Microsoft puts the focus on focus in Dynamics CRM 2016

Delve functionality will also arrive for the first time

The next major release of Dynamics CRM will arrive in the fourth quarter of this year, Microsoft announced Tuesday, and one of its key unifying themes will be helping sales teams stay focused on the task at hand.

Billed as the most comprehensive release to date of the company's customer relationship management software, Dynamics CRM 2016 was designed to minimize the need for workers to switch from one application to another to get their work done.

"Every time someone switches back and forth to export data or move between applications, it reduces productivity," said Stephanie Dart, director of product marketing for Microsoft Dynamics. "We want a single, immersive experience for employees that eliminates those distractions."

Toward that end, Dynamics CRM 2016 will offer an enhanced Excel experience including new Excel templates to automate tasks such as managing sales forecasts, for example. As a result, users will be able to toggle between functions rather than going through the time-consuming process of exporting data to Excel, switching applications and then returning again.

Similarly, a new CRM app for Outlook allows sales reps to add contacts and create records through the browser on their PC, Mac or phone.

"The idea is that if they're interacting in Outlook while they're on the road, we don't want them to have to leave it to share data within CRM," Dart said.

Delve functionality will also be part of Dynamics CRM for the first time, helping salespeople discover relevant information such as popular sales presentations and proposals.

"If I'm a salesperson, trending documents like sales presentations made by others like me or on my team will be surfaced on my dashboard," Dart said.

Organizations will also have access to their documents within Dynamics CRM via integration with SharePoint, OneDrive for Business, and Office 365.

"Normally, clicking on a document would take you out of CRM, and it can be hard to get back," Dart said.

New document generation capabilities, meanwhile, will allow users to build documents based on data in CRM without having to first manually extract the data to do so. "You basically click on a menu option and it will pull that data from CRM and generate a nice document for you," Dart said.

Also coming to Dynamics CRM 2016 is new Cortana integration so that sales activities and accounts, for instance, are embedded in the software.

"At the start of the day, Cortana can let you know not just about appointments and weather, but also information about the opportunities you're working on," Dart said.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 will work with Exchange on-premises, Dart said. A video highlights much of what's new in the upcoming release.

Next month, Microsoft will announce changes coming to Dynamics CRM in the realm of customer service, followed by mobility news in November and intelligence details when the release arrives in December.

New pricing models will be available as well.

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Katherine Noyes

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