By Jason Gumpert, Editor
There's no question that the Microsoft Dynamics CRM December
2012 Service Update marks an important milestone for the product, bringing
to market important capabilities like cross-browser compatibility, native
integrations to more Microsoft products, and a new user interface. And
with the release process now underway with TAP customers and the January
start date for deployment to the rest of the CRM Online user base, Microsoft wants partners to know it is time to round out their training on the new
release in order to help guide customers through the intricacies of the rollout.
Since the December service update is for Dynamics CRM Online
only, the upgrade will have two components - the obligatory software upgrade
that all CRM Online customers will get as their various "scale
groups" in data centers around the world are upgraded, and the opt-in features
that can be deployed if and when a customer is ready to use them. The obligatory parts include the
cross-browser compatibility (minus the iPad browser experience, which is now
scheduled for a separate rollout in February) and API changes. Many of the new features, including Skype and
Yammer integration and the Flow UI will be opt-in, meaning customers can decide
if and when to enable them after the upgrade.
Deployment of the Flow UI will offer a lot of flexibility in
terms of when and how to enabled it, explains Phillip Haase, Dynamics CRM
Technical Lead, Microsoft US. There will
be a variety of permutations that users can configure as they see fit. For example, a customer can deploy the new
interface for all the available entities or just one, like updating the UI for
opportunities while leaving the "classic" view for accounts. The ability is there to even switch between
interfaces for the same entity, though such an approach could cause confusion
with their users if they were to allow a lack of consistency at the entity
level, Haase suggests.
And while the new iPad Safari interface is considered part
of the new cross-browser story, it will
in fact be another opt-in feature because of its reliance on the Flow UI. Safari on the iPad will have a separate task-oriented,
touch optimized interface for sales, focused on COLA entities (contacts, accounts,
opportunities, leads) and designed to avoid pop-ups.
For partners and customers in the TAP program, training
and preparation for the December 2012 Service Update is well underway, says
Haase. TAP customers are already using
the new features and getting help from both Microsoft support and their
partners. For the rest of the CRM Online
user base, partner and customer readiness materials are continuing to populate,
much of it derived from the detailed internal documentation that already exists.
Microsoft is now looking to its partners to step into the
picture and learn enough about the technical and functional changes in the new
release to start guiding customers. In
the US, this readiness includes a series of "Tech Chat" webcasts
starting next week on topics including the Flow UI (December
20), Lync, Skype, and cross-browser (January
10), infrastructure (January
17), activity feeds and Yammer (January
24), and iPad functionality (January
The cloud-based upgrade model continues to be an area of
focus for Microsoft in engaging with its CRM Online partners and
customers. "Readiness is something
we have to work hard on," says Haase. "We're still figuring out this
rhythm, as are partners." Releasing new features is about more than just the sparkle of a fresh
demo, Hasse acknowledges. He is leading the US partner readiness effort and he expects partners will position the service update to their clients as a net
benefit, taking into account the costs involved in deploying new capabilities.
"[We want] to show the value as the benefit of the enhancements minus the
implementation [costs]. Our core value is 'what is something worth, what is the net?' Not just the cool new feature but the cost of
that new feature to help balance the true value of it, then take that value of
the feature as a partner and understand what else will be going into delivering
it," Haase says.
The US partner team has already run a day long technical
training session, as well as more functional training, and the questions from CRM partners so far have been
reasonably basic. With the periodic
training schedule into January, Haase expects that partners will be educating
themselves on various features in depth and coming back to future sessions with
more complex questions and scenarios in mind.
In addition to planned events, Dynamics CRM partners should
be looking on PartnerSource for all the existing CRM Online training, says
Haase, including more technical training that can be found by searching for the
term "CRM 2012". And the
Training Blitz", a day-long event with a mix of higher level functional
content and technical material,is now available online too.