Social Engagement on Microsoft Dynamics 365

Because the name has changed, and the product has evolved, there is some confusion about the details around what is now known as “Social Engagement” and Microsoft Dynamics 365. This article aims to clear up any confusion and to also explain what can be done with this component in the context of Microsoft Dynamics 365.

Background and Setup


Social Engagement (formerly known as Social Listening) provides the ability for users to track and analyze social communications across public networks about specific topics. There is a broad range of social “channels” that can be monitored, such as blogs and social apps. Within these channels are the obvious sources, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, to name a few. This is accomplished with “Social Profiles”, each of which is a little different to set up, depending on the policies of the social provider. For instance, for Facebook, there are “access tokens” that need to be set up and renewed periodically. For other sources, the setup is a bit simpler. Each profile is created as needed in order to establish a source of information.

Once the sources are identified and configured, data acquisition begins. Because Social Engagement has a limit of 10,000 posts collected per month, there sometimes needs to be adjustment made to the topics to narrow or broaden the search. For this reason, it should be understood that Social Engagement is something that needs to be monitored itself. After some data has begun to be collected, the application provides for a rich set of analysis tools. Figure 1 below shows a typical dashboard:

Figure 1 – Typical Dashboard for Microsoft Social Engagement

Integration with Microsoft Dynamics 365

Social Engagement comes with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Enterprise Plan 1, as well as the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Enterprise Sales and Service apps. However, it is essentially a standalone product that is configured in a separate “tile” in the Office 365 admin portal as shown below.

Note that in the Office 365 Admin center, Dynamics 365 and Social Engagement are managed separately, as each has their own “Admin Center.” However, they can be configured to integrate with each other.  What this specifically means is that data that is automatically captured in Social Engagement can be moved into Microsoft Dynamics 365, both automatically and manually. 

The integration starting point is found in the management section of Social Engagement. In Settings  Connections you will find the ability to connect to both Microsoft Dynamics 365 and even Microsoft Azure Event Hubs, which is used to process massive amounts of data.

Once you have connected your Social Engagement to your instance of Microsoft Dynamics 365, you have the ability to bring that data into your CRM system.

 

An example of how this integration can work is shown in the figure below, which is a part of Social Engagement called the “Social Center.”  In this instance, I have selected a post in Social Engagement that could be a lead in CRM.  To bring up this window clicked the link as shown and I can now create the lead from the post itself.  Once I click Create a lead with show up in Dynamics 365 for me to interact with in my defined sales process in Dynamics 365.

 

This is a demonstration of the ability to create a lead from a social post without leaving Social Engagement.
As you can see, by clicking on the small link icon (circled here) it’s also possible to create Cases (service requests) from posts in the same way. It’s also possible to automate this. For instance, it’s possible to configure the integration in a way where certain posts are added automatically as social activities in Dynamics 365, and then create a workflow in Dynamics 365 to convert certain types of social activities to Cases or Leads.  More information as to precisely how to achieve this is found here.

New Features

A few new features have recently introduced as explained below.

Selling Assistant

With this new feature your team can get personalized recommendations to share on their social networks and enable them to increase their social presence, and ultimately generate more leads. As with all parts of Social Engagement, this requires some configuration – particularly “Get Insights” where users will configure groups of topics that will generate insightful recommendations. This is configured in the new “Social Selling” tile in the Social Engagement app.  Once it is configured, the Social Selling Assistant will provide recommendations, such as the one shown below, where it is suggesting that I Share a post.

Social Insights, Relationship Insights and Customer Insights

This is where it might get a little confusing, because “Social Insights” is a borrowed part of what used to be called Inside View and is now called simply Insights.  Same for Relationship Insight sand Customer Insights.  Previously, Inside View provided information streamed into Microsoft Dynamics CRM about a given Company or topic.  This ability has now been applied to Social Engagement and the Selling Assistant, where there is now an “Assistant” section of the activity pane.  The Relationship Assistant will present a “card” which appears as a sort of reminder as shown below, which is reminding me front and center on the first dashboard I see when I log in about an important task. The same is true for the Selling Assistant. For Customer Insights, an Azure subscription is required and additional configuration as well. Shown below are some “cards” presented in Microsoft Dynamics 365 from the Relationship Insight assistant.

