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My favorite podcast by far is CRM Audio. In fact, it’s the only podcast I regularly follow, since whenever I put my headphones on, quite often it will be for playing something from Spotify or Mixcloud to keep me from being distracted by people talking around me. Anyway, the podcasts that Joel, George and Shawn record about the latest news from the Dynamics CRM world together with their guest stars always provide some interesting insights that you can’t catch from the blogosphere. If you haven’t subscribed to it yet, I encourage you to give it a go.
In episode 21 of CRM Audio, titled “That’s Not A Survey”, these CRM tipsters explored the brand new Voice of the Customer solution and discussed how to position it in relation to other tools like ClickDimensions Surveys and the likes. As you may have noticed from my previous blog post, I’ve also spent a bit of time playing around with VoC, since I see quite a lot of potential with this XRM based survey engine.
One of the misconceptions around VoC that I’ve come across a few times before was also mentioned in the podcast was about conditional questions in a survey. It’s quite a basic requirement from any more advanced online surveys that the remaining questions should be adapted based on the earlier answers that the user has given. Call it “skip logic” or conditional show/hide, this would be something that a well designed survey would often need to apply, so that it adapts to the customer’s scenario being studied and can branch into different directions if parts of the questions are not relevant in a particular path. The misconception here is that in the Voice of the Customer survey designer UI there doesn’t appear to be a way to define such conditional logic. However, VoC does have this functionality already today.
Being a very recent addition to Microsoft’s portfolio, and having been delayed from the original CRM 2016 release schedule, the features of VoC aren’t very well documented at the moment, nor is there much training material available for instructing users how to get familiar with the tool. The regular readers of Surviving CRM might recall that VoC was actually called Mojo Surveys when MS acquired it one year ago. This means that documentation does exist, but it just hasn’t been remade into Microsoft’s format yet. Here’s a little tip: Google for mojo surveys filetype:pdf and see what you’ll find…
How the “skip logic” is done in VoC surveys is via a feature/entity called Response Routing. Found from the related records menu under a survey record, this is where you can define both the response conditions under which the routing should take place as well as the response actions that should be carried out when the conditions are met (or not met). A condition would be associated with the response given to a particular question and evaluated via “equal/greater/less” type of operators. Below you see a simple example of a single condition per response routing, but you could also group multiple conditions together via AND/OR operator.
The actions that you can take based on the conditions are split into two categories: client and server. As you may guess, the client side actions are performed during survey runtime, similar to client side scripts on CRM forms. Server actions are not performed until the survey response is submitted into the CRM database (like plugins), at which time it will be too late to affect what questions were presented to the user. So, the most interesting actions will be client side, which allow us to determine show/hide actions for questions or sections of a survey page, skip to a specific page, end the survey or even direct the user to a whole different survey.
In the example of the eXtremeCRM MVP Survey which I published together with my previous post, I added a Response Routing on the page 1 question “are you attending eXtremeCRM 2016 in Warsaw”:
If the user selects the answer option “Definitely!” then a further set of three questions will be revealed underneath that question on the same page. Similarly, because I also built response actions for the reversed scenario, if they change the answer value and click “I’ll have to skip it” then these additional questions are again hidden in real time on the survey page.
As you can see, VoC does already contain quite nice functionality in the first version that’s been released now. There are many more features to discover, such as piping dynamic data fields into surveys, so let’s hope that Microsoft will publish tutorials that showcase the real potential of these VoC surveys – not to mention the possibilities of what you can do with the response data as it flows into your XRM environment!
