10 Things we love about Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013

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Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 has been here for quite a while now and we have already managed to fall in love with its fresh look, smooth processes and new features.

So what exactly do we love? Well, count with us.

The 5 big changes that transform the CRM experience:

  • The interface: The fact that the UI is much flatter and colourful makes it very easy to interact with and cheers up your tired eyes.
  • It’s mobile: We’re happy to see that you can access Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 from your iPad, Windows 8 tablet and even from your Android, iPhone and Windows phones.
  • Platform investments: Microsoft have reached into their pocket to develop a much better platform. The new platform is more intuitive and a lot easier to amend for the end users.
  • It’s social: The whole enterprise can now communicate via the ‘What’s new’ feed or use Yammer to share files, schedule events and organise themselves in groups. You can even click-to-call anyone in your database after installing Skype or Lync.
  • Better Outlook client: Microsoft have put a great deal of work into isolating the processes that are running in the background so that the Outlook client is faster and more stable.

 

The 5 small changes that are nice to have:

  • Real-time workflow: Now it’s easy to create synchronous (real-time) workflow without having to use any code. This is a great way for the end users to amend their processes, which reduces the system development time.
  • Autosave feature: Your system can now auto-save your work every 30 seconds. This means that if you’re working connected to an unreliable internet source, you don’t have to worry about losing your data.
  • Bing maps & client picture on the record page: These two features bring a nice touch to every record as they break the mass of text. They also serve as a quick way of reminding oneself of the particular client.
  • Quick Create: The new button for creating entities on the fly is great. You no longer have to exit your current screen to quickly add new entities such as phone calls, leads, appointments and more.
  • Recent records: And finally, what we love about Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 is having the ability to quickly jump to a recent record without having to navigate through multiple screens. How convenient!

 

Why CRM Should Be the Lifeline of Your Business

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CRM systems have advanced significantly. From the antiquated platforms of the past that were nothing more than glorified spreadsheets, forward-thinking technology such as Microsoft Dynamics now offers the ability to align departments, improve customer retention and, most importantly, support the objective of increased revenue.

Such advantages mean that businesses can no longer afford to consider CRM as an optional bonus; doing so inevitably provides your competitor with the opportunity to advance, leaving your business behind.

CRM as an enabler

Revenue is, undeniably, the top priority for any business. Regardless of what department you are involved with, every individual within your business is working to increase revenue in different ways. CRM can help to bring those initiatives together.

Whilst it is important to note that technology is an enabler and not the full solution, the impact that it can have on your bottom line (when working in conjunction with knowledgeable and empowered users) is striking;

  • With detailed information on a customer’s buying history and preferences so easily accessible, marketers can create more targeted, relevant content that will increase their chance of engagement;
  • Finance teams have access to crucial commercial details that allow them to accurately  forecast and, consequently, generate more predictable revenue;
  • With the ability to automate tasks (particularly those that are, traditionally, resource-heavy), sales teams can focus more of their time on selling – and consequently support the objective of increased revenue.

CRM as the long-term solution

Another business element that can benefit significantly from CRM is customer retention. From detailed customer insight that allows sales teams to easily identify their most profitable accounts (and consequently spend their time in those areas) to improved customer service (thanks to an ability to quickly view customer buying history and issues), a CRM system provides the support that businesses often desperately need to retain existing revenue.

With this in mind, it’s essential that businesses recognise the importance of an advanced CRM system. Offering the game-changing opportunity to develop that all-important competitive edge, boost revenue and improve the efficiency of your team, making CRM the lifeline of your business is a no-brainer.

Convinced? If you’re ready to take the next step with your CRM strategy, talk to us.

How much does CRM cost?

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Deploying CRM is usually a complex project involving many stakeholders and at the outset, it can be difficult trying to work out how much you need to invest. In this article, I’ll try to help you understand what costs are involved with a typical CRM project.

