Microsoft Dynamics 365 now benefits from two releases every year (one in Spring and one in Autumn) and this October 2018 will see the major Autumn update. This update brings a wide variety of updates, enhancements and new features across all the Microsoft Business Applications.
This article focuses solely on Dynamics 365 Enterprise (Customer Engagement) which covers:
- Customer Service
- Field Service
- Project Service
- Dynamics 365 Portals
All of these applications are part of the ‘Customer Engagement’ plan in Dynamics 365. If you want to read about the upcoming release in detail then you can view all the release notes from Microsoft here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/business-applications-release-notes/october18/ This also includes update notes for Retail, Talent, Business Central and more.
One of the big upcoming changes is around the release process for Dynamics 365. All online customers have until 31st January 2019 to upgrade to Version 9 and once on this, everyone will remain on the latest version. This will simplify updates, improve access to the latest features and ensure that everyone starts formerly adopting this cloud mentality of a ‘conveyor belt’ system, which most people already adopt with applications such as Office 365. To find out more, read Microsoft’s official announcement here.
Marketing within Microsoft Dynamics 365 has had a complicated history. Originally, Microsoft released Dynamics Marketing, a separate marketing solution built on their acquisition of MarketingPilot that integrated with Dynamics CRM through a connector, but after a few years in market this was retired. For the launch of Microsoft Dynamics 365 (Dynamics CRM but combined with Microsoft’s ERP solutions) Microsoft partnered with Adobe Marketing Cloud to offer enterprise-level marketing functionality – but with an enterprise price tag. Then, around one year later Microsoft released ‘Dynamics 365 for Marketing’ – an application much closer aligned to Dynamics 365 but still priced separately. For pricing, please visit their pricing page.
This new module, Dynamics 365 for Marketing is very much part of the Dynamics 365 family, and as with the other modules, it’s receiving lots of features and updates in the October 2018 release.
Account-based marketing: Create account-based marketing campaigns for B2B marketing, where specific accounts are targeted and segmented to deliver a more personalised marketing approach with a higher chance of success.
Reusable content blocks: Within Dynamics 365 for Marketing, marketers can create visual content, such as email campaigns, marketing pages, sign-up forms etc. For many users they will find that they need to re-use elements again and again, so this new feature allows marketers to build re-useable blocks, such as headers, footers or download forms, that can be easily placed into their content designer.
Social campaign listening: Embed social listening functionality into tabs so that you can quickly see social analytics against campaigns, phrases and more – embedding the power of Social Engagement within Dynamics 365 for Marketing.
Marketing calendar: Very simply, this gives your team one calendar to be able to easily plan campaigns and activities and for everyone to view and edit the suggested timetable.
LinkedIn integration: Dynamics 365 for Marketing already integrates with LinkedIn however this update brings deeper integration, including using LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms as triggers for nurture campaigns, lead scoring and better analytics.
Segmentation: An improved segment designer allows marketers to narrowly segment their audiences to provide more personalised marketing.
Custom analytics: Design new charts, graphs and NPIs to display custom data that could be unique to your business. This includes more out of-the-box ‘analysers’ to allow you to quickly manipulate data – and the future will bring more machine-learning analytics.
Microsoft Stream integration: Microsoft Stream is essentially your internal YouTube – allowing internal videos to be published, shared, liked etc – all securely within your Office 365 tenancy. This integration allows you to easily embed videos into your marketing content designer (for emails, landing pages etc).
Dynamics 365 for Sales is one of the core applications included within Microsoft Dynamics 365 Enterprise and regularly used by many organisations. The October 2018 updates sees a key focus on integration and AI/machine-learning capabilities, which we know Microsoft sees a huge area of investment and growth.
Playbooks: Playbooks allow companies to automate easily repeatable sales activities. For example, you could create a scenario for when an opportunity is won that schedules an automated email and sets a follow-up call after one week to see how the new customer is getting on. You will be able to configure a series of sales tasks and activities and set a ‘trigger’ to set off the automation, as well as track Playbooks to see how successful they were.
