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Microsoft Convergence Morphs into Two Conferences

Today's post is written by Ryan Toenies, VP of Sales at Sonoma Partners.

Microsoft recently announced that their long-standing Microsoft Convergence conference will cease to exist. Opting for a “One Microsoft” strategy, Microsoft has decided to roll all of their Dynamics content into two conferences. Microsoft Envision and Ignite will now replace Convergence. 

So which conference should you attend?

The first thing we all need to understand is that Convergence as we knew it is now gone. Don't be alarmed! This is not a bad thing. The new conference layout allows individuals to attend the event that most closely aligns to their needs. 

Microsoft Envision: 

April 4th - April 6th, 2016 | New Orleans, LA

This conference is designed for CxO’s and Senior Leadership to discuss how technology is impacting their business strategies. Filled with 3 different customer panel sessions, an opening keynote from Satya Nadella and some industry breakout sessions; business leaders will have ample time to discuss key business needs with peers from around the world.

The takeaway: Attendees will come away from this conference understanding how Microsoft is approaching business strategies both today, and into the future.

Microsoft Ignite: 

September 26th - September 30th, 2016 | Atlanta, GA

This conference is where all the traditional Dynamics technical content will be found. The conference is designed for IT professionals, system administrators and power users. Product roadmaps, features and functions of the latest releases, and Microsoft product team members will all be a key components of this conference.

The takeaway: Attendees will learn about O365, Azure, PowerBI, Dynamics AX, NAV, GP, CRM and more.  All of Microsoft’s key business technologies will be on display and there will be separate roadmap sessions diving into each product line.

There is one more conference that you might consider attending:

CRM UG Summit: 

October 11th - October 14th, 2016 | Tampa, FL

This is a conference that has really exploded over the last couple of years. This is the “how-to” conference for the Dynamics CRM community. The audience will be primarily power users of CRM, with a mix of business and IT leadership looking to understand how other companies are utilizing Dynamics CRM. Microsoft attendees will include the product support team, engineers and some senior leaders on the product development team. 

If your goal is to understand how you can better maximize your CRM investment, this is the conference for you.

Sunsetting the Convergence conference was a bold move. This further solidifies Satya’s vision of a "One Microsoft" strategy. Since the inception of Dynamics, it has always been a separate business unit within Microsoft. Transforming that business into the broader ecosystem of Microsoft will benefit the entire Dynamics community. Removing Convergence and replacing it with Envision and Ignite is just one more sign from Microsoft that Dynamics is a key part of their evolving cloud strategy. 

Topics: Microsoft Convergence Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Convergence 2015 Keynote Recap

Microsoft’s Convergence was last week and we’re recovering from a long and exciting week in Atlanta but we wanted to share with the community some of the hot topics being talked about in the Dynamics community.

The focus of this year’s Convergence keynote was how Microsoft empowers people, industries and organizations to achieve more. Satya Nadella and Kirill Tatarinov took the stage separately to talk about how Microsoft technologies work together to help transform businesses and while doing so, they announced a handful of new tools.

Power BI

Power BI is a cloud service that leverages Excel to provide shareable analytics through reports and dashboards. Power BI is now available in the U.S. and more than 140 markets around the world. The following data sources are coming soon – Google Analytics, Microsoft Dynamics Marketing, Zuora, Acumatica and Twilio.


Office Delve

Delve is a new tool which surfaces content from email and social feeds within Office 365. It uses machine learning to highlight information that is relevant based on your work and your colleagues. Delve can surface content from Yammer as well as Exchange Online. It was announced during the keynote that Delve is now globally available.


Skype for Business

Lync has been rebranded as Skype for Business and can now leverage all your Skype contacts. It was announced in the keynote that the technical preview starts today. The full version will be available starting in April.



Microsoft Dynamics CRM was finally discussed towards the end of the keynote when Julia White came out to unveil the new Spring ‘15 Release.

InsideSales Predictive Intelligence

Julia announced and did a demo of Dynamics CRM integration with’s Predictive Intelligence which helps sales users determine which lead they should be focused on right now by displaying the Neural Score and Contactability front and center on the Lead form.


OneNote Integration

On the Activity Feed for a record there is a new link for OneNote which lists all the related OneNote entries for the current record.


When a OneNote entry is clicked on, it navigates right to the note in OneNote Online which can then be edited directly in OneNote. This feature is exciting for us as a lot of CRM users use OneNote as well. It provides a better rich-text experience versus the standard text box that CRM provides with native notes.