The same card appears under the Assistant section in my Activity Pane:

Summary

Social Engagement as a standalone product provides a one-stop shop for the collection and intelligent analysis of selected parts of the massive social universe that is available to us.  It is a way to focus and present to you and your staff what you may consider the most important part of the “noise” – the part that matters to your business.
Beyond the use of the standalone product, it becomes especially powerful when the data collected from Social Engagement makes its way into the platform you use for sales and service, such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Enterprise for Sales and/or Service.
The product continues to evolve, especially with the merging of Insights and Social Engagement, and with the release of various “Assistants” to feed actionable information to the Dynamics 365 user. Properly configured, these improvements can have a real impact on the productivity of your teams.
The fact that Microsoft now offers this as an integral part of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Enterprise at no additional cost provides a compelling reason to take the time to configure this powerful solution and integration. If you have questions beyond what they article provides, or if you need help in configuring this solution,  please feel free to reach out to us for more information.

 

 

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Getting Started with Dynamics 365 PowerApps

Today, the business world relies heavily on mobile technology. We don’t just work from cubicles, offices and desktop computers; we work from subways and taxis, coffee shops, and basically anywhere that we are. We have the luxury of being able to tackle nearly any work-related task from our phones.

It’s not unheard of, however, that some business tasks still have to be done on computers. Mobile apps for business tasks have lagged behind. Those apps that do exist have not always been as comprehensive or accessible as desktop solutions.

Microsoft saw this issue and presented a remedy: Microsoft PowerApps, which is part of Microsoft Dynamics 365.

But what is PowerApps? Essentially, it’s a simple way for the average person to create the apps they, specifically, need, while leveraging the rich and diverse data sets that are provided with the Dynamics 365 Business and Enterprise Editions.

Developers and other employees alike can quickly create the apps they need with data they already have, be it on-premises or cloud-based.

PowerApps will appear within the app menu of Office 365. Upon logging in for the first time, users will be met with a couple things. In addition to a popup window explaining, in the simplest of terms, what PowerApps can do, there will be several short videos and images showing the user how to go about getting started. In the bottom left corner of the screen, there is a New app button. Click this button, then choose one of the two options that appear: PowerApps Studio for Windows or PowerApps Studio for web. If you aren’t running Windows 8 or 10, you’ll want to choose the web version.

If you’ve chosen PowerApps for Windows, click Get when the page appears, then click Launch once PowerApps has downloaded. If you’ve chosen the web version, you can skip that step.

Within the New tab, choose to either start with your data, or start with a blank canvas or template. For this example, we’ll start with existing data. Click Phone layout for the desired data connection.

Choose the desired dataset from the list that appears

Choose the desired table, then click Connect

The page that appears will allow you to design the app; you’ll choose what order you want data to appear, whether or not to include images, and more. After designing the app, you can share it with any desired individuals.

Don’t think you’re stuck because you don’t have an app that does what you need; PowerApps makes it not only possible, but easy, to create the apps you need in just a few minutes.

Please feel free to reach out to us if you need help with PowerApps or have additional questions.

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Microsoft Dynamics 365 Release

Today (11/1/2016) marks the first Microsoft Dynamics 365 release – specifically, the initial release of Dynamics 365 Business Edition in the US and Canada (initially consisting of Dynamics 365 for Financials), and the release of Dynamics 365 Enterprise Edition worldwide. In 2017, not only will additional Dynamics 365 apps come out (for Sales and Marketing for the Business edition), but Dynamics 365 for Financials will be released in an additional four countries. This bold set of applications together are being billed as nothing less than a “Digital Transformation” of businesses of all sizes.

