Microsoft Convergence 2012–Notes from Houston–Day 2


Another exciting day at Convergence. The energy around Dynamics CRM is palpable and at the highest levels I’ve seen or felt it. If this is any indication, the growth of CRM is going to explode.

No Keynote today so I started with the “Developer’s Guide to Integration with Dynamics CRM” session. While I’m no longer a day to day developer, I am still know enough to be dangerous and found a lot of value in this session. Keeping my technical skills sharp helps me help clients better understand the technologies, tools, approaches and options to solve business problems.

This session focused on integrating user experience, business processes and data across multiple systems for both on-premise and online (cloud). A lot of detailed information was presented for data augmentation, e.g. updating contacts with profile information from external data sources. In the Life Sciences industry as it helps “fill in the blanks” for the health care practitioners that Life Science companies typically interact with. Data augmentation in this case includes specialties, areas of focus, research interest, clinical studies, even background information like where a physician interned.

Topics included the use of Plugins, embedded URL’s, web services, dashboards, API’s and when to use these compared to using full on data integration with tools like SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) or third party tools like Scribe, CozyRoq, Paribus and others.

The session ended with a review of best practices and recommendations from Microsoft based on the experience their large enterprise and online/cloud implementations.

Next session was:

Document Management & Collaboration Best Practices With Dynamics CRM.

This session was particularly great as it included information for both flavors of CRM (on-premise & online) as well as SharePoint on-premise and Office 365.

One of my favorite topics as it includes both Dynamics CRM and SharePoint which is an awesome collaboration and document management system. SharePoint is in fact, the fastest growing enterprise product in Microsoft history. The 2010 release only makes SharePoint an even better system and I’m confident will continue its skyrocketing growth.

The value of SharePoint includes:

  • Document Management
  • Automatic Versioning
  • Workflow
  • Presence
  • Search
  • Collaboration (internal and external)
  • Group or Multi-user Authoring

The value of Office 365 is it includes all of the above and:

  • Exchange Email
  • Lync
  • SharePoint
  • Office Web Apps
  • Cost effective
  • Doesn’t require an IT degree to setup and configure
  • Scalable
  • Affordable

The session also included some Activity Feeds best practices. If you haven’t used Activity Feeds yet (free update for CRM 2011 users) I highly recommend it. The more I use the Activity Feeds feature, the more I like it. It’s a very fast way to keep your team updated on important actions related to your clients, leads, opportunities, cases and really any CRM Data.

For those not familiar with Activity Feeds, it provides real time notifications and quick sharing of information kind of like Facebook or Twitter for CRM users. Activity Feeds enable a user to follow and listen in on important activities that take place around the people, accounts, contacts, leads, opportunities or anything else that they care about.

Feed status updates can be posted manually by users or automatically based on business rules and workflow, e.g. auto post to the wall when a case is created for a customer your follow as well as email the account owner. Activity Feeds can also be posted to by external applications using web services, e.g. a SharePoint site. Bonus! Activity Feeds can be viewed and updated with a free Windows Phone app that is awesome! I hear through the grapevine this will be available on other device in the near future (this is unconfirmed rumor at this point but I‘ve heard it more than once in the halls of Convergence)

Collaboration wouldn’t be complete without Microsoft Lync real-time presence, screen sharing, IM, phone calls and emails capabilities. Another app that increases productivity and efficiency especially when used in context of CRM.

Customer Service Excellence with Dynamics CRM

Focused on the customer service capabilities of CRM. This session reviewed some advanced examples of:

  • Guided Dialogs
  • Call Scripting
  • CTI Integration
  • Dashboards
  • Call center goals

We also got a peek of future release features which include:

  • Facebook & Twitter – integrate with ability to create a case, communicate, respond, and track these interactions in CRM
  • Easier web customer portal
  • Field service improvements
  • Gamification

An example of gamification would be a call center application that has game like features in it. E.g. badges earned when certain activities are performed, avatars for users, points to do value added things, scoring, chat, bonuses, quick tasks that launch a CRM dialog, etc.. These capabilities are borrowed from games to engage and guide end users through their customer service activities.

That wraps up today’s post. I will be posting updates with examples and more details for the items I discussed above in the near future. The future of Dynamics CRM and complementary products looks bright. Microsoft has really been stepping up their game lately and things are looking awesome!

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Posted in CRM, Portals, SharePoint

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