Suggested Items

On the product line items for an Opportunity, there is a “Suggestions” link in each row which will display a list of related products so that they can be easily added to the Opportunity as well with a single click. This feature comes in handy for cross selling or when you’re selling a product that has a lot of related accessories.



With a Windows Phone device, Cortana can now be used to open records through voice commands. Julia said the command “CRM open opportunity called Trek 3D printer upgrade” which then proceeded to open the specific opportunity record in the MoCA app for Windows Phone without any hiccups! I’m still skeptical of how well the voice commands will work but it looks very promising based on her demo and I’m excited to see what else can be done with Cortana and CRM in the future.




Outlook 2016

Julia briefly showed off the new Outlook 2016 and announced the release of IT Professional and Developer Preview of Office 2016. Attaching a file will now display the most recently used documents. There are also new attachment options so you can use a link to OneDrive or the standard inline attachment. The release version of Office 2016 is expected to be available in the second half of this year.



Surface Hub

Lastly, Julia showed off the new Surface Hub on a 84” HD 4k touch sensor screen with WiFi, speakers, microphones and cameras. It supports two-way integration so the content can be manipulated from either the Surface Hub or individual devices that are connected to the Hub and it looked pretty smooth and slick! The Surface Hub website notes that it is coming later this year.



Unfortunately we were hoping for some more stage time for Dynamics CRM but the features that were shown from the Spring ‘15 release look very promising. Now that the NDA is lifted on the Spring release, we will be covering the new features over the next few weeks so check back in the near future!

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

Convergence 2014 Recap – Sonoma Partners Booth

The Sonoma Partners crew had a blast last week at Convergence 2014!  We had a busy week of gathering knowledge from sessions as well as networking at our eventful booth. 

Mobile Buzz

If you couldn’t make it to our booth this year, we debuted a custom mobile trivia game called Mobile Buzz.  We custom built the mobile app ourselves to show off and illustrate one of our core beliefs that task specific mobile apps greatly improve the user experience and outperform “generic” mobile solutions!  Mobile Buzz was built using HTML5 that can support any type of mobile device (Android, Windows, iPhone, etc).  We used SignalR and Azure as well to make sure it was fast, responsive and scalable. 

How it Works

Attendees could go to from their device and join an upcoming game which would then display their name on our Booth Leaderboard.  Once our booth moderator started the game, the first question would show on our booth displays and then users would see multiple choice answers to the question displayed on their device.  The user would select the answer they think is correct and then wait for the time expire to see the results.  The user that answered the most questions correctly and the fastest would win. 



Questions were of general trivia and some were more Convergence focused:

Image preview


Below is the Mobile Buzz UI on a device.  This screenshot was taken from a Dell Venue 8 Pro:



We started a Mobile Buzz game every 30 minutes during all booth hours and each Mobile Buzz winner took home a Nokia Lumia 520!


Our client, Valerie Berthelsen from National Oilwell Varco, was one of the many winners!



Mobile Buzz kept us busy and drew a great crowd each day!  Thanks to everyone that stopped by and be sure to check our booth again next year to see what we’ll be doing next!


Topics: Microsoft Convergence Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Microsoft Announces new Enterprise License

A lot of great news came out of Microsoft’s Convergence last week in Atlanta.  If you weren’t able to attend, you can watch the sessions online using Microsoft’s Virtual Convergence.  Attendees can log onto the Convergence Website and navigate to Attendee Tools to to get access to PowerPoint decks and additional recordings.

The investments Microsoft is making in Social, Service and Marketing is exciting to see with Microsoft Social Listening, Unified Service Desk / Parature / service web enhancements, and Microsoft Dynamics Marketing.  We’ll be writing about these in the upcoming weeks.

However, Microsoft also recently announced their pricing and licensing for Dynamics CRM.  One of the big bits of news from this announcement is that Microsoft is announcing a new Enterprise License that is available for $200 per user per month.

With this new license, customers will receive:

  • Dynamics Marketing (previously Marketing Pilot)
  • Unified Service Desk and additional Case Management Enhancements
  • Limited Time Offer:  US and Canada customers purchasing 10+ Enterprise seats of Dynamics CRM will receive an equal number of Parature seats.

This information is subject to change and Microsoft stated that as general availability of this functionality approached, they’ll have more details on these offers.

Topics: Microsoft Convergence Microsoft Dynamics CRM Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Convergence 2014 Recap – Unified Service Desk

Last week at Convergence there was a great session called “Unified Service Desk: Enabling a super agent!” that thoroughly covered the new Unified Service Desk product coming in the Spring Update for Dynamics CRM 2013.  The majority of content in this post comes from that session but I highly recommend watching it as well so you can see it in action.