In short, Dynamics 365 helps you automate and streamline your business processes as comprehensively as you like. It is the only cloud-based solution that tackles your customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) needs in one place, along with Office 365, using a “Common Data Model” (CDM). Whether you need tools for sales, customer service, operations, financials, field service, project service automation, or marketing, Dynamics 365 has an app. Today’s release provides the first day of general availability for most of those solutions. The value proposition here is that businesses of all sizes can choose just what they need and pay for those tools to get started, and then grow into a wider set of functions as required.

For small business, today is the first day that Dynamics 365 Business is available, which, at the moment, consists of the “Financials” app.  The Business edition is intended for small businesses with between 10 and 250 employees (although there is no minimum seat count), and allows for simplified accounting and business management. Dynamics 365 for Financials was previously in preview in the US and Canada as Microsoft Project Madeira, and in terms of functionality, it is based on Microsoft Dynamics NAV. It provides contact management and financials for small business with features such as Quotes, Orders, Invoices as well as accounting functions.

NOTE: since Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online will no longer be available, and Microsoft recognizes that this will leave a gap for small businesses until the Sales app becomes available, they have agreed to offer the Dynamics 365 Sales, Enterprise edition (this is the “Sales” app that most closely resembles the CRM Sales Module as we now know it) at a reduced-priced for a limited time. Specifically, this app contains the Sales Module entities, such as Leads, Opportunity, Contacts, Accounts, etc. as well as some of the Marketing Module entities, such as campaigns and quick campaigns. The price is $40/user, there is no minimum seat count, but there is a 15 seat maximum. This offer will be available from December 1, 2016 until June 30th, 2017, or until the Dynamics 365 for Sales, Business Edition is released – whichever comes first. Finally, a company who purchases this app now will be eligible to also purchase the $5/user/mo “Team Member” subscription, which provides what amounts to read-only data across the Common Data Model (for now, Leads, Opps, Contacts, Accounts, and other entities available in the Sales app.)

The Microsoft Dynamics 365 Enterprise edition is intended for larger organizations (over 250 employees), and is, essentially, a combination of Dynamics AX and CRM, using a CDM. It will eventually make use of Adobe Marketing Cloud suite, the result of a recent partnership with Adobe. The use of the Adobe Marketing Cloud suite differs from the Business edition, which will use Dynamics 365 for Marketing starting in 2017. What is now known as “Microsoft Dynamics Marketing” will no longer be available.

Since change can be stressful, Microsoft has lessened the burden by providing an Assisted Setup & Tasks section on the homepage of Dynamics 365, as well as the offer described above. There is a Getting Started tour to give you an introduction to the application, and then there are access points to create a trial company, import existing company data (vendors, customers, etc.), and set up sales tax, email, and more.

Keep an eye out for instructional posts and videos from xRM to get you started using Dynamics 365,and please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have questions.

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Microsoft Dynamics 365: The What, When and Why

Beginning November 1, 2016, Microsoft Dynamics 365 will not only be available for purchase, but will replace Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online as we now know it. As announced on October 11 at the CRMUG Summit, the initial Dynamics 365 apps will be available on this date in 135 markets and 40 languages. Additional apps will be released at a later date. The Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online SKU will be removed from the catalog.

This announcement follows Microsoft’s early July 2016 announcement of plans for Dynamics 365. At that time, Microsoft let it be known that Dynamics 365 would be an evolution of the current CRM and ERP cloud solutions. It would be “one- cloud” service with apps to manage specific business functions. The idea would be to natively imbed Power BI and Cortana Intelligence, and deeply integrate Dynamics 365 and Office 365. The common data model was also introduced at this time, to simplify data management and integration across apps and processes. In short, it sounded like Dynamics CRM, Dynamics AX, and Project Madeira would be repackaged and restructured into Dynamics 365.

Now we have a bit more information. This past Tuesday, Microsoft announced that Dynamics 365 will be a single, cloud-based service that enables companies to address CRM and ERP needs with a variety of powerful apps and ancillary tools to manage nearly every aspect of business. Whether your requirements include sales automation, operations, customer service, or just about anything else, there will be apps for you. The solution will be available in two editions (Business and Enterprise) to suit companies of different sizes (under and over 250 employees).

