Why Upgrade To Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015?  It's all about the user experience (UX) !

The Original Promise

I started implementing CRM software 17 years ago.  I remember the promise back then was that the implementation of a CRM would transform you company overnight.  Your entire enterprise would switch from loosely defined processes (typically in the form of spreadsheets, memos and scattered documents laying around in shared folders or fling cabinets) to what was supposed to be a well-oiled machine using software to solve all your complex and time consuming business problems.    Companies courageous enough to take the leap were expecting a fast transformation.  All that was required was an investment in CRM software and “presto”.  Or so the promise was…..

Where's The Great User Experience (UX) ?

I’ll have to admit, it was a compelling argument and I, like many others, “bought in” hard.    The real problem was that the software manufacturers, consultants, and the companies implementing the CRM still had a lot of maturing to do.   With end users there was typically unrealistic expectation of the products.  Very often the CRM consultants implementing the solution didn’t’ do a good job of capturing real business requirements, tying them to the process and mapping them to the capabilities within the platforms.  To make matters worse the applications of the day were very much focused on features instead of user experience (UX).  The end result was often less than ideal (or even nonexistent) user adoption.

Well things have changed a lot over the past few year....We believe that Microsoft CRM has hit an unparalleled level of maturity that now delivers on that old promise. Focuses more (or at least as much) on the user experience than its features.

The Typical Issues / Usual Suspects

From the perspective of someone who has been implementing CRM since the mid 90’s I’ll have to admit, I heard a lot of recurring themes over the years and a lot of them are, for the most part, very valid points.  The most common issues that resonate with me are the following:

  • There are too many clicks to enter data in the CRM – it slows me down and makes my life more difficult without providing me much value.
  • How do we make it easier (more intuitive) for users.  The user interface is very confusing and I never know what to do next.
  • I need to be able to use CRM on a mobile device like a phone or tablet in order to help me do my job more effectively.

With every release of Microsoft CRM there has been wonderful enhancement to the products.  This ranges from “multi-tenancy”, to enhancements in workflow, and dialogs as well as developer tools etc.   Although these have all been great improvements to the product, they have done little to address the core user experience (UX) issues.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 Is Attempting To Address Those Issues

Flattened User Interface (UI)

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 is a complete rethink from the user interface (UI) perspective.  One of most impressive things about this new release is the flattening of the user interface (single window experience).  This might seem trivial at first but it is huge change in how the user ...

... interacts with the application.  In the past each time a new record was created for CRM a new window would open up overtop the last.  This became a very confusing for the user thus increasing their cognitive load.  Simply keeping track of where you are and what are working on can be a big challenge.   The new UI experience takes a lot of the confusion away from the user so they can now work in context of what is important and relevant to them without getting lost in “open window hell”.  Another thing to note is that new user interface is also supported in a multi browser (cross browser support) can use IE, Chrome or Firefox to access the system.   The results speak for themselves.  For example, entering a phone call keeps you completely in the same context of the Account or Contact.  You never lose the page you are working on.  It simple crisp and clear.  No more cognitive overload!

The (UI) is also much easier to user to navigate.  In previous version of Microsoft CRM there was a lot of clutter on the ribbons and left hand navigations.  

 If you look at the new UI for CRM 2015 you’ll notice that the experience has been really cleaned-up.  The ribbon is gone has been replace with the top of page command bar.

The 2015 navigation pane has been incorporated in to a new control on the top page which really reduces clutter and simplifies the end user experience. 

Business Process Flow 

Another great feature is the new Business Process Flow UI.  This feature allows you to setup CRM to guide users through a logical set of steps to move through sales, service, support or whatever process you need to define for your business.  The process flow allows organization to get much more prescriptive with their business processes allowing for a much more consistent/repeatable process.

Mobile

Although Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013/2015 is supported on smart phones it’s my opinion that the Tablet is the best “form factor” for productive CRM use when out-and-about.  Microsoft CRM 2013-2015 application has introduced the new Mobile Client Application (MoCA) Tablet client.  This new tablet client allows for an experience that is tailored to tables such as a Windows Surface or an IPad.   User can pin Tiles to the windows start screen for quick access.  The application is also tightly integrated on both platforms so that user can initial an email or start a Skype call simply by touching the screen.  The MoCA client also works with the “business process flow UI” which keeps the experience consistent across different devices i.e. (Laptop, Desktop, Tablet etc.).

Conclusion

I would say that in the past Microsoft Dynamics CRM has been focused on delivering more features than addressing some of these core user experience (UX) issues.    We know that is never an easy journey and software manufactures have to balance a lot of things to bring a product to market.  I think we can now safely say that Microsoft has switched its primary attention away from features (not completely of course) and is now really starting to focus on the user experience (UX) issues.  In my opinion Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 has hit a “home run” when it comes to UI improvements.  I would encourage anyone to take a “test drive” http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics/crm-test-drive.aspx  of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015.  I know you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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