Dynamics CRM 2015 - Related Products Roadmap

Last week, while attending Microsoft Convergence 2015, I wrote an article about what to expect in the Spring 2015 update of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.  The event also provided detailed information about many other Microsoft products that are related to CRM.  If you’re not combining the power of Dynamics CRM with these products, then you’re missing significant opportunities to work together better with your customers and employees.  This includes standard products such as Excel, Outlook, and SharePoint; as well as the Dynamics product line including Microsoft Dynamics Marketing (MDM), Social Listening, Parature and Unified Service Desk.  There’s a lot to overview, so we will just summarize in this article.

Microsoft Dynamics Marketing (MDM)

For those who are not yet familiar with MDM, it is a separate product from Microsoft CRM with significantly expanded marketing capabilities.  It can work completely independent of CRM, or it can be integrated.  MDM places significant emphasis on marketing campaign planning and management and is designed to support the largest of marketing teams.  But it also provides tactical marketing execution including email, social and other marketing channels.  The MDM product was developed with a focus on campaign management in larger organizations – think market departments with 10 or more employees.  But Microsoft seems to be expanding it to also work with smaller marketing departments.  In my opinion, the product is still not meant for the small business with only 1 person in marketing (or maybe 1 person who wears a marketing hat as well as other hats).

For those of you who took a look at the earlier versions of MDM and decided to wait, now may be the time to reconsider.  New capabilities include:

  • Microsoft Dynamics Marketing Spring 2015 CRMSimplified and expanded integration with Microsoft Dynamics CRM: The gaps and difficulty in integrating MDM with CRM were reasons why many companies shied away from it and, instead, went to products like Click Dimensions – which is fully integrated with CRM.  Enhanced integration with Microsoft Social Listening is also included (more on this below).  We have not yet had a chance to test these updates, but they show promise.
  • Improvements in campaign management: Campaign management was always at the core of MDM, but now this has been expanded with better automation tools, better offer and test tracking, better visual overview of campaigns and approvals, and Lync webinars. (Does anyone actually use Lync for webinars?)
  • Improvements in lead scoring: Users will now have more flexibility with lead scoring models.  Microsoft is making significant investments in making their applications more intelligent and predictive, and lead scoring is an important component of this. For more information on scoring, check out this blog.
  • Better analytics in Excel Power BI: The dashboards in MDM have already been using Power BI, and now Microsoft has made more data available with these dashboards.  More on Power BI below.
  • Better email creation and testing tools:  The ability to create new email in MDM has been improved significantly, including a graphical editor and email templates. MDM now also includes better email testing (such as A/B splits).
  • Duplicate detection in emails:  A critical capability when sending email to CRM records that might contain duplicates (and all of them do).
  • Double opt-in for email marketing: This ensures better legal compliance with government policies and can ensure higher quality leads.  Larger organizations, and in particular organizations that focus on consumer marketing, will find this essential.
  • SMS Messaging: SMS messages can now be included in your campaigns as well.

Social Listening

Microsoft Social Engagement Listening Dynamics CRM If you’re not practicing social listening yet, you need to.  Social listening is the practice of “listening” to social channels (such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) to track marketplace, customer and prospect sentiment – and to respond to these sentiments.  One specific example may be a manufacturer that listens for complaints about their product and, when they identify one, they respond directly to the individual to try to resolve the issue.  It is difficult to overstate the power of social listening, but it is also difficult to explain it briefly, if there is interest I’ll write a follow-up on this topic.  Microsoft Social Listening is a product specifically made to automate the process of social listening, and it integrates with CRM.  Recent improvements made to the product include:

  • Convert social records into cases, leads or opportunities: This allows your organization to identify posts that are relevant, and ensure that they receive follow-up.  For example, if someone tweets a complaint about your service, you can convert it into a case and assign it to your Customer Care department to try to resolve the issue.
  • Tighter integration with CRM: Not only does this include the conversion capabilities, described above, but also social dashboards visible directly within CRM and even account-centric dashboards directly in CRM account records. An account dashboard may measure the social interaction with an account, or it may measure the marketplace sentiment about that account.  For example, a manufacturer may discover that the sentiment is very low with one of their distributors and may look for alternatives or to aid the distributor in improving their processes.
  • UI Improvements: The user interface for Social Listening has had a significant update, including not only the basic UI, but also an expansion of the analytics capabilities.

Microsoft has also announced that the product will be renamed “Social Engagement” to reflect the move from purely "listening" in earlier versions, to adding the ability to engage and interact via social channels in the Spring 2015 version.