Two Versions, Two Plans

Business (10-250 employees) Enterprise (250+ employees)
  • Financials (Formerly Madeira)
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • PowerApps
  • Operations (Plan 2 Only – Formerly AX7)
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Customer Service
  • Field Service
  • Project Service Automation
  • PowerApps

 

It is our understanding that the Business Edition will be partially available on November 1, 2016, in the form of the Financials app (formerly known as “Madeira”), plus the optional PowerApps platform. The sales and marketing apps are due out in the spring of 2017.  We believe that these will be similar to the existing modules of the same name in Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The Dynamics Enterprise 365 version will be entirely available on November 1, 2016.

Devilish Details

The Enterprise edition will be broken into two “Plans” – Plan 1, which consists of all apps shown above EXCEPT “Operations”, and Plan 2, which consists of Plan 1 plus Operations. Plan 1 (this is the closest thing to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online
as we know it today) will be available with NO minimum user count, which is a departure from the five seat minimum that exists today.  Plan 2, with Operations, will have a 20-seat user minimum.  This makes sense, since a company interested in the Operations app, which was known as AX7, is generally an Enterprise level company. Plan 2 will be considerably higher priced, as well.  From a pricing perspective, Dynamics 365 offers large companies a compelling value proposition, since there is very generously structured pricing model around user license volume and tiers.  Please look for another post soon that details pricing for these products.

A Flexible, Enterprise Platform

The value proposition of Dynamics 365 is that it can grow as you grow, running on an app-based subscription, where you pay for the desired app(s), with each user having a license primarily around job function. This differs from other, more traditional app-based subscriptions that require additional, separate licenses per user per app. This is especially true of the new “Team Access” license, which is priced so low as to attract just about every user in the organization.  Not only does this make it easier for users, but also cheaper. For as little as $5 per month, with tiered pricing based on volume, light-usage customers will have at least read-only access to the entire Dynamics 365 platform.

As announced originally in July, Dynamics 365 will natively imbed Power BI and Cortana Intelligence, and will combine the powers of Office 365, Azure and Dynamics into a powerful tool for delivering solutions. It’s designed to use targeted intelligence, advanced analytics, and machine learning to enrich the user experience and improve the sales process. Running on a new common data model, it will be possible to extend Dynamics 365 capabilities to additional industry- and function-specific tasks using AppSource apps.

The idea is that it will fill the gaps left by others, like Salesforce, and provide a stronger and more comprehensive all-in-one solution, and at an extremely competitive price in the Enterprise space. One of the major ways that it will do this is through PowerApps. Not only does PowerApps make it easy to create new entities and fields, and import and export data into programs you regularly use, like Excel, but it also makes it easy to create your own apps, based on your business need, without needing development knowledge. PowerApps is built for what has recently been dubbed as a legion of “Citizen Developers” that need to whip out departmental-level, clever little applets that draw on the common data model and use as source the various components of the Dynamics 365 and Office 365 stacks.

Considerations for Existing Microsoft Dynamics CRM Customers

For Dynamics CRM Online, specifically, this means that the product SKU and the ability to purchase it as we know it now will be replaced on November 1st with various choices listed above. Our present understanding is that current Microsoft Dynamics CRM customers will be able to choose to either continue using Dynamics CRM Online for the duration of their subscription commitment , or immediately transition to Dynamics 365. The current functionality will still exist in some form within these new Dynamics 365 apps – specifically in the Enterprise choice, which will contain the entire CRM product as it is now configured, but with the additional modules of Field Service and Project Service Automation.

Microsoft has not yet announced whether or not marketing features within Dynamics CRM Online will be replaced by the Adobe Marketing Cloud, but earlier this month, officials announced that Adobe Marketing Cloud would be the preferred solution for Dynamics 365 – at least for the Enterprise edition. In any case, the Marketing app listed above refers to the “lightweight” marketing module in CRM Online now, not Microsoft Dynamics Marketing – our understanding that this product will not move forward.

