This session was unusual at a Microsoft SharePoint Conference for two reasons. Firstly, the session was part of the all new “Business” track for non-technical business decision makers. Secondly, it was about Dynamics CRM, and this is the first time I remember the Dynamics products making an appearance at a SharePoint conference.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are line of business applications for managing an organization's marketing and sales processes. I’ve been making the point for a long time that the key to business benefits with SharePoint and social technologies lie in associating the use of the technology with enablement of business process, so I was particularly looking forward to this session.

The session was presented by Reuben Krippner, Director Technical Product Management, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and David Pennington, Director Product Marketing, Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

The Social Revolution

Reuben led the session and kicked off with a brief overview of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, which we were told enables sales productivity, marketing effectiveness, customer care and extended CRM applications across PC, browser and mobile devices. The key trends impacting CRM were described as being mobile, big data and analytics, social and digital, and cloud.

The discussion then turned to social, and the question was posed, “Why is everyone going social?” Reuben offered this quote from Clara Shin, author of, “The Facebook Era,” in response. “

The Social web appeals to innate human desires for self-expression, human connection, and a sense of belonging ... Social networking captures our pictures, feelings, and relationships, and it makes the web feel human again.”

To further emphasize the importance of social, Reuben presented some statistics that showed how many years communication technologies have taken to reach 50 million users. Radio took 38 years, television took 13 years, the internet took 4 years and Facebook took less than 9 months. If you’ll excuse the editorial, the figures I have say that Facebook launched in June 04 and reached 50 million users three years and two months later. Few of the presenters at these conferences provide any references so I can’t check!

Reuben went on to de-mystify social. He explained that human society is organized into communities, and that social is, “Just how things get done.”

Business Social Scenarios

He next presented a traditional enterprise model that illustrated marketing teams interacting with targets, sales teams interacting with leads, and service teams interacting with customers. Then we were shown a model of the connected enterprise where the siloes were replaced with a network of connected customers interacting with the connected enterprise network through multiple channels and multiple devices.

Reuben wrapped up his discussion of business social scenarios by drawing a distinction between internal social and external social. The former, he said, was about soliciting feedback, collaboration, broadcast of news and achievements, finding expertise, discussion of new products and services, and identifying discussion trends. The latter was about understanding sentiment, providing additional service channels, broadcasting news and offers, harvesting FAQ’s, democratizing R&D and measuring impact.

Microsoft Social Technology

Reuben introduced Microsoft’s social technology investment areas: Microsoft Research FUSE labs, Yammer, SharePoint 2013 and analytics for Twitter. He presented an interesting graphic showing Yammer, SharePoint, Office365 and Dynamics, linked together by a foundational social layer delivered by Yammer Enterprise Social Networking Services which delivers enterprise social networking, micro-blogging and document collaboration services. I think this illustrated Microsoft’s long term vision for Yammer, the social context linking together people, processes, information and applications.

We were shown some screen shots illustrating how Yammer will be integrated in the December release of Dynamics CRM. It shows a CRM record with a Yammer news feed embedded into the center of the page. Microsoft announced a few weeks ago that Dynamics CRM would be the first of its applications to be integrated with Yammer.

“This means that a user can go and post information, participate in conversations directly related to an opportunity, a case, an account, or a contact, and that’s seamless within the CRM experience,” Reuben told us. The same Yammer feed can also be viewed from within the Yammer desktop client or the browser.

Next Reuben introduced a very interesting idea, using Yammer as a social message bus. He explained that it will be possible to configure rules within CRM so that when a deal closes CRM automatically posts a message into the Yammer stream, so that the salesperson doesn’t have to manually write a, “Win wire,” to announce the win and self-promote.

The key business social scenario for salespeople is simply keeping on top of the situation from anywhere, Reuben explained. This means being able to see information and conversations posted around CRM activities on mobile devices including iPad, Android and Windows Phone.

How to Get Started

Reuben wrapped up his part of the presentation with a simple strategy for getting stated. The starting point, he told us, is to define and prioritize your social objectives. Get executive sponsorship, and determine whether your initial focus is on internal or external activities.

Next, plan your approach. Define your purpose, and the scope of your project. Allocate ownership, and establish good governance. Thirdly, determine your success criteria and the metrics to measure progress. Finally, review and refine your plan constantly. Just use the tools, Reuben urged, and then refine from there.

Case Study

David Pennington closed the session up by presenting a case study on how the Microsoft Dynamics product team use social computing themselves. He described a process by which the team had first established a digital voice across multiple channels including Facebook pages, a news center on the Microsoft website, a Twitter feed and a YouTube channel.

The next step was to use the Twitter analytics Excel tools to understand sentiment in the market and to identify key influencers. This information provided a feedback loop for the team to adapt their approach and tactics. David wrapped up with some key learnings which included, auditing what is currently being done in your business, identifying requirements, objectives and outcomes, gaining executive sponsorship, having a single success owner for each initiative, starting simple and gaining wins, and partnering with Microsoft for social technology needs.

This was an interesting insight, but to me it seemed like a study in marketing with social tools, and I asked myself, “Why are we talking about this?" Perhaps I missed something.

Reflections

This session was equally notable for what it didn’t say, as what it did. SharePoint was hardly mentioned at all. We saw just one screen shot of Office365, and the SharePoint logo appeared on one or two slides. The focus was very much on Dynamics CRM, Yammer and Social, and this platform focus was evident across many of the sessions at the conference. Was this the last “SharePoint” conference?

This was an enjoyable, informative and well-presented session, but on the downside it didn’t really live up to its title which included, “… Real business benefits.” Microsoft are to be commended for including a business track at a technology conference but I wonder if technical product managers and technical product directors have the right background to present on it? #justsaying

Editor's Note: To read more of Symon's SharePoint Conference coverage, read How Unisys Used the Power of SharePoint to Socially Enable a Global Workforce #spc12