Parature is a customer care application that goes beyond the capabilities found in the service area of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.  Like Social Listening and Microsoft Dynamics Marketing, Parature is available as an independent application, or as an extension to Microsoft Dynamics CRM.  In our view, it is aimed at the mid-to-large sized organizations that need advanced customer care that goes beyond the basic case management, knowledge base and other capabilities built into Dynamics CRM.  Recent updates include:

  • Parature care everywhere dynamics crm spring 2015Improved integration with CRM: Parature has a powerful knowledge base (KB), which can now be integrated directly with Dynamics CRM to easily find, attach, and email KB articles directly within the CRM interface. Search capabilities include automated suggestion of articles based on the details of a case record in CRM.
  • Knowledge base search improvements: The already powerful Parature KB has been expanded with improved search capabilities.
  • Social knowledge creation: Individual Customer Care Reps and other users can now be given permission to submit new articles for inclusion in the KB. It is often the rep who solves a new customer problem for the first time, so it makes sense that a rep should be able to submit a new article so that others can benefit from this experience.
  • Better customer insights: Agents will now be able to see the complete social history with a customer, and will be able to see a better high-level overview of the entire customer relationship.
  • Other improvements: There are many other improvements to the web portal, mobile service desk, and other areas of Parature in the Spring 2015 release.  For a full list, check out this PDF.

Unified Service Desk

Telesales Telemarketing Dynamics CRM Inbound Outbound The Unified Service Desk (USD) while technically not an independent piece of software, does require a separate installation.  In brief, the USD enables organizations to provide a single user interface that can access CRM, telephony, and multiple other internal systems – but within a single user interface.  In effect, it gives reps (either Sales Reps or Customer Service Reps) a single interface to do their job.  The target audience for the USD are desk-based reps (in other worlds Field Sales Reps are not generally a target for this product).  New functionality includes:

  • UI for Sales: One of the more exciting components now available within USD is more functionality for Sales teams.  Up until this time, the USD was primarily focused on the Customer Service Agent.  Microsoft offered nothing for the Telesales Agent that was either taking inbound inquiries or that was making outbound calls (though there are some third party add-ons that do a good job with this).  USD now has improved scripting and record layout capabilities that make it a suitable tool for the Telesales Rep.
  • Improved search: When you’re taking inbound calls, it is critical that the agent can find the record that they’re looking for quickly.  USD has made improvements in this area so agents can search across different applications to find the person – and related information – that they’re looking for.
  • Improved KB integration: Integration with the Parature knowledge base is now vastly improved within the CRM Unified Service Desk.  KB articles can show up in a “pane” within the application, or a “pop up" and articles can easily be attached to case records.
  • Integration with Social Insights: Microsoft is working to enable organizations to have an omni-channel Customer Care department – so a single system and group of individuals can manage service interactions across social, phone, email and other channels.  One step forward in this area includes the integration of the Social Listening application with the Unified Service Desk.

Other App Updates

As if all of this isn’t enough, Microsoft is rolling out significant updates across all applications over the next 12 months.  This includes: SharePoint 2015, Office 2016 and – of course – Windows 10.  Each of these releases will enable even more expansion of CRM.  A few highlights – and guesses – about what this means include:

  • Power BI replaces CRM dashboards: Microsoft is making a significant investment into making Power BI (an extension of Excel, but also a suite of integrated applications) a serious player in the business intelligence marketplace.  Whether your organization has “big data” or not, this is a powerful dashboarding tool.  The Spring 2015 release of CRM will include a pre-built set of Power BI dashboards.  We are guessing that Microsoft will continue this trend and will eventually switch to Power BI as the core dashboard reporting tool for all applications.
  • Outlook integration on any device: This is already coming, to an extent, with the Spring 2015 release.  Expect to see this expand in upcoming releases with more Outlook, Outlook Online and Microsoft Exchange capabilities.
  • Excel inside CRM: Spring 2015 will include embedded Excel analytics within CRM, and streamlined Excel export/import capabilities. The ability to streamline data entry through Excel embedded in CRM will continue to improve.
  • SharePoint and Office 365 documents in CRM: CRM currently supports integration of SharePoint document libraries within CRM. But expect this capability to expand with more robust options for syncing your document libraries (in SharePoint or OneDrive) with CRM.  This, hopefully, means less storing documents in CRM and more seamless access to SharePoint from within CRM.
  • Word merge: Not mentioned, but can we hope for more seamless integration with Word and CRM instead of the current clunky user interface?  With the improvements in Excel, we’re hopeful that the Word integration will improve as well.
  • User Email Tracking: Also not mentioned, but reasonable to expect – will Microsoft roll out a capability to track emails (either directly within CRM or within MDM) that are sent by users?  This is a gap in the current functionality. The ability for users to see when their emails were opened, forwarded, etc, can play an important role in sales effectiveness.

Needless to say, a lot is changing not only with Dynamics CRM, but also with a host of other Microsoft products that enhance and expand on CRM capabilities, and this doesn’t even begin to cover the third party applications and the improvements that are going on with those!

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