Microsoft have released their latest Statement of Direction
While this is hardly ‘hot off the press’, I haven’t seen much in the way of review of the content and what it tells us about what is likely to happen in version 4.0 and the elusive version 5.0.
Timeframes for release of version 5.0 (“V.Next”)
Back in the August 2008, the proposed release time was “late 2009, early 2010” (https://partner.microsoft.com/US/productssolutions/dynamics/40086846), this has now moved to 2010. The rumour is towards the end of 2010 and, if history is anything to go by, December 2010 (v3 was released in December 2005 and v4 was released in December 2007). I’m guessing Christmas break is an excellent motivator for getting software out of the door.
The document makes mention of the free Mobile Express add-on for Dynamics CRM, which is now a standard part of the product and will be part of the rollups from six onwards. For those that want to do things like create new activities in CRM from a mobile device, the document also refers to the TenDigits alliance and the MobileAccess product which now supports Blackberry and Windows Mobile devices (http://www.tendigits.com/mobileaccess.html). This is great, I knew about the alliance but not that they had finally changed the product to support Blackberry and Windows Mobile, nice work!
The big news here are the additional sales methodology accelerators that are coming out (Miller Heiman, SPI and TAS). SPI is already out and, as many have discovered is not open source like the other accelerators. It is free to try though.
The document also mentions the second wave of accelerators (Social, Portal and Partner management). All are slated for released Q3 2009. While there is plenty of information in the wild about the Social accelerator, there is very little on the others. SOD comes through with screenshots of the partner management tool, which is essentially for channel partner management.
You can assign opportunities to partners and even have them bid for jobs, if we believe the screenshots.
eService is being improved to allow customers to download documents from CRM, a nice touch. Event Management is being improved to support custom attributes.
The Outlook client is being upgraded to support Outlook 2010. Synchronization of contacts and activities is apparently being improved (I wonder if they’ll fix the address book http://leontribe.blogspot.com/2008/12/dynamic-crms-address-book-is-broken.html)
This should be out by the end of the year.
Back in the days of version 3, there was a connector which allowed invoices and the like to be automatically sent to Dynamics GP. When CRM version 4 came out, a new version of the connector didn’t…until now…almost. A connector between Dynamics CRM 4.0 RU5 and Dynamics GP 10 SP4 is slated for release by the end of the year. Two years is one big wait for this so let’s hope its worth it.
No word on the other ERP products in the Dynamics stable (NAV, AX, SL) other than this esoteric sentence:
“The system is based on a transformation engine and uses specific adapters to identify source and destination systems”.
For a connector specifically built for CRM and GP, an architecture supporting adaptors and automatic system identification seems a bit of an overkill. Could this be Microsoft’s Scribe-killer?
Dynamics CRM Online
A question that used to be frequently asked at CRM meetings was “When is CRM Online coming to insert country outside of the USA and Canada here“. Few people bother asking over here in Australia any more as local hosting providers have filled the gap. However, Microsoft are extending the reach of CRM Online beyond the borders of the North American continent and apparently going to be ‘available in all major international markets mid-2010’. Let the price wars begin…
The SLA for CRM Online has been changed with an uptime guarantee of ‘3 nines’, that is, 99.9% of the time. For the mathematicians, that’s 8-9 hours downtime a year.
There is also the lead capture facility for CRM Online which basically sets up a web page for you and feeds the leads directly into Dynamics CRM.
Finally, the next service update of CRM Online (due in November) will give mobile access to CRM Online.
Features of Version 5 (“V.Next”)
No big surprises that Microsoft are still holding their cards close to their chest on this one. A few morsels thrown out include:
- Increased use of ‘the ribbon’
- Reduction in mouse-clicks and form opening to achieve common tasks
- Users get to define their default views
- Improvements in the KnowledgeBase Article editor and the ability to attach documents
- Specifics were vague but the team concept in CRM seems to be getting a bit of a working over in the new version. There are already whispers of team-ownership of records in version 5 so this should be an interesting area to watch
- ‘Fixing’ of email communications i.e. allowing attachments to outbound emails in areas other than workflow
- Recurring activity support
- Creation of a decent package management system for bundling customisations of the product which they describe as working like the Add/Remove programs feature of Windows
- Restructuring to allow for plugins/custom workflows to run on the host server securely. Something very useful for hosting environments where, currently, a plugin has the potential to reach across all hosted organisations
- Authentication through Windows Identity Foundation (WIF)
- Auditing ‘out of the box’
- Improvements to the use of WWF (workflow)
- Global and hierarchical picklists
- Improved Visual Studio integration (could it be we get something more than a notepad clone for creating jscript?)
Interesting times ahead and it seems enough ‘new shiny things’ to keep us going until we see something more substantial on version 5.