Microsoft Launches New Integrated Dynamics Offering and New App Store for Partner Solutions

Microsoft has launched new versions of its ERP and CRM cloud offerings and coming soon will be integrating them into a single service – Dynamics 365.  In a similar way to Office 365 which integrates Exchange, SharePoint, Skype and Office, Dynamics 365 will provide integrated bundles of Dynamics CRM, NAV, and AX as cloud offerings.

In addition, Microsoft has a new app store for business solutions from third party vendors that can be deployed to the dynamics products.  Using the new AppSource, Dynamics users can easily pull in third party apps into their cloud offering as needed.

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Microsoft Acquires ADX Studio to Enhance Dynamics CRM Offering

Microsoft has long suffered from a lack of a configurable portal layer for Dynamics CRM.  While the core product allowed you to design forms and custom entities for use by employees, developing self-service portals that were customer facing was not easily done without custom .NET code.

ADX Studio has been filling the gap by providing a third party solution that extends Dynamics CRM into self-service portals.  The solution is a .NET based solution that allows developers to build robust portals with authentication, data entry forms, surfacing of CRM data, etc. without the need for extensive development.  The solution reads the CRM schema dynamically so that if you change the underlying CRM model it is reflected automatically in the portal.

Microsoft has just acquired ADX Studio and will be integrating it into the core Dynamics product. Along with the recent acquisition of FieldOne, this means that gaps in the product that were previously being filled by third party applications will now be integrated as in house solutions.

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Microsoft to Encourage CRM Adoption Through New Gamification Platform

Microsoft has acquired Incent Games, the developer of a gamification platform for encouraging CRM adoption and boosting sales productivity.

The product takes the traditional sales contest and redefines the process to engage sales reps in a more meaningful way that focus on the entire team instead of the top performers.  The platform allows you to define targets, generate leaderboards, create fantasy sales teams to encourage increased sales activity.

In the coming months, we will integrate and offer this service to our customers and will continue to support customers using FantasySalesTeam with other CRM solutions. The potential of applying this feature beyond the sales scenario to other fields and areas within a business is exciting as well. We will evaluate these other scenarios closely as we integrate and evolve FantasySalesTeam into the Dynamics ecosystem.

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Connecting to Dynamics CRM Online with Power BI

Power BI provides the ability to  connect to a number of online services and one of these is Dynamics CRM Online.  This is how you connect to Dynamics Online once you have logged into Power BI.

Connect to the Service

At the bottom left, you’ll see a button for “Get Data”.  and clicking that reveals a number of different methods for connecting to datasets.  Dynamics CRM Online is under services.

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Click on the Microsofy Dynamics CRM and then click on Connect and you’ll see a dialog box that looks like this:

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The URL for your service will be your tenant URL + “/XRMServices/2011/OrganizationData.svc”.

Logging In

The next dialog box will prompt for authentication.  Assuming you have the normal authentication set up, the best select here is oAuth2 which will redirect you to Microsoft’s single sign on experience to log you into Dynamics CRM Online.

Once you have logged in successfully, Power BI will synchronize with your Dynamics CRM Online repository and provide a dataset representing your CRM data.

The Default CRM Dashboard

One of the cool things is that Power BI doesn’t just load up a raw dataset – each service has a set of default dashboards that are in context with the service.

For CRM, you get dashboards for:

  • Revenue (last 12 months)
  • Revenue (last 3 months)
  • Open Revenue (closing next 90 days)
  • New Opportunities Trend (by month, year, rating)
  • New Leads (last 90 days)
  • Win Rate (last 12 months)
  • Open Opportunities (closing next 90 days)
  • Sales Pipeline (by sales stage)
  • Leads (by lead source)
  • Lead Conversion Rate (last 90 days)
  • Average Deal Size (last 12 months)
  • Revenue (by owner)
  • Open Revenue (by owner)
  • Average Time to Close (in days)
  • Revenue Trend
  • Deal Size, Deal Age, Revenue
  • Top 10 Accounts (by revenue)
  • Win Rate, Win Count Trend
  • Activity Trend
  • Revenue by Region/Country
  • Top Open Opportunities
  • Deal Size, Deal Age Trend

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Accessing it from your Phone

Microsoft has an IOS, Windows Phone and Android app for viewing your dashboards.  This works well with Dynamics CRM data for getting access to your vital data at a glance while on the road!

 

Manipulating your Dashboard

There are a number of easy things you can do to configure your Dynamics CRM dashboard.

  • You can drag and drop the individual dashboard widgets to change their order.
  • If you click on the widgets, they will drill down into more detailed reports.
  • Create your own new sales reports

Here is a new dashboard I created show accounts sorted by revenue.

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New Server to Server Integration with CRM Online and SharePoint provides much more Limited Functionality

Dynamics CRM has supported integration with SharePoint for many years through the documents tab in Dynamics CRM.  The integration allows a CRM user to upload documents into SharePoint through CRM instead of having documents stored as attachments in the CRM database.

The original CRM integration was done using client side integration (e.g. an IFrame) and required deployment of a sandbox solution to the SharePoint farm to enable it. 

There is a new server side integration available with the latest update to CRM online.  You can switch to this integration by clicking on the “enable server based SharePoint integration” in the settings menu for document management.

Enable server-based SharePoint integration

The potential advantage to this approach is that the interface is no longer an IFrame and instead is native CRM functionality.  You no longer have to sign-in to SharePoint – CRM negotiates the authentication for you in the background.  There is also no need for installation of a sandbox solution (which are being deprecated) in your SharePoint environment.

