Our team has just returned from another great Microsoft Convergence conference in Atlanta, Georgia. For those of you not familiar with Convergence, this is Microsoft’s annual conference for Dynamics customers and partners. It’s a 12,000 person event with a dizzying array of events, speakers, and sessions, and a huge expo floor of software vendors. It’s also a great place to assess Microsoft’s priorities and direction with the Dynamics CRM product.
For Dynamics CRM, last year’s Convergence conference was all about the recent MarketingPilot acquisition, and the announcement at the event of Microsoft’s purchase of NetBreeze, the social monitoring company out of Switzerland.
This year, heavy focus on these two products continued, as Microsoft outlined the progress it has made in integrating these products into the Dynamics family, and shared more details about pricing, licensing, and future roadmap. MarketingPilot has been rebranded as Microsoft Dynamics Marketing, and NetBreeze is now Microsoft Dynamics Social Listening, which will be available in Q2 of 2014.
In January, Microsoft announced the acquisition of Parature, cloud-based customer service and knowledge base solution. Parature became the third major focus area of Convergence for Dynamics CRM, with a whole series of sessions and demonstrations on the product’s capabilities. An initial integrated CRM/Parature release is planned for Q4 2014.
Lastly, the conference was not without announcements of future planned innovation of the core Dynamics CRM product. Specific areas highlighted included:
- Mobility (clearly a core focus for upcoming releases)
- A new service interface called the Unified Service Desk
- Server-side sync between Dynamics CRM Online, Exchange Online, and SharePoint Online
- Sandbox environments for Dynamics CRM Online
- Visual tool for browsing account hierarchies
- Improved marketing features, including a visual campaign calendar view
- New calculated fields, improvements to business logic
- Improved Exchange Sync features
- Improved Lync integration
What does all this mean for Dynamics CRM customers and prospective customers?
The recent moves by Microsoft indicate huge future potential for the Dynamics CRM – MarketingPilot, NetBreeze, and Parature all bring deep capabilities in important CRM areas where the Dynamics CRM product has not excelled in the past. If Microsoft can integrate these capabilities smoothly, at a competitive price point, Dynamics CRM will exit these next few releases as a much stronger CRM platform, with leading capabilities in social, support/customer care, and marketing. It’s no walk in the park, however, and I think we may see some minor stumbles along the way, either on the technical side with the product integration work, or on the business side with respect to how Microsoft elects to incorporate these new capabilities into its existing licensing and pricing structure for Dynamics CRM. Dynamics CRM’s price/value has always set it apart in the market – I am hopeful that Microsoft will seek to maintain this position.