In this article, we’ll talk about the cost of:

  • Scoping the requirements
  • System customisation
  • On-demand versus on-premise solutions
  • Licences
  • CRM deployment
  • Time & training

 

  1. Scoping the requirements
  2. Let’s face it – CRM projects are usually large projects that affect the whole organisation. Our experience shows that one of the secrets to a successful CRM project is the active involvement of the each department in your business.

    You will need to sit down with all these stakeholders to determine what everyone needs and expects from the system. Give these people the list of alternatives you’re considering and ask for their opinion about which system they favour the most.

    This exercise may seem to be very time-consuming but it’s just a practice of good time management: the more time you spend planning, the less time you’ll spend fire-fighting. Therefore it’s good to scrutinise your business processes and choose a system with functionality that fits your business model most.

    Time is money? You bet. Especially the time you’ll save by operating a successful CRM system without preventable let-downs.

     

  3. Customisation: Investing in the perfect match
  4. After you’ve identified what business processes needs to be captured in your future CRM system, you’ll be able to identify if you can deploy an out-of-the-box CRM or if you need to customise it first.

    If you have a fairly typical business model, it’s quite possible that an out-of-the box CRM solution will be enough for you.

    However, if you have quite a few special business rules for passing your leads down the funnel or; if you need your system to integrate with external information sources, you’re likely to benefit from customisation. This way you’ll ensure your CRM is perfectly tailored for your business processes and not the other way around.

    It’s good practice to talk to a dedicated CRM specialist who will advise you about the scope of customisation that needs to be done to the system before it fits your business processes seamlessly. Naturally, if you come to a conclusion that you need a system customisation, you’ll also need to sign off a respective budget.

     

  5. On-demand or on-premise?
  6. You’ll have to choose between and on premise licencing versus an on-demand solution. You can see the basic comparison here.

    Typically, an on-premise solution involves a one-time payment after which you become the owner of the system. This means all the expenses of your IT department that will be managing your CRM solution will be on your shoulders; but you won’t have to pay a monthly fee to the CRM provider for hosting your data and updating your system.

    On the other hand, an on-demand solution (or cloud-hosting) will not cost you as much up-front and the expenses related to upgrading your system will be included in your monthly fee. This is usually a smart way for businesses with limited financial capital to have access to a powerful CRM solution while not having to worry about the technical side of it.

     

  7. Licences
  8. This price of the licences you’ll have to lay down will obviously depend on your choice of the CRM system.

    Make sure you make an informed CRM choice after sufficient research and draw on the conclusions you’ve made when talking to your teams. This way you’ll not only enhance the performance of your business processes (which a CRM is meant to do in the first place), you’ll also avoid being charged for functionality you’ll never need.

    Understandably after you’ve chosen the CRM system, you’ll need to count the amount of your CRM users and multiply it by the price per licence.

     

  9. The project realisation
  10. Another key choice that could make a great financial difference to your CRM project is the choice of a CRM specialist to deploy the system for you.

    It’s important to choose a partner who can demonstrate a past trail of success with employing CRM systems. How to spot one? They usually have on-going long-term relationships with their clients. Why is it so important? Because every time anything comes up with your system, you can call these people up and rely on them to help you out.

    When your budget is tight and you want to make sure you’re making the right choice, this can prove to be quite tricky. Many CRM specialists are hesitant to disclose the sums they charge for implementing CRM projects. However, at Redspire this is something we want to set right by making our CRM pricing completely transparent.

     

  11. Investing in time and training
  12. And finally, the best advice we can give you is to avoid making the same mistake as those whose CRM projects already failed. The single biggest cause of CRM project failures is the lack of user adoption.

    This is why it’s so crucial to ask all stakeholders for their opinions – and also why you should consider providing CRM training for the future CRM users.

    In most cases, it’s considered one of the best investments to dedicate budget to your employee’s training. Poorly trained users leads to a system that isn’t adopted and, ultimately, project failure.

     

    All in all, there are plenty of ways in which you can choose to deploy your CRM and a diligent, considered approach is best. Just remember: Hard training = easy combat!

How much does CRM cost at Redspire? See our transparent pricing to find out.

