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Microsoft Dynamics CRM Release Set for Mid-January

December 29, 2010

Sources have informed ContactCenterSolutions that Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 is tentatively set to be released in mid-January 2011.

In anticipation of this launch, and to explore its context, ContactCenterSolutions recently interviewed Chad Hamblin, who is group product manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

ContactCenterSolutions: What key trends are you seeing in CRM demand and applications, and what are the drivers?

CH: Here are the macro and CRM-specific trends.

Macro trends:

One of the macro-level trends we often hear from our customers and prospects is a renewed focus on productivity. This is mainly attributed to the fact that many companies are still reeling from the economic downturn and are being forced to go about business in a smarter, more efficient fashion. And many of those companies realize that CRM can be an instrumental tool in helping them achieve productivity gains.

Another related macro trend that is driving interest in CRM is the renewed realization that customer experience is the key to differentiating from competitors. With the advancement of technology and increasingly social world we live in, companies are realizing it is difficult to win on price, product or distribution. Those are all things that can be copied and imitated. The one thing that cannot be replicated is the customer experience and that is exactly what CRM helps enable.

One last point-of-view we have is that companies can no longer put CRM projects on hold. During the serious economic downturn some companies scaled back on their CRM initiatives. Of which, most companies that put off investing in CRM strategies and solutions are now realizing the negative ramifications of that decision. We see many companies now who are trying to make up for lost time and are working fast to kick-start strategic CRM projects. This is something we are certainly very excited about.

CRM-specific trends:

While there are many to note, six stand out:

The first one directly relates to the effects of the economic downturn and the desire to go about business smarter. And that is the focus on total cost of ownership (TCO). Gone are days where large CRM vendors like Siebel, Oracle and others could who could justify exorbitant and costly CRM projects. Organizations today want value and they realize it is worth more than software costs. It includes costs associated with hardware, training, consulting, customization, integration and maintenance. And as part of that, companies are also looking for ways they can leverage existing technology investments in conjunction with CRM. So rather than just focusing on the upfront license costs, organizations are now taking a long-term view of their CRM needs and scrutinizing the total costs, which frankly speaking this is a positive and healthy direction for the industry

Another major trend that relates to the focus on productivity and TCO is the emphasis on choice. We often hear from prospects, customers and partners how having flexibility in deployment options and overall choices in how to operate their business are a top benefit. Bottom line, they all want choice. Not only choice in delivery models (on-demand, on-premise, partner hosted), but they want choice in access options (Native Outlook Client, web-browser, mobile device access), choice in who they partner with and they want choice in pricing and licensing terms

One trend that directly relates to choice is the explosive growth of on-demand (SaaS) based CRM solutions. While on-demand CRM solutions currently do not make up the majority of the CRM market, it is certainly the fastest-growing area. And with the desire to minimize IT costs and quickly implement CRM projects, many organizations are turning to SaaS based CRM solutions. This is a trend that Microsoft is heavily investing in; and we see it as huge and vast opportunity for us. This is incredibly exciting and our messaging and vision is resonating with our customers and our partners

The next trend, at a more functional level [is that] we are seeing a premium being placed on analytics and data visualization. Organizations want to do more than just capture and track data. People are increasingly asking for more capabilities that are easy to use and familiar -- to visualize data directly within dashboards, reports and goals or key performance indicators. People want embedded data visualization capabilities to be in real-time and visual. In essence, people need the ability to take data and derive actionable insight from it

The last two trends we are seeing, which we will talk about briefly here and go into more detail later, are mobile and social. With the advancement of mobile technology and the need to improve productivity, many organizations are looking for mobile solutions and specifically mobile support for CRM solutions. In regards to social media, while many CRM vendors and customers are still trying to figure out how it relates to their CRM projects, one thing that cannot be questioned is the impact in general. Social media has shifted the balance of the power from businesses to consumers and given them a free and ubiquitous platform to voice their opinions

ContactCenterSolutions: Businesses and consumers are going mobile, and social. Is it now possible to untether the smartphones? How have going from 1-to-1 to 1-to-many, i.e. social, affected CRM strategies?

CH: Certainly you could argue that “mobile CRM” is being unleashed. As companies look for ways to be more productive and approach business smarter, they are realizing all of the waste and inefficiencies that happens outside the office because their employees do not have access to relevant information. And that is the exactly the gap CRM can help fill. You combine CRM with the advancement of smart phones, including Windows Phone 7, iPhone, BlackBerry and other mobile devices and the rich features they offer, and we reach a point where users can more fully leverage CRM on mobile devices for their business needs. And while it might not come as a surprise, we are especially excited about the new set of capabilities and way new of intelligent presentation of information, such as the Life Tiles in the Windows Phone 7.

