In my opinion, the Dynamics CRM 2013 release was the most significant since the first Microsoft CRM introduction in 2003. The prior release applied consumerization technologies to profoundly change the user experience, finally began to get serious about mobility and enhanced underlying constructs such as workflow and business rules in order to make the product much more extensible.
Dynamics CRM 2015 changes the focus to new features and improved integration to sales and marketing, and reestablishes code parity between the online on-premise versions.
Dynamics CRM 2015 Most Significant Updates
Microsoft enhanced the Guided Processes to include branching logic. This is a powerful tool to facilitate repeatable processes and best practices. Microsoft CRM stands alone in offering the Guided Processes concept and enhancing these visual process flows with conditional logic can streamline processes such as sales cycles, and improve process consistency which can aid key objectives such as increasing sales win rates.
Another assisted selling feature is the ability to bundle products and facilitate up-sell and cross-sell recommendations. I've always found it odd that so few CRM systems offer this essential uplift opportunity. As shown in the screen shot below, the opportunity record now includes a Suggestions link which promotes product bundles, substitutes, accessories and up-sell items.
Sales hierarchies is a new feature that rolls up accounts, products and users and can visually display information such as territory and forecasting data. This is one of those features that will get more mileage from larger organizations with decentralized sales teams selling big ticket items.
Some other notable new capabilities include (limited) offline operation and sync for tablets, improved search (across record types) and new rollup fields. The Business Rules introduced in CRM 2013 have been extended to use OR, IF/ELSE and other business logic. Business Rule logic can now reside on the server instead of clients, thereby ensuring greater consistency and reducing multi-device management and administration.
Microsoft's Social Listening tool can now monitor news sources and the Natural Language Processing engine used for sentiment analysis supports its sixth native language of Italian.
A much needed feature is the new calculated fields which can display values calculated from conditions or formulas defined within a field. These conditions and formulas can refer to data in other fields in the same entity or data in related entities.
Microsoft Dynamics Marketing
Microsoft acquired MarketingPilot in October 2012 and after a lengthy redevelopment project re-released the solution as Microsoft Dynamics Marketing in the summer of 2014. With Dynamics CRM 2015 Microsoft has stepped up Microsoft Dynamics Marketing with a Sales Collaboration Portal, an interactive marketing calendar and what were some core missing capabilities such as an email editor, multiple lead scores and A/B testing.
As a version 1 product, Microsoft Dynamics Marketing lacks feature depth. However, it's extremely broad and where competitors often go deep in marketing automation, Microsoft provides reasonable coverage in this area and then finds differentiation with unique Marketing Resource Management (MRM) capabilities such as digital asset management and campaign planning (with project plans, schedules, resource allocation, budgets, etc.)
Weaknesses are now generally limited to features (i.e. limited lead scoring, simple nurture campaigns), tools (form and landing page designers) and lack of some key underlying constructs such as workflow automation. The marketing to CRM integration works, but I look forward to seeing this mature further.
The marketing software taps Power BI for some sophisticated reporting not available from most competitors. Power BI is becoming a much more common business intelligence tool used throughout the Microsoft CRM portfolio.
Next up: Parature Integration
Microsoft has accelerated the CRM release cadence and the company plans near quarterly updates to its CRM software, Microsoft Dynamics Marketing and Microsoft Social Listening. Not included in this release, but an important part of the Dynamics CRM roadmap is the upcoming Parature integration.
Parature is an interesting customer service application that excels in self-service, knowledgebase management and multi-channel service delivery. The company was acquired in January 2013 and Microsoft is feverishly working on an integration to Dynamics CRM. Expect to see the beginnings of that integration in CY Q2, and further expect to see a renewed interest in customer service using online, social and self-service technologies.
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Dynamics CRM 2015 moves the focus to new features and improved integration to sales and marketing.