Another Summit comes to an end and I am back in Australia waiting until next November. In the photo, I am in green mid-way up on the left in front of CRM greats Chris Cognetta and Gustaf Westerlund.
What is the MVP Summit?
The MVP Summit is one of the bigger perks for being a Microsoft MVP. Every year, Microsoft hosts a conference exclusively for all of the MVPs across all products. This year about 2,000 MVPs came to Redmond to meet their respective product teams and learn about what is coming up with their product.
Meeting the CRM product team is great but, just as delightful, is meeting my fellow MVPs from around the world. About 50 of the world’s CRM MVPs made it to Summit this year and I am yet to meet an MVP I did not like. Their passion and willingness to share their knowledge is incredible.
The days were spent in presentations with the Microsoft CRM product team.
but there was also time for a bit of socialising after hours.
Lots was learned both on the Redmond campus and off campus.
What Did You Learn?
Unfortunately, much of what is discussed at MVP Summit is under a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). If I reveal too much I get kicked out of the MVP program. To be honest, the roadmaps and directions of the product are subject to change and refinement so there is little value in publicising a feature only for it to slip another six to twelve months.
What Can You Tell Us?
The good news is some of our time with the product team was spent reviewing the changes coming in Dynamics CRM 2016, as described in the Preview Guide, which I went through a few weeks ago. With it being tricky to get demos of the complementary products to Dynamics CRM such as Microsoft Dynamics Marketing, seeing them in the flesh gave me a much better appreciation for their capabilities so I thought I would go through some of my takeaways for what is coming towards the end of this year. To play it safe, I will focus on the products reviewed in the Preview Guide (although Field One looks really good!).
Parature got as much coverage as it did in the Review Guide i.e. it was not shown at all. Read into this what you will.
Microsoft Dynamics Marketing (MDM)
We got to see first-hand the SMS Marketing capabilities coming in the next version. You can send SMS messaging out, with custom fields and the recipients can reply for actions such as unsubscribing. Imagine doing a mass email in CRM and the experience is similar. If SMS marketing is important to your business and you are already using MDM, this will be a welcome addition. Unfortunately it will only be available in limited markets initially which does not include Australia. Given SMS marketing is not that big over here, I can wait.
CRM App for Outlook
This is not to be confused with the Outlook Client for Dynamics CRM. The CRM App for Outlook is an add-on to Outlook.com which allows tracking of emails, creating contacts, and the opening of CRM records directly from the outlook.com interface. This is huge for a bunch of reasons but one reason is it gives people with Apples the ability to track, which was not previously possible. Seeing it in action really brought home how useful this will be.
OneDrive for Business
OneDrive will now be a document store for Dynamics CRM. Its behaviour will be slightly different to SharePoint in regards to security and visibility. While SharePoint security is managed by SharePoint with documents being visible to all who can access the store, regardless of CRM access, OneDrive security its with the CRM user.
So, if a user adds a document to a OneDrive store in CRM, unless they share it, only they can see it in CRM. If another user goes to the same CRM record, the document will not be visible until the author shares it.
Initially I thought this was a bad thing but, on reflection, it simply provides options when implementing the system. For example, let us say CRM is being used for storing counselling sessions. While the fact that a meeting was scheduled may be public, the visibility of the notes of the meeting can now be controlled by the counsellor.
Interactive Service Hub
We got to see these first hand and, for service centres, this is a big leap forward. While managing cases is handled very well in Dynamics CRM, doing it in volume is hard. The new service hub seeks to address this by providing tools for high volume call centers. There is also a new form type, specifically for the service hub to help with efficient case processing. My preference would have been to bring the benefits of the new form type to the normal form layout but perhaps this will happen in time.
Mobile Offline Support
We saw this in action and it works in a similar way to the Outlook client’s offline capability with the playback graph. I am very happy for this one and to see it uses mechanisms already familiar to the product team gives me confidence it will do the job.
Next Generation Search
This was another feature demonstrated which, in effect, takes the columns of results generated by the universal search tool and compiles them into one list making good guesses as to the most relevant record. I like the idea of it and, if the universal search is activated for many entities it should make finding records much easier.
I was excited when I did my original summary of the Review Guide but seeing the functions in the flesh at Summit has made me realise how much effort Microsoft is putting into the product and how efficient they are at achieving results. We really are seeing the kinds of innovation in 12 months we used to see in three or four years in the past. I now have two things to look forward to; the release of CRM 2016 and next year’s MVP Summit in November.