There is a lot to be said for this bold direction that Microsoft has taken, and there is no question as to the level of commitment shown by this innovative company.  We at xRM applaud the passion that the highest levels of Microsoft has shown in the Dynamics stack. We also understand that this will shake up the space a bit, and in the beginning there may be some complexity to sort out and resistance to change. We encourage the stakeholders on all sides to embrace this platform and make the most out of it.

 

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The Top 5 New Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 Features

Like many technology companies, Microsoft frequently employs a tick-tock release schedule for Microsoft Dynamics CRM where the tick represents an evolutionary advancement over previous versions while the tock promises more revolutionary changes. While CRM 2013 was a definite tock because of its modern user interface, Business Process Flows, enhanced case management features, among other improvements, CRM 2015 represents a less ambitious, but welcome, tick.

This version will add improved global search, enhanced marketing functionality, and tools to enable closer collaboration between sales and marketing, along with other enhancements. Here are five of our favorite improvements coming to CRM 2015.

  1. Global Search – Yes! You can now search across record types. Search also supports keywords and the use of asterisks as wildcard characters. These improvements promise to make it much easier to find the records that you are looking for.
  2. Improved Email Editor – The new Email editor makes it much easier to craft nice looking email messages using CSS or HTML. Even better, the new email editor also allows you to create email templates using a drag-and-drop interface.
  3. Campaign Management Console – Combined with the new email editor, the Campaign Management Console transforms CRM into a credible email marketing platform. The console delivers real-time email analytics and allows you to set up A/B testing to compare the performance of two different versions of an email. The Campaign Management Console also lets you set up multi-condition triggers and embed cross campaign offers.
  4. Guided Sales Processes – Microsoft first introduced Business Processes in CRM 2013. These processes are great, allowing you to map your business processes onto Microsoft Dynamics CRM and provide your employees with a visual representation of your processes, complete with stages and steps. Now, Microsoft is extending the functionality by introducing automatic branch selection. Based on rules that you set, a single business process can split into two branches depending on the data that your users inputted.
  5. Product families – Product families allow you to create product or service bundles that combine related products together. Your salespeople see these upsell and cross-sell suggestion right on the opportunity record.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 is scheduled to be released in Q4 of 2014. You can expect to see it reach market sometime in December. For more information about Microsoft Dynamics CRM, including configuration and training services, visit www.xrm.com.

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Google Chrome Temporarily Incompatible with Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Thanks to a recent update of Google Chrome (Google Chrome 37, released on Sept 5, 2014) Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013, Dynamics CRM 2011, and Dynamics CRM Online are no longer compatible with the popular web browser.

If Chrome is your browser of choice, you may have noticed some strange behavior recently when attempting to use it to access your Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, CRM 2013, or CRM 2011 database. Google made several changes to the APIs in Chrome 37 upon which Microsoft Dynamics CRM relied. Since last week, we have noticed a variety of problems that have propped up when we attempted to use Chrome. If you discover others, please mention them by commenting below.

  1. The Export to Excel function no longer works.
  2. The form editor refuses to open.
  3. You can no longer add options to Option Set fields.
  4. Changes made to an email in a workflow cannot be saved.
  5. Field properties cannot be saved.
  6. The ‘Upload’ button on the SharePoint list component no longer works.
  7. The ‘window.showModalDialog’ function no longer works.

Fortunately, there are a couple of workarounds that you can employ:

  1. Use Firefox or Internet Explorer instead of Google Chrome until the issue has been resolved.
  2. Enable the deprecated web platform features. Neil McDonald has explained how to enable deprecated web platform features on his blog, which you can read at http://xrmrocks.com/2014/09/08/chrome-37-breaks-crm-2011-functionality/.

We will continue to update this blog as more information becomes available.

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End of Support for Windows XP and Office 2003 is April 8, 2014

After years of faithful service in offices across the world, the end is finally near for Microsoft Office 2003 and Windows XP. End of Support (EOS) means that Microsoft will no longer provide support nor release updates, including security fixes, for Office 2003 or Windows XP.

