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Internet of Things with Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Internet of Things (IoT) has been the most popular of the new technologies this year, featuring as a key area in most of the Digital Business conferences. Let us investigate on how this technology can help Microsoft Dynamics CRM (CRM) customers. Let us quickly define the IoT and learn a bit of the background before we delve into the possible usage of it.

What is IoT?

According to Gartner, The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment.

Source: http://www.gartner.com/it-glossary/internet-of-things/

Simply speaking, IoT is a concept of connecting Internet enabled things (sensors or devices) with each other or with applications to exchange data and provide greater value.

When is it available?

The technology is available NOW! IoT is helping businesses drive efficiency and generate ROI (Return on Investment) making the most of their existing technology investments. Gartner predicts that by the end of this year (2015) there will be 5 billion connected devices. Companies like Tesla, Ford, Hilton etc., are providing better customer experiences using IoT. Not surprisingly, Microsoft has its share of play in this Digital Business revolution in the form of Microsoft Azure IoT services and you can certainly use a range of products from Cortana to PowerBI in building a complete solution.

Despite the challenges like privacy & security, IoT is expected to join the Nexus of forces (Mobile, Data, Social and Cloud) and have a significant impact on the businesses. Industry verticals like Healthcare, Transportation, Retail, Manufacturing, Energy/Utilities and Public sector are using the connected devices to gain real-time insights into their business.

IoT - CRM

IoT helps organizations gain rich insights into real-time data and provide personalized customer experiences. Jim Heppelmann, CEO of PTC says “The whole relationship with the customer is changing because companies are now able to stay in touch with the product after the initial sale. The product, in a sense, becomes a sensor for the relationship with the customer. Companies can gain amazingly detailed insights into the customer relationship by collecting and analyzing product usage data to understand how the product is performing, how much is it being utilized, which features are being used, and which features are not. Because products are now connected we can stay in touch with the customer throughout the entire lifecycle of the product. This creates tremendous potential for cross-selling and up-selling”.

Sample IoT - CRM Use Case scenarios

  •         Wearable devices help expectant mothers / seniors / people suffering from chronic illness report their health condition and call for any emergencies. CRM can help track the patient’s medical history and if required, notify the care provider.
  •      Connected car can alert the driver of any repair required and upon the driver’s approval, it can send a service request to CRM. CRM can help schedule the service job and also arrange for a valet to pick-up the car.
  •            Marketers can use the customer’s interests to highly personalize the customer experience across touch points like car dashboard, game console, appliances etc., Example: Johnnie Walker  campaign

Conclusion:

While the technology is available, the challenge is in identifying and designing solutions that help customers’ businesses take advantage of the smart technology. Key is to ensure that the human element is not ignored but is supplemented with technology to improve efficiency. 

Secure your mobile Dynamics CRM data

Good news for all the customers who were worried about the security of sensitive data on mobile CRM. Good Technology, a Mobile device management (MDM) solutions provider and Microsoft have created a containerized version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM for iOS (iPad 3.0 and up with iOS 7 or 8) called Microsoft Dynamics CRM (CRM) for Good. Yes, it is currently available only for the iPad and is a promising first step in this direction.

The Good Dynamics container adds end-to-end encryption of sensitive and/or regulated customer information, including at rest, in motion, and in use between apps in multi-app workflows. Regardless of whether the device is already under the protection of an MDM product, the container secures CRM data. Here is how to get started  with the app.

Dynamic Hyperlink with Mail Merge using CRM 2015

This is a quick post based on a question in the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Community forum.

Problem Statement: Can I dynamically add a hyperlink in a mail merge? The URLs are stored in a field on the CRM record. Need that URL to be added as hyperlink on an image.

