As Microsoft continues to invest heavily in their three cloud-based solutions platforms (Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics 365), the improvements to both core functionality and cross-platform integration make the 'better together' mantra truer than ever. With the October 2018 release for Dynamics 365, Microsoft has focused its efforts on facilitating better collaboration, driving more automation, and further leveraging artificial intelligence to provide enhanced analytics capabilities.
Microsoft is clearly going 'all in' on its Teams product, with the stated intent of making Teams THE communication and collaboration centerpiece of Office 365. One of the headline features of the Dynamics 365 October 2018 update is a new Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement App for Microsoft Teams. The app allows you to connect to Dynamics 365 from within a Teams channel, and directly access CRM information including Accounts, Opportunities and other key entities. This enables Teams-based conversations around CRM data, association of Teams documents with corresponding CRM records, and viewing of CRM dashboards, all within the Teams interface.
When you combine the rich and rapidly expanding capabilities that Microsoft Teams provides with the powerful data and process management functionality of Dynamics 365 CRM, you get a comprehensive solution that can really empower your Sales team to communicate and collaborate effectively and, hopefully, win more business.
One of the main challenges that often arise when defining, implementing, and executing a sales process or sales methodology, is getting the sales reps to actually do the prescribed activities at the appropriate times on a consistent basis. Because of this, the concept of a Sales Playbook has arisen, which is generally intended to provide reps with the strategies, tactics, and content they need to close deals. The October 2018 Update for Dynamics 365 CRM adds new Playbooks capabilities to help organizations automate repeatable sales activities and respond to external events.
- Configure Playbook templates to define sets of activities that are applicable to various scenarios.
- Launch a Playbook template to trigger the creation of tasks, phone calls, emails, and other appropriate activities for a specific situation.
- Track the status and progress of running Playbooks against their expected outcome, whether successful or not.
An example of this concept includes automating the steps for renewing contracts or defining the activities a team member must carry out if a key decision maker on a pending deal leaves the organization.
Playbooks can ultimately help you empower sales reps with event-driven sales activities, while also enforcing the best practices defined by your sales process or methodology.
Artificial Intelligence and Analytics
Microsoft has made substantial strides in the practical application of artificial intelligence in many of its products. In Dynamics 365, this has manifested in new features like the Relationship Assistant, which suggests actions a user might want to take based on continuous analysis of various data points like the expected close date of an Opportunity. Along similar lines, the October 2018 Update includes a preview version of Dynamics 365 AI for Sales, which is intended to “provide actionable insights to drive personalized engagement and proactive decision-making.” It is basically a set of Power BI-based dashboards that present your CRM data via rich, interactive visualizations.
The new feature allows individual sales reps to quickly assess the state of their opportunity pipelines and related history, understand progress against goals over time, and better determine where to focus their time and effort to maximize results. Dynamics 365 AI for Sales also provides robust analysis capabilities for sales managers to assess the performance of their team, analyze forecasts versus actuals and understand how best to coach and support each sales rep based on data-driven insights.
Is Your Current CRM System Working for You?
Sales is a crucial function for nearly every organization, and Microsoft is clearly committed to innovating and expanding their cloud platform to make Dynamics 365 a great solution for all types of businesses. While the new capabilities are compelling, and some could even be game-changing, bells and whistles don't mean much if they are not aligned with your particular business needs and if users aren't properly enabled and supported in their adoption and utilization..