The action has been ramping up since Microsoft first announced plans to release the newest version of Dynamics CRM in Q4 FY2013. As a Microsoft Partner and Hosting Provider, xRM (www.xrm.com) is watching closely and preparing for the updates to our own instances and to our customers’ instances. Microsoft also announced that a new three-tiered pricing system will take effect at the same time (more on update schedules and prices further below).
Dynamics CRM users have been wishing for improvements in mobility, marketing, analytics, and social-media integration, and Microsoft has granted those wishes. It is vital that businesses actively engage their customers, and this new version represents the customer-centric approach Microsoft is taking to develop and deliver streamlined business solutions. The main changes focus on connecting Dynamics CRM users with their customers on a social level—making business personal and giving them the tools they need to be successful. Microsoft aims to deliver more personal experiences to sales, marketing, and customer care professionals so that they can tap into customers’ needs.
“[Customers] are knowledgeable and are interacting with their social and professional networks to make their buying decisions. Microsoft Dynamics CRM helps people connect with these customers in a way that is personal — giving them the information they need to choose the right solutions, engage to drive sales, and nurture relationships to deliver amazing experiences,” said Bob Stutz, corporate vice president, Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
Interface: A new outcome-driven “process flow” user interface helps sales teams move from lead to close faster than ever before. It removes some pop-up windows and frees up screen space, enabling multiple records to be created and manipulated in a single page that guides the user through the steps.
Mobility: There is a great demand for mobility, and the new release gives Microsoft a huge opportunity to push into the mobile marketplace. The new release will provide users better access to Dynamics CRM through a wide range of devices. Also in the works are new mobile client apps for iPad and Windows 8 tablets, giving users access on the go. Shortly after, Microsoft plans to offer new touch-optimized mobile experiences for Windows Phone 8, iPhone, and Android. You can see in the look and feel of the 2013 interface that it is geared for touch users. Best of all, Microsoft is including mobility at no additional cost. Microsoft Dynamics CRM users can go mobile without having to pay additional fees to access third-party solutions.
Skype: Lync-Skype Connectivity integrates Microsoft Lync with Skype. Lync already integrates with Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Together, these integrations allow users to reach out to their customers in Skype in real time from within Microsoft Dynamics CRM, nurturing enduring relationships and fostering brand loyalty.
Yammer: Another social improvement is the integration of Dynamics CRM with Yammer. Users can post messages from Dynamics CRM to Yammer and vice versa, allowing coworkers to collaborate with each other and share customer knowledge, all within their CRM solution.
Microsoft made some acquisitions during the past year to strengthen the social and marketing capabilities of Dynamics CRM in response to customer wishes, showing that it’s all about the customer.
Marketing Pilot: In the past, rich constomer-behavior insights were only available through external, third-party vendors. Microsoft committed to improving the Integrated Marketing Management (IMM) capabilities of Dynamics CRM with theacquisition of the marketing-automation solution, MarketingPilot, creating a powerful alternative to Salesforce.com Marketing Cloud. The integration of MarketingPilot enables businesses to improve the efficiency of customer engagements by monitoring marketing campaigns across social and digital channels and identifying which people are the most interested in their products and services. By understanding their customers’ digital footprints, Dynamics CRM users can focus their resources in the right area, wasting less time searching for customers and spending more time serving customers.
Netbreeze: Microsoft will be offering a limited beta release of Netbreeze, a recently acquired social-media monitoring and analytics service, with the 2013 release of Dynamics CRM. Netbreeze contains powerful data-mining and text-analysis capabilities that provide Dynamics CRM users with an essential tool for the in-depth analysis of customer preferences. Microsoft has not set a date for when the full functionality of Netbreeze will become part of Dynamics CRM.
The names and update schedules are different for the online and on-premises deployments of the new 2013 versions.
The CRM Online deployment receives the moniker “Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Fall ’13”. The software update is mandatory for existing CRM Online organizations. Each organization is issued an update date which appears in alerts in the interface and which is also emailed to the primary user. Each organization can choose to postpone the update, but not indefinitely. We’ve already seen update alerts in our own CRM Online organizations and in customer organizations ranging from October 2013 to December 2013, which fits exactly into the Q4 FY2013 plan.
The on-premises version takes the name “Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013”. The on-premises updates will come after the CRM Online updates, and the code bits will be made available through the Microsoft Download Center and Windows Update. On-premises deployments are not required to be updated, however they will need to be updated to continue receiving the mainstream Update Rollups (UR15, UR16, etc.).
In the past, Microsoft Dynamics CRM customizations took advantage of some things that could only be done in Microsoft Internet Explorer.
Cross-browser support was one of the main thrusts of Polaris and the December 2012 Service Update. At that time, Microsoft introduced new methods for customizations that work in multiple browsers instead.
The 2013 version completes that effort—and closes the gate. In the 2013 version, Microsoft no longer supports the older (mono-browser) customizations. That means that any customizations using the old methods will have to be tweaked to support the new methods. Fortunately, Microsoft released some tools to help customers and partners do that.
The caveat is that any tweaking must be done before updating, or some existing customizations could break.
Here’s a good Microsoft technical document for on-premises deployments: How to Prepare for the Upgrade to CRM 2013 (on-premises).pdf
The new three-tiered pricing strategy offers greater flexibility and value. Multiple license types can be consumed by different users within the same organization, letting customers save money on licenses for users who don’t require full access. The license types are listed below:
Essential ($15 per user per month) is the best option for users who only need to read and write data of custom line-of-business applications implemented in Dynamics CRM, developed either in-house or by a Microsoft Partner such asxRM. This license type also provides Activity management and Activity Feeds.
Basic ($30 per user per month) provides everything in Essential, plus reporting, personal Dashboards, and visualizations, as well as the ability to read and write Accounts, Cases, Contacts, and Leads.
Professional ($65 per user per month) is the complete-access license. It provides everything in Essential and Basic plus all other available functions, including Sales automation, Service automation, and Marketing Lists and Campaigns, as well as customization and administration of Dynamics CRM. It seems that Microsoft intends the Professional license to go toe-to-toe with Salesforce.com Sales Cloud and Marketing Cloud.
Microsoft executives continue to actively seek out new technology with a primary focus on functionality. The 2013 version of Dynamics CRM brings a smoother interface, new functionality, increased integration with other technologies, and versatile pricing, but make sure your old customizations are ready before updating.
We will continue to follow the story on blog.xrm.com.
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