Solution:
It is possible to add dynamic links coming in as merge fields to an image. To keep it simple, am adding the website field on account as a hyperlink in the merge document. You can use this feature to insert dynamic content for a campaign or something more useful.
Here’s how to do it:

  1. Select a few accounts and click ‘Mail Merge’
     Select Accounts
  2. You can use a template if you have. I’m going to create a Blank document. Choose the data fields required. Make sure you add the URL field. In my case, the website field. Click OK followed by ‘Download ‘ button on the Mail Merge dialog.
    image
  3. You should have the word document similar to below. As instructed, enable the macros on the document
    image
  4. Click ‘CRM’ in the Add-ins tab.
    image
  5. You will see the records we had selected in Step 1. Click OK.
    image
  6. Say that you want to distribute the high net worth accounts’ details to your key sales team. Add any text you want in the document and insert a picture (image). Right click the image to add a hyperlink.
    image
  7. In Insert Hyperlink dialog, enter some temporary text say ‘TempURL’ for the Address. Click OK.
    image
  8. Now press “ALT+F9” to see the code in the mail merge document.
    image
  9. Delete the temporary text ‘TempURL’ in the hyperlink and use the ‘Insert Merge Field’ option to add the actual URL field.
    image
  10. Press ‘ALT+F9’ to close the code. Now, select ‘Edit Individual documents’ in ‘Finish & Merge’.
    image 
  11. As seen in the tooltip, the URL is still showing the temporary text we had entered.  Unfortunately, Word isn’t refreshing the image link automatically. Press “Ctrl+A” to select all the contents of the document and then Press F9 to refresh.
    image
  12. Here is the result with all the dynamic address applied to the images!
    image

CRM In Microsoft Dynamics AX

In this blog post, I would like to provide high-level details of the CRM functionality available within Microsoft Dynamics AX, an ERP system. In doing so, I am using Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 with Cumulative Update 8.

During the Sales discussions with Customers who need both the ERP & CRM functionalities, the question that arises is whether to use functionality available in AX or to go for Dynamics CRM. I have witnessed a couple of customers implement both Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft Dynamics AX for different business groups and then integrate them using the Connector or one of the Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) tools. A few others build a part of ERP functionality using xRM while some others took advantage of CRM functionality available within their ERP system. In addition to the functionality offered, factors such as required UI, deployment architecture, Microsoft SharePoint & Microsoft Office integration, data integration needs etc. have to be analyzed and thorough due-diligence has to be done for a specific customer to determine the best solution option.

While Dynamics CRM is Microsoft’s flagship product for CRM functionality, you can take advantage of the CRM functionality in AX and derive benefits such as

  1. No additional license cost for CRM
  2. No integration requirement as the functionality is addressed within AX
  3. Users don’t have to switch between applications for a business process (Example: Opportunity to Invoice)

Functionality Offered

  1. Lead Management: Lead qualification process, Responsibility distribution, Bing Map integration
  2. Prospect Management: This is where the relationship management begins before it matures into vendor or customer.
  3. Opportunity Management: Prognosis, Sales Process, Competitor details, SWOT Analysis, Responsibility distribution, Pipeline visibility
  4. Contact Management: Outlook synchronization, Competencies, Preferences  
  5. Activity Management: Task, Appointment, Event  & Action planning
  6. Product Configuration: Provides for complex product configuration management
  7. Quote, Order & Invoice Management: Complete process of creation and maintenance of these sales activities
  8. Customer Management: 360 degree view, Credit, payment details, Sales demographics, Financial dimensions, Collection, Invoice and Delivery, Service, Marketing details, Statistics etc.
  9. Marketing Lists: Target lists
  10. Telemarketing: Call lists, Call distribution, CTI integration
  11. Email Marketing: Basic campaign broadcast via email is available
  12. Social Marketing: Publish Retail discounts on Facebook and Twitter using Microsoft Site Services solution, ‘Advertise retail promotions on Facebook or Twitter’.
  13. Campaign Management: Campaign activity planning and execution, campaign resource management and budgeting using projects in relation to campaign, Broadcast, Response management
  14. Survey Management: Use Questionnaires in AX to design, distribute, complete and analyze the survey
  15. Call Center: Customer service, Catalogs, Orders, Payment etc.
  16. Case Management: Case Management process, Knowledge articles
  17. Field Service Management: Service Agreement, Customer Inquiries, Service Orders, RMA, Technician/resource management, Billing
Outlook Synchronization: Contacts, Tasks and Appointments can be synchronized with Outlook
In addition to the functionalities mentioned above Microsoft Dynamics AX supports features like advanced search, de-duplication, transaction log, reports, workflows etc. that can help you build a good CRM solution. Remember that Microsoft Dynamics AX is not designed to serve the CRM strategies alone and might lack some of the CRM capabilities. However, it is a workhorse that can help your business in getting the Holy Grail of CRM (360-degree view of customer).