Unified Service Desk (USD) is a desktop application meant for call center reps that will help provide a reliable and consistent experience across multiple channels.  Nowadays custom service requests can come from multiple channels such as phone, chat, email, or even social media so the goal of USD is to enable the rep to be more efficient and productive through all of those channels.  USD will provide a configurable UI that admins can customize to fit their reps needs.  The application can be integrated with 3rd party applications as well in order to provide all the necessary requirements of a rep’s job into one spot.


  • Search
    • Easily configure searches on different entities
    • Each entity search is a separate tab
    • Admin can configure the order of the search tabs
  • Call Scripts
    • Easily configured links to help guide the rep
    • Content can dynamically pull in data from CRM records
    • Each link can perform a certain configurable action:
      • Open a tab of a CRM record
      • Open a tab with custom content
      • Navigate to a sub-set of call script links
      • Set focus to a field
  • Sessions
    • A session is a tab that runs in context of a customer
    • Multiple sessions at once
    • Each session can have multiple application tabs

  • Applications
    • An application is a tab that displays content
    • Global or session specific
    • Can have multiple application tabs per session
  • Toolbar
    • Configurable layout
    • Ability to add custom buttons
      • Buttons can perform configurable actions in context of the customer
  • Integrations
    • Ability to integrate with Line of Business applications
    • Allows for third parties to create integration components
      • LiveOps, Professional Services Aspect and Ingenius have already created CTI integrations

Customer Service Flow

The following is an example scenario from the Convergence session where a customer either calls or chats with a support rep.  Using USD, the rep can easily search the contacts in CRM to find an existing contact record.

Note – There are plans for third party telephony integrations as well so screen-pop could be used to automatically open the record.  


The dark blue tab at the very top is the session tab.  Sessions will be in context of a certain customer and multiple sessions can be opened at the same time.  When opening the customer’s record, USD will automatically open a new session tab as shown below with Maria Campbell.


Actions that occur will happen in context of the current customer session.  For example as shown below, there is a custom application to “Locate the Customer” which will do a Bing Search using the customer’s address.  USD will automatically pull in the address of the customer in the current session and send it to Bing Maps which will be opened in a new application tab.


The rep also has easy access to the call script in the left navigation which will help guide the rep through the support case.  As each call script link is clicked, a green checkmark will display next to the link to indicate that the action has been performed already. 


The rep will click the first link in the list which is “New Service Request” which will then display a whole new set of sub call script links.


The rep will then click the new first link in the list which is “Open Customer Details”.  This opens an application tab to a Line of Business system that displays the customer details to the rep so that the rep is quickly informed about the customer.


The rep then clicks the next call script link, “Create a case”, which will open a new application tab which pulls in the New Case form from CRM 2013.  In this scenario, USD automatically populates the Customer lookup based on the customer session in context.


Then the rep clicks on a call script link, “Search for a solution”, which has two options of using a KB article search or searching Bing.  The rep clicks to search Bing which opens a new application tab that automatically pulls up a Bing search with the above Case details.


The rep then clicks the “Send Email” call script link which opens a new application tab that pulls in the New Email record from CRM 2013.  Here the rep can select from multiple templates at the top of the USD application which will pre-populate the email record based on the email template using the data from the rep and customer CRM records.


There is an easily accessible text field on the left navigation for notes which allows the rep to make notes throughout the customer interaction.  At any time the rep can click a button to auto-populate the case record notes with the notes that the rep has taken.

As you can see, Unified Service Desk looks to be pretty promising.  Microsoft has provided a lot of functionality that will greatly improve productivity amongst customer support teams.  USD can encapsulate a lot of functionality and systems into one easy-to-use application for users.  We feel that Unified Service Desk plus telephony integration will be a huge selling point for Dynamics CRM.

Topics: Microsoft Convergence Microsoft Dynamics CRM Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013

Convergence 2014 Recap – Part 1

The Convergence 2014 Keynote last week kicked off with the Dynamics Roadmap for this year.  There are two big updates set for Dynamics CRM, one being a Spring Update that should be right around the corner and then an Autumn Update later this year.  Wayne Morris, CVP of Microsoft, talked about the previous announcements of Marketing, Custom Service, and Social Listening functionality as well as a new addition for the Spring Update called the Unified Service Desk.  The Unified Service Desk is a desktop application meant for call center users to help with case management which is shown in more detail below.


