While Microsoft is preparing Dynamics CRM 2015 for release next month, users are wondering what Microsoft will do for an encore after CRM 2013 brought a completely new user interface to bring the application in line with Microsoft’s Metro UI corporate design language. Well, armed with an early copy of Dynamics CRM 2015 (code-named “Vega”) I have compiled a list of five exciting new features I’ve found and that I’m looking forward to getting my own hands on, as well as leveraging for my customers. Here they are...
1. Multi-Entity “Global” Search
One of the most common requests we get from our customers at eLogic is the ability to use Dynamics’ excellent Quick Find across entities. Currently, CRM 2013 supports Quick Find on individual entities only, and it must be configured per entity as well if you wish to deviate from the stock searchable fields.
However, that’s all changing with CRM 2015 as Microsoft is finally bringing Multi-Entity (or “Global”) search to the masses! Now located near the Quick Create button in the top navigation bar, this new search capability will scour multiple entities at once and is entirely configurable in much the same way the entity-specific Quick Find function is.
2. Cortana Voice Integration
Microsoft has made a big deal of Cortana, Redmond’s answer to Siri and Google Now, since they rolled it out earlier in 2014 alongside Windows Phone 8.1. The popular voice assistant client has been a hit with Windows Phone users and gets high marks for accuracy, interface and feedback.
On Tuesday, in a surprise announcement, Microsoft announced that Cortana would be bringing her talents to the Dynamics CRM application for Windows Phone 8.1. This marks the first time any CRM system will be able to leverage voice commands, and the good news is that it will work out of the box and with the free Dynamics CRM app, meaning no extra cost or separate application needed.
At launch with CRM 2015, users will be able to set up meetings, trigger reminders, search for accounts, contacts and activities and even create new records. As the technology matures, more features will be added based on usage and customer feedback.
Primarily aimed at salespeople who will now be able to multi-task safely while driving, the feature is sure to be a hit with those now getting used to leveraging voice commands for more and more of their interactions with technology.
While I won’t be able to test the Cortana integration for myself until I can secure a copy of the updated Windows Phone application, what I’ve read has been extremely promising. No word yet on whether Microsoft eventually plans to integrate other voice-activation technologies on iOS or Android platforms, but the safe money would be with this remaining a Windows Phone exclusive feature.
3. Software Compatibility & Support
This one might be a bit distressing for corporate IT folks who are currently still leaning on some of Microsoft’s older software versions for compatibility reasons. With Dynamics CRM 2015, Microsoft is retiring support for three big platforms:
a. The Windows XP operating system.
b. Internet Explorer versions 8 & 9.
c. The Office 2007 suite of products.
What this actually means in practice remains to be seen; whether the application will still be usable on these now unsupported platforms is the big question. Certainly users still using any of the above will be limited in functionality, and should expect more frequent hangs and crashes as a best case; and as a worst case the application simply may not load.
Overall, it’s probably best to start making plans to upgrade to Windows 8.1, IE11 and Office 365, which will enable the entire suite of Microsoft Dynamics integration and ensure continued support for a number of years, while also providing an overall better and smoother experience.
4. Tablet Improvements
When Microsoft released their Dynamics CRM tablet application last year, users were very positive about the slick interface and the fact that Microsoft was giving it away for free, but the application lacked a few key features compared to competitor applications and even some third-party Dynamics CRM applications.
With CRM 2015, Microsoft is addressing two of the most common complaints.
Once released, CRM 2015 and its tablet application will support the use of all the same dashboards that are available to users in the online version of the application. Previously, users were restricted to a quite limited Sales Dashboard. This move will enable users to more seamlessly move from their laptop to tablet without feeling like they’re losing a great deal of functionality.
Microsoft has also announced that their tablet application will now feature an offline mode that will allow users to create and update records even without a wireless internet connection, then syncing later as soon as the device is back in range of an internet connection. As many salespeople can contest, this is a big deal; nothing is more frustrating that being in the middle of a large industrial manufacturing facility with no Wi-Fi access and a no service on your cellular device and trying to scramble to find a way to capture notes about your account or log activities without access to your CRM application.
5. Improved Business Process Flows & Rules
For CRM 2015, Microsoft has enhanced the Business Process Flows & Business Rules functions within CRM. Business Process Flows now support full branching logic out of the box.
Business Rules also got an upgrade with CRM 2015, and can now contain powerful If/Then expressions, which eliminate the need for separate rules for more complex, multi-tiered logic.
There’s plenty more to discover in CRM 2015, including better hierarchal security, improved Service Level Agreement (SLA) functionality and new hierarchical views of record relationships (think how handy this will be for complex Account and Contact structures!)
I’m sure there are a few surprises baked into CRM 2015 as well, and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a final version of the software; thus far however I’ve been very impressed with the functionality and performance of the preview instance we at eLogic have add access to for several weeks now as a Microsoft Gold Partner.