However, before you activate this feature, be prepared for some significant loss in functionality.  See this article for specific details from Microsoft.

Once You Enable Server Based Integration, You’re Stuck With It

Once you enable server-based SharePoint integration, there is no method available to roll-back to the older method. 

No Support for SharePoint Commands

The client side integration with SharePoint surfaces a standard document library and provides direct access to standard SharePoint commands such as Alert Me, Download a Copy, Copy Shortcut, Send ShortCut, View Properties and Version History.  The server side integration does not support this functionality – you have to open up the provided link to SharePoint to access these commands.

Open SharePoint Team Site

No Support for Content Types and Extended Metadata Properties

One of the key concepts in SharePoint is applying metadata attributes to documents through content types.  Content types define types of documents and prescribe the optional or required metadata attributes to be supplied by the user when uploading or creating a document.

Here is an example document library that I configured with content types and a required metadata attribute for address.

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For the content type Contoso NDA, I have a required field Address that should be supplied in order for the document to be valid.  SharePoint enforces this when you upload a document to the document library.

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However, when you upload a document through CRM’s server side integration, there is no support for either content types or additional metadata attributes beyond Name and Title.

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The same document properties in CRM only show Name and Title and don’t allow you to switch content types at all.

If you upload a document through CRM’s user interface, it assign the document to the default content type for the library.  It will not show any extended properties, such as our required Address field.  When you try to check in the document, you’ll get the following error:

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If You’re Using Content Types and Metadata, Server Side Integration is Limited

If you’re using content types or metadata beyond just a bunch of documents thrown into a folder, the current server side integration is very limited.  Before you click on the button and enable server side integration with SharePoint, especially given that there is no way to revert your decision, you should review your information management needs for managing documents in SharePoint as the current server side integration will probably not meet your needs if you’re trying to support a proper taxonomy, document management life cycle, records management, etc. in SharePoint.

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Locally Deployed Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics CRM coming to Canada in 2016

Microsoft announced today that Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics CRM will be available as cloud services locally hosted in Canada.  Microsoft will be establishing data centers in Ontario and Quebec and rolling out Azure first and then Office 365 and Dynamics CRM.

For those customers in Canada who have data sovereignty concerns about having their data living in the United States, this comes as a welcome option. 

Pricing has not yet been announced for services hosted in Canada.

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DocuSign Now Available for Microsoft Dynamics CRM

DocuSign is an esignature solution that automates the collection of signatures for legally binding documents.

DocuSign is now available as a solution to be installed into Dynamics CRM online or on premise.  When you enable the solution, you can send documents such as contracts or legal agreements out for signature or sign them yourself from within the Dynamics CRM user experience.

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New Features Coming to Dynamics CRM in Spring 2015

Microsoft is preparing to launch a new update to Dynamics CRM and Dynamics Marketing, targeted for Spring 2015.  You can find a list of the new features here.

New features include:

  • Improved navigation

  • Improved Excel integration
  • Embedded integration with OneNote
  • Track email by folder
  • Improved mobile interface
  • Double opt-in for email marketing
  • Duplicate detection for email records
  • Improved integration between Dynamics Marketing and Dynamics CRM
  • Improved interface for monitoring social activity and sentiment

The following video provides a tour of the new navigation.

In a similar way to Office 365, customers will be able to update based on their own schedule through Microsoft’s “customer driven” update process.

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Nintex Announces New Salesforce Workflow Integration to Augment Microsoft’s Salesforce Partnership

For those unfamiliar, Nintex Forms and Nintex Workflow are a suite of products that sit on top of SharePoint and provide a web based designer for development of online forms and business process workflows.  We have used their products for years and we recommend them over using SharePoint Designer (hard to deploy and re-use, lots of governance issues) or Visual Studio (developer centric) in cases where business users want to build their own forms and business process workflows.

Nintex Workflow Overview

Nintex announced today that their Nintex Workflow product will provide business process workflow integration between Office 365, Salesforce and Dynamics CRM.    Scenarios for integration could include:

  • Drive business processes in SharePoint in response to events in CRM so work flows better between previously siloed systems
  • Automate the process of creating, updating, retrieving, and querying records in Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics using simple drag-and-drop workflow actions
  • Post status updates, links and polls to Salesforce Chatter or Microsoft Yammer, and progress workflows based on user responses in social channels

Nintex has also announced that they have partnered with DocuSign to integrate digital signature management into their workflow product.

SalesForce has been a competitor for Microsoft for several years now, in particular with its existing product, Dynamics CRM.  Microsoft has a web page dedicated to illustrating why Dynamics CRM is better than Salesforce.

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At the end of May, Microsoft announced a strategic partnership with Salesforce.  This partnership promises deeper integration between Salesforce and Microsoft including:

  • Native Windows Phone Support
  • Sharing of Office 365 Documents in Salesforce
  • Integration of OneDrive with Salesforce
  • Using Salesforce within Outlook
  • Use of Microsoft SQL Server as the database for ExactTarget (one of Salesforce’s products)
  • Integration of Salesforce apps into Office 365
  • Querying of Salesforce data in Power Query / Power BI

As with Oracle and SAP, Microsoft engages in co-opetition, partnering on some initiatives such as cloud hosting, integration and sharing while competing fiercely on other fronts.

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