Kirill Tatarinov later came out and discussed several key points on how Microsoft Dynamics can deliver amazing experiences with the help of the recent acquisitions such as MarketingPilot, NetBreeze, and Parature. 


Market Smarter

Wayne Morris came back out to demo the new Microsoft Dynamics Marketing functionality that will be coming this Spring and how it helps him market smarter. 

The landing page below shows a nice quick view into your marketing budget and how the budget is being utilized.


Similar to CRM 2013, there is a card-based navigation at the top but clicking a card will expand to show child navigation links within that area.  This is very slick and we’re hoping that Microsoft will bring this same navigation into CRM 2013 as currently it is very hard to navigate if you have a lot of entities.

Within Dynamics Marketing, marketers can manage their assets & media which acts as a specialized SharePoint for marketers.  This includes file upload, approvals, and version control.


Next Wayne shows a campaign workflow where you can easily drag and drop campaign activities to execute.


He then adds a new Social Media Messages campaign activity that will send Twitter, Facebook, and/or LinkedIn messages at scheduled times.


Users can then view the performance of the campaigns using several different charts and filters (e.g., by campaign and by channel).  Kirill mentions that the graphs are built using Excel Web Apps.


This all looks very slick and will definitely empower marketers.  Currently these are separate applications but there is a connector that integrates data between Dynamics Marketing and CRM (e.g., Leads, Contacts, Campaigns).  The question remains how much will this integration be expanded in the future versus kept in separate applications.


Sell Effectively


Kirill brought out Judson Althoff, President of Microsoft North America, to show how he uses Microsoft products to sell effectively.  He pulls up his custom built dashboard that uses Live Tiles to pull in sales data real-time from Microsoft Dynamics.  The dashboard is pulling in information from 20 different systems.


Pipeline chart pulling in data from CRM 2013:


Using Windows 8.1 to easily share the Pipeline data and attach it to an email:


Drilling into a record from the Windows 8.1 app automatically snaps in CRM 2013:


Judson shows the app being ran from his Windows Phone as well:


This was a good segment that shows the competitive advantage that Microsoft has over competitors by being able to utilize a suite of Microsoft products to empower your users.  Unfortunately the app seems to be completely custom built by Microsoft for their business but it does a good job of showing what is possible.  If you are interested in a custom app for your business, take a Mobility Test Drive with us where we will have our UX Architect do a field ride along with one of your users and come back with some high and low fidelity mockups as well as a working prototype.


Care Everywhere


Kirill discussed the importance of customer care and the ability for customers to self-serve.  Microsoft fulfills this requirement with the functionality that the newly acquired Parature brings to the table.  Fred Studer, GM of Microsoft Product Marketing, comes to the stage to show off a Parature portal example of uses Parature to categorize their information and provide the ability to search across that content.  Using Parature, is able to keep their branding while Parature widgets run in the background.


Users are able to interact with the site and perform a search to find blogs or KB articles:


Fred then shows how Konami uses Parature to pull the knowledge base information into Facebook so that customers can search within Facebook for similar issues to their problem.  Parature is currently running on 6 of the top 10 Facebook apps.


Fred then becomes a call service rep and shows off the new Unified Service Desk and how it can pull in Call Scripts and multiple CRM 2013 tabs into one screen.


Fred then receives a phone call which automatically pulls up the customer’s record within the Unified Service Desk. 


Using the customer’s CRM record, Fred can then view the location of the customer in order to help solve the case.


Fred uses the call script to easily open up a New Case form within CRM and creates a case for his customer


The Unified Service Desk looks to be pretty slick and could definitely help customer service reps provide a better customer experience.  We hope the telephony integration comes out of the box and would love to see the Unified Service Desk be fully customizable as we know each agent is unique in how they work.


Operate Dynamically


Kirill then brings out a Sonoma Partners customer, New Belgium Brewing Company, onto the stage to show how they use Microsoft Dynamics to help with their operations.  Travis Mirrison (IT Director) and Kaitlyn Peot (Sales Support Swashbuckler) talk about how they use technology to enable their sales team to have real time insight and communications with their “Mothership” (home office) back in Fort Collins, Colorado. 

New Belgium then shows off the Rangerland app (built by Sonoma Partners!) and how their sales team can use it to make sure their beer is being sold appropriately.  With a few simple touches, their sales team can easily flag any issues with their product while they are onsite at a seller.