Microsoft will also cease to provide Microsoft Security Essential for Windows XP, meaning that any PC still running Windows XP will become vulnerable to viruses, bots, and other malware.

If you have been putting off upgrading to more recent versions of Windows and Office, now is the time to make the move. Microsoft is even offering an incentive known as Get2Modern to help small-to-midsize businesses make the switch to Office 2013 and Windows 8.1.

For those with older computers, you can use the Windows Upgrade Assistant to check to see if your computer will run modern versions of Windows.

If you are still running Office 2003, now is an excellent opportunity to see if the time is right to switch to Office 365.

Click here to read more about end of support for Windows XP.

Click here to read more about end of support for Office 2003.

 

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Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Training Videos from xRM

With  Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 and CRM Online Fall ‘13 now available worldwide, xRM has created a series of video tutorials so users can familiarize themselves with the new features and dramatically improved user interface.

Together Dynamics CRM 2013 and CRM Online Fall ’13 are a dramatic departure from traditional CRM applications. Microsoft has reimagined the way that CRM functions and how users interact with it. CRM applications have traditionally been form-based tools that allowed their users to access information about their customers. With these new releases, Microsoft has switched the focus of CRM from accessing information to achieving outcomes, such as a sale, with its new process-driven approach. The shift in focus accompanies a dramatic change in user experience. Fortunately, xRM has created a serious of videos in its Success Portal to help CRM users adjust.

What is Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013?

In this video, we outline the key principles behind the application, and explain how it works. When Microsoft designed Dynamics CRM 2013, they wanted to focus on a few key principles, one of which is usability. User adoption is a huge challenge for any business that implements new business practices or software. People don’t always have the time or resources to stop production and learn a new way of doing things. CRM 2013 is a simpler, yet more powerful reimagining of Dynamics CRM 2011.

Another core concept of CRM 2013 is modernization. The User Interface (UI) is now much flatter than it used to be, but all of the different areas and functions of Dynamics CRM are still present. The change allows Microsoft to deliver a much more consistent experience across devices than it could with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. It also makes it easier for new users to find what they are looking for.

In this video, we also explain that CRM 2013 is a framework. It is an application designed to work from day one, but also designed to be flexible enough to match the needs of your business. Any business software should work the way your business does, not the other way around. Once you understand what it is designed to do and how it is designed to work, you’ll be able to fully leverage the powerful application.

Understanding CRM 2013

This lesson is designed to help beginners understand Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 by learning how the application is structured. The next lesson in the series, “Navigating CRM 2013,” will teach you how to move around the application and access critical functions.

When you place your cursor over “Microsoft Dynamics CRM”, five tiles appear: Sales, Service, Marketing, Settings, and Help. With the exception of the Help tile, these are all of the different modules. If you want to see Dynamics CRM through the lens of a marketing user, you click the Marketing module. If you are a customer service representative, you might want to work through the lens of the Service module.

What is important to take away from this lesson is that CRM 2013 is organized into different areas or modules, the lenses from which to interact with the application and view your data. There are various entities in each module. In an entity, there can be numerous Views, or filters, that organize records. As you navigate CRM 2013, you can always refer to the breadcrumb in the navigation bar to get your bearings. To learn more about some of these navigational features, please watch the next lesson, “Navigating CRM 2013”.

Navigating CRM 2013

In an effort to get you CRM 2013 ready, this video demonstrates the basic navigational structure, including modules, entities, and views. In the process, it illuminates some of the key features of CRM 2013 and how it differs from CRM 2011.

The video starts with the most glaring change for users familiar with CRM 2011: there is no longer a navigation pane. The pane has been replaced with the navigation bar at the top of the window. It is a thin, dark blue bar where users can see their display name, user name, and user picture. Another handy feature in CRM 2013 is the back button. If you are working in the application from a web browser, you can now click the back button on your browser or mouse to return to a previous screen. This action was not supported in previous versions of the application.

