• March 17, 2015
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Microsoft Convergence Fuels Many CRM Innovations

ATLANTA—At its Convergence 2015 Dynamics CRM user conference Monday, Microsoft announced several major product upgrades designed to make users more productive, mobile, social, and informed.

The spring release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, expected by the end of the second quarter of the year, will deliver significant performance enhancements, deepen interoperability with Office 365, and, with new knowledge management enhancements, improve efficiency and collaboration. The release also introduces Microsoft Social Engagement, the latest update to Microsoft's social monitoring tool designed to enable people to monitor and engage in the context of their Dynamics CRM and Office applications.

"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. "It's an exciting time at Microsoft."

Nadella outlined Microsoft's business transformation, which he said is being driven by what its customers are doing to digitize their businesses.

"With all of this data, you will see a transformation of business," he stated. "Every business will become a software business."

Microsoft also used the conference's keynote to introduce several other product changes, including Power BI, an analytics platform which the company says will help customers take the pulse of their businesses via live market operational dashboards, explore data through interactive visual reports, and share insights with colleagues and customers. New Power BI connectors, dashboards, and reports for some of the industry's most popular data sources, including Google Analytics, Microsoft Dynamics Marketing, Zuora, Acumatica, and Twilio, will be available soon.

Microsoft also used the conference to launch its Azure IoT Suite, an integrated offering to help businesses connect, manage, and analyze multiple connected devices. Available in preview later this year, this offering will provide businesses with finished applications targeting common Internet of Things scenarios, such as remote monitoring, asset management, and predictive maintenance, to simplify deployment and provide the ability to scale their solution to millions of "things" over time.

Nadella called the Azure IoT Suite "the core infrastructure for building out SaaS services."

Along with this, it also announced Azure Stream Analytics, to be generally available next month as part of Azure IoT or as a standalone service to help customers process massive amounts of real-time, incoming data and services so customers can predict trends and automate service and responses.

Also new is Skype for Business (previously Microsoft Lync), which delivers an enterprise-ready voice and video collaboration experience based on the familiar Skype user interface.

The company also announced the IT Professional and Developer Preview of Office 2016, to be generally available in the second half of this year, and Office Delve, which uses sophisticated machine learning techniques to help people discover relevant documents, conversations, and connections from across Office 365. In addition, Exchange Online and Yammer content is now accessible via the Delve experience.

Microsoft also used the conference's opening day to discuss integrations that bring Dynamics CRM into the Office 365 productivity suite, Outlook, Exchange, Sharepoint, Azure Mobile Services, and even its Cortana virtual mobile assistant.

"You can now treat customers uniformly no matter what channels they come in on," said Jujhar Singh, general manager of Dynamics CRM, 

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