Cloud vs On Premise CRM: Which one is for you?

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Cloud vs On Premise CRM: A definition

If you’ve been involved in meetings discussing technology solutions there is a good chance that you’ve heard the terms “Cloud” or “On-Premise” mentioned. So firstly, let’s put this post into context by describing what a cloud based solution is and what an On premise solution is.

On-demand CRM

(or “Cloud CRM”) is shorthand for a remote CRM system that is hosted away from your offices, on the internet (or ‘the cloud’) and not on your own computing system. Because it’s hosted remotely, it means that your information can be accessed anywhere, any time and any place (assuming the user has access to the web). They’ve been around for a while, but really took off as internet download speeds improved and made accessing large amounts of data easier to do. Paying for on-demand CRM is usually done via a licensing system – you pay an annual fee based on the number of people who will use the system.

On-premise CRM

(or “In-house CRM”) on the other hand, is a software that you manage from your own company’s premises which allows you to have absolute control over your data. You typically purchase your licences only once and after that the whole system management stays with your IT department.

The problem in teasing out the advantages and disadvantages of on-demand against on-premises CRM solutions is that almost all the information out there is put together by someone who wants to sell you one or the other.

However, there are some generally agreed challenges and opportunities that can be looked at objectively. On-demand seems to grow in popularity, and small businesses are in the vanguard of those taking it up. It’s no surprise really, cloud storage and cloud applications are mushrooming in every area of computing, so why should CRM be any different?

What’s important?

On-demand CRM should now offer you very nearly as much customisation as an on-premise solution, certainly if you’re using an established system with a wide user base. However, they are designed to be used – and tailored to – a variety of organisations, and if your business is going to need something completely unique then on-premise solutions may be better suited to add extra pages, tabs and so on. Against this it should be noted that on-demand CRMs are usually designed so that they can be customised with no programming expertise by users.

On-demand will come with remote access as a standard, almost certainly via the web. It’s worth checking, though, that you won’t be completely cut off from your new CRM system if you lose the internet for an afternoon. Also check which devices can use the system.

Price is a major decision maker for any small business and it’s something you should research carefully when you consider your CRM system. And don’t just look at upfront costs, bear in mind that you might be using this system for five years or more and weigh the initial layout against licensing fees and extra user costs. However, in the short term in particular, on-demand CRM is almost always better value.

Go for the long-term strategy

With on-demand systems you are putting a lot of your data over the wires, so ensure that you check out security carefully. That said, for small businesses, the costs of hosting their own data in-house with the levels of security most CRM solutions will offer can be prohibitively expensive in any case. In fact, outsourcing this function can often offer increased levels of security.

One of the key selling points of an on-demand solution is that you get an IT team for free (or, for less than it costs to employ your own). If you’re struggling to find IT support in any case, you might not wish to add a complex new software system to their responsibilities. However, do check that your on-demand supplier can offer you all the support you’re going to need, including if possible user training and help lines – outsourcing CRM admin to the end of a phone that is never answered is no answer.

Some experts warn that on-demand solutions don’t offer the same level of integration into existing systems that can be found with on-premise systems. This may be true if your organisation is complex, however, for many small businesses on-demand will be perfectly adequate. However, do check out what you’ll be getting.

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Ready for your Microsoft Dynamics CRM free trial?

Get your free 30-day Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 trial as soon as possible. No strings attached!

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Simple CRM: Starting your CRM from Grass Roots

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Before you embark in investing your hard-earned capital into a complex CRM project, you first need to make sure that your infrastructure, culture and business procedures are ready for it. And what better way to start with an easy to navigate, simple CRM?

All businesses are to some extent reliant on technology these days, but CRM can be more than that. It can be a philosophy that can be applied to all customer interactions with the aim of getting the most out of every customer contact.

C for Customer

The first rule of good CRM is the first letter of the abbreviation: C stands for customer, and to make the most of CRM in its simplest form you need to put the customer at the centre of everything you do. This might sound obvious – patronising even – but it’s certainly something that’s worth examining in your business.

