Microsoft Announces New Communication, Customer Intelligence, and App Development Solutions

At its annual Convergence EMEA conference, Microsoft announced today a host of new features aimed toward improving business performance in the mobile and cloud spheres, including new capabilities in Office 365, the worldwide availability of the company's customer engagement solution, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016, and the new enterprise service Microsoft PowerApps. According to Microsoft, these features are designed to provide businesses with new ways to collaborate—and engage with customers.

The new Office 365 capabilities—which will be generally available today—aim to improve communication with updates in the meetings and voice, intelligence, and security and privacy realms. Skype Meeting Broadcast, Public Switch Telephone Network Conferencing, and Public Switch Telephone Network Calling and Cloud Private Branch Exchange provide Office 365 users with a single platform for their calling, conferencing, video, and sharing needs, completely integrated with the Microsoft Office suite. Delve Analytics provides insight into how people spend their time and with whom, and Customer Lockbox provides users with complete control over their Office 365 data, giving them authority even when a Microsoft engineer requires access.

Dynamics CRM 2016—also generally available today—is powered by Azure Machine Learning models and features intelligent product recommendations to allow sales reps to personalize upselling. Dynamics CRM 2016 also recommends knowledge articles to sales reps in order to better handle customer service issues and will feature complete offline capabilities on phones and tablets, including the ability to create task-centered mobile apps to quicken the process of customer service. In addition, the solution's integration with Windows intelligent personal assistant Cortana provides additional data to improve customer interactions and facilitates voice-driven communication. The introduction of Dynamics CRM comes on the heels of the announcement of Microsoft Dynamics AX, the company's ERP solution.

Microsoft PowerApps is the company's mobile app development solution, currently available in preview. PowerApps allows employees to create a range of apps—from a simple survey to a long-term project management solution—and share them with coworkers, and it features built-in data connections to services such as Office 365, Dynamics, Salesforce, Dropbox, OneDrive, SharePoint, and Oracle. Apps are created through an Office-like interface, which includes templates and a visual designer for automating workflows. The service also aids professional developers by allowing them to deliver data and services to employees and create Web and mobile apps, and it enables IT professionals to manage organizational data and app sharing in a secure way.

"As businesses strive to keep up with the pace of change, they are looking to technology to drive digital transformation," Microsoft’s chief marketing officer, Chris Capossela, said in a statement. "Microsoft can help businesses achieve their transformations by empowering individuals and organizations with innovative solutions that unleash the productivity and potential of their workforce, spur entirely new ways of collaborating, and infuse intelligence into their systems and processes."

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