Another big Microsoft conference can only mean another swathe of new announcements relating to Dynamics CRM/Dynamics 365 :) . Admittedly, compared to the bombshells that dropped before and during WPC 2016, there is relatively little this time around that can match the scale and excitement of Dynamics 365. Nevertheless, there are still a number of things that CRM professionals need to keenly take note of and prepare themselves for in the future. I’ve gone through all of the major announcements during Ignite, and below is my pick of the most significant and major ones. If anyone thinks I’ve missed anything, then please let me know in the comments below!
A new Personal Assistant for your Sales Team: The Relationship Assistant
As reported by VentureBeat, Satya Nadella’s keynote speech made a brief reference to a new “relationship assistant”, that will be incorporated as part of Dynamics CRM/365’s mobile experience. Interestingly, it will initially only be offered as part of the Dynamics 365 Sales “module” only; Microsoft no doubt understand the challenges that organisations can sometimes face when colleagues in the Sales team do not always update their CRM records correctly, so targeting this demographic first will provide an excellent proving ground to determine whether artificial intelligence can overcome this hurdle.
The announcement lacks some of the detail you would expect and, as highlighted by Jordan on VentureBeat, the timing is not just mere coincidence:
The news is notable because it comes just one week after Salesforce, the biggest player in the CRM business, announced that it was bringing artificial intelligence capability — called Einstein — into its Sales Cloud. Einstein recommendations in Sales Cloud are similar to the cards that appear in Dynamics CRM’s “relationship assistant.”
One wonders whether the above was casually slipped into Satya’s keynote speech as a warning shot across to Salesforce. It is also unclear whether or not this tool will be released in tandem with Dynamics 365’s launch later this year, adding further weight to the argument that this was a last minute addition to the speech. Fingers crossed that we will see something more fleshed out sooner rather than later.
Adobe/Microsoft Partnership & the future of Microsoft Dynamics Marketing (MDM)
On first glance, the announcement concerning closer collaboration between Adobe & Microsoft seems rather innocuous, as it mostly concerns Adobe offering some of its more high-profile cloud offerings as part of the Azure/Office 365 “family” of products. However, this announcement comes with the following bombshell that organisations who use Dynamics Marketing, or are contemplating adopting it in the near future, need to urgently take note of:
Microsoft will make Adobe Marketing Cloud its preferred marketing service for Dynamics 365 Enterprise edition, giving customers a powerful, comprehensive marketing service for Microsoft’s next generation of intelligent business applications.
Now I preface this by saying that there is no explicit statement as part of the above that proclaims “Dynamics Marketing will no longer be available to buy as an Office 365 subscription”, but the writing is clearly on the wall for Dynamics Marketing. This being the case, there are few worthwhile things to point out:
- Clearly, not all Microsoft acquisitions are destined for instant or long-term success. Microsoft has clearly weighed up their options and decided that Adobe Marketing Cloud is a safer bet long term compared to Dynamics Marketing. I have taken a look previously at the history behind the MDM product, and the main thing I would highlight from this is that, from the outside, Dynamics Marketing definitely looks similar to CRM; but underneath the hood, there are a number of key and jarring differences that can make it difficult to become a Dynamics Marketing master in a short space of time.
- Adobe already look to have a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Connector that can be used to link across Marketing Cloud with CRM - having not used the tool myself, I cannot comment on its usability, but the key litmus test for the above announcement is how well this tool operates compared to the existing Dynamics Marketing CRM Connector. This tool I have found to be relatively straightforward and simple to configure and maintain. The success of how Adobe Cloud Marketing integrates with CRM/Dynamics 365 will be pivotal in determining whether this new partnership blossoms or wilts.
- Adobe presents an interesting choice for partnering, with some of the commentary surrounding the announcement pitching this as an epic battle between Microsoft/Adobe on one side versus Salesforce/Oracle on the other. If asked what Adobe is best known for, generally you would mention one of its many design or productivity products, not their solutions for Marketing. The areas where Adobe Marketing Cloud can win over Dynamics Marketing will be crucial, particularly in terms of campaign automation, email design and lead generation. If Marketing Cloud can take the best of these features from Dynamics Marketing, sprinkled with some of the design & productivity elements that are well-known from their other products, then the product could succeed significantly compared with Dynamics Marketing.
We are still another month or so away from the official release of Dynamics 365, so I am eagerly awaiting further detail on this key announcement - and in hopefully being able to set up a self-managed trial of Adobe Marketing Cloud and see what it can do in tandem with CRM.
And the rest…
Here’s my pick of other interesting announcements made during Ignite, that may have some bearing on CRM/Dynamics 365 in the near future:
- Windows Server 2016 finally has a somewhat definitive release date of “mid-October 2016”, and it is great to finally see that this will be released before the year is out. I have always found Windows Server 2012 to be somewhat strange to use, thanks in part to Windows 8 inspired Start Menu. Having a desktop experience that is virtually identical to Windows 10 will be a breath of fresh air. A new Server operating system will therefore likely mean that the next major version of On-Premise Dynamics CRM/365 will support this operating system, so getting up to speed with the new Server OS will be essential for those who intend to adopt the next, major version in the near future. There has been no news or confirmation from Microsoft whether existing or previous versions of On-Premise CRM will be updated to support Windows Server 2016, so those looking for a quick upgrade of their Server 2012’s should hold off until (and if) this becomes apparent.
- There was some interesting news and developments relating to SharePoint/OneDrive, that I am really looking forward to. For example, the ability to sync SharePoint libraries as part of the new next-generation client, push notifications to mobile devices and the ability to download multiple files to a .zip file. Because SharePoint, and now OneDrive, can be integrated closely within CRM, any developments that improve the experience and usability of working with your CRM documents will hopefully drive organisations towards utilising these services for their CRM document management, as opposed to just using the “out of the box” solution.
- The rebranding of Enterprise Mobility Suite, and the introduction of the new EMS E5 plan, can only mean good things for Microsoft’s cloud services generally, and in particular CRM Online; organisations can very quickly and confidently set up advanced and highly secure environments for their online identities, and in the process take full advantage of the full suite of Microsoft’s cloud offerings within Office 365 and, eventually, Dynamics 365.