As the video explains, the guiding principle for moving within CRM 2013 is breadcrumb navigation. As you drill down into a module and an entity, a breadcrumb will be present in the navigation bar showing your path. This is especially helpful when opening related records from another open record. When you open a record in CRM 2013, it doesn’t open in a new window; it refreshes on the same window. This is nice because you don’t have to deal with tons of open windows in a single browsing session. However, you do have the option to manually open records in different windows if you so choose. Since records open in the same window, having a breadcrumb to show you where you are is quite useful.

To learn more about what you can do with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, please refer to other lessons in our Success Portal. The Success Portal is a library of hundreds of Dynamics CRM training videos that are arranged in six different courses covering: setup, configuration, use, customization, etc. Success Portal accounts are free for companies thatname xRM.com as their partner of record.

xRM specializes in Microsoft Dynamics CRM and private cloud services. For more information, visit www.xrm.com or email sales@xrm.com.

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What is Microsoft Business Contact Manager for Outlook?

Recently, several of Microsoft Office 365 subscribers have asked us at xRM what Business Contact Management is after a representative at Microsoft recommended it as a possible solution for their customer relationship management (CRM) needs. The Business Contact Manager (BCM) for Outlook® is a free add-on for Microsoft Office® Outlook that can meet the needs of some small business owners who have limited CRM requirements.

Small business owners frequently use Outlook as a central place for storing information, both personal and business. This innovative add-on makes it easier for users, specifically for small business owners, to manage their business relationships more effectively, while still giving them the option of storing their personal data, like calendars, in Outlook itself. Overall, Business Contact Manager for Outlook is helping business owners improve their customer service, sales, and marketing.

Business Contact Management and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Features Compared

Feature Business Contact Manager Microsoft Dynamics®
CRM
Price Free* $44/user
Contact & Activity Management Included Included
Account Management Included Included
Lead Management Included Included
Marketing Module Not automated Automated
Case & Service Management Not included Included
Workflow Integration Not Included Included
Excel Exporting Capabilities Included Included
Dashboards & Reporting Module Limited Included
Customizable Data forms Limited Unlimited
Marketing Activity Tracker Included Included
Remote Access Not included Included
Database Microsoft SQL Server Express Microsoft SQL

*Microsoft Office 2010 or 2013 Home and Office or Professional license required.

Business Contact Manager comes with a free SQL database that holds 10GB in storage and is responsible for managing interactions between potential and current customers by organizing customer accounts via keeping track of emails, documents, and phone calls.

Microsoft released the first version of Business Contact Manager in 2003, but now there is a 2013 version which actually provides more tools to the user. In this 2013 version, you can connect your Contact records with the Account records, which lets you see how your business relationships develop over time. Another great feature is the customizable business forms. The ability to modify your forms lets you dictate how your data is organized. For example, now you can customize how you organize your contacts’ information by assigning tabs and filters to those contacts. Another great attribute this tool provides is synchronization. Business Contact Manager lets you view and edit your business contacts from Outlook, SharePoint, or Windows Live Contacts, while keeping record of any changes made to a contact.

Business Contact Manager can help you stay on top of the sales cycle. For instance, you can set up your own rules as to how a lead should be pursued and the system will prioritize them for you so that you can focus on the most important task first. You can also arrange your customers and products, letting you focus your attention to top customers and top-selling products. The abilities of Business Contact Manager extend beyond prioritizing and sorting, however. There is also an option for sales pipelines and sales funnels so you can visualize your business situation which you can then insert into Microsoft Excel® for numerical reports. The connection to Excel is another benefit for anyone trying to connect data with a contact, basically making the BCM an even better place for data sharing and storage.

In addition to sales, marketing is made easy for small business owners with Business Contact Manager. Within the system, you can create and track marketing activities like customer calls, target mailings, and campaigns. Moreover, BCM provides tools so that you can distinguish between active and inactive customers and focus on marketing to those interested in your offering, thus, making mass marketing campaigns more effective. While supporting your marketing efforts, BCM tracks the results of your marketing campaign, so that you are able to closely monitor your progress.

