Dynamics CRM R9 Update: What's on Tap?

By | Feb 28, 2012
Topic: CRM/ERP

What can users and potential users look for in Microsoft's expected Dynamics CRM R9 update? The update is expected later this year. And in a nutshell, says one well-informed blogger, the focus will be on social analytics and enriched data sets.

Two Updates This Year

In fact, as reported by Mary Jo Foley on the All About Microsoft blog at ZDNet, Microsoft will be releasing two updates to its Dynamics CRM solution this year. The first, the R8 update, will primarily focus on mobile access. Given the current prominence of mobility, this should be the least of surprises. Users will be able to bring up Dynamics CRM on their iPads and iPhones, Android and BlackBerry devices, and of course, on Windows Phone.

But from the perspective of those interested in CRM, this year's second update release, the Dynamics CRM R9 update, is the really interesting one. Craig Dewar, head of the Dynamics CRM team, is already giving hints of Microsoft's thinking.

One major possibility for the R9 update is beefing up social-analytics capabilities. This feature will build on "Project Vancouver," a social analytics component being tested for SQL Azure. As described by Foley, an interview with Dewar shows that this will be all about social firefighting. Users will be provided with estimates about the urgency of social-media comments. As the given example puts it, "How fast do I need to respond to this person tweeting about our product to control the damage?"

Another prospective R9 capability will make it possible for users to pull in information from Windows Azure Marketplace data sets in order to build up their CRM client account and contact lists. Any updates to the data in the Azure Marketplace would also be updated in the CRM user's lists.

Three-Alarm Fires

The data enrichment intended for the Dynamics CRM R9 update are fundamentally under-the-hood stuff. The less we need to think about our CRM account and contact information, the better. The additional convenience to the user may be substantial, but much of the convenience lies in the very fact that users will hardly notice it.

Upgrading social analytics is a different matter. It is interesting, in the sense of the apocryphal Chinese curse, May you live in interesting times. It is fact of life that a fair amount of a firm's social graph consists of people hating on the firm. Perhaps no company knows this better than Microsoft, which had to endure for years the slings and arrows of its own users and Apple fans alike.

An enhanced ability to deal with negative social feedback (otherwise known as people hating on your company) may be awkward to talk about. But it is a very good thing to have.

The Big Picture

In broader perspective, the planned Microsoft Dynamics CRM updates are very much in the mainstream of current generation CRM developments. Mobility is often hyped, but for salespeople, it really matters. The R9 update's under-the-hood enhancements of account and contact information management are part of the ongoing challenge of making the task of handling contact information simple and intuitive.

As for social analytics? It is very much the current fashion. You can't go very far in the tech world without bumping into the word "social." The emphasis on handling negative commentary may, as suggested above, be distinctive to Microsoft's experience. But the focus on upgrading social analytics is very much in the CRM mainstream.

Will this social focus end up improving actual results, in public relations and ultimately sales? We don't really know yet. "Big" social networking and social analytics are still too new. But it is fair to say that we won't know how productive social analytics are until we have tried them out.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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