Teams Integration: Microsoft Teams is a great new application (part of Office) and will be replacing Skype for Business, so it’s a key piece of the Microsoft strategy. Users will be able to connect a Microsoft Teams channel with any Dynamics 365 record – so staff can work within Teams and make changes to the record that will reflect within Dynamics 365. This means staff can keep within one application (Teams) and be able to see their Leads or Opportunities in Dynamics 365, while also viewing files (SharePoint), conversations, instant messages and conferencing (Skype for Business features), as well as embed data from other applications such as Excel and Power BI – to avoid having to switch between windows and apps. To find out how it will work, what the benefits are and how it fits with Microsoft's bigger picture, read our article "Integrating Dynamics 365 with Microsoft Teams".
Who knows whom: This feature helps salespeople to build up a connection graph to see if any colleagues within their company know any Leads or Contacts to suggest any connections for a warmer introduction.
Talking points: This clever use of AI looks back at past communications and highlights key topics that have been previously mentioned to give you relevant talking points. For example, a past email from a Lead could have mentioned they were going to Spain in September, so a talking point of their holiday to Spain is suggested.
Quick Actions: Building upon the current capabilities of Assistant and adding more AI tools, these quick actions suggest steps that should be taken based on your past actions i.e. scheduling a follow-up call.
Predictive Lead scoring: Using machine learning, Predictive Lead scoring calculates a suggested lead score between 1 and 100 based on likelihood of being an opportunity. While working out-of-the-box, you can also amend the predictive signals to customise this.
Dynamics 365 AI for Sales: Whilst not too much is known yet the public preview should be coming in October 2018, and will provide enhanced AI and machine-learning features in this app. You will be able use natural language processing to ask questions and receive reports, see automated lead scoring and prioritisation, view enhanced analytics and insights combining data from multiple sources and view sales team performance. Not much information is known on this yet, so keep your eyes peeled for more updates!
Dynamics 365 for Customer Services has always been the other main component that makes up the ‘CRM’ element of Dynamics 365 – along with Sales. Now, Microsoft have grouped a number of their solutions into ‘Service’ which combines Customer Service, Field Service, Project Service and the Dynamics 365 Portals.
Service scheduling: When managing customer service issues, organisations may need to manage resources in order to schedule actions - for example, engineer visits, in-person appointments etc. This resourcing scheduling is built on Microsoft’s Universal Resource Scheduling (URS), which allows simplified calendar management to quickly see availability, lead times and to deliver a great customer experience.
Customer Service Hub: Service management will move to under the Customer Service Hub, allowing managers to access the settings and make configuration changes to case queues, case subject classifications, routing rules, automatic case creation, service entitlements, holiday scheduling and SLAs. This gives customer managers a more intuitive experience to help easily customise system settings to ensure Dynamics 365 works to fit your organisation’s processes.
Suggest similar cases: Ideally you want to resolve customer cases quickly to ensure great customer satisfaction. This feature gives your agents quick access to similar cases will help them to effectively solve the issue. This not only reduces time to solve cases, it increases customer satisfaction and greatly saves on internal efficiency and costs.
Knowledge article suggestions: Dynamics 365 will suggest similar knowledge base articles, which show up in a ‘Related’ section on the case record, to give agents speedy access to relevant insights to help them solve issues quickly. This improves resolution times, helps to meet SLAs and quickly builds up internal knowledge.
Omni-channel Engagement Hub: This new hub will allow organisations to deliver customer services via live chat and SMS text messaging. This interface allows agents to communicate across multiple channels (hence ‘omni-channel’) while keeping a consistent interface so they do not have to continually switch between applications and potentially forget customers or miss conversations.
The Field Service application allows companies to manage their field-based staff to deliver streamlined and efficient services to their customers. This application ties closely with Customer Services and this update sees a lot of functionality that has been well established come into Field Service, making this a very robust and well-rounded solution – not just for field staff but also for resource management. This update has a lot of new features and improvements, so we would recommend viewing the comprehensive guide our favourite updates include:
Entitlement management: Extending the functionality within Customer Service means service entitlements can now be surfaced with Field Service – for example, listing ‘Bronze’ or ‘Silver’ support.
