CRM product specialists from Microsoft are touring the country and providing a Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Partner Readiness Roadshow to get their resellers up to speed on the beta release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. Our CRM and SharePoint team attended the roadshow at Microsoft’s offices in Southfield, Michigan, and I asked them to share some key take-aways for anyone thinking about selecting a new CRM solution.
Bottom line: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 is a first-rate offering which improves both end-user productivity and back-end customization and development.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 comes with the ribbon menu functionality that mirrors that of Office 2010. Gone are tabs for each record, replaced by a linear menu on the left side of the form. Both enhancements provide quicker navigation by exposing users to more CRM functionality with fewer clicks. Views are now selectable on the left side instead of the right side, thus easier to find and use.
Form Customization Enhancement
Customizing a Microsoft Dynamics CRM form is much more intuitive. Among the new features are:
Drag-and-drop options of fields can be done both to different spots on the form and completely on-or-off the form.
Columns widths are now completely customizable, allowing the form even greater visual formatting options.
Headers and footers are available to add to forms, thus giving it the ability to look at some fields such as name as a user scrolls through a form.
Views and charts can be added to by point and click configuration rather than through scripting as required in previous version.
Most excitingly, role-base forms that customize a form based on security role are now available . This is particularly exciting to provide specific users with the data they are interested in – for example a sales person gets all sales related data while a customer service person gets product history and support options while accessing the same record.
Views and Advanced Finds
A major complaint about previous versions was that the default views were the same for all users and could not be modified. That has been remedied with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. Each user can select his own default view by one click of a button on the ribbon. Views are easily personalized through the Advanced Find feature, which is significantly easier to use now with the ribbon. A very nice feature is the results button right on the Advance Find ribbon, which allows users to see the results of the query before it is saved.
In previous versions, linking records was limited to the Relationship functionality which was available for linking only a few record types like accounts and contacts. Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 has a new feature called Connections which allows any record to be linked to any other record, regardless of record type. Connections types are controlled by the administrators, thus controlling how records are tied together. This functionality will most likely make the Relationship function obsolete.
Another new feature is the ability to create wizard-like data captures using a feature called Dialog. An administrator can create a wizard with a series of questions and place editable data fields on the wizard for the end-user to enter. As the user goes through the wizard, the record is populated with the data entered. This feature offers a lot of options for customer service desks, and for lead or opportunity qualifying.
Other features worth note include:
Field-level security – providing administrators the ability to lock down specific fields by security roles.
Auditing – allowing a complete list of all changes to a particular record including when and by which user.
Goal Metrics – including both individual and team goals to specific CRM-related activities.
SharePoint links – a firm’s SharePoint instance can be linked and deployed through Point & Click configuration.
Dashboards – users can create and modify their own, by inserting any view or chart into their own personalized dashboards.
Upgrading from Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 to CRM 2011
An existing on-premise installation of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 may be extensively customized, either by a company’s own staff or by a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Partner. An important step in the upgrade process is to validate whether the current customizations will continue to function in the new version of the product. Thanks to excellent planning and forethought by the Microsoft Dynamics CRM product team, the answer is “yes!”
The Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Web Services and SDK components, while extended and improved, maintain a high level of backwards compatibility with the CRM 4.0 Web Services and SDK components. This allows your existing tools and applications to be easily ported to the latest version of CRM. There are improved tools in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 for managing custom plug-ins and workflows that make development, testing, deployment, and maintenance much easier.
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