One trend we are seeing is that customers still want choice when it comes to mobile devices. Many organizations have staffs that use multiple types of mobile devices, and in turn those organizations are looking for CRM solutions that support multiple mobile platforms so they can meet the needs of all of their employees.

In terms of social media, it has certainly shifted the balance of power between consumers and businesses and something that all organizations have to account for. A great example is the “United Broke My Guitar” episode, where a professional musician’s guitar was broken on a United Airlines operated flight. According to the musician, he couldn’t get United Airlines to compensate him for his expensive guitar and after exhausting traditional customer service channels, he created a song and music video that vented his frustrations and posted it on YouTube. In a few weeks, the video became viral as it received millions of views on YouTube (now close to 10 million views). As a result, the musician received full reimbursement from United Airlines and a personal letter from the president.

But the important question is how can organizations leverage social media along with their traditional business and how can they use CRM to harness it. While this is somewhat uncharted territory for the CRM industry, most CRM vendors and customers alike would agree that CRM solutions need to be able to help organizations better track social conversations and trends. [They should] also allow them to more effectively identify and tap into social relationships (i.e. Facebook, LinkedIn) and to leverage those social data points, in addition to traditional customer data, as part of their customer management initiatives.

ContactCenterSolutions: CRM installations have been characterized as slow and expensive; sometimes the lead times have been so long the problems they were purchased to solve have disappeared. Are you seeing companies shorten the go-live and payback/ROI times and if so by how much today as compared to a year or 18 months ago? What CRM methods i.e. modular, hosted are buyers seeking in response?

CH: You are exactly right that CRM in the past was plagued by slow and sometimes expensive implementations. In fact, many would argue that Siebel was the poster child for that as there were several public and high-profile cases of slow and expensive implementations. All you have to do is an Internet search on Siebel and Telstra, Siebel and AT&T and Siebel and Merrill Lynch too see that. Of course, CRM failures are not limited to Siebel.

But the key point here is that from the late 1990s through the first half of 2000, during the CRM boom times both companies and vendors didn’t apply enough due-diligence around CRM. As we mentioned earlier, the pendulum has swung to the other side now. While it is very difficult to apply a specific percentage compared to 18 months ago, companies now are obsessively focusing on shortening implementation timelines and ensuring they have strong ROI payback.

And some of the ways they are doing that is by demanding CRM vendors provide solutions that can be rapidly installed, CRM solutions that work the way they do, CRM solutions that can be easily integrated to existing solutions and CRM solutions that can be easily customized and tailored to their unique environment. A key enabler of that is the explosive growth of on-demand CRM solutions as companies increasingly want CRM solutions where they can swipe their credit cards and with some minimal training and configuration get it up and running. Of course, there are also other companies who prefer to keep the implementation in-house for control or data privacy reasons, but they are also still demanding faster implementations.

ContactCenterSolutions: What solutions have Microsoft released and will be coming out with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 in response to these trends? What has been the feedback from your customers?

CH: First of all, let me talk a little bit about the history of Microsoft Dynamics CRM and then I will discuss some details of our upcoming release.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM was developed from the ground-up about eight years ago. One of the benefits of entering the CRM market later than some of our competitors is that we could learn from their mistakes. Many of the issues with CRM mentioned above are things we consciously tried to avoid when we developed Microsoft Dynamics CRM. We specifically created a product that is familiar and requires minimal training, that can be used within Microsoft Outlook, and allow organizations to maximize their broader technology investment by embedding key features from Microsoft Office, Microsoft SharePoint and other solutions. We created a flexible solution with an easy customization framework so organizations can efficiently tailor it to their needs. And we made sure we offered choice. Microsoft Dynamics CRM is offered on-demand, on-premises and via partner-hosted, which are all based on the same code-base. It is accessible via a native Microsoft Outlook Client, Web-browser or mobile device, and at multiple pricing options that can be customized to best accommodate the unique needs of a business on a case-by-case basis.

And many of our customers are realizing the benefits of [our] approach. We have customers like IGH Solutions/ Taylor Group who realized ROI benefits switching from to Microsoft Dynamics CRM in less than nine months. Also ISS, who is on track to see more than a 100 percent payback on Microsoft Dynamics CRM and also won the Nucleus CRM ROI Award for their implementation.

Another customer, Fluke Instruments stated at a public event they now only need one-quarter the IT support resources to support their Microsoft Dynamics CRM implementation compared with their previous CRM solution. Fluke Instruments also illustrates a great example of the need to provide choice as they use both on-premises and on-demand offerings from Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Or you can look at Panduit, a multi-dollar manufacturer, who developed a full-blown Microsoft Dynamics CRM implementation in more than 30 countries in less than 4four months.

