Microsoft Announces Dynamics CRM Online December 2012 Service Update

Microsoft has announced its planned December 2012 Service Update for Dynamics CRM Online, formerly known as “Polaris“, which includes a new “Flow” user experience option (though this name appears to have been dropped in the official materials) for sales and customer service, cross browser support, new integration points for Yammer, Skype, and Bing Maps, Office 2013 compatibility, a bulk data API, and a new statement of direction to accompany the news.

From Dynamics CRM product marketing director David Pennington’s blog post announcing the plans:

The December 2012 Service Update reimagines the way sales and customer service professionals work with CRM. We’re moving away from the traditional data-centric lists and forms approach, this service update will add new user experiences that simply and visually guide users through their business processes. We’re expanding the range of supported browsers for Microsoft Dynamics CRM to give more flexibility in the devices and platforms you use. Embedded Bing maps have also been added to the new user experience to add location context for Lead, Contact and Account addresses in the system. Rounding out our experiences investments there will be support for Microsoft Office 2013 across Outlook, Word and Excel integration.

We’re adding new application capabilities including predefined best practice sales and service business process definitions which are highly configurable and will accelerate time-to-value for organizations. From a social and collaboration standpoint we’re adding new connections with Yammer and Skype.

The release preview guide contains some interesting new details about the Flow user experience, like the interface used for configuring the stages and steps for managing a lead, opportunity, or customer service case.  The overall goal of the new user experience, as Microsoft describes it, is to “focus on outcomes rather than transactions.”

 Flow user experience customization tool

 A process-driven interface for lead qualification

The December release also introduces the new Yammer integration that was announced earlier this week, offering an updated ability to post messages from Dynamics CRM to Yammer and vice versa, with messages relating to CRM records, events, or documents. CRM users can follow leads, accounts, contacts, opportunities, and cases from within Dynamics CRM or from other Yammer interfaces like its native desktop and mobile applications.

In the cross browser category, support will broaden to Firefox and Chrome on PCs and Firefox and Safari on Macintosh desktops.  Safari will be supported on the iPad for sales users with a new mobile “sales experience”, according to the release preview guide.

 Microsoft Dynamics CRM iPad Sales inteface for Safari

A new bulk data API will likely make some developers happier, adding batch create, update, and delete requests from a single web services call. This service update also adds the ability to build custom Microsoft .NET Workflow activity assemblies for Dynamics CRM Online (bringing parity with CRM on-premise) to be deployed as part of a solution package for use within the workflow engine.

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