Microsoft on Tuesday announced a slew of new features and functionality for Microsoft Dynamics CRM at its Convergence 2014 conference in Europe. One of the most striking is the addition of Cortana, Microsoft’s intelligent personal assistant.
The company also added the ability to create predefined and configurable processes using branching logic, near real-time calculations and roll-ups for business information, and client API enhancements.
Further, it unveiled templates for a number of industries, including financial services, retail, public sector, manufacturing and professional services. By the end of the year, it plans to have 27 templates available.
The addition of Cortana, however, is perhaps the most significant development for the immediate term.
The voice-activated personal assistant, already available in Windows Phone 8.1, has been well received in most quarters.
Embedded in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Cortana can set up meetings and add reminders via voice commands. Cortana can search for contacts, accounts and activities, and provide specific customer lists or create new records.
“Adding Cortana to Microsoft Dynamics is a very interesting innovation in CRM technology,” said Chris Tratar, vice president of product marketing for Savo Group.
“Currently, there are many solutions out there that are designed to help make it easier for sales reps to leverage CRM systems without going through the traditional Web user interface, including mobile apps that help capture notes and easily surface appointments and tasks,” he told CRM Buyer. “Cortana is the next logical extension to that.”
A New Omnichannel Product
In related news, Microsoft announced a partnership with Thunderhead.com to develop an omnichannel customer engagement product based on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform and Thunderhead.com’s ONE Engagement Hub.
This product will connect customer insights and context with visualization and analytics to allow a company to communicate with its customers through all omnichannel touch points.
“With Thunderhead.com, you can very simply develop and visualize a customer journey path, with relevant activities that cross multiple channels, so that your customers can interact with you in the manner that best suits them,” explained Bob Stutz, corporate vice president of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
“At the same time, you are able to garner fresh insights into their digital footprint, to see how they are interacting with you and what their behavior patterns are,” he noted.
The Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 release will be generally available in December 2014.
An Invigorated Microsoft
Cortana is just one piece of a larger story under way at Microsoft, said Laura Didio, principal of ITIC.
“Microsoft, under CEO Satya Nadella, is firing on all cylinders,” she told CRM Buyer. “It is adding functionality throughout its product portfolio, making its offerings more relevant and far better able to compete against other productivity and enterprise software apps.”
This push is working, DiDio added, pointing to a reinvigorated Microsoft Surface tablet that is starting to gain traction and Microsoft’s step-up in advertising in general.
“Microsoft has been busy filling in the blanks,” she said, “and you can see that it is working.”