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…]