By the end of the year, Microsoft will launch their newest version of the customer relationship management program, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. This is being seen as a true game changer in the industry. There are many new features in CRM 2011, most of which have been asked for by users for some time. At first I was going to title this article something like Larry’s Top 10 Features in CRM 2011 but it would be hard to pick the best. So I’m just going to describe a few of the goodies included in this upcoming release. I’ll try not to make it too ‘salesy’ and will focus it on the user. There are lots of goodies for developers as well.
Field Level Security – this gives administrators the ability to restrict access to certain fields in records. Previously security was only controlled at the record level. A user could either access a certain record, or they could not.
Role Based Forms – in previous versions there was only one form per record type for viewing and updating data. In 2011 multiple forms can be configured and assigned to users based on their job functions.
Ribbon – Microsoft’s latest Office versions now use a ‘ribbon’ menu at the top of the screen to present options and features. CRM 2011 uses a ribbon as well to make the look and feel of CRM like that of Microsoft Office so the users will feel they are already familiar with the program.
Dialogs – these are interactive workflows that can step a user through a process. These will be especially valuable in call centers where the user will ask a series of questions and be guided to the next step or question depending on the answers.
Outlook Integration – CRM 2011 will have native integration with Microsoft Office Outlook. This gives the user great flexibility in customizing how Outlook presents and handles CRM data to include previews, conditional formatting, charts, and dashboards.
Flexible Goal Management – Provides the ability to set and measure actual performance against goals and key performance indicators.
Solutions and the Marketplace – OK, this one is kind of a developer and administrator goodie. CRM 2011 allows developers to create packages of customizations and enhancements to CRM which can be quickly and easily added to a CRM installation. These customization packages will be available on the newly created ‘Marketplace’. Independent software vendors (ISV) can publish their packages for organizations to download, install, try and if they like them, buy. If they decide the package does not meet their needs, they can quickly and easily uninstall the package. This is a concept similar to ‘Apps’ on iPhone and other smartphone brands. This will be HUGE in my opinion.
Auditing – In previous versions of Microsoft Dynamics CRM there was no native auditing of changes to the data. Customizers could add the functionality but it took an extra effort and was usually targeted at a specific record type and data field. With 2011 auditing is built in. The system can (it’s an option) keep track of all changes to data including what the change was, when it was made, and who made the change. This has been a much asked for feature for many years.
SharePoint Integration – CRM 2011 now includes out of the box integration with SharePoint. This provides many advantages including dynamic document management.
CRM 2011 will be available in both ‘on-premise’ (where you get a CD and load it on your own server) and CRM Online (where Microsoft hosts it for you on their servers). I view the Online offering as the way to go in the future, especially for small businesses that don’t want to invest in the network infrastructure to support CRM.
There is a lot more that’s new with CRM 2011. This article briefly covered only a few of them. Many of the other enhancements will delight developers and system administrators, and ultimately the end users. For more information, visit the CRM 2011 Beta site at http://www.crm2011beta.com. Look for the Online to be released by year end and the on-premise in early 2011.