With Convergence 2014 in the books it’s time to take a look at some of the new features set to be released with the next Dynamics CRM platform update codenamed “Leo” this spring. Right off the bat one piece of news that surfaced was Leo will be available for both Online as well as On Premise customers with the ability to “opt in” to the new functionality. The expectation had previously been set indicating that releases introducing new functionality would be available only to Online customers at first. The assumption was the next release would bring additional functionality to Online and then bring On Premise in sync by providing the functionality of the last two releases.
For CRM Online and Office 365 users Leo is expected to bring the missing Server Side Synchronization to Exchange Online. No mention yet of hybrid environments (CRM Online to Exchange On Premise and vice versa) but this gives Online customers who are currently using the Email Router a chance to rid themselves of another server to maintain and move more toward hosting everything in the cloud. Changes to integration between CRM and SharePoint are indicating the SharePoint List Component that CRM currently relies on to display the folder ad documents will be moving toward a solution that is presumably based on direct API connections rather than displaying a special frame into SharePoint.
The initial release of CRM 2013 focused heavily on the core contact management and sales functionality of the product but with Leo we will see the focus switch to the service area. Improved queuing functionality will be introduced that allows for both public and private queues as well as the ability to define and track SLA and entitlement information on various levels. The user interface gets a few enhancements to handle this new functionality like a flashy new timer control to give users a visual indication of where the case is at in relation to its SLA goal.
Another huge part of the improved service offerings is the new Unified Service Desk (USD) which appears to be the successor to the Customer Care Accelerator (CCA) which was originally released back in the CRM 4.0 days. The Unified Service Desk takes the form of a locally installed application which gives users an easier way to manage multiple applications and provides the means to pass contextual data between them as well as to content such as call scripts housed in the application’s frame. Despite being a desktop application, the goal is to be able to configure and administrate nearly everything the user sees centrally through CRM itself. Telephony integration is planned to allow users to link the maker of the incoming phone call to a record in CRM.
The mobile offerings will continue to evolve in this release. CRM for Tablets will see updates that correspond to the enhanced service offerings – mainly making the service related entities fully enabled as well as bringing over the new UI enhancements such as the new timer control. The long awaiting Android version is set to be released as well as updates to support Windows 8.1 and iOS 7. And lastly for those who work in multiple organizations, the ability to reconfigure and switch organizations without having to go through the dreaded un-install/re-install process will be added.
Specifically for Online customers there will be a number of new features available to create and manage “sandbox” or test instances for non-production use. Administrators will have the ability to take a backup of their production organization and restore it to a new organization to use for scenarios like development or testing. These new instances can be configured so that only administrators can log in (through the UI as well as through any SDK calls) and are expected to be watermarked to make it clear that it is not the production system to anyone who is actually logged in. Another feature will be the ability to disable any background operations like email processing, Yammer, etc… so that integrations with external production systems won’t initially be getting data from a new non-production CRM instance. Another feature that was talked about but not necessarily confirmed for Leo is the ability to take and restore snapshots on these new non-production instances.
No word on exactly when Leo will be released for general availability at this time. The product team at Microsoft has clearly been working hard and listening to feedback. One example of this is shown in the image above displaying the enhancements to the Case screen, can you spot it? Here’s a hint, it used to be limited to 5. The answer is the command bar on entity forms now shows the first 7 items rather than the first 5. This appears to be in response to the feedback given by the CRM community and through suggestions on the Microsoft Connect site.