Microsoft streamlined the user interface, providing users with an unprecedented ability to configure the data to improve productivity. Users, not administrators, can create filtered lists of CRM data – e.g. my accounts, prospects not contacted in four months, customers with specific products, etc. – and can then leverage these views to better interact with customers. Microsoft has also streamlined the user experience, significantly reducing the number of clicks required to access any information in the product.
Microsoft greatly enhanced Dynamics CRM 3.0 with the inclusion of two powerful marketing functions. Using a wizard, individual sales representatives can develop "quick campaigns" to their prospects, sending emails or custom letters, or scheduling phone calls. Quick campaigns enable the representatives to manage their targeted lead generation and follow-up activities on their own, without marketing or IT assistance. The Marketing Campaign functionality provides marketers with advanced tools for managing outbound marketing activities, from importing and building lists, to managing tasks and campaign budget, to tracking multiple-stage campaign activities, and finally, performance reporting to determine campaign effectiveness.
Microsoft has completely overhauled the Outlook interface and the Offline synchronization architecture. The overall synchronization is vastly improved since version 1.0 for users on the road, with improved abilities to filter what data should appear offline to improved speed of the offline sync. The synchronization also synchronizes key contacts with Outlook contacts, appointments with the calendar, and tasks with the task list. Users can also easily create new contacts, appointments, and tasks directly in the standard Microsoft Outlook components, and select to synchronize those new records back with Dynamics CRM. Outside of being able to manage CRM directly from within Outlook, users and administrators appreciate the fact that the online and offline products have the exact same user interface, reducing complexity and training costs.
Microsoft has made significant improvements to the customization architecture. Version 1.0 offered the ability to customize form layout and design, create custom views, and add custom fields. Version 3.0 expands the number of CRM components that can be customized, and enables customers to design completely new CRM components that automatically work online and offline without custom development. In our opinion, Microsoft's new customization framework is the most powerful change in the 3.0 release because it enables our customers to model their Dynamics CRM solution to their business – capturing the data they need in the form they need it.
Finally, Microsoft has embedded SQL Reporting Services (SRS) within Dynamics CRM. SRS is a relatively new, enterprise reporting solution that Microsoft is bundling with SQL Server 2000 and 2005. The reporting architecture enables Web-based reports to be directly embedded into the Dynamics CRM user interface, and supports drill-through to both detail reports and to Dynamics CRM records – meaning that sales reps can update their forecast directly from the pipeline report. The integration with Microsoft Sharepoint makes it simple to incorporate a number of reports and graphs into management level dashboards for executives.
These enhancements make Dynamics CRM 3.0 a strong contender in the CRM market. We are seeing larger and more complex customers begin to evaluate Dynamics CRM specifically because of the Outlook interface, the customization capabilities, and the integration with the other Microsoft product families, including Office, Exchange, and Sharepoint.
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