Downloading Business Contact Manager

So how do you get a hold of this gem? It can be downloaded for free from Microsoft’s Download Center if you have Microsoft Office Home and Business 2010 or Office Home and Business 2013, Office Professional, or Outlook 2010 or Outlook 2013 (stand-alone editions).

In our next post, we will compare Business Contact Manager and Microsoft Dynamics CRM and help you decide which one better meets the needs of your business.

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What is an Entity in Microsoft Dynamics CRM?

To understand CRM, it helps to have a firm grasp on the basics, and one of the key building blocks of Microsoft Dynamics® CRM is the entity. In the simplest terms possible, an entity is a table that holds a certain type of data, with the attributes (more on those later) functioning as the columns of the table and determining which information goes into the records of that entity type.

Entities Overview – Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Entities form a vital piece of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM framework. Essentially, entities are used to model and manage business data. Some common entities that most Dynamics CRM users are familiar with are Account, Case, Campaign, Contact, Lead, and Opportunity. These entities deal with many of the most common sales, service, and marketing data with which a CRM user frequently engages.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Entity Overview Video

There are three main types of entities: system, business, and custom. In Dynamics CRM, system entities handle internal processes such as workflows. It is important to note that system entities cannot be deleted or customized. Business entities are the default entities within Dynamics CRM which include Case, Account, and Opportunity. One of the most important elements in Microsoft Dynamics CRM is customizability. Custom entities provide organizations with a way to meet their needs head-on. One example of this is that you can create a vendor entity if you are a retail business and then dictate how it relates to different entities within your organization. Since each entity supports a variety of actions, streamlining communications processes amongst your organization is now an attainable goal.

Entity Attributes – Microsoft Dynamics CRM

For each entity in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, there is a set of attributes that corresponds to the fields in the entity form and defines the type of data contained by the records created from that entity. To help illustrate this idea, the picture below shows an Opportunity record. Each of the fields visible on the Opportunity record that you are looking at is defined by an attribute. Among the several dozen attributes of the Opportunity record are Est. Close Date (estimatedclosedate) and Status (statuscode). You can read a full list of the attributes for Opportunity records here. The attributes of each entity determine which fields appear on the entity’s form and therefore which data the records that use that entity contain.

 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Opportunity Record

Entities Ownership – Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Ownership is a key factor in how entities work. In Microsoft Dynamics CRM, most entities have an owner, which is determined by the ownership type. There are four ownership types in CRM: organization, business, user, and none. Organization-owned entities can be accessed by an entire organization. These records cannot be assigned to an individual owner (or shared). Business-owned entities belong to a Business Unit, while user-owned entities are owned by one specific CRM user and typically contain customer-related data. Accounts, Contacts, and Cases are examples of user-owned entities. A few entities in Dynamics CRM have no ownership type. They are not owned by another entity (user, business unit, or organization) within CRM.

 The following table lists the complete ownership types:

Ownership Type Description
Organization Owned Organization-owned entities typically contain data involving something that belongs to or that can be viewed by the whole organization. Organization-owned entities cannot be assigned or shared. For example, products are owned by the organization.
Business Owned Business-owned entities belong to a business unit.
User Owned User-owned entities are associated with a user. User-owned entities typically contain data that relates to customers, such as accounts or contacts. Security can be defined according the business unit for the user.
None The entity is not owned by another entity. For example, the uom (unit-of-measure) and workflowlog (workflow log) entities are not owned by another entity.

 Source: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg309396.aspx

 There are many more tutorials within the Success Portal that touch on entities within Dynamics CRM. With just some basic customization, Microsoft Dynamics CRM handles data of just about any type. This concept is known as “xrm” or “anything” relationship management. xRM.com is here to help you succeed in your CRM deployment. Once you have a greater understanding of entities, you will be able to tailor the entities to better serve your business needs and enrich your Microsoft Dynamics CRM deployment.

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For more information on how to gain access to xRM’s Success Portal or about Microsoft Dynamics CRM, visit our website at www.xrm.com. xRM specializes in CRM and private cloud services. To inquire about the company’s services, email sales@xrm.com or call 1-800-836-5147.


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