As Microsoft Ignite continues and the company shares its vision of a modern workplace infused with artificial intelligence and unconstrained by devices, the reality for many IT pros back in the office is much less exciting projects, like upgrading applications to newer versions, take priority.
It is not that a project's importance is directly linked to its excitement levels. Getting application upgrades right provides the backbone for emerging technologies that support digital transformation, such as AI and mixed reality. But the technology is only one piece; IT pros must adopt a mindset where new technology meets business objectives and provides an excellent user experience in the process. it is being able to marry the promise of next-gen technologies with the business opportunities knocking at the door.
Dynamics 365, Microsoft’s cloud-based CRM and ERP product line, is set to roll out hundreds of new features as part of its fall release that will help IT meet these business needs by providing deeper data integration across Microsoft products, more intelligence, and new mixed reality experiences for field workers. The October release comes at a period of strong growth for CRM Dynamics 365, which saw 61 percent revenue growth in Q4 earnings.
Freelance CRM architect and trainer Lindsay Marrin said that when she first started working on Dynamics 365 (before it was called Dynamics 365, on version 3), fewer people considered its vast potential across their business.
“I think since the beginning of time Dynamics 365 has been a business application. I think years ago you would have found those who believe that sort of screaming into the void more than we are now,” Marrin said. “I think people get it with new versions, but it’s never been about IT for me, it’s always been that your prime objective is delivering an effective user experience to the business side.”
Marrin is focused exclusively on CRM Dynamics 365, spending about half of her time providing training on a freelance basis. (You can take her course at DynamicsU.) A significant part of her job is keeping up with what is new, so she can share it with participants who seek instructor-led training to learn how to implement and customize CRM for their business. Many participants are either completely new to CRM or have recently been assigned to an upgrade or implementation project, she said.
“The how-to is the easy stuff. Go and get a trial and turn on Dynamics 365, it’s not rocket science. I think it’s getting easier to do the how but translating business requirements so that they are effective, and people use them – totally different beast,” Marrin said.
Marrin is excited about where Microsoft is taking CRM Dynamics 365 and is particularly intrigued by innovations in connected field service and AI. But she said that participants in her training and others she has spoken to have less immediate interest in these areas as they are focused on completing current CRM projects, and upgrading to version 9.0 by January.
“The new bells and whistles are always great and listen, if they turn on AI and customer service as they expect to this fall, and it’s in preview, I’ll always try to let people peek at it and get excited about what’s coming,” she said. “But more than anything it’s always back to that user experience. So just the unified client interface is amazing, I think they did a beautiful job. I champion everybody ditching the web client and using it immediately.”
Other CRM Dynamics 365 updates that Marrin finds promising include integrations with Microsoft products like Microsoft Flow and PowerApps.
“I hate to use a term like citizen developer because it just makes me squirm, but on the other hand, for customizers or CRM architects or even just the CRM administrator at an organization to be able to take Dynamics 365 to that level without necessarily cracking open Visual Studio or having that understanding, just the accessibility of it is amazing,” she said.
“I love that it is getting easier for people to get under the hood a little bit and customize it and make it their own more than they ever could before.”
While Marrin is focused on Dynamics 365, even speaking on the topic at Collaborate Canada this November in Montreal, she doesn’t necessarily buy the notion that it is a Salesforce killer.
“I don’t think it’s as important anymore, and I say that as someone who doesn’t own shares in either company … I know that there are reasons that people want to talk about Dynamics 365 as a Salesforce killer but I think there’s room for more than one CRM platform,” she said. “I think there’s reasons to use more than one CRM platform.”
“I don’t know if it is somebody at Salesforce looking over the fence and saying, ‘oh it’s time for us to make a big change here’ or if it’s a new customer coming in and looking at what’s on offer and seeing that Dynamics 365 is really that big, extendable, customizable platform,” she said. “I think if there has been a focus it is the switch towards thinking about it as a platform and extending it with things like Power BI and PowerApps that make it a Salesforce killer.”