One word of warning is in order here: currently there’s a known issue with the Voice of the Customer solution that will break the CRM v8.0 OData feeds (the new OData v4 endpoint) if you install it into your environment. If you then try to build a report with Power BI Desktop and want to use CRM Online as the data source, you may run into an error dialog saying “The field ‘regardingobjectid_msdyn_surveyresponse’ already exists in the record.” Microsoft is aware of this bug and is working on a fix, but if you are relying on Power BI for your production CRM Online reporting, then it’s maybe better not to deploy VoC outside of your sandbox environment just yet. [Read more…]
As you may have heard, the long running Microsoft Dynamics CRM & ERP conference Convergence is no more. Microsoft has revised their event catalog and is now instead encouraging people to attend either the brand new Envision conference for business level discussions or Ignite for the technology platform updates. However, since both these events are much more generic in nature than the Dynamics focused Convergence used to be, it does leave quite a gap in the market for the CRM application deep dive content. Also, there’s nothing in the MSFT event calendar that would directly cater to the Envision and Ignite crowd in Europe, so anyone from around here who doesn’t want to spend too much time on a plane (and mentally in between time zones for the relatively short period of the conference) may not be quite as excited about these changes as the marketing message coming from Redmond might want them to feel.
Luckily the Dynamics CRM ecosystem isn’t dependent on only the events that Microsoft arranges. CRMUG has been building up their presence also on this side of the Atlantic and is now launching their first European Congress this spring in Stuttgart. eXtremeCRM is a long running event that has been catering to both the US and Europe partner audience for many years already and they’ll also have an event nearby very soon, as eXtremeCRM 2016 Warsaw takes place on April 18-21. So, whether you’re working on the customer’s side of the table or consulting a variety of different organizations on how to best take advantage of Dynamics CRM, there’s bound to be the right event for you where you can meet professionals like yourself, exchange ideas with them and hear presentations from knowledgeable members of the #MSDynCRM community on what’s hot (and not) in the CRM space.
It’s been a while since I’ve been to a CRM conference myself but this year I decided to make room in my customer projects calendar for attending one, since one doesn’t simply survive in this business with content you can find from online sources and social channels. So, I registered for the eXtremeCRM Warsaw event early on and then decided to also suggest a topic I could do a presentation on. The suggestion got approved, which means… well, the picture of yours truly right underneath Jujhar Singh says it all!
I’m honored to have the opportunity to join such a prestigious list of speakers in the eXtremeCRM 2016 Warsaw event. I wont of course be competing on the level of Jujhar (who BTW seems like exactly the right man for the Dynamics CRM GM position, based on our encounters at the MVP Summit) but will rather be focused on preaching what I know. Which is all about how to make the most of the XRM platform when you don’t know how (or just don’t want to) work with the API’s but rather need to leverage the built-in customization tools. My session is titled “Killer UX: Delivering a Great CRM User Experience without Custom Code” and what I’ll try to do is show how anyone who knows his or her way around the solution configuration UI can make a real difference in what Dynamics CRM as an application feels like for the end users to work with.
Now, I should of course be working feverishly on my presentation slides already, but here I am just reading and writing blog posts like I always do. If you’ve ever encountered a situation where instead of focusing on completing the important work that has a deadline approaching in the distant but all too inevitable future, you find yourself wondering around between Twitter and YouTube instead, then you know the feeling. Well, speaking of online videos, there just happens to be an excellent TED Talk from Tim Urban on the topic “Inside the mind of a master procrastinator”. You really should watch it because A) the Instant Gratification Monkey inside your brain will totally love the distraction, and B) it’ll help you better understand the dynamics of (not CRM but) procrastination.
“Hey, get off the wheel, you Monkey! We haven’t even finished this blog post yet! Grrr…”
In addition to myself, there are also eight other awesome CRM MVP’s who are coming to Warsaw. We’ll all be having our own sessions of course, but in addition to that, there will be a joint session where the audience can present questions to all the CRM MVP’s in the room on the latest CRM 2016 Spring Release in particular. Now, as we were thinking about what’s a good way to coordinate such a session, it occurred to me that “hey, why couldn’t we use CRM for this?” More specifically, wouldn’t this be a great opportunity to showcase the new Voice of the Customer functionality that’s very recently been made generally available for CRM Online customers?
As it turns out, Voice of the Customer (or “VoC” as we’ll all end up calling it) allows you to easily design surveys on any topic that you’re interested in collecting data on. If you haven’t yet explored this great new addition to the XRM family of add-ons that Microsoft has integrated into the core Dynamics CRM product offering, you could start by watching this introductory VoC video on YouTube. Or, you could see a VoC survey live in action by answering our eXtreme MVP Survey.
