With the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Global Premiere Event on Monday I wanted to share a few of my thoughts on this exciting update. As a user of CRM 2013 my highlights focus on usability, from updated user interfaces through to simplified processes and needing less clicks to perform tasks.
The highlights make CRM 2013 more intuitive to use which is great as after all, that’s what CRM is about – connecting your workforce with your customers, and as a result having better connectivity, conversations and service.
The CRM 2013 re-design takes a similar approach to that of other Microsoft products of recent times, enlarging the work area and minimizing the amount of options and tools that are always visible. In doing so the functionality isn’t disappearing but rather the space is being re-deployed for a better user experience. This is key for many reasons not least user acceptance but all of these lead toward better understanding and use of the CRM which in turn lead to achieving the collective business goals. To do this the top ribbon navigation has been redesigned, the left hand navigation has been stripped away and the roles, settings and help redistributed elsewhere to give more room for your data.
The work flow areas have found a new home under the Dynamics logo – the selected area then appears in a form or ‘bread-crumb’ across the top from which the next selection step, into record types can be made. The upshot is that you’ve got the same functionality from a much smaller space, giving you more room to work.
The upshot of selecting the work areas and records you’re using is that the options available to you are customised, meaning that again no space is wasted showing greyed out options that you’re unable to use. Not only is this efficient but it’s also intuitive and effective focusing the user on their task, further driving user acceptance by making their lives easier. Of course, the possible negative from using less space for workflows and options is that overall less can be displayed, Dynamics CRM 2013 sidesteps this issue by providing the most common actions with a drop down for the others that are less often used.
Navigating between recent records is improved greatly as well. Hovering on record type section of the navigation bar brings up recent records that can be access with one click. So if you’re in the middle of something but are interrupted it’s simple to get right back to what you were doing.
Process flows are a huge part and parcel of CRM; that’s no secret and the clever girls and guys behind the scenes that write and implement them deserve all the credit that comes their way. Many people though, are frustrated by not needing that level of detail and therefore not understanding where the flow is taking them and why certain data points are necessary. Dynamics CRM 2013 goes some way to fixing this pain point and detractor from user acceptance by showing the steps of the business process and identifying which of these are complete.
Certainly from a sales and marketing perspective the ability to quickly create records with the key information you need if crucial. The new ‘Quick Create’ option as part of Dynamics 2013 lets users capture what they need quickly and update with greater detail later. Useful if you have the information but need to move onto the next step of the process to keep your prospect happy.
For me personally in previous versions of dynamics an annoyance was the continual use of new windows for each item you clicked on. Don’t get me wrong I can understand the positives of this and at times really appreciated the clarity of what you were looking at but for me the adoption of in-line editing within CRM 2013 is a great step forward and certainly brings the user interface in line with other systems. This ability to tap and edit brings a much greater agility to the system that allows the user to have a much more fluid interaction.
This in-line editing has been adopted on a wide range of data fields allowing for tracking key decision makers, adding and connecting new contacts and adding additional notes without the need to navigate away from where you are. This flexibility proves much more intuitive than the user interface conforming to the necessarily rigid hierarchy for record types.
Such a simple concept yet auto-saving is still a divisive area for me. On the one hand with auto-saves every 30 seconds it is unlikely that your changes will be lost but on the other hand there are some times where you may change your mind on a description and wish to discard this without changing the other parts of the record and auto-save can add in more work. Also, if I want to be sure something has saved I’m of a mind to hit save regardless. Overall though, auto-save on records should mean that you have greater control over your data and lose less work through a misplaced thought or click – and that can only be a good thing.
In this area Microsoft has also made further considerations and introduced an undo feature for when you need to remove newly added information making this process quick and easy. While there has been the foresight to remove the possibility of creating many new records accidentally by requiring the user to still click save before a record is created – auto-save only applies to records that already exist.
Personally I feel the out of the box set-up has a couple of omissions/layout issues for me and my work. These relate to reports, marketing lists and the great advanced find option, of course a huge strength of any CRM system worth its salt is customisation so I’ll be setting my instance to make these options instantly available and visible.
Overall there are some great features in CRM 2013 for users to get to grips with. Combine that with a much needed and vastly improved 'look and feel' and you've got a customizable CRM system that is really fit for purpose.