On Wednesday the 12th October the UG Summit ’16 keynote delivered an overview of what is in store when Dynamics 365 is unleashed on the world, and there could be some exciting times ahead.
The Amalie Arena in Tampa Florida played host to the keynote for the 2016 Dynamics UG Summit and delivered, for want of a better word, a dynamic message on what is in store for the future of CRM by Scott Guthrie, with key demos by; Ryan Cunningham, Marko Perisic, Param Kahlon and a very energetic (and funny) demo from Amir Netz.
I was lucky enough to be among those present for what was a sharply delivered keynote interwoven with demos that attempted to highlight the combined power of Dynamics 365, including but exclusive to;
- Mobile and cross-platform working
- Power Apps
- NAV & AX integrations
- Document view & generation
- Customer Intelligence
- Portal Builder
From the information delivered, working in Dynamics ‘silos’ may become a thing of the past where cloud solutions are concerned. The importance of using Dynamics 365 to span the customer interactions and order processing work streams is clear, with much of the demo time featuring a narrative that crossed these platforms.
The flow of the keynote was structured to deliver the message that Dynamics 365 will be;
Purpose-built: with applications that fit roles, industries and businesses – so organizations can start with and pay only for what they need and grow at their pace to run their entire business in the cloud.
Productive: enabling greater productivity where people need it by seamlessly integrating with familiar tools like Outlook and Excel, surfacing them in the context of their business processes, roles and jobs.
Intelligent: delivering built-in Intelligence with business processes that infuses big data, advanced analytics and “internet of things” to proactively guide employees and customers to optimal outcomes.
Adaptable: enabling organizations to transform at the speed of business. Business leaders can change and evolve their processes in real-time using a modern consistent, and extensible platform – so they are not being held back by legacy technology.
In addition to the key note and demos the preview airlift content is available on Microsoft Connect. Some of the key features that were woven into the demos and from the material made available in the airlift that have stood out for me were changes to; Business Processes and Automation, Editable Sub-Grids and updated Email and Portal functionality.
Business Process & Automation
- Concurrent Processes
- Security & Programming
- Drag an Drop Visual Designer
- New Out of the Box actions
- Charting and Reporting
As well as additional SDK support via the ODATA API, it is interesting to see the current list of functions that have been made available, such as; Add Case to Queue, Add User yo Record Team (useful), Apply Routing Rule and Get Sales Order Products from Opportunity (finally!!).
- Home Grid
- Nested Grids (On Mobile/Tablet app)
- Support for JS Events
As it stands editable grid features include support for most data types. Though there are exceptions, including; state, customer type, composites, partlists and lookyp entity related fields.
A much lamented part of Dynamics CRM functionality for a long time now, which finally seems to have been given a much needed face lift!
There are welcome additions such as; interactions (opened, link clicks, attachment viewed), reminders, delayed send and template analytics. As well as the ability to use relationship insights and email templates in response to items in Outlook using CRM templates.
From Amir’s demo, the use of portals and configuration of portals for Dynamics 365 was perhaps when of the most powerful potential additions. Since the procurement of ADX Studio I have been keen to see the direction taken for a more integrated portal offering with CRM. The next version of portals – or PRM – is centred around increased collaboration, 3rd party service integrations, knowledge management and search enhancements. With a very exciting looking portal builder UI and the use of Excel style expressions instead of code such as ASP.Net.
Dynamics 365 will have configurable functionality (such as KPIs and health indicators) that can enable your organisation to get a better understanding of the relationship between you and your customer or client.
The functionality should enable the capture of signal data from Dynamics and Exchange to determine the health of the relationship, risks and next actions. The idea is to determine where the effort is being spent and where it SHOULD be spent against your customer/client base to cultivate the opportunities available. Identify your top contacts and work across devices and applications to get the best outcome.
I am very interested in the use of apps and cross-device working. With demos paying particular attention to using a mobile device (phone or tablet), Outlook and the Dynamics web UI.
Not to mention the use of Financials (NAV light?) and Operations (AX Online) as an integrated extension of the Dynamics application. A similar look and feel for both Operations and Financials allude to a ‘seamless’ user transition between common CRM sales functionality and Order fulfilment.
An interesting note from the speech delivered by Scott Guthrie was the use of the term; “xRM” – remember that? Those of you who have been around CRM long enough will remember xRM was all the rage but then the landscape and the messaging from Microsoft in particular changed. Well it is back, and I would expect to be hearing it again. It appears it will be focused around making Dynamics 365 ‘yours’, whatever you are doing.
As with any glimpse of new functionality or a change in direction, the information conveyed at the UG Summit did leave some pertinent questions, such as;
“How will I transition my CRM Online organisation to Dynamics 365 as an existing customer?” and “Is a migration required or is Dynamics 365 going to be supported on the same online infrastructure with processes and additional links to Azure?” and of course; “How much of this will be available On Premise for the initial release and when?”
Other questions would likely include; “How easy is it to configure integration between sales, financials and operations in Dynamics 365 and are custom entities supported?”
Unfortunately at the time of writing those are answers that I don’t have, however if you have registered for access to the Dynamics 365 Beta, there are downloads available for On Premise versions of Dynamics CRM from Connect (https://connect.microsoft.com) as well as the airlift content.
One thing I am convinced of is that I and few others will have a decent amount of upskilling to do, and as always the future looks to be exciting.