When rolling out CRM for the first time (or upgrading to CRM 2011 from an earlier version), it will be important for you to decide which version of CRM you will initially train your users on. It is fine to give your users the option to use either the Web Client or CRM for Outlook – but because of the differences between the two, it will be impractical (and overwhelming) to try to train your users on both versions at once. So understanding the pros and cons of each approach is important. Because of the outstanding integration Microsoft has developed between CRM and Outlook, using CRM for Outlook seems to be the obvious choice. There are, however, four compelling reasons to go with the Web Client.
1. A shorter learning curve. Most business leaders assume that, because CRM can work with Outlook, it will be easier to learn. While this may be true for “Outlook Power Users”, it is not necessarily the case with everyday users. When you decide to train users on CRM for Outlook, it creates a need to explain how CRM integrates with Outlook in some detail. Users will need to grasp how CRM integrates with existing Outlook items (i.e. email, contacts, appointments) and how CRM also has it’s own items (i.e. leads, accounts, opportunities) that are also available within the Outlook interface. What seems to create more confusion is that users now have two places to go, inside of Outlook, for what should appear to be the same information (i.e. CRM has contacts and Outlook has contacts; CRM has appointments and Outlook has appointments). Because CRM and Outlook have different sets of records to track the same information this can be confusing for new users. By starting with the Web Client, users can be eased into basic CRM concepts without having to learn the details of how data is synchronized between the applications.
With that said, it can still be a psychological barrier for users to feel like they are having to learn a “new application.” So, although the learning curve by going with CRM for Outlook may be somewhat steeper, it may still be worthwhile to consider because users may be more open to trying to learn something that feels familiar.
2. Two different applications. Many users keep Outlook open to their inbox and want to actively monitor their email throughout the day – they think of Outlook as mostly an email tool (and to a lesser extent a calendar and contact management tool). When users are forced to access CRM within Outlook, they must then constantly toggle between the various modules of CRM and their Outlook inbox. This can be somewhat mitigated by just opening the CRM for Outlook area in a separate window – but few users seem to remember to take this action. Many users like the idea of have two applications that they can “ALT+TAB” between rather than having to constantly use the mouse to navigate between different parts of Outlook to do their jobs.
3. CRM for Outlook and the Web Client work differently. Depending on how you look at it, this may be a reason to use CRM for Outlook or it may be a reason to use the Web Client. CRM for Outlook leverages some great Outlook functionality (like categorizing, flagging for follow-up or conditionally formatting your CRM lists). On the other hand, individuals that use this functionality tend to be Outlook power users. In addition, these settings do not update any CRM data (so, for example, if a user categorized a contact using Outlook categories, this information will not be stored in CRM, making it useful only to the single user who set the category). Plus, if you’ll click the image, you’ll notice that CRM for Outlook tends to make a lot of text look blurry (only joking, that’s just text that we were hiding in the image). The Web Client, on the other hand, has some excellent functionality that is not available in CRM for Outlook.
4. Outlook issues. Unfortunately, CRM for Outlook can sometimes produce unexpected bugs. Microsoft has put a lot of work into resolving these issues, but there are still occasional bugs. My experience is that organizations that have more security software and, in particular, security software that integrates with Outlook, often run into some of these bugs. These can cause slowdowns, Outlook crashes and other issues. So if you’re rolling out CRM for the first time, you may run into some of these issues. I wouldn’t let this issue be the decision-maker – but if you’re leaning towards starting with the Web Client already, then this issue may push you over the edge.
As part of your long-term strategy, I recommend you provide users with the ability to use either version of CRM. You will find that different users have different preferences, and allowing them to choose their tool will serve to get them more productive. But when rolling out CRM for the first time (or when upgrading to CRM 2011) it will be important to decide on one version to start with. My personal recommendation (which has changed over time) is that you start with the Web Client, then you train users on the basic Outlook integration (part 3 in this series) and, lastly, you provide training on how to use CRM for Outlook for those who are so inclined (or who will need to use CRM for Outlook offline while traveling).
The complementary paper includes over 12 years of research, recent survey results, and CRM turnaround success stories.
This 60-second assessment is designed to evaluate your organization's collaboration readiness.
Learn how you rank compared to organizations typically in years 1 to 5 of implementation - and which areas to focus on to improve.
This is a sandbox solution which can be activated per site collection to allow you to easily collect feedback from users into a custom Feedback list.
Whether you are upgrading to SharePoint Online, 2010, 2013 or the latest 2016, this checklist contains everything you need to know for a successful transition.