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.