A strategy here can trump any number of software solutions – customer needs must come first. This strategy must come from the top of your organisation, but be adopted from the bottom up to succeed. The first step in any successful relationship – and that’s what this is all about – is caring about the other party.

Measure your relationships

You should also be prepared to measure the way your relationships are working (or not). So, even if you decide you don’t need a complex CRM system, you should have some processes in place that will evaluate how customer interactions are working for you – are you logging leads? Are you evaluating leads to find the best prospects?

Simple CRM processes are easier and more rewarding when it comes to interacting. Therefore, optimise your customer interactions as far as you can and your staff and your customers will get more out of them. Work out which sort of customer interactions are the most valuable and focus on those for your sales and marketing teams.

Good training encourages adoption

Training and knowledge is a key factor in good customer relationships, and thus in getting more out of interactions. Well-informed staff with strong ‘soft skills’ will make the most of their customers naturally. That means investing in training and giving people the time to talk if necessary, but it’s something that should pay off. Retail businesses who tried this approach found an unexpected benefit in a massive decrease in shop lifting.

You should also be prepared to learn from others and to look at your own practices as a customer. See what works for your competitors and try to mystery shop your own customer experience too. If in doubt, ask the people who really know – the customers themselves.

CRM should be part of everything you do if it is to succeed, it is much more than just a piece of technology.

simple crm

 

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Mobile CRM: 10 Reasons to Say Yes

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If there has been a trend that was very evident in 2013, it’s been the fact that almost everything has gone mobile. Mobile business was a great challenge for professionals in 2012, so it’s nice to look back on 2013 and see how the technology has advanced to enable businessmen to boost their work experience.

Since today’s topic is mobile CRM, we’ll focus on how mobile CRM can leverage your business while making life easier for you. Some CRM providers have already integrated the mobile technology into their CRM systems. One of these is Microsoft Dynamics CRM, who have launched their 2013 version only a few weeks ago.

 

Benefits of mobile Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013

The early adopters of mobile Microsoft Dynamics CRM are already enjoying the innovations it brings. So, how can this mobile CRM speed up your work and improve your working experience?

  1. Mobile Microsoft Dynamics CRM detaches you from your desktop computer and allows you to access your customer database anywhere – online or offline.
  2. You can access your mobile Microsoft Dynamics CRM from a Windows 8 tablet, an iPad or as a smartphone application on your Windows 8 phone, an Android or your iPhone.
  3. Your data is always safe: it’s automatically cached so you can access it later offline and maintain your peace of mind if you suddenly get disconnected.
  4. You can enter any new data in your system as soon as they emerge – while they’re still fresh in your mind without having to wait untill you get to your office.
  5. On your tablet, everything important stays the same as in your web client with a slightly different, very touch-friendly layout.
  6. If you configure your CRM web interface, the changes will also appear on your tablet – no need to hire a mobile developer!
  7. You can work on your selected leads by pinning them straight to your dashboard to access all their data or call them within one or two clicks.
  8. Your phone application is slightly less complex than the tablet one, but you can still manage almost all your data and arrange your custom entities as you wish.
  9. You can stay in touch with your team members as well as your clients with a seamlessly integrated Skype calling function.
  10. And finally, you’ll be able to keep track of all your leads no matter where you are – commuting, hiking, at home, and even abroad – to see where you are in the sales process and what other challenges are ahead of you.

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Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Launch

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The new Microsoft Dynamics was launched on October 31, but this new CRM platform (customer relationship management) shouldn’t be a Halloween horror story for the software giant, which is promising much better social CRM, a great experience on mobile and tablet devices and integration with a host of other company-owned apps.

Already there are apps that fine-tune this new CRM platform to tablet use with a dashboard and easy tap-entry for customer data. Versions for iPhone and Android are on their way.

 

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013: Highlights

Microsoft are committed to exploring ways to improve communication across teams and people. Analysts say that Microsoft has started well with its integration with the enterprise network it owns, Yammer, the widely-used internet call programme, Skype, and Lync, their own instant messaging system.