The survey is mainly targeted at those who are planning to attend the eXtremeCRM 2016 Warsaw event, but there’s nothing stopping you from taking it if you can’t make it there. The survey starts with some questions about the event and closes with a “feedback form” that you can use for submitting your questions to the CRM MVPs in advance, to be answered in the live event (time permitting). It also contains a few questions about how you feel about the upcoming CRM 2016 Spring Release, so I’m planning to also experiment with some of the analytics capabilities that these XRM style surveys offer us. I might even write a blog article about how the VoC experiment worked (unless the ‘Monkey gets its way again), so it’s all conducted in the name of science! (No marketing spam will come from this survey, it’s my personal CRM Online trial org that will disintegrate within a couple of months.)
Spring is in the air, at least if the Dynamics CRM 2016 Spring Wave announcement is anything to go by. It’s pretty amazing that only 2 days after we were given the 2016 update for our CRM Online environment there’s already the next batch of updates to pay attention to. Now here I was thinking about spending some time experimenting with the new v8.0 functionality like the Interactive Service Hub or Knowledge Articles and OH, LOOK, A NEW RELEASE WAS ANNOUNCED! (Welcome to my goldfish bowl…)
Another thing that further contributes to the growing inability to concentrate on just a single CRM version at a time is that, well, there aren’t really any proper versions anymore. Sure, there are still official announcements regarding the major (Fall) and minor (Spring) releases, but it’s not like there would be a single point in time when the product bits become available for you to download. To a certain extent they still do, for the type of software that’s shipped as bits on MSDN, but if you’ve been working with Dynamics CRM for a while you might have found yourself thinking “all the fun stuff’s in the cloud”. I certainly have, and I don’t even see anything wrong with this, because pulling off this type of continuously updated application delivery is in practice only really feasible for customers when it’s consumed purely as a service.
By the time the CRM 2016 version became generally available, as in new CRM Online trial orgs were provisioned with v8.0, there was a slight feeling of “meh” when you discovered that most of the coolest new features touted in the Release Preview Guide were actually not yet there. No Mobile Offline, no Voice of the Customer surveys, no Relevance Search, no External Party Access… Many of the features being developed didn’t appear to have made the release train of v8.0 and were instead moved to what seemed like a Plan B, meaning rolling them out in limited Previews rather than the big fanfare of the GA. This would have been quite controversial back in the days of “one release every three years”, but these days it’s not really such a big source of concern at the end of the day, because there is no “gold master” disc to signify an RTM product anymore.
Recently Microsoft released an official Roadmap site for Dynamics CRM, which may be a small step for content management but a giant leap for the release policy around the CRM product. Following on the footsteps of many other MSFT product teams, like Office 365, this further moves Dynamics CRM into the service delivery model as the traditional product versioning gets pushed behind the scenes and the application functionality is brought to the forefront. Yes, the sysadmin will still need to be aware of the specific release that his or her CRM Online instance is running on, but from a business perspective this is becoming less and less relevant. New things will arrive in a continuous stream and the decisions for how to deploy a particular application functionality and what actions are needed for ensuring user adoption is an ongoing task for the persons in charge of making their workforce more productive and building customer facing processes that meet or exceed their ever going demands.
I guess it’s fair to say the world of CRM software reflects the bigger picture of how we the individuals are also operating when it comes to acquiring the things we desire: as a service. Instead of making big upfront investments in gaining the full possession of physical goods or property, our consumption patterns are increasingly leaning towards making a few clicks in an electronic environment and gaining access to the missing piece that will fulfill the needs we’ve identified. Our magic wands with wireless connectivity can be used to conjure up pretty much anything that you can imagine via a “buy now” button somewhere, almost at the exact moment you’ve thought of it. The end product may still be a physical package that gets delivered to your door, but the experience that the customer receives from your company is increasingly being evaluated against not how well the physical gizmo has been crafted but rather how well the various interactions around the customer lifecycle stages of information acquisition, financial transaction and ownership/service consumption are in line with the expectations that the customer had when he or she embarked on this journey. [Read more…]