Overall the keynote felt very organized and had a great response from the audience.  Microsoft was able to fill in more details on how the recent acquisitions will help move Dynamics forward and fill in some gaps that were previously missing.  Microsoft also makes a strong play with their variety of products such as Office and Windows 8.1 and how they can integrate to provide a full blown experience for users.  We are looking forward to getting our hands on the Spring Update as it seems to be pretty promising!

Topics: Microsoft Convergence Microsoft Dynamics CRM Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013

Convergence 2013 Keynote Recap

The Convergence 2013 Keynote kicked off Tuesday with some exciting news of a new version of MarketingPilot that has a new UI with a Windows 8 look and feel as well as the ability to integrate seamlessly with CRM.  Microsoft then announced a Netbreeze acquisition for social tracking and analytics seamlessly within CRM as well as unveiling a glimpse into a Sales Experience app for Windows 8.

Sales Experience Windows 8 App

Towards the end of the keynote, Fred Studer gave a great demo with Revlon on a Sales Experience app for Windows 8.  They talked about a “tablet view of the world” that only focuses on what the sales teams need and not the other “noise” in the system.

The landing page is shown below, allowing easy and quick access to key information, accounts, tasks and account performance.


Drilling into an account displays important information such as related tasks, notes, stakeholders and cases.


Fred noted that the Contoso account had a related task to call Reuben to discuss a new product launch.  Fred was quickly and easily able to click a Phone icon on Reuben’s contact information from the Contoso account to launch a Skype call with Reuben.  He was then able to dock the Skype call to the left while writing notes against the Contoso account based on their conversation.  Very slick! 



Fred then jumped right into a Netbreeze demo.  He drilled into a campaign which showed an overview of “Share of voice” which displays how the campaign is doing by language, channel and docs.  


Fred then drilled into the sentiment for a product.  The sentiment displays how well people are responding to campaigns.


Drilling down even further, you can look at individual tweets which are highlighted based on positive or negative feedback.  Positive feedback is highlighted in green as shown below, while product names are highlighted in yellow.  This will be a very powerful tool for measuring your campaigns and provide the ability to quickly react to the responses of your campaigns.


Fred then announced that everyone who has CRM will be able to get this as part of the product, great news!

So there you have it, another Convergence in the books!  Overall we are pleased with the new announcements and we can’t wait to get our hands on the new functionality.  The social tracking should be a great addition to help with campaign management while a Sales Experience app will help power sales teams with everything they need to succeed and grow the company. 

Topics: Microsoft Convergence Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Convergence 2011–Submit Topics Today


Microsoft is preparing for Convergence 2011 in Atlanta, GA, from April 10-13.  You can help in that planning by submitting Topics for the conference.  Follow this link to have your voice heard for #CONV11 - Call for Topics.

Stay up to speed on all the Convergence discussions:

We look forward to seeing you in Atlanta, GA!!!

Topics: Microsoft Convergence

Watch out NOLA, here we come!

There’s been a lot of talk about Convergence and New Orleans at our office over the past week or so. First, we just sent out email invites to our customers and prospects encouraging them to attend the conference, and highlighting the benefits of attending.

Join us at Convergence 2009 New Orleans
We know that travel budgets are tight this year, so if you can only attend one conference this year we HIGHLY recommend that you choose Microsoft Convergence! This year's Convergence conference will be held in New Orleans from March 10th through 13th.

If you've never been to Convergence before, you should know this event is unique because it is designed exclusively for Microsoft Dynamics customers (CRM and ERP). With more than 10,000+ people in attendance, this is a first-class learning and networking opportunity that you shouldn't miss.

Some of the agenda highlights include:

With more than 28 Microsoft Dynamics CRM sessions already scheduled (and more to come), you won't find a better chance to roll up your sleeves and really learn the product inside and out.

Second, we’re in the process of securing a location for our customer appreciation party. We hope to have those details finalized soon, but please contact us if you’re interested in registering now. Microsoft employees are welcome to join of course. We had a great time in Orlando last year, and this year’s party should be a blast too.

Convergence is an absolute “must attend” event for me, but I’m also excited about New Orleans as the host city. I spent a weekend in New Orleans last February and I had a great time, there is really no other city like it. One of the most distinct memories of my last trip to the Bayou was this crazy “gold man” who would stand absolutely still (no blinking even) for 15 or 20 minutes at a time! I wonder if I will bump into him again this March?!


Of course, if you’re into culture and stuff like that you can always check out the St. Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square, but I thought the gold man was way more interesting. :)


Topics: Microsoft Convergence