Users of the cloud version of Dynamics can use a powerful tool called Social Insights which harvests contact information from 30,000 sources. The app is the work of Dynamics partner InsideView and they say the link-up is the first time such comprehensive – contacts include number of employees, financial reports and products and so on – and constantly updated information has been available within a CRM platform. Both they and Microsoft are talking about a new era of CRM in the cloud. Customers based in the US who buy the premises version of Dynamics also have some access to Social Insights, those in the rest of the world will be able to access it in 2014.

 

The New Interface

Microsoft Dynamics 2013
The look is designed to reflect this, with an “immersive layout” that puts everything on a single screen. Microsoft says that this means their CRM platform will make the sales cycle shorter, close more deals and be easier to use for new employees – this is vital with so many CRM users reporting staff uptake as a key problem with their software.

They are certainly talking this one up. Bob Stutz, corporate vice president of Dynamics CRM, said: “We will be exploring how the sales process has changed and why companies need a new type of solution in order to be successful in this new age.”

 

microsoft dynamics crm 2013 webinar

 

Would you like to watch Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 in action? Take your pick!

Cleaner, easier to navigate user interface
Intuitive business processes and workflows
Access CRM on the go
Enterprise wide collaboration
Dynamics CRM 2013 Platform Enhancements

 

CRM Training: Do you Need it?

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So, you’ve forked out for a customer relationship management (CRM) system, the last thing you want to do now is hand over more cash for training. But, is this investment the only way to get the best out of your new CRM system, saving money in the long run?

There are certainly those (some of them in the business of selling the training) who would argue that it is absolutely essential. And they have the figures to back their thesis up – of the 77% of British businesses that use a CRM system around 40% weren’t getting the results that they wanted. Similar results have been found in other surveys and any reading on CRM will soon lead you to complaints about limited staff uptake of the system and over-complexity.

The people behind the research concluded that it wasn’t bad software to blame, it was human interaction with it.

The benefits of CRM training

CRM simply won’t work if your team don’t believe it will help them provide a better service and if they don’t buy in to what can initially be a potentially complex set of new processes. People are naturally resistant to change and anything that seems to make life harder is going to have your staff’s back up from the start. As CRM systems are typically designed to be organisation-wide and require different staff to chip in at different points to provide a complete picture you need to win a lot of people over. This lack of a defined beginning middle and end to what your staff have to do is just another barrier to successful CRM uptake.

If you’ve got your head screwed on, you’ll have researched your CRM decision in depth before you buy, possibly making use of trial periods before you committed. You may even want to bring in CRM consultants to guide the process and, if you do, they should give you the advice you need on training.

But be warned. This is an investment to save time and money in the long run, but it requires a fair amount of time and money in the short term, and that scares some companies off.

The process of CRM training

In an ideal world your trainers will take the time to learn about your business in order to deliver a programme that will really work for your staff and won’t waste time just sharing their comprehensive knowledge of a system parts of which your staff will never use. You should also look for a rigid focus on processes – what am I going to do? – rather than technical details. Training to the book on a system that will be heavily customised by the time your staff use it will also be a waste and this may be a particular problem if you engage the software company themselves to train your team, it may be better to go independent.

CRM training is a benefit, if you can afford it. Those users who report problems with their systems almost invariably point to human rather than technical failings. However, it’s a cost, possibly a large cost, and in the final analysis that will be the key decision, but you must remember to properly assess how much money you could waste if you fail to make a go of CRM.

CRM Pricing: Don’t Pay for What You Won’t Use

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Customer Relationship Management or CRM is all about the bottom line – converting browsers into buyers and occasional customers into regular spenders – so make sure you don’t waste money when you actually shell out for your system.

The problem is that CRM is a broad term and, particularly for the small business, the temptation to spend more than you need on systems that do more than you or your staff will ever need them to do is strong.

