A wave of CRM innovation. That's the message Microsoft wants you to take away from its sold-out Convergence 2014 Europe business conference this week. Redmond rolled out new features that set the stage for cloud-based synergies between customers who use Dynamics business solutions, Office 365 productivity apps and Microsoft Azure.
But let's focus on the Dynamics CRM 2015 release. Kirill Tatarinov, Microsoft Business Solutions Executive Vice President, highlighted a new wave of CRM innovation in his keynote speech. His focus was on new technologies that bring machine learning and mobile capabilities to drive business productivity and how the cloud is driving transformation. Dynamics CRM 2015 is smack dab in the middle of the innovation.
“To better engage with their customers, businesses are looking to the cloud for greater collaboration and the right insights to help them be more productive,” Tatarinov said during his keynote. "Microsoft is reimagining and reinventing productivity by harnessing the power of the cloud through a flexible platform in Azure, a cloud productivity suite in Office 365, and customer-centric business applications delivered through Microsoft Dynamics solutions that are helping organizations transform the way they engage with customers and run their business.”
Breaking Sales-Marketing Silos
In December, CRM customers can test the latest iteration of Dynamics CRM in their shops. For now, we have to rely on Tatarinov's take on what it has to offer. His bottom line: the new release addresses what Microsoft perceives as a growing need for businesses to deliver "seamless experiences" to customers. Dynamics CRM 2015 intends to do this by helping customers break down the barriers between enterprise divisions and collaborate at higher levels.
Of course, that's a typical statement about each Dynamics CRM release, so what makes the 2015 iteration different? New advancements in the natural user interface, including integration with Cortana, for one thing. Cortana is MIcrosoft's intelligence personal assistant featured on Windows Phone 8.1. Somewhat like Siri or Google Voice, Cortana lets users set up meetings and reminders and look for contacts. But from a CRM perspecctive, it also lets users search activities and accounts and view customer information.
Dynamics CRM 2015 will also offer platform capability updates that make it possible for businesses to create predefined and configurable processes, complete with improved branching logic for complex scenarios. The platform also lets users perform calculations and roll-ups for business information in near real-time. Meanwhile, client API improvements set the stage for automation and connsistency across devices.
To help users fully leverage the new design, Microsoft is making available new industry-specific templates for sectors like retail, manufacturing, financial services, the public sector, and professional services. All told, 27 templates will be available by the end of 2014 so customers in a range of industries can get up to speed more quickly on the CRM front.
Microsoft also has sales productivity in mind with Dynamics CRM 2015. The Sales Productivity solution offers productivity tools that work with business applications. For $65 per user per month, Dynamics CRM 2015 users can subcribe to the Sales Productivity solution. Customers who already subscribe to Office 365 can upgrade to the Sales Productivity solution for $45.
Finally, Microsoft just partnered with Thunderhead.com to bring an omini-channel customer engagement solution to Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The solution lets chief marketing officers and customer experience leaders increase customer engagement by connecting customer insight, journey and context behavior, and improve omni-channel customer experiences with visualization and analytics drawn from all customer touchpoints.