Additionally, we have many customers who are achieving specific business benefits with Microsoft Dynamics CRM:

  • Barclays reduced call center and issue resolution escalations by 80 percent as well as decreasing the cost per incident by 22 percent.
  • Vodafone achieved a 95 percent first call resolution rate, which helped to increase operating revenue by $21 million with higher customer retention rates and more efficient handoffs of cross-/up-sell opportunities to the sales teaming.
  • Polaris achieved 35 percent efficiency gains in their dealer relationship management process.
  • Garanti Pensions and Insurance increased their customer contribution rate by 43 percent.
  • Mitsubishi-Caterpillar increased service calls by 80 percent, eliminated 1,250 hours of waste and reduced custom development costs by 60 percent.

We are on the verge of releasing our next major release, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, in January 2011. This release has more than 500 enhancements and is a significant milestone for us. And the thing that we are really excited about is that it was created from the beginning with a focus on helping organizations improve their productivity. When we say productivity, it was based on our belief that CRM solutions should be based on three core tenants: 1) Familiar (natural and personal), 2) Intelligent (insightful and actionable) and 3) Connected (collaborative and integrated).

Here are a few of the more relevant aspects of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011:

First and foremost, this release coincides with our world-wide launch of our on-demand offering, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, which will be released in 40 markets and 41 languages. And Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online directly takes advantage of the more than $2.3 billion investment Microsoft has made in cloud-based infrastructure and directly leverages world-wide Microsoft data centers that are SAS 70- and ISO 27001-compliant

The second major point is the breadth and depth of new capabilities we are offering in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. And what we are really excited about is that these features directly address a lot of the trends we talked about above. These are, to recap: renewed focus on productivity, the need to make CRM solutions easy-to-use, fast to deploy and cost-effective, the need to glean insight from data, the need to optimize time outside the office and the need to connect CRM to other systems, solutions and sites

Noteworthy enhancements in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 include, the introduction of a completely new streamlined user interface that provides a contextual ribbon, record pinning and most recently used list capabilities, along with other enhancements that help users find information they need ,while minimizing clicks and windows. We have also included a wealth of personalization features like the role-based forms, personal views and drag-and-drop customization that help organizations to tailor CRM for their unique business needs and present data to the individual needs of each user

Significant new analysis capabilities including new dashboard capabilities that allow organizations to create, view and configure real-time dashboards and a new feature called “Inline Visualization” that allows users to instantly create charts and visualizations of their data. We are also including new performance management features such as goal management, business auditing and field-level security that allow organizations to better track performance, identify inefficiencies and improve operations

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 will have a new feature called “Dialogs” that allows users to create powerful guided processes and call scripts that include a guided visual flow along with the ability to embed rules, triggers and cues. We are taking the powerful document management capabilities of Microsoft SharePoint and embedded that right with Microsoft Dynamics CRM so organizations can more efficiently create and re-use documents and more effectively share knowledge across the organization

And speaking of other solutions, we are providing a wealth of new features that allow organizations to better leverage existing technology investments. In addition to the broad range of Microsoft Office capabilities we already provide, in Microsoft Dynamic CRM 2011 we will provide a of new capabilities. A few examples are seamless data export/import to/from Excel, the ability for CRM users to apply Outlook conditional formatting rules against CRM data and the ability to create Outlook reminders on CRM records. All of these capabilities allow organizations to use CRM in a way that is familiar and to utilize valuable Microsoft Office features right within Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

We are also including a wide variety of capabilities that allows organizations to better connect with people, systems and sites. For example, we are introducing a new “Connections” feature that allows organization to more effectively track non-traditional roles and the “Social Connector,” which is also part of Outlook 2010. [This] allows CRM users to provide social context to their contacts by surfacing data from Facebook, LinkedIn and other key social sites.

We will continue to release additional mobile solutions. Our current solution, Mobile Express for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, provides robust CRM functionality on any Web-enabled mobile device. Additionally, we work with key partners like CWR and Tendigits that provide specific device solutions for Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

But is not just about connecting with people, it is also important for CRM systems to connect with other solutions and system. And with the launch of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, we will be introducing the Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace, an all-new online solution catalog that will provide a one-stop-shop for Microsoft Dynamics related solutions and applications. Now a customer or partner can go to the Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace, do a quick search for a needed solution, try it and eventually buy it. They can also leverage community reviews and rankings of those solutions. And once they have that solution they can use the new solution management capabilities in Microsoft Dynamics CRM to easily install, track and manage those solutions.

Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for ContactCenterSolutions. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf