Perhaps the most visible improvement in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 for the end user is the completely revamped Outlook client. Instead of merely wrapping the CRM web client UI inside the Outlook frame with stripped navigation and giving you the all important tracking buttons, the new Outlook client promises additional usability features over the web client. In the demos we’ve seen, things certainly do look pretty with Outlook 2010, but one question remains: will it blend with the previous versions of Outlook?
Here’s a reminder of what Dynamics CRM 2011 Outlook client delivers with Outlook 2010:
Many organizations have only recently gone through the trouble of upgrading to the “ribbonized” Office 2007 and training their staff to locate the familiar commands from the new ribbon icons and sections (or alternatively just shown how you can re-enable the old style menus in 2007). After all this effort, they may not feel like moving on to Office 2010 would really be the next priority item on the software upgrade list. Therefore it will be quite a probable path for companies to first upgrade to CRM 2011 before thinking about their Outlook clients. After all, CRM 2011 has backward compatibility all the way up till Outlook 2003, so why bother? Well, that’s exactly what I was curious to find out after receiving an invitation to CRM 2011 Online beta. I couldn’t risk my primary Outlook at work, so I decided to try this with my home laptop running 32-bit Office 2007 Enterprise on top of Windows 7 x64.
(Personal confession time: yesterday I was faced with a PC that had Office 2003 installed. Upon trying to start making a few PowerPoint slides to create some very basic graphics, I was completely lost and decide to give up altogether after staring at the screen for half a minute feeling helpless, as I couldn’t figure out which menus to click. So there, that’s how quickly we can all unlearn the skills we used to once possess.)
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online will prompt the new users accessing the server through Internet Explorer with a friendly reminder that there is also an Outlook client available. I clicked on the link and received a nice little 5.5 MB installer, so off we go.
Firing up Outlook after the installer gives a prompt to enter the CRM Online URL. Windows Live ID is verified and after that you’re connected to your CRM organization. Or should I say one of them, as the new Outlook client now supports having multiple organizations accessible through the same client UI. A very nice addition for all the XRM scenarios, but of course it comes with one major caveat: activities can only be synchronized with a single organization. So, you can only truly leverage the traditional Outlook capabilities with a single CRM organization. Maybe one day we’ll have the choice of a global “regarding” field from any server. [Read more…]