By: Matt Bolch
Although Microsoft Outlook is not part of Dynamics CRM – now known as Dynamics 365’s line of customer experience apps – the popularity of the ubiquitous email and calendar program can be the key winning Dynamics deals, especially for sales teams. And while Outlook offers little financial reward to the typical Dynamics partner, it can drive CRM project success.
“Most Dynamics partners are not actively selling Office 365,” says Brad Koontz, director of product marketing for Hitachi Solutions. “So the direct impact [of Outlook] is not great, but the indirect impact is huge.”
That impact is in user adoption, and Koontz attributes much of the success of Microsoft Dynamics CRM to user adoption. “In many cases it’s driven by use of tools people are familiar with, and Outlook is absolutely one of those tools.”
He calls CRM very unique among enterprise applications in that its success is measured on adoption rather than performance metrics that assume mandatory usage. “You really can’t say that about other areas of enterprise software. If a user does not adopt ERP, it’s a disaster; people don’t get paid, and things don’t get shipped.”
By contrast, CRM adoption may not “feel” mandatory, in which case it becomes the CRM partner’s challenge to help customer drive user adoption. The classic complaint about CRM is that the typical unhappy user feels his or her jobs is to “feed CRM” with manual entry, rather than to sell to or to serve customers. That “feeding” mentality needs to be transformed into something that seems less like a chore and more like a productivity enabler.
“The great thing about Microsoft CRM as it exists today is there is a lot of ‘track in CRM’ functionality built into the [Outlook] web client [also known as Outlook Web Access (OWA)],” says Koontz. “In some cases the web client is a more robust experience” compared to the CRM interface. “You have quicker access to all Office 365 apps within the web client, and if that quick access is important to you, then the web client is certainly something people use.”
In sales and service, Outlook + CRM drive business
“CRM, specifically Dynamics CRM and the Outlook plug-in, has allowed us to create institutional memory across the enterprise,” says Daniel Madden, investment manager services at SEI, a global provider of wealth management solutions for institutional and private clients (and a Hitachi Solutions client). “Leveraging CRM through Outlook is helping us drive our business.”
Madden has been a Microsoft Dynamics CRM specialist with SEI for ten years, and delivered four sessions on user adoption at the CRMUG Summit 2016 (including “Post-Launch: What Happens Now!” and “#epicFAIL CRM Adoptive Strategies.” Although Madden does not consider himself a technologist by trade, he took on that role when he convinced SEI management to migrate to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, combining the utility of Outlook with activity tracking that helped users be more productive. He calls the migration, with the company now on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015, “a huge win for SEI.”
Using Outlook in conjunction with Dynamics CRM presents what Madden calls “a single source of truth. It makes users’ jobs easier, so they can make more calls and do what they do best, grow our clients’ business and our business at the same time.”
The tight integration means that all of the tools users need to track their activities, look up client information, review past correspondence and examine the depth of client relationships can be found in Outlook, without having to switch screens and log into another application. Madden notes that users appreciate the ability to customize views and dashboards based on their jobs and their goals.
Leveraging the familiar Outlook interface presents an “opportunity for a non-technical person to add tremendous value” to the organization by helping give them ownership over their use of the tools that make them successful, says Madden.
The company has plans to migrate to Dynamics 365 from Dynamics CRM in the future.
Small companies achieve enterprise-grade efficiency
Ken Kelly, president of Kelly Roofing in Naples, Florida, calls Outlook “absolutely critical for our communications. It’s far more important than CRM because my users can do 80 percent of what they need to interact with clients from Outlook.”
Like Madden, Kelly does not consider himself particularly technical, but he serves as the technology department of his family-run, 115-employee company. “With Office 365 and Dynamics 365, you really don’t need IT help for administration,” he says, although he does work with a developer for implementation, integration, and IT best practices.
While Outlook is the “face of CRM” at Kelly Roofing, CRM is still the backbone, and Kelly is very enthused about the product direction. The company is also running Dynamics 365 for Financials currently, and has its eye on adopting more of the sophisticated process flows of Dynamics 365 apps in the future that incorporate order management and client management. For example, Kelly sees great promise in Microsoft’s vision that gives employees the power to work from Outlook to receive customer inquiries, check on key data like the client’s history with the company, past work performed, sales volume and whether the client is in arrears on payments, and create a quote that can immediately be sent back. Accepted quotes can likewise be turned into orders directly from Outlook. (Public demos of these capabilities thus far have focused on Dynamics 365 for Financials’ built-in CRM capabilities, not integration with Dynamics CRM or the D365 sales app).
“Imagine the productivity gains, responding in real time from talk to job in just a few clicks,” Kelly says.
Workflows are another area in which Outlook drives efficiency. Kelly points to the employee who calls in sick but has appointments on the calendar and mission-critical items on a to-do list. Creating workflows around communications allows other employees to take over those tasks, in a way that doesn’t negatively impact relations with customers.
“Picking Dynamics CRM back in 2012 was a bit of a risk for us,” Kelly admits. “But Dynamics 365 is an enterprise-grade, global-level product that’s been democratized for even the smallest organizations, directly integrated with the Internet of Things, portal, insights and the ability to monitor and respond to social.
“It makes us look like a lot bigger than we are.”