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Dynamics CRM 2015 Outlook and Sync Enhancements

Microsoft recently announced new features that have come out with their next version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 (previously code named Vega).  Check out the Dynamics CRM 2015 Release Preview Guide to see what features came with 2015. 

Next up for our review are the enhancements being made to Outlook and the Sync Process.  One thing to note is that all the enhancements outlined in this blog apply to both the legacy Outlook Sync and new Server Side Sync process introduced with CRM 2013. 

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Below are the enhancements that are included with CRM 2015.  We’ll go into a few of these enhancements in more detail later in this blog.

  • Contact Phone Number and Address Sync Improvements
  • Sync Outlook Assigned Task (Outlook task assigned to another user that is also in CRM).  This is not enabled out of the box and a System Setting needs to be enabled to turn this on
  • Sync Appointment Attachments.  This is also controlled via a System Setting.
  • Configurable Field Level Sync
  • Outlook Client

System Settings

Navigating to Settings –> Administration –> System Settings –> Synchronization will display the dialog of all the organization level settings regarding the Outlook sync process.  See below.

In this dialog you have a mix of legacy pre-2015 settings, and a handful of new 2015 settings.  The new configuration settings you have at your disposal are:

  • Synchronized Fields:  This is where an admin can modify what direction fields are synced.  This is explained more below.
  • Synchronize Appointment Attachments:  With 2015, you can enable attachments on appointments to synchronize between Outlook and Dynamics CRM.
  • Address Sync:  This is explained more in the section below.
  • Synchronize Assigned Tasks:  An admin can enable if Outlook Tasks that are assigned to another user are tracked in CRM or not.

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Contact Phone Number and Address Sync

With CRM 2015, Microsoft has changed the sync process for Contacts.  4 more phone numbers were added to the sync process for a total of 11:

  • Assistant’s Phone
  • Business Fax
  • Business Phone
  • Business Phone 2
  • Callback Number
  • Company Phone
  • Home Phone
  • Home Phone 2
  • Mobile Phone
  • Telephone 3
  • Pager

There’s also an organization level System Setting that allows you to indicate if you want to sync either A) just the Outlook Mailing Address, or B) all 3 Outlook Addresses (Business, Home, Other).  This setting is available by going to Settings –> Administration –> System Settings (shown above).

Configurable Field Level Sync

One of the biggest questions we’re asked over and over with our clients is what fields are synchronized between Outlook and Dynamics CRM.  There are a few sites out there that go into detail on what fields are synchronized, but nothing within the application provided by Microsoft.  They also don’t easily indicate which Outlook fields synchronize to which CRM fields, the direction of the sync, and the ability to turn off that sync (in other words, all fields synchronized all the time).

Now with Dynamics CRM 2015, you can navigate to Settings –> Administration –> System Settings –> Synchronization –> Synchronized Fields.  From this location, you can see the mapping between Outlook fields and CRM fields and the direction that the sync is currently configured for. 

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For each field you can modify the sync direction so that it syncs both ways, sync one way, or don’t sync at all.  This is currently an Organization level setting that’s setup in the Settings area of CRM and one improvement that I can see here is making this a user setting so that each user can have individual unique sync experiences if for some reason they don’t want to share information about Contacts that are in their Outlook and also tracked within CRM. However, for the current release of 2015, individual users can at least view the sync directions that their administrator setup by navigating to their Personal Options –> Synchronization –> Synchronized Fields

There are a couple quick use cases that come to mind that I know most customers would be ecstatic to get their hands on:

  • Private Notes:  Turn off the sync process on the Outlook Notes field.  Therefore users can add Notes within Outlook and they won’t flow to CRM for everyone to see.  They can keep their own personal notes locally in Outlook.
  • Read Only CRM Data:  Set the sync direction on the desired read only fields to go from CRM to Outlook only, meaning updates in Outlook will not update CRM, and CRM will overwrite Outlook changes.

Another resource on this subject is an article that Microsoft recently published.  While having this in the application is useful, this link also provides more details for administrators.

Outlook Client Enhancements

There have been changes to the Outlook Client itself in addition to the sync changes. 

First off Microsoft has now added OAuth support to the Outlook Client.  This enables multi-factor authorization to the Outlook client and brings consistency across CRM clients (web and Outlook). 

Microsoft has also cut the clutter out of configuring the Outlook client.  Users simply need to provide the Organization URL to get up and running as fast as possible.  See below for what the configuration process looks in Dynamics 2013, and how much easier it is in 2015.

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Also, in order to help troubleshooting issues between Client and Server, Dynamics CRM 2015 now automatically detects compatibility issues between the Client and Server.  A notification is sent to the user if a compatibility issue is detected.

Finally, another troubleshooting addition made by Microsoft is when errors are detected, a “Resolve This Issue” dynamic help link will appear.  This link will be dynamic and will search a server side database of articles that will route customers to the right resolution for their issue.

Upgrade Experience and Supportability

This topic isn’t really an enhancement, but goes into details on moving to the Dynamics CRM 2015 Outlook client, and what versions are supported.

In order to upgrade to the 2015 Outlook client, you must be on Outlook 2010 or higher (support for Office 2007 is being dropped).  Microsoft is also dropping support for:

  • IE 8, IE 9
  • Windows Vista
  • Windows Server 2008 Remote Desktop Services
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services

The Outlook Client must be in “Online Mode” for the upgrade to succeed, and Microsoft is allowing all 2013 Outlook Client versions to upgrade to the 2015 Outlook Client.  Also, users will be able to continue to use the 2013 Outlook Client if they deploy the 2015 server.  However, they’ll only be able to use it in “Online Mode” (i.e., no offline capabilities will be supported).

The recommended process for upgrading your Outlook Client is the following.  This process will ensure users are able to continue to use their Outlook Clients during your server upgrade to Dynamics 2015.

  • Upgrade all Outlook Clients to 2013
  • Upgrade your server to 2015
  • Upgrade all Outlook Clients to 2015

We hope you’ll find that these improvements will add more configurability and robust functionality to the Outlook Client.  I can see some future improvements Microsoft may want to add in with the sync process (allowing administrators to add/remove/edit what Outlook fields sync to what CRM fields including the ability to sync to custom fields), but it’s good to see Microsoft is continuing to go down the path of putting more configurability options in the hands of administrators, and removing any hard coded logic.

Good luck with your 2015 upgrade, and with all upgrades, plan…test…plan…and test some more!!

Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online