For CRM professionals using mobile apps, the inability to work offline can prove more than inconvenient: data that can't be entered when there's no network connection can increase the risk of unhappy customers or even lost sales. So Microsoft has introduced a new SDK that enables developers to build apps that can work offline and sync data with Dynamics CRM Online.
Developed by Microsoft's Azure and Dynamics CRM teams, the Azure Mobile Connector SDK for Dynamics CRM Online lets developers build native and cross-platform apps for iOS, Windows and Android. In addition to enabling apps that allow users to save and access data offline, the new SDK also supports Dynamics CRM Online integration with Office 365 and Skype.
The SDK also supports the development of apps that work with Azure App Service and Azure Active Directory. This ensures that apps can handle conflicts, send push notifications, authenticate users and handle multiple data stores.
Many Business Apps 'Lack Offline Sync'
"Smartphone users have come to expect that their most critical apps will work offline, even when it's mostly a matter of convenience," Donna Malayeri, program manager for Azure Mobile Services, noted in a recent blog post. "We've seen that many business apps lack this critical offline sync functionality, mainly because it's a fundamentally harder problem than the kinds of sync we see in consumer apps."
Azure Mobile provides a lightweight and customizable feature for offline syncing that works not only in iOS, Windows and Android but with cross-platform frameworks like Xamarin, Malayeri added. The new release is actually two SDKs: one for Azure Mobile Services and one for the Mobile Apps feature of App Service.
The Mobile Services Connector SDK is designed for apps expected to go to production over the next three to six months, Malayeri said. The Azure Mobile Apps Connector SDK allows developers to try the Mobile Apps feature of Azure App Service, which is currently in preview.
With the new SDK offerings, developers can create apps that can manage and synchronize data shared by multiple users. That means information can be synced whether users are editing data via mobile devices, browsers or desktop applications.
'Unlocking New CRM Scenarios'
The new SDK fits with Microsoft's focus on "mobile first" and "configure once, deploy everywhere" -- a philosophy also reflected in the new Windows 10 universal operating system released yesterday.
The Azure Mobile Apps connector and Mobile SDK is designed to help customers "easily create unique mobile CRM experiences -- tailored to how businesses and people use it across various industries and roles," said Bob Stutz, corporate vice president of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The combination "unlocks many new scenarios" for developers and users, he said.
One company that has taken the new SDK for a test drive was able to develop several employee apps for a global mining company, Malayeri said. Ignia, an Australian consulting company, developed apps with offline syncing and push notifications that allowed employees of the mining company to access safety documents stored offline on mobile devices, record voice notes and save photos without network connectivity, and handle task planning and status reporting in the field.
Microsoft updated a number of mobile CRM capabilities with its spring release of Dynamics CRM Online and Microsoft Dynamics Marketing. It has also collaborated with partners to develop other mobile CRM offerings, such as the Apple Watch app for Dynamics CRM and Parature developed in partnership with Webfortis and released earlier this month.