Living In The Post-Outlook Client Era: Introduction

Five years ago, I wrote a blog post about why the CRM Outlook Client is the premier user experience for CRM. Many of the points I made in that post are still true; however, the world has changed in a big way in the past five years.

  1. Mobile is much more central to many users’ daily life, especially for people in sales, professional services, and other roles common to CRM users.
  2. Many users don’t use Outlook on a daily basis. If you surveyed CRM users in 2010, the vast majority would say that they used Outlook every day. Now the amount is much smaller, even for users who have Outlook installed on their computers. They may still use Outlook regularly, but the amount of time spent in Outlook has dropped. Users are using smartphones and other devices for email management, rather than doing it all on a computer.
  3. It’s a cross-platform world. No longer can we expect that a company will be exclusively running Windows PC’s and Microsoft Office. Now some mix of Mac, Chromebook, iPads, Android, and other devices is to be expected. Limiting tracking of emails to only Windows users does not fit Microsoft’s new strategies.
  4. Expectations for performance have changed. Rich functionality must be balanced with good user performance. While the Outlook client can be run with good performance, it is frequently at the mercy of other applications run on the user’s computer. The more Outlook add-ins that are enabled, the slower the performance and load time of Outlook gets. User’s want to be able to track emails seamlessly without having to wait. if you want to ensure you are getting good performance with CRM for Outlook, see the Outlook section of the CRM Field Guide.

Does this mean that the Outlook client is bad or should be avoided? No.

If you are a user that would be described by the following characteristics, CRM for Outlook will probably still be the most productive CRM interface for you.

  • You do the majority of your work from the same computer.
  • You typically do not work remotely or via mobile.
  • Outlook is central to your daily work life.
  • You need power user features, such as convert to case, insert KB article, or the address book integration

If this does not describe your role, some of the alternative tracking methods introduced in CRM 2015 update 1 (and 2016 for on premises) may better fit your working style. In my role as a Consulting Principal for Hitachi Solutions, I travel regularly. As a result, I frequently find myself in settings where using a laptop is not optimal–sitting on a plane or working from a client location. For me, the Outlook Client is not a great fit–say I get an email from a client. If I just used the Outlook client, I would have to write myself a reminder to track the email when I get in front of my computer. My experience tells me that in the real world, mobile users whose only email tracking method is the Outlook client are likely to not track very many emails.

Two months ago, following our upgrade to CRM 2015 update 1, I decided to conduct an experiment using some of the new alternative tracking methods to see what it is like to live in a post Outlook client  world. In my next post, I will talk more about these options, and what my experience with them has been “in the wild.” Can a mobile professional really survive without the Outlook client?

You can also hear me talk about this in episode 10 of CRM Audio.