Microsoft finally announced the general release of the the Spring 2016 Wave of Dynamics CRM. 

But technically speaking, Microsoft has been pushing elements of Dynamics CRM 2016 into general availability since early this month, and drip feeding updates ever since.

There are a couple of points worth noting. 

First, in a statement about the release, Microsoft noted that its move to services and the development of Dynamics CRM Online is a response to an “increasingly connected world [that] is enabling a fundamental transition to a new service economy, where companies are moving to Everything-as-a-Service models with managed services offerings.” 

Second, Microsoft has taken some of the technologies that it has bought over the past six months and incorporated them into its CRM portfolios.

Moreover, this new edition of Dynamics CRM is a core element of Microsoft's digital transformation strategy. With it, Param Kahlon, General Manager of Program Management at Microsoft Dynamics CRM, wrote, the company is "enabling new personalized, proactive and predictive customer experiences.  And those new customer experiences will be at the core of the digital transformation businesses are undertaking to differentiate and rise above the competition."

Dynamics CRM 2016

The Dynamics CRM upgrade is a substantial one with numerous upgrades to help organizations understand what their customers are doing and where they are doing it.

When originally unveiled in preview last November, Microsoft called it the most comprehensive upgrade ever for Dynamics CRM, adding that it includes advancements in intelligence, mobility and service, with significant productivity enhancements.

The general release this week comes with a nod to the Internet of Things (IoT) with the unveiling of Connected Field Service, a preview offering that provides out-of-the-box IoT to field service capabilities.

Connected Field Service, which will be available June 7, offers enterprises the ability to monitor any IoT-connected device, pin-down anomalies and generate alerts that trigger automated responses to the perceived problem, or threat.

Availability and proximity of service technicians with the right skills and tools are then matched against the service requirement and routed to customer locations to take preventive action.

While Kahlon claims this is a “truly revolutionary” that moves from reactive “fix” postures to predictive service postures, it still depends on something happening before corrective action takes place. As such, it is still largely reactive, however sophisticated.

Customer Engagement Portals

In terms of productivity, though, the really interesting additions here are the new portal capabilities and the ones that are most likely to get attention given that for many enterprises the IoT is still quite a distance away.

The latest updates include enhancements to all Microsoft online CRM services including the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2016 Update 1, its Social Engagement update 2016 and its Dynamics Marketing 2016 Update.

For our money, the real marketing and customer experience value here is the fact that with this release Microsoft has focused on portals and, more to the point, portals that extend beyond the firewall to engage external communities.

In the Spring Wave, Kahlon explained, Microsoft introduced "portal solutions for companies to engage external communities across customers, employees and partners, providing access to resources and information, streamlining simple tasks and making it easier to get the right help for more difficult problems."

The web portals it offers enable enterprise to push their Dynamics CRM engagement scenarios with self-service profile management capabilities, rich content publishing, secure access and permissions controls, as well as configurable extensions.

There are four pre-configured portal solutions, built to work on any device, any time:

  1. Customer Portal: Provides a place where customers can go to solve their own problems with self-service knowledge and other support mechanisms.
  2. Community Portal: Enables colleague-to-colleague contact, communication and collaboration both internally and externally while building the organizations knowledge bank.
  3. Employee Portal:  The goal here is to increase increases employee engagement and productivity with easy access to searchable enterprise knowledge for common domains such as IT and HR
  4. Partner Portal: Enables businesses scale through their channel by managing leads, opportunities and communications through established processes.

Social Engagement

There is also a number of additions and upgrades for social engagement that include adaptive learning and automated social triage.

It also provides insights into how a product, a campaign or a brand is perceived by people on social media, enabling deeper insights into customer behavior and using sentiment scoring models help the system more accurately understand what’s happening in enterprise social communicates.

New machine learning scenarios in Microsoft Social Engagement include adaptive learning and automated social triage, where social posts are dealt with in order of importance for the use

This is a cumulative release and Microsoft's new policy is to release upgrades as available.

Microsoft is also holding an event on June 7 to take a deeper look at this.