Written By: Dustin Domerese of Quadis Technologies

from February 28, 2012

Tremendous numbers of enhancements to Microsoft Dynamics CRM have come in conjunction with major releases allowing for increased options to enhance user adoption and drive product intelligence. In 2011, the Microsoft Dynamics CRM team announced a dramatic change in the release schedule that would be accompanied by additions to Microsoft Dynamics CRM product functionality twice per year. This article will only highlight several of the product enhancements available in the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 R7 release as well as introduce exciting news for the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2012 Q2 release.

Identity Federation (Single Sign-On)
For Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online customers, Microsoft has announced the integration of user access between Microsoft Dynamics CRM online and Active Directory infrastructures. It provides clients the ability to have single sign-on to both CRM Online and their local systems. This identity federation is being progressively rolled out in conjunction with the new Microsoft Office 365 experience for cloud customers.

Process Dialogs
The Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 R7 release introduces the concept of dialogs which visually guide users through a pre-defined set of steps or questions. Microsoft has also enhanced dialogs to support record lookups and the creating of date fields on the dialog window.

Charts and Analytics
Charts and dashboards are quickly becoming the way business users drive performance and adoptability from the Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform. With the release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 R7, users now have the ability to configure a multi-series chart from the CRM interface. For example: Show Actual and Estimated Revenue on the same chart with a bar graph for Estimate and a line graph for Actual.
Coming in the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Q2 2012 release, Microsoft Dynamics CRM users in on-premise deployments will have the ability to utilize Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Power View to analyze data dimensions and build analytical dashboards and charts in Excel’s Power Pivot. Microsoft will be providing pre-configured Microsoft Office Excel Workbook templates for Sales Pipeline, Product Sales, Customer Care, and Customer Demographics. This will provide power and flexibility to the business user for truly multi-dimensional representations of Microsoft Dynamics CRM data.

Portal Framework Enhancements
The Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2012 Q2 service update includes enhancements to the portal framework that power customer and partner portals connecting to Microsoft Dynamics CRM (both online and on-premises). The service update includes the ability for portals to use Microsoft Windows Azure Access Control Service (ACS) for authentication. This empowers organizations to setup various standards-based identity providers such as Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Windows Live ID, and ADFS 2.0 for portals that require authenticated sign-on security. Portal administrators are allowed control of their identity management and it relieves organizations from mundane password management. Portals now also support the use of Microsoft Office 365 and federated identity setup for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. All portal solutions for Microsoft Dynamics CRM can be downloaded from the Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace.

Custom Workflow Activities Online
With the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2012 Q2 service update; developers can build custom .NET Workflow activity assemblies for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. Once a custom workflow activity has been deployed, it can then be utilized within workflows and dialogs. It empowers organizations to bring external data, custom actions, and integrations into their standard CRM business processes.

Social Activity Feeds Social media has changed the way we collaborate and communicate both professionally and personally. With Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 R7, leverage aspects of the social world in the Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform with the new Activity Feed. The Activity Feed feature of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 R7 gives users the ability to make posts to their Microsoft Dynamics CRM wall. Automatic postings can occur based on system triggered events such as the winning or losing of a sales opportunity or by “Following” a record within the application. This gives the user the ability to view their wall to see the relevant activities occurring in their Microsoft Dynamics CRM environment.

With the release of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2012 Q2 update, Microsoft has announced a second wave of changes to this functionality that will include the ability to “Like” or “Unlike” a post to the Activity Feed. Users can also view a timeline of activity to stay updated on business events as they occur.

Browser Flexibility and Mobility
Up to this point, the ability to access the Microsoft Dynamics CRM system was limited to Internet Explorer. Now, the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 R7 release announced a Windows Mobile 7 application to view social activity. This was a signal for more exciting news around the corner.

In the Microsoft Dynamics GP 2012 Q2 release, Microsoft Dynamics CRM will be supported on Firefox, Chrome, and Safari browsers. Additionally, Microsoft has announced that they will be releasing native apps for Windows, iPhone, Android, and Blackberry devices including the iPad and iPad2. Most of these applications will have the ability to access Microsoft Dynamics CRM data with or without internet connectivity through an offline mobile client. This will truly bring the power of mobility to Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Rapid View Forms
In many organizations, there are groups of users who typically use a CRM system to look up key information regarding contacts, accounts, opportunities, and cases but have no immediate need to modify that information. In an effort to provide this type of experience, Microsoft is introducing Rapid View forms. The Rapid View form is a read-only form that can be configured like any other form in Microsoft Dynamics CRM to display any record in the system. Users will be able to quickly toggle the record into an editable state with the click of a button. This will help to speed up and simply the user experience.

Certifications are critical to enterprise adoption and Microsoft has been working hard over the last year to ensure that its data centers and CRM Online service meets several important certification standards including: ISO27001, SAS 70 Type II, SOX, SSAE 16 SOC1, Safe Harbor, Data Processing Agreement, EU Model Clauses and HIPAA compliance (supported through Business Partner Agreements). The evolution of Microsoft Dynamics CRM brings many great enhancements and until recently those enhancements came in bulk – coinciding to a major release. Now, expect those enhancements to come more rapidly. Technology and our world changes rapidly and customer relationships do, too. Microsoft Dynamics CRM is following suit.