Microsoft Convergence begins today, with a flurry of announcements set to come from the conference. While the lid is firmly on any news from the Barcelona event over the next few days, recent Microsoft moves in the area of CRM as well as its overall strategy hint at what updates we might hear this week.
Here are five talking points worth noting as the conference unfolds.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015
Revealed in September, Dynamics CRM 2015 is due for release in the fourth quarter of 2014 – round about now – and will be the latest iteration of both the on-premise and cloud versions of Dynamics (the latter known as Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2015).
First of all, the new release will include allow users to access Microsoft Social Listening – its social media monitoring tool – from both Online and on-premise versions of the service, making the popular tool much more available to all kinds of users, according to a Microsoft post.
Secondly, improved search capabilities will make it easier to find customer records on the web app. In older versions of Dynamics CRM, users could only perform a ‘quick find’ across multiple types of records on the tablet app, but now desktop users can use this too via the web app. It also features a more sophisticated search facility via the ‘Advanced’ button.
Lastly, sales managers will now have the ability to bundle together related products to make offers more attractive to potential customers, and tailor pricelists to customer segments and salespeople’s individual territories.
Office 365 integration
CEO Satya Nadella underlined his ascension to the CEO role with a focus on a cloud-first, mobile-first strategy this year. That strategy is in large part focused on tying together all Microsoft business tools via the cloud, and Dynamics CRM is no exception.
Earlier this month, Redmond revealed the availability of a new sales productivity tool combining Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Professional with Office 365 and Power BI. It claims that at a promotional price of $65 per user, per month, and $45 per user, per month for existing 365 customers, that pegs the tool at nearly half the cost of comparable offerings.
Bob Stutz, corporate VP of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, said: "The importance of combining powerful productivity tools with business applications is something that Microsoft Dynamics has recognized all along — indeed it is core to our strategy.
"We have been building our products to work seamlessly together from day one, and this new offering makes it even easier for our customers to benefit from this combination of solutions today: Microsoft Dynamics CRM plus Office 365 plus Power BI is a winning bet."
Breaking down silos
Redmond sees co-operation between sales and marketing as the next stage in developing a coherent, and more successful, sales strategy.
To this end, it wants to break down the ‘silos’ of those separate but related departments to allow them to work together better. It sees Dynamics CRM 2015 as the solution to doing that.
"Whereas our competitors seem to want to keep these business functions siloed, even giving them their own separate ‘clouds’, at Microsoft we recognize the need for marketers, salespeople and service agents to align their efforts," said Schultz. He claimed that the new Dynamics release will be the only CRM tool enabling marketers to plan campaigns and providing sales teams with insight into how marketers targeted specific customers, giving them the chance to pitch them appropriately.
Ray Wang, principal analyst and founder of Constellation Research, said: "Closing the gap between marketing and sales is required for a successful customer experience. Organisations need tools to track the customer interactions from marketing to sales and back, collaborate on leads and opportunities, and measure the metrics that matter to both sales and marketing."
More focus on mobile
Nadella’s new open Microsoft is trying to rebrand itself as a company far away from the old focus on Windows and Office and much more in step with the new mobile and tablet-using workforce.
So it makes sense that it has has updated its mobile front end for Dynamics, optimising the UI for tablet and boosting the intuitiveness of the touchscreen interface.
Redmond has released colour coding to prioritise actions, and a simplified invoice design boasting interoperability with Word, in which Power BI users can create their own invoice templates.
Delivering on Parature acquisition
It is also possible we will see some further development of Parature’s technology into the customer care part of Microsoft’s CRM offering, following its $100m deal for the firm back in January.
According to a ZDNet-cited blog post (quickly pulled down) from Redmond partner Marc Sallin, a new release of Parature, codenamed Phoenix, is due for release before the end of the year.
It already announced integration of Parature into Dynamics CRM in the US Convergence event in Atlanta back in March, and the cloud-based tool allows companies to monitor and analyse all their customer interactions across all platforms.
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