I have been running the latest release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Client for Microsoft Outlook (Rollup 7) for over a month now (I also had the opportunity to be a beta tester for the product team for a month before it was launched) and overall it has been a big improvement in performance and reliability. You can see the list of improvements on this blog posting http://blogs.msdn.com/crm/archive/2009/10/22/update-rollup-7-for-microsoft-dynamics-crm-4-0.aspx
The key point I want to make on this post is that we are getting there…”the Convergence of CRM and Outlook”. I think this release is the turning point to get many more of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM users out there (you know who you are, all 1 million+ of you) to install and use the Outlook Client as their primary interface to CRM. A couple of key turning points for me:
- Now CRM looks to see if you have a connection to the server. If you lose your connection, it automatically goes offline, if you get the connection back it automatically goes back online
- It loads faster on start up and you can read email, look at your calendar etc while it is loading in the background
- You can shut your close your laptop and reopen it and it still works without logging back into Outlook again
- The offline client runs very fast…
Starting to work like Outlook! Is it perfect? No, but I have been using the Outlook Client since the humble beginnings of Microsoft CRM 1.2 and MSFT has come a long way to delivering on the promise of CRM and Outlook working together. Just in this last month, I have tracked over 235 emails in CRM (including a nice HTML word mail merge that I sent out to a number of my key contacts about some recent news). Outlook and CRM have now been woven together in my working style.
I work with many “low tolerance” people that dumped the Outlook Client previously for one reason or another and have seen them come back to it this time and use it. This continues to be one of the big value propositions of Microsoft in helping to drive user adoption for CRM or any XRM application for that matter. As complex as these solutions can become, pretty much every user still wants to use Outlook, Word and Excel to do a lot of their every day work. The intersection of these Office tools and CRM is going to happen.
A couple of hints to make your Outlook Client experience better:
- Drag the CRM folders that you use most often up to your favorite folders. I think of it as CRM is now “4 Folders in my Favorite Folders in Outlook”. I can’t imagine navigating to the bottom of my folder system to go find CRM each time
- Make sure that email responses to your CRM emails are automatically tracked in CRM (set your settings under the Email Tab of Personal Options to “E-mail messages in response to CRM e-mail”
- If you do have an issue, run the Diagnostics Wizard (this needs to be in an easier spot for most end users in reality) as it typically solves many of the issues you may be experiencing (Start/All Programs/Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0/Diagnostics/Run Diagnostics)
As Aaron Elder always reminds us "You never really arrive". I can say that the CRM Product Team has definitely gotten 1 step closer.
Aaron Elder and David Kohar