Processes at the Center of the Microsoft CRM December 2012 Service Update

Microsoft announced details of the new December 2012 Service Update, and processes, not lists and forms, are at the center of the new design.  The release, formerly called ‘Polaris’, is the first in a series of upcoming releases in planning and development. Microsoft CRM Product Marketing Director David Pennington, through the Microsoft CRM Product blog, noted that this release:

….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.



PRE-DEFINED SALES AND SERVICE PROCESSES

The new release will have three pre-configured processes for lead, opportunity and case management.  These are based on industry best practices and consist of ‘stages’ and ‘steps’ which guide users through processes.  ‘Stages’ are described as ‘gates’ that a process has to go through to lead to a successful business outcome, and ‘steps’ are the recommended actions to get you there.  One of the featured processes is focused on locating possible existing or duplicate contacts and accounts; a big part of any data quality effort. 

The focus on processes is illustrated clearly in two ways.  First, in the Flow UI example below, we can see how the Lead record status goes from Prospect –> Qualify –> Develop –> Purpose with easy visual cues and a fluent UI that will change role, budget, etc. based on progress of the lead process.  This is an important step in the evolution of the CRM UX because for the first time the business
stages are front and center to the end user and not just another drop down data field.  image

CONFIGURABLE SALES AND SERVICE PROCESSES

But what if your Stages don’t match the stages laid out in this update? No problem.  imageThe Process Control Customization Tool that is highlighted appears to allow administrators the flexibility to define Stages, the Steps in each Stage, and the affected Fields.  This level of control over the UX is not an attempt to reinvent or elevate dialogs.  As Microsoft’s Dennis Michalis told CRMUG last week, “This is not ginning up a new user interface.  This is pulling some information to the foreground, pushing other information to the background, and this is just the beginning.”

AVABILITY, OPTING-IN, AND OPTING-OUT

The December 2012 Service Update will initially be available to CRM online customers.  Existing customers will have the option to opt-in to the new updated UX forms.  Those customers can continue to use their existing forms (which will be referred to as ‘classic’ forms) and their system will run as normal after the update is applied.  New customers will need to opt-in to the classic forms if they sign-up after the update is applied.  The updated UX will provide Flow forms for Leads, Contacts, Accounts, Opportunities and Cases.  More entities will be added at a later date.  No word yet about the flexibility to use custom entities with the new UI.

Hosted and on-premise customers should expect this new UX to be available in the Orion release, in mid-2013.