Microsoft Dynamics CRM Polaris and UR12 Update

Posted by on January 18, 2013  |  commentsComments (3)

It’s been awhile since we posted anything about Polaris and UR12 so we wanted to drop a note giving an update as to these releases as well as a product roadmap update from Microsoft.

From Microsoft CRM’s Statement of Direction that was posted in November of 2012, you can clearly see that they’re investing heavily in the following 3 areas:

  • Applications:  Sales Force Automation, Customer Service, and Marketing Automation.  It was interesting to see them mention a “new desktop agent experience” and that they’d deliver “powerful knowledge management and search capabilities.”  It’ll be interesting if this means enhancing or revamping the current Knowledge Base area of CRM’s Service module as that’s been in need of a makeover.  Perhaps integration directly to SharePoint?
  • Experiences:  Focusing on extended browser support, UX enhancements, and social collaboration.  We’ll see this below with more on the Polaris and UR12 Update.
  • Platforms:  An interesting piece of this section was Microsoft' stating they’re “constantly seeking means to drive more configurability options to reduce the level of custom development and maintenance.”  One of the main enhancements to CRM that I’ve heard from our clients is adding in more configurability to the application.  Therefore their administrators can extend the application without having to find a solid developer to build some custom code.

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It looks like Microsoft is putting their investments in the right area and it’ll be interesting to see where the product goes from here.  As far as a release update, their latest product launch Polaris (December 2012 Update) is currently being rolled out to CRM Online customers, and will continue through January 2013.  Most of the functionality in Polaris (detailed below) will only be available for CRM Online.  However, some (like Cross Browser Support) will be available for On Prem in UR12.  The rest of the exciting new features will be rolled out to CRM On Prem in mid-2013 under code name Orion which is to be followed by Leo, and then Vega (Microsoft’s releases are code-named based on star constellations).

Some of the key features that are currently being rolled out to CRM Online customers and some key points of each are as follows:

  • Enhanced Forms and Process Drive UI
    • The Process Driven UI comes with the Enhanced UX forms and is only available for specific entities (Accounts, Contacts, Opportunities, Leads, and Cases).  Over time this will be broadened to other entities.
    • There will be predetermined stages and steps for Lead, Opportunity, and Case Management where each Stage consists of multiple Steps that should be completed prior to moving to the next Stage
    • While a linear progression through the Stages is recommended, it is possible to move forward and backward in a process. 

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    • The updated UX forms will be activated by default for new CRM Online customers.  However, existing CRM Online users can opt in to the new updated UX forms by going to Settings –> Administration –> Product Updates and clicking Install to upgrade to the new UX forms

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    • After you’ve installed the new updates, you can click on “Enable the new forms” to take advantage of the new UX forms.
    • One interesting thing I found about the Enhanced UX forms is that there’s an auto-save feature.  There no longer is a Save, Save & Close, or Save & New buttons at the top of the form in the Ribbon.  Heck, there isn’t even a Ribbon.
    • If you’re on an Enhanced UX form, you have the option to switch back to the Classic mode if you prefer that.

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  •  
    • Also available from this menu is the ability to edit the process flow process

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    • Clicking this button opens up the Process Control Customization Tool.  From here you can Create/Edit/Delete/Move Stages and Steps as well as identify what Fields each Step should be writing to.
    • It’d be interesting to see if Microsoft opens up the possible Steps that are available to custom development similar to how Workflow Activities can be defined to extend the power of Workflows

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  • Social Enhancements:
    • Yammer integration:
      • Microsoft has made a big investment towards upgrading their social integration with Yammer.   This integration has not yet been included in the product and should be coming out shortly
    • Embedded Skype Support
      • Users can initiate outbound calls (both to phones and Skype to Skype) directly from CRM forms and grids.
      • However, you currently need to install the Skype application on the user’s PC to take advantage of this.  This requirement will be removed in future releases.

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      • After you instantiate the call, CRM automatically takes you to the new Phone Call page and puts the focus into the body of the Phone Call activity so you can start typing away as you’re talking on the phone.
      • Simply type in the details, and click OK, and your new Phone Call is created automatically.  Pretty slick and this should cut down time logging activities, and increase user adoption to capture their Phone Calls in CRM.

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  • Outlook 2013 Integration
    • Microsoft continues the tradition of tightly coupling CRM and Office Products (Word, Excel, Outlook, etc.) that most corporations use.
    • Outlook 2013 is being supported, but not enhanced at this time.  Moving forward they’ll increase the integration features, but not at this time with the December 2013 update.

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  • Bing Maps Integration:
    • This feature is only available on Leads/Contacts/Accounts with addresses.
    • After you enter address details on the form, the Bing Map appears directly on the CRM form.
    • Clicking on the map will open up Bing in another window allowing you to take full advantage of Bing Maps. 
    • However, you can still move the map around on the form, as well as zoom in and zoom out directly from the CRM form.

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  • Multiple Browser Support:
    • Originally user facing only actions were going to be available (as in Sales/Service/Marketing).  However, the multiple browser support now is extended into admin functions as well.
    • Below is the matrix of browsers that are supported:

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    • Our CRM Online org has been updated already to the latest release, so I was able to open it using my favorite browser of Chrome which was exciting to see and a big milestone for the product.
    • However, I do know some customers that will be nervous about rolling this feature out especially if they have corporate policies to use specific browsers.  Here’s a post that details out how you can control which browsers your CRM deployment will support.

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  • Multiple Instances of CRM Online:
    • One of the biggest advantages of Microsoft CRM On Premise is that you can host multiple organizations within the same deployment.  Therefore being able to create separate isolated organizations utilizing the same hardware.
    • One of the biggest requests we’ve heard about from our CRM Online customers is this same need.  They want to not only have a production environment, but also have a development/test environment where they can make configuration and development changes and safely test them before moving them to production.
    • As posted back in November of 2012, With the December 2012 update, this feature will be available.  It’ll be available after all CRM Online orgs are converted to the new release which is scheduled to be complete by the end of January.
    • Additional good news is that you won’t have to pay additional for each user license.  The cost would simply be a flat monthly cost for each instance you spin up.  Therefore, your production users can be users of as many instances that you spin up and you won’t need to pay more for each user you have.  Instead, you’ll just need to pay more for each instance that you create.

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  • Custom WF Activities for CRM Online
    • A big enhancement most CRM Online customers were waiting for as this closes the gap between CRM Online and CRM On Prem functionality allowing users to create their own custom code that can work in the context of a workflow.
  • New SDK Features:
    • Bulk data load API for large data sets.  This allows you to create, update, and delete large volumes of records in CRM Online which greatly improves throughput and performance

As you can see from the above there’s a lot to be excited for if you’re currently a CRM Online customer, and if you’re a CRM On Premise customer, this functionality will be coming to a server near you in the near future (mid 2013) so you won’t have to wait too long to get your hands on these goodies!

Comments

  1. Would be nice if Microsoft could release a rollup without any bugs. Makes all this fancy talk irrevalant if you can't trust them to release quality

    Posted by: patruck  |  Jan 20, 2013 12:00:11 PM

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