• May 1, 2015
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

At Microsoft Convergence, Dynamics CRM Gets a Major Overhaul for 2015

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At its Convergence Dynamics user conference in Atlanta in mid-March, Microsoft announced several major product upgrades designed to make users more productive, mobile, social, and informed.

Central to the conference was the spring 2015 release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, which will deliver significant performance enhancements, deepen interoperability with Office 365, and improve efficiency and collaboration. The release also introduces Microsoft Social Engagement, a social media monitoring and analytics platform.

"We're at the dawn of a new era of business systems," said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, during his opening keynote before an audience of 12,000 people.

Microsoft also used the conference's keynote to introduce several other products, including Power BI, a cloud-based business analytics service to help companies monitor and visualize data from across the organization through live dashboards and reports.

The company announced the acquisition of intellectual property from Fusion Software, which will add voice-of-the-customer capabilities to Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Users will be able to incorporate customer feedback directly into service, sales, and marketing engagements.

Microsoft used the conference to launch its Azure Internet of Things (IoT) Suite, an integrated offering to help businesses link, manage, and analyze multiple connected devices. Nadella called the Azure IoT Suite "the core infrastructure for building out SaaS services."

Along with this, the company announced Azure Stream Analytics to help companies process massive amounts of real-time, incoming data and services.

Also new is Skype for Business, which delivers an enterprise-ready voice and video collaboration experience.

The company introduced the IT Professional and Developer Preview of Office 2016 and Office Delve, which incorporates machine learning to help users find relevant documents, conversations, and connections from across Office 365, Exchange Online, and Yammer.

Also announced were integrations that bring Dynamics CRM into Office 365, Outlook, Exchange, Sharepoint, Azure Mobile Services, and Cortana.

But internal integrations were not the only ones highlighted during the conference. Intelliverse has integrated its Sales Acceleration software into Microsoft Dynamics CRM. InsideSales will offer its complete sales acceleration platform to customers using the Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform. FieldOne Systems is bringing the FieldOne Sky field service management solution into the Microsoft Dynamics global independent software vendor program. And DocuSign's Digital Transaction Management platform is now available to Microsoft Dynamics CRM users.

Thunderhead also launched a complete enterprise solution for customer engagement, based on the integration of its ONE Engagement Hub with Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

According to many in attendance, the conference cemented Microsoft's firm commitment to its Dynamics CRM line, which Kirill Tatarinov, executive vice president of business solutions at Microsoft, said is part of a "business transformation playing a huge role companywide. Microsoft is very serious about its CRM business. It's core to what we do."

The announcements follow 42 quarters of growth for Microsoft's CRM business.

"Since 2013, we've been updating [Dynamics CRM] pretty regularly," Juhjar Singh, general manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, said, noting that the product was updated seven times in 2014. Eight releases are planned for 2015.

Customers are responding favorably to the potential that all the partnerships, launches, and integrations will bring. "All the announcements are really good for businesses," says Philip Kennedy, director of information technology at jewelry company Pandora. "The vision that Nadella laid out makes complete sense to us and will be good for our business."

Key to that appeal is Microsoft's vision for one platform that brings together many of its apps and those of its partners. "We are not in the business of managing software. We would rather spend our IT resources on building the business," Kennedy says.

Analysts were also taken aback by just how busy Microsoft has been.

P.J. Jakovljevic, principal industry analyst at Technology Evaluation Centers, observes that Microsoft has finally gotten fully behind its Dynamics CRM product.

"Dynamics is now an important part of Microsoft," he says. And, with the integrations of Office 365, Skype, and Azure, Jakovljevic sees Microsoft becoming "a real cloud powerhouse."

The company, he adds, has many products that now rival those from Salesforce. "The only thing Microsoft is lacking is an app store," he quips.

"Microsoft was late to the game with CRM," Jakovljevic adds. "With the acquisitions of Parature, Marketing Pilot, and Netbreeze, and all that Microsoft is doing with them, it is really coming to the game now ready to play."

This article is a combination of two articles that appeared on DestinationCRM.com on March 17 and March 18, 2015.

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