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Living In The Post-Outlook Client Era: Final Thoughts

This is the third (and final) post about my experiment living without the CRM Outlook client. You can read the prior posts in this series by following the links below:

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Alternatives

So now that I’ve lived with the alternatives to the Outlook client, here are my observations:

Things I like:

  • Without any plug-ins, Outlook runs much faster, especially when starting up. I can start using Outlook immediately.
  • Being able to track emails from my phone or Outlook web access means I have tracked a much larger number of emails than with only the Outlook client
  • Folder-level tracking has helped me keep my inbox clean. I move my emails to a folder to track (or delete the ones that I don’t need to track). This approach very nicely complements the way I started using email two years ago.

Things I miss:

  • Contact, appointment and task tracking are currently not included in the alternate tracking methods. This is not the end of the world, as I can create these items in the CRM mobile apps, and they sync to my email calendar, contact, and task list. Server side synchronization means that changes to tasks, contacts, and appointments are synchronized with CRM, and from the new Outlook app, I can create new contacts in CRM (and have them sync to Outlook. But I do occasionally miss the ease of use of having the “Track” button on these items.
  • Immediate feedback: When using the Outlook client with Outlook synchronization, when you track something, you immediately see the icon change, which means that the item is tracked. When you use one of the alternate methods, you don’t get the satisfaction of immediate feedback telling you the item is tracked. This is really more difficult for long-time users to adapt to than newer users. In the past two months I have learned to trust it, but I still find myself checking my recently created activities to make sure that the items have been tracked successfully.
  • Being able to track when sending. Note this doesn’t mean you can’t track emails that you send—just there is no track option while sending the message. You can go into your sent items and track the email with the Outlook app, or move the sent item to a tracking folder. I would expect that this may change when the Outlook app reaches general availability, but for now, you must track after the send.

Final thoughts:

I definitely see the new tracking methods as a tremendous value, and being able to finally track items from my phone is a great experience. But there is some functionality in the Outlook client that I do miss. In retrospect, there may be a case to use both Outlook client and the new alternative tracking methods. That way you can have the best of the old and the new: rich functionality while in Outlook on your PC, alternative tracking methods from mobile. For now, folder tracking is the more usable alternative option, but the Outlook app will likely surpass it when additional functionality and stability are added when it reaches general availability.

An additional alternative worth considering is Introhive. Introhive is a relationship data sciences and analytics tool that presents users with a digest of email conversations and contacts that they have interacted with, and gives them a two-click method to track them all in CRM. Introhive is a service that works with both CRM on premises and online, and represents an advantage for mobile users, such as sales users, because there is nothing that they have to do to “use CRM.” Even with the new alternative tracking methods, the user must manually click the “Dynamics CRM” OWA link or drag the email to a folder to track. For some users, this can still create a barrier to getting messages and contacts tracked.

Introhive’s email digest automates the process and makes it as easy as possible for users to track conversations and contacts in CRM. It does this without taking anything away from CRM—data is still stored in CRM, just like if the user tracked the contacts or emails from the Outlook client.

You can hear me interview Adam Stewart from Introhive on episode 11 of CRM Audio: Live from CRMUG Summit 2015.