Today's blog post was written by Brendan Landers, VP of Consulting at Sonoma Partners.
Microsoft has released a number of new tools recently that are very interesting but have left a number of us asking, “What does that mean for CRM?" While I’d imagine a more official roadmap will be forthcoming, we wanted to convey our thoughts on these tools and how they may impact your CRM program or project.
These tools are all part of the Office 365 suite and were recently made available prior to the launch of Dynamics 365.
Let’s start with Microsoft Flow. Microsoft Flow is a SaaS offering for automating workflows across applications that business users rely on. It has some similar functionality to the Dynamics CRM workflow module, but it allows you to reach across to and from other applications. So, for example, perhaps we want to create a record in a SharePoint list when a CRM record is created. In the past, that would require either a third party tool configured by a technical resource or custom development. With Flow, it’s point and click.
Next we will touch on Microsoft PowerApps. PowerApps is a service that allows individuals to build simple custom applications without writing code. These Apps can be published instantly and be used on the web or from a mobile device. While Dynamics CRM has a robust custom mobile solution, PowerApps can be used for use case specific apps. My colleague, Jim Steger, recently published a post on this topic which can be found here. Also, a fun side note, we use PowerApps to manage our internal blog schedule.
Finally, let’s cover Microsoft’s Common Data Model (CDM). CDM is an Azure-based business application data model and storage mechanism available through PowerApps. CDM comes pre-provisioned with a large set of standard entities used in business applications. Users can use the standard entities but also extend the data model with custom entities, once again without writing code. The idea is allowing non-developers the ability to create a data model to support their needs. The goal of the CDM is to have a single data model that can source data from multiple systems, relate the data, and allow users to view a picture across many applications. The use cases from CRM are endless, but here are a couple examples of use cases we feel are interesting:
- Customer X has multiple CRM systems but wants a single view of Pipeline across the organization. The customer could use Microsoft Flow to push records from all CRM systems (SFDC and Microsoft) into the CDM and leverage Power BI to report directly from the CDM.
- Customer Y has a requirement that the Global Sales Lead receive an SMS when an opportunity is created above $1MM. To accomplish this, create a Microsoft Flow that listens to CRM opportunities and, if they meet the criteria, pushes an SMS to the Global Sales Lead via Twilio.
All of this said, these products are all very new and therefore we’d recommend you temper your expectations accordingly. That said, the release cadence is aggressive (similar to Power BI) and as such, we think you should definitely keep your eye on these applications.