By Jukka Niiranen, Senior Consultant at CodeBakers
Orion, the next
major version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM is expected to be released in the
second half of 2013. We don't yet have at our disposal a detailed list of
changes to be expected, but based on the announcements made during recent
Microsoft events we can already point out some key areas that existing Dynamics
CRM customers should pay attention to when starting their upgrade preparations
for this major new release.
In the current Polaris version of CRM Online there are two different
sets of entity forms available: the "classic" forms with the ribbon
and the new "process" forms with the slimmed down command bar. As
Orion delivers a new global navigation bar that is present at the top of all
the application windows, there will be no place left for the ribbon anymore.
Effectively this means that Orion will offer only the new user interface, with
no option to go back to the classic forms anymore.
While Polaris does not yet contain all the new UI components of Orion,
it's a good way to assess the training needs involved with the version upgrade.
Assuming your current CRM users would be dropped into a Polaris environment,
how long would it take for them to get back up to speed with completing their
day-to-day tasks? One of Microsoft's focus areas with Orion has been in
simplifying the UI and making it easier for users to discover the most relevant
content from the CRM system, which should help in reducing the overall training
Although Microsoft will likely offer the option to upgrade the existing
entity forms to be displayed in the new process form layout, this will surely
not be the optimal way to make use of the new UI. And taking advantage of the
process visualization features is going to require mapping your current
business processes to the new presentation methods and related data structures.
It's important to reserve time and resources for updating and testing the Orion
forms before rolling them out to the end users.
The current CRM 2011 API's are expected to be supported in Orion, which
means the code you write today for CRM 2011 will technically be compatible with
the next version, too. Legacy support for CRM 4.0 API's will however be
dropped, so identifying and updating such components that may not have been
touched when your organization was upgraded to CRM 2011 is something you can
start with already today in preparation for Orion.
The auto-save feature of the new forms means that you shouldn't design
your process around the concept of a user submitting the form fields by
clicking on the classic save button. In particular, remember that any plug-ins
that may be triggered from the repeated save events taking place in the new
forms will need examination to avoid performance issues or problems with existing
integrations to other systems.
On the UI front there will be some major changes as the different
components get rearranged into a widescreen form layout with no ribbon or left
navigation. Similar to the forms upgrade, existing scripts should technically have
a supported upgrade path to Orion, but this doesn't guarantee the overall
application will function as expected when the surrounding CRM UI changes. Once
Microsoft makes a beta version of Orion and its SDK available, learning about
the scripting-related changes on the new forms will be a top priority for
developers, as the current Polaris forms did not yet contain support for common
Compared to CRM 2011, you could in fact say the next version of Dynamics
CRM will have a significant share of its new functionality delivered as "out of
the box add-ons" based on recent acquisitions. Yammer and Skype integrations
have been made available to CRM Online customers in the Polaris release, along
with the in-house Bing Maps. MarketingPilot and NetBreeze will be key
ingredients in the recipe for building the next generation marketing module for
Current on-premises customers will most likely need to upgrade their CRM
system to the Orion version in order to be able to fully connect with these
integrated services. Also, Microsoft's long overdue tablet and mobile clients
will be offered without any additional user based license costs, but the CRM
server will surely need to be running the latest version of the software to
make use of them.
The ISV ecosystem, the suppliers of so many Dynamics CRM add-ons, will naturally
need to upgrade their own products to be compatible with Orion. Microsoft
partners who are actively seeking participation in the beta programs to gain
early access to Orion should be in a good position to ship an upgraded version
of their product close to the release date of the next Dynamics CRM major
version. Add-ons with a less active development team behind them may face
challenges in keeping up with the platform upgrade, including the need for UI
re-design work to fit into the new Orion user experience. Current customers
should identify any potential dependencies to third party solutions where
support has ended and look for alternative products to deliver the required
functionality once they upgrade to Orion.