be posted to/by external applications through the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Web services API. Activity feeds expose Microsoft Lync presence functionality so that users can initiate communication activities such as instant messenger (IM), phone calls, e-mails, etc. Like all other functionality in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Activity Feeds respect the core security model to ensure that the right information is shared with the right people. These capabilities will be available for both online and on-premise customers.
· Mobile Activity Feeds for Microsoft Dynamics CRM—Coupled with the new internal social collaboration capabilities provided by activity feeds, the November 2011 Service Update will deliver a mobile client for activity feeds that runs on Windows Phone 7.5. This application enables real-time views of activity feeds that the user has subscribed to in Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Users can post statuses, questions, answers, and comments directly from their phone into CRM Activity Feeds. Additionally, users will have read-only access Accounts, Contacts, Leads, and Opportunities to allow them to stay on top of key customer information even when they are out of the office. Finally, the forms for the mobile application are configured in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, just like any other form for the Web and Outlook clients. This application is available for both online and on-premise customers.
The CRM accelerators having been enthusiastically embraced by the market. There are the following three stages of support:
- Dynamics lab program—Many accelerators, including partner relationship management (PRM), eService, event management, and customer care, were added to the Microsoft Dynamics lab program and updated over time.
- Added to the current release—Analytics, business data auditing, and workflow tools were absorbed into the core product and added as base features in the 2011 release.
- Planned for a future release—Social networking, enterprise search, and news feed dashboards have been incorporated into the future product roadmap and will be released as core features during the next 3–24 months.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM also meets the changing expectations of customers with a service solution that is robust and flexible. It includes the following capabilities:
· Service Scheduling: Managing field service appointments, facilities, and resources with the powerful unified service scheduling feature.
· Streamlined Case Management: Taking advantage of intuitive case management capabilities to streamline case creation, tracking, resolution, and escalation.
· Native Outlook Client: Centrally managing contacts, calendaring, service tasks, and e-mail through a familiar Microsoft Outlook interface for improved efficiencies.
· Advanced Personalization: Spending less time looking for information and more time serving customers with personal views, most recently used lists, and record pinning.
· Full Interaction History: Tracking the details of every interaction, including offers, orders, contracts, and cases, so you can provide the right service at the right time.
· Service Response: Enabling faster, more effective responses with built-in mail-merge, e-mail templates, and one-click conversion of e-mail messages to cases.
· Purchase History: Tracking product purchasing history, contracts, and key renewal dates so agents can take proactive action and offer relevant services or products.
· Insightful Service Analytics: Deepening insight with out-of-the-box or configurable dashboards, drill-down analysis, and inline data visualization capabilities.
· Service Queue Management: Building queues against any entity, user, or team and streamlining work state management for improved efficiency.
· Service Record Auditing: Improving visibility into service and support activities and effectively meeting service level agreements(SLAs) with system-wide auditing.
· Guided Service Processes: Streamlining case resolution and escalations with guided dialogs, automated processes, and conditional formatting rules.
· Service Goal Management: Instantly tracking service goals, such as first call resolution, average call time, and more with comprehensive goal management capabilities.
· Centralized Document Management: Managing cases, service contracts, FAQs, and more with embedded Microsoft SharePoint document management capabilities.
· Knowledge Management: Up-leveling your customer service skills by creating, retrieving, and sharing knowledge through a shared knowledge repository.
· Service Team Management: Facilitating internal collaboration and coordinated problem resolution with team management capabilities and real-time communication tools.
· Web Self-Service: Empowering customers to find answers, create their own cases, and schedule service appointments through the Web 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
· Unified Desktop: Using your CRM solution to deliver a unified service desktop that combines service applications within a single, streamlined interface. Users have the capability to create desktop clients for contact center employees via the customer care accelerator.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 includes a strong set of basic marketing capabilities. These were enhanced in this release to include support for dynamic marketing lists, more flexible segmentation tools, and richer dashboards and analytics. They offer a robust solution for companies conducting many business-to-business (B2B) marketing activities, such as web-to-lead processes. Where customers have a requirement for complex multichannel and/or high volume business-to-consumer (B2C) activities (e.g., e-mail campaigns), they often supplement core functionality with excellent partner add-ons from our extensive ecosystem.
MS Dynamics CRM is definitely a true challenger to all the Marque CRM suites out in the Market. A true technologist is one who embraces a technology that transform businesses and I strongly advocate every CRM professional to have a look at this technology.