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In Part 1 I shared some thoughts and observations on what role cloud computing was playing at Convergence 2010 Atlanta. I also promised to get back on the other hot topic, which should not be a surprise to anyone. No, it’s not XRM. But if we’d follow a similar naming convention, I guess it could be called SocialX, meaning “social anything”.
If the cloud computing movement is about the shift in technology, then the social web revolution is all about the people and their new forms of behaviour. Sure, it’s powered by some tech innovations from Web 2.0, but it would be a stretch to claim that the source code behind services like Facebook or Foursquare contains the magic ingredients that have caused the eruption of the social media volcano. To prove my point, just take a look at the following slide:
This “social customer stack” is taken from the Deriving Value from Social Networks session by Nikhil Hasija and Paul Greenberg. It was the best 60 minutes spent during Convergence 2010, hands down (even better than The Return at Tabernackle or The Geeks Band at Hard Rock Café). One particularly great thing about it was that there were absolutely no sceenshots of Microsoft applications, like in all other Convergence presentations. No attempts to push products like the Social Media Accelerator or anything else MS branded. Everything was built around the core message: what has changed since the invention of traditional CRM and why the customer is now in charge.
This year’s main event for Microsoft Dynamics product line is now over and done with. It was the second time I attended Microsoft Convergence, and the first one on US soil. Here are some of my miscellaneous notes and thoughts on the event.
First of all, getting to Convergence 2010 in Atlanta this year was not easy, as I’m sure many fellow Europeans noticed. No, the problem was not in acquiring tickets or hotel accomodation, it was in the physical act of getting to Atlanta through the volcanic ash cloud that paralyzed the airspace in most of Europe the week before Convergence was set to start. I was in Kuala Lumpur at the time of the eruption and had to re-route myself directly from Malaysia to United States, without visiting my home base in Helsinki. The one week trip in South-East Asia turned out to be a three week trip around the world, which was a bit of a rough ride, but I’m glad to have made it to all the meetings I had planned, attended Convergence for the whole duration of the event and returning safely back home (with a huge pile of laundry in my luggage).
Like I mentioned in my previous post, cloud-based services are quickly becoming the default mode that people expect a CRM application to be delivered to them. Microsoft is clearly focusing their efforts on responding to this change of environment, but so far the availability of Dynamics CRM Online has been strictly limited to North America. The international launch of the service has been promised to take place in the second half of 2010 (probably together with CRM 5.0 roll-out). Until then, there seems to be little for us Europeans to do, apart from reading CRM Online blog entries from the US colleagues.
I was lucky to recently get access to a CRM Online development environment, provide to us by CoreMotives as a part of our evaluation use of their Marketing Suite. Here are some of my initial impressions on the differences and similarities between Dynamics CRM Online and the good ol’ on-premises Dynamics CRM.
Outlook client setup
Since my work laptop’s Outlook is connected to a production CRM instance, I decided to try the CRM Online with my home PC. The installation file download took a while, but soon we were on our way.
I decided to skip the SQL Server installation to speed things up and settle for the online-only version. After all the patches had been applied, I was greeted with a login window for the Outlook client.
From here onwards everything seemed to work just like in the familiar on-premises CRM world. Perhaps even a bit too closely, as the first prompt that greeted me when accessing CRM Online was a notice about scheduled maintenance downtime later on the same day.
Oh well, I guess the cloud needs some regualr reboots, just like any Windows machine.
CRM Online user inteface
Like with the Outlook client installation, most things look very familiar inside the CRM Online UI. The home page does however present some new features to us.
CRM Online contains a feature called Get Started Panes, which provide contextual information at the top of the main CRM window entity screens. By default these contain categorized instructions on common tasks a user might want to perform when working with e.g. accounts or opportunities.