Multi-resource scheduling: This allows multiple resources to be scheduled against a work order.
SLA Management: Add SLA’s into work orders and ensure the scheduling process takes these SLAs into account when scheduling work.
Mobile updates: Background location sharing, Microsoft Bot Framework surfacing and push notifications.
Pre-defined crews: Determine who is within a particular crew when you have a group of people that always work together – for example, an apprentice with an engineer, or a maid service etc.
Resource pools: Create resource pools so that you can assign jobs to a pool of people without needing to specify exactly who should do the job. This makes booking much quicker and can give more control to manager or resource planners who can then assign people based on the task.
Facility and room booking: For those that carry out appointment or jobs from their offices, you can now reserve physical spaces (such as a room or parking space) and organise appointments.
Pre-set appointment timings and slots: To streamline appointment bookings, you can now set appoint slot times (such as 15 minutes or 30 minutes) and the hours where appointments can be booking (i.e. 9am – 5pm). This is ideal for scenarios such as doctors’ appointments, phone repair appointments or beauty treatments etc.
Capacity scheduling: Capacity scheduling allows you to more efficiently manage bookings, for example managing individual capacity could be saying how an apprentice can only fix one car in an hour, while an experienced mechanic could fit two in the same time.
Improve board displays: There are a number of improvements to how you can view scheduling boards, such as: splitting into two views and drilling into detail within the same page.
Project Service is still a relatively new application to the Dynamics 365 family but very valuable for project management and resourcing. One of the best benefits of Project Service is that is included within the Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement plan (which includes Sales & Customer Service) – so if you require these two applications then you have access to Project Service to use too.
Amend time & expense entries: Project admins can amend time & expense entries to change time, cost or reclassify them.
Unit-based expenses: Easily input unit-based expenses to quickly calculate expense costs, such as mileage.
Price list date validation: Ensure that there are not multiple price lists causing issues with costings by automatically validating date ranges and highlight if multiple price lists are active.
Global price list in multiple currencies: Make price list setups much quicker by allowing multiple currencies under one price list – creating one resource that can be bought in multiple currencies for improved setup speed and simplified management.
Multiple time units: Allow different times to be input against time units – for example 7.5 hours against a UK working day but 8 hours against an Indian working day for increased flexibility.
Copy price lists: Easily copy price lists and also input any mark-up percentage – for example, when creating the next years’ price list with inflation.
Dynamics 365 Portal
Dynamics 365 Portal allows your organisation to securely surface data held within Dynamics 365 through a website portal. This could be showing data to your clients, partners or suppliers and even allows them to amend and edit their data, which is then reflected within Dynamics 365. As a relatively new offering from Microsoft (which was built on their purchase of Adxstudio) this release brings some fundamental updates, as well as new features. Dynamics 365 Portal has benefited from performance updates, such as provisioning and cache latency – and a new self-serve diagnostic tool.
Embed Power Bi visuals: Admins will be able to embed and surface Power BI reports within the Dynamics 365 Portal – for example, showing suppliers or partners key metrics and data that is relevant to them through personalised views. Please note, appropriate Power BI licences will be required for different scenarios.
Improved security: Security is a high priority and this release allows admins to define a list of approved IP addresses (or restricted IP addresses) to determine who can access the portal.
SharePoint integration: Dynamics 365 already integrates seamlessly with SharePoint and this update allows SharePoint documents associated to Dynamics 365 entities to also be surfaced through Dynamics 365 Portals and collaborated on. Users can also upload, view and download documents through the portal.
Improved customisation: This update provides a focus on improving user experience to improve content creation and web page authoring.
October 2018 will bring a number of great updates and no doubt more information will become available nearer the time, which we will be sharing. To keep posted of the updates sign up to our newsletter below, or get in touch to chat about your CRM challenges and goals.