As a first timer at Microsoft’s Convergence conference, I had high expectations for the vendors and seminars that were listed online. The website provided some high-level overview of the sessions but not much depth so I hoped for the best as I have heard nothing but good things from former attendees. As I boarded the plane to Atlanta, I could tell that this was going to be a big event. Half of the plane was representing Microsoft as a partner or customer and conversations were going non-stop about products, implementations and a wish list for the conference.
After a good night’s sleep, I arrived at the Georgia World Congress Center for a quick breakfast and then it was a quick run over to the Philips Arena for the opening keynote with Satya Nadella and Kirill Tatarinov who were going to get the conference started. Over the next two hours, it was great to see some of the new and exciting items that were coming down the road with Microsoft. Some of the best highlights were the new product introductions that will closely tie with Dynamics CRM:
- Delve: a new notification board that allows users to tie work, research, news and users together in a single dashboard. Users will be able to pin, similar to Pinterest, important areas of the business day to a single location.
- Internet of Things: Microsoft’s new vision for the ever-growing world of data. The goal behind this reveal is to provide a service that will assist with providing a monitoring, predictive and analytical environment through the use of Azure.
- Office 2016: with the deep integration of Dynamics CRM with Excel and Word, it was great to hear of some of the highlights of the new Office suite. Some of the enhancements with Excel tools being able to pull information externally will definitely help organizations with any data that is pushed from Dynamics CRM.
Dynamics CRM Sessions
After the keynote got everyone excited, the next few days were a whirlwind of sessions and vendor presentations. I focused primarily on Dynamics CRM research and attended several sessions that showed why Microsoft has had such rapid growth is customers over the last few years:
- Embracing Upgrades: Preparing for Microsoft Dynamics CRM – this session was amazing. For those who are familiar with the upgrade flexibility of Dynamics CRM online, aka none (2011) or 3 month notice (2013), will be very happy with some of the new changes. Microsoft will now allow organizations to upgrade to or maintain non-current version of Dynamics CRM for up to 12 months. This will allow organizations with customized solutions or large user bases to properly prepare for an upgrade.
- Microsoft Dynamics CRM unified user experiences – although the mobile, tablet and computer experiences have become common place for most organizations, Microsoft is still working diligently to enhance the user friendliness. From upgraded apps to increased touch screen options, this session proved that Microsoft hasn’t transitioned away from both the mobile and tablet experience.
- Get Engaged: Closing the loop from Microsoft Social Listening to engagement and Microsoft Dynamics CRM – for those who are unaware, Social Listening has become Social Engagement as ‘listening’ didn’t provide the proper expectations of the solution. This tool was originally released in Spring 2014, but has had several major upgrades to boost functionality and Microsoft isn’t prepared to stop. From configuring the user interface (black and white backgrounds) to a boost in the number of user and recognition languages, the Social Engagement tool can now properly compete with other tools like Radiant 6.
- Microsoft Dynamics CRM with Excel and Power BI: The future of self-service analytics – The most impressive session by far, Microsoft put on a full display of the capabilities of Dynamics CRM, Excel, and Power BI. Including a full demo, the presenters showed how strong Power BI is by leveraging CRM data to show how easy it was to create detailed reports through a simple search bar. This information was quickly pushed to Excel where users can search for information across the internet, within Excel, to match up against organizational data. For those who have not looked into the capabilities of Power BI, I highly recommend checking it out.
Microsoft continues to show the openness to their partner channel by putting on a full range of products. Organizations from across the world were there to show the best parts of their solutions and how they can team up to implement a solution that meet all of an organization’s needs. From Altus Dynamics’ perspective this was a good chance to see the offerings to non-profit or Public Sector organizations and see if there were any partnerships that needed to be made in order to provide the best Public Sector solutions.
- Click Dimensions – with the recent changes in the landscape of established CRM-integrated marketing automation tools, I have been doing a lot of research on marketing solutions that do not require a separate database. Although tools can provide strong integration tools, it’s important for users in the Public Sector, who often wear multiple hats, to not have to switch between screens in order to perform daily tasks. So far I have been very impressed with Click Dimensions functionality, Public Sector discounts and pricing tiers.
- SCRIBE – similar to the search for an established marketing tool, integration has become a more frequent requirement in implementations. Although Altus Dynamics has worked with SCRIBE before, from a sales perspective it’s always helpful to learn about the latest advancements in a solution. I spent quite a bit of time talking with the SCRIBE team about integrations outside of the Dynamics CRM and Dynamics NAV bubble. There are a full range of tools under the SCRIBE umbrella that can offer organizations up-to-date information no matter what they interact with.
- InsideSales – although a very ‘lead and funnel’ focused presentation, there are a lot of possibilities for the Public Sector with this solution. Recently approached by Microsoft, the connection to Dynamics CRM is still being put together but the core idea is ‘Neuralytics’. This is the culmination of demographic, geographic, psychographic, firmographic, and histographic data that can increasingly understand your constituents. For example, if a donor is in an area that is experiencing a lot of snow, they are less likely to be available for a donation call. This product was in the early stages of being tied to Dynamics CRM but has a lot of potential for organizations who are looking to increase donations, response rates, event attendance and constituent interaction.
Overall, I found Convergence 2015 to be extremely informative. From the current solution, to Partner solutions, to the expected roadmap, I gained a wealth of knowledge that I am hoping to share with our clients. I hope that the news I brought back will help to excite existing clients and entice new organizations to work with Altus Dynamics.
I am also very proud of the fact that I was able to resist the temptation to purchase a new Microsoft phone on the expo floor!