Microsoft Releases Spring 2016 Update for Dynamics CRM

The latest update to Dynamics CRM, dubbed the "Spring 2016 wave," is now generally available, Microsoft announced on Monday.

As Microsoft said earlier this year, the Spring 2016 update focuses largely on integrating technologies from two companies it acquired in 2015 -- FieldOne, which provides solutions for field-service personnel, and Adxstudio, whose "portals" technology lets organizations build customer-facing Web sites. The update also brings some new machine learning capabilities to Dynamics CRM's Social Engagement tool.

In addition, Microsoft said it is readying a preview of a new solution called Connected Field Service, which aims to give Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities to companies with field-service personnel.

It should be noted that the changes being delivered in the Spring 2016 update are available only to users of the cloud-based Dynamics CRM Online. Feature-parity for the on-premises Dynamics CRM product will arrive in another update expected in the fall of 2016, according to a Microsoft spokesperson.

Spring 2016 Improvements
Microsoft outlined a few of the changes in Spring 2016 update in this blog post by Param Kahlon, partner group program manager for Dynamics CRM. More detailed information about the update is available in the Release Preview Guide here (PDF).

Improvements include a new Field Service component that helps organizations schedule, track and manage off-site work orders. Among other capabilities, it enables companies to match work orders to field technicians based on their competency and proficiency levels.

Also new are automated project service capabilities that give Dynamics CRM users the ability "to provide a single system of customer engagement for project sales, delivery and billing," said Kahlon. "It also supports back-office integrations to productivity and business applications, and offers a mobile experience for customer-facing resources."

Microsoft has also introduced new customer-facing Web portals to Dynamics CRM. These portals are built using responsive design, so they work across PC, smartphone and tablet browsers. Examples of pre-configured portals include a Customer portal, where an organization's customers can access knowledge base articles and other support resources; a Community portal, where customers can interact directly with each other, as well as with subject-matter experts from within the company; and a Partner portal, which Kahlon said "allows businesses to scale through their channel by managing leads, opportunities and communications through established processes."

The Social Engagement component in Dynamics CRM also received enhancements. Social Engagement is a Dynamics CRM marketing tool that uses machine learning to help companies track their products' performance across different social media platforms. The Spring 2016 update adds two new machine learning scenarios to Social Engagement. The first, called adaptive learning, promises to give companies deeper insight into customer opinions by scanning social media mentions for specific language cues.

"Sentiment scoring models help the system more accurately understand the language of customer communities -- for example, what snowboard buyers mean by calling a product 'crazy' or 'sweet.' This enables organizations to better predict customer trends and identify patterns," Kahlon said.

The second machine learning model, automated social triage, is designed to detect a customer's intent based on their social media posts, and then categorize that customer as a potential sales lead if appropriate. "By more accurately distinguishing an eager potential buyer from a customer with a complaint that requires quick resolution, automated social triage helps businesses deliver the right response more quickly," Kahlon said.

Connected Field Service Preview
Microsoft also took the wraps off a forthcoming solution that aims to let organizations leverage IoT for their field-service functions.

Connected Field Service will be available as a preview on June 7, according to Kahlon.

"Connected Field Service provides out-of-the-box IoT to field service capabilities, so IoT enabled devices are continuously monitored and anomalies are detected, generating alerts that trigger automated actions or service tickets and workflow according to service level agreements," he explained. "Availability and proximity of service technicians with the right skills and tools are then matched against the service requirement and routed to customer locations to take preventive action." 

Microsoft will showcase Connected Field Service and how it works with Dynamics CRM at its Customer Driven event, which will be streamed online on June 7 to coincide with the preview.

About the Author

Gladys Rama (@GladysRama3) is the editorial director of Converge360.