On September 8, 2015, Microsoft announced the pending release of Dynamics CRM 2016, the company's customer engagement solution. Microsoft is promising new features and deeper integration with applications like Office 365 and Power BI, but we'll have to wait until later this year to find out how many of those promises will be fulfilled.
For many of us, the concepts of customer engagement and customer resource management (CRM) are murky at best. We understand the general idea, and we appreciate the results when customers are happy and buying, but the mechanics of how those sales are accomplished are lost to us.
And, for the most part, that is okay, because we don't really need to know how it all comes together. However, if you're a salesperson, the tools provided by applications like Microsoft Dynamics CRM are vital to your success. Without those tools, sales are not made, revenues are not realized, commissions are not calculated, and people don't earn a living.
With that being said, for an enterprise of any size operating in today's highly competitive environment, a well-designed CRM solution is required for any sort of success. If your organization is still using a rag-tag, ad-hoc CRM solution that doesn't integrate, track, and analyze the data generated by your enterprise, you're losing customers and losing sales. Sophisticated customer engagement tools are no longer optional.
Dynamics CRM 2016
According to the announcement, the overarching idea behind Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 is to allow your salesforce to perform their daily activities in a single experience. If a salesperson needs to write up a proposal, they can get to Word and all the other Office 365 apps directly from the Dynamics CRM environment. If they need to look for trends in sales data while searching for new leads, they can get to Power BI without calling up a separate application. This increased efficiency can save time and give your salesforce a distinct advantage.
Some of the new features Microsoft is promising include:
- Better integration with Office 365 applications like Word, Excel, Outlook, and Delve.
- Cloud-based document sharing with SharePoint, One Drive for Business, and Office 365 Groups, including from mobile apps.
- Next generation integration with Cortana.
I remain skeptical about the usefulness of Cortana, but the other features sound promising. I think the idea of being able to access applications, as needed, all from within the Dynamics CRM 2016 environment is a sound one.
While many of us not in sales remain in the dark about how customer engagement tools actually work, there can be no doubt about their importance to an enterprise. That being said, competition in the customer engagement and customer management software market is fierce.
Companies like Salesforce, Oracle, SAP, and many others all offer similar solutions for customer engagement. So, while Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 may be an excellent suite of software, that doesn't mean it will be the most prominent software in the market.
The other factor that could keep Dynamics CRM from taking the enterprise sales world by storm is inertia. Once a sales team has developed a method for customer engagement and management, it's very difficult to get them to switch to a different system. The learning curve required when implementing a new system, whether it is Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 or not, could cost sales. And lost sales is a hurdle to successful deployment that's not easily overcome.
Getting a sales team using a competing product and entrenched in their ways to spontaneously switch to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 is not likely to happen. So, I would not expect any sort of mass adoption of Dynamics CRM 2016 at the end of 2015, no matter what new features are offered.
However, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 does appear to be a very capable productivity suite for managing customer engagement. So, if your sales team is currently using Dynamics CRM, they will likely take to the new features found in this next version quickly and then reap whatever benefits those features offer. I suggest you plan your upgrade now and be ready to take advantage of the release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 later this year.
Do you think customer engagement tools are no longer optional for enterprise success? What CRM solution do you use? How does it work for you? Are you looking for something better? Let us know your thoughts in the discussion thread below.
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Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.