You shouldn’t let complexity and cost frighten you away from CRM. Whether it’s something you want to include in your organisation’s DNA or a system you need to invest in, CRM can provide a valuable service that will reap real commercial benefits.

However, you need to take care when you make decisions about CRM purchases. It’s an important choice and deserving of very serious consideration. Perhaps cheap and cheerful is all you need, but to know that you need to make a decent assessment of what CRM can do for your business and at what cost (and you should beware of hidden and long-term operating costs).

To get the best deal you need to think ahead. What should your system be doing in each department? Customise your system so that’s all that it does. This means that the CRM purchasing decision should be a collaborative one, involving people who are going to be using it.

A CRM that isn’t used is a waste of money and you need to insure that the process of moving to use a CRM system involves more than just installing some software – your staff need to understand and believe in the system. There is no point in taking an expensive system designed to give you sophisticated customer information if your staff are going to ignore it in order to make cold calls with no preparation.

A system that isn’t used is a complete waste, one that isn’t used properly is a waste of potential. CRM can bring a more complex understanding than a simple record of transactions – your staff need to understand that networking, prospecting and follow-up should be the fundamentals of your CRM-based sales processes.

Let the CRM pricing tables guide you

Look out for free trials on CRM systems that you’re considering using and make sure you can customise the programme that you buy and that that will mean cost savings. Be savvy about how and when you are going to pay – look for per-user costs, how much support or licensing will cost and so on.

CRM has and is being extensively marketed. Technology is at the heart of most businesses these days and a magic bullet solution to turning customers into more money is attractive to say the least. However, you should consider whether or not you actually need a CRM system at all.

Particularly if you are a small business and you can introduce CRM thinking into existing systems you may feel spending money on software is redundant. It’s also possible to get CRM for free, even if you don’t end up with that system a trial period can introduce you to what CRM can do for your company.

And, remember one of the surest ways to waste money through CRM is by getting fined by breaking the data protection act – security should be an important part of any CRM system.

It’s a big choice and an important choice so give it the time it deserves in order to avoid wasting money. There’s lots of information out there, but be aware of who’s behind it, many sites that claim to offer reviews are making money from sales.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013: What Can We Expect

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Microsoft have been in the customer relations management (CRM) game for a decade, and on July 28th their latest product, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013, went into closed beta testing in preparation for a release sometime before the end of the year.

So, what can CRM users expect from the software giant? So far, of course, we only have Microsoft’s view, which is – as you’d expect – that this is going to be a fantastic product. Their last release was in 2011, and that system did indeed get good reviews in general.

Microsoft promise a ‘reimagined’ user experience that will put practical, useful information easily at hand and even claim that MS Dynamics CRM will ‘reignite the passion’ sales, marketing and customer services workers feel for their jobs.

Microsoft says Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 release has been based around five themes:

  • A cleaner, faster interface;
  • Processes that allow quick responses to changing circumstances;
  • On the go access;
  • Collaborative processes between departments;
  • Improvements to the user platform.

The upshot of all this should be that, “users recognise value, opportunity and insight immediately — either on the road or in the office,” says Microsoft.

The user interface should offer a single point of access to all information, with no pop ups or screen switching. Data entry and record creation is said to be super simple and customer records can be made more personal with images and map locations.

Users can now design processes and are guided through them with lists of options and with a clear idea of where you are going. Microsoft claims this is a breakthrough in CRM; a change from focusing on transactions to making outcomes the centre of the system.

You’ll get just one process already installed when you buy Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 along with samples, but new ones can be downloaded online. (See picture below, you can find more pictures here or here .

microsoft dynamics crm 2013
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Everyone is going mobile these days and Microsoft have made sure this edition of Dynamics CRM is accessible from tablets and smart phones. There will be a slight lag between the release of the Dynamics CRM and its availability on phones.

Microsoft’s purchase of enterprise social network Yammer and Skype make sense now, as the use of both is integrated within Dynamics CRM 2013. Communications are a big part of this new release, which has (or soon will) email connectivity, the ability to Skype of phone call from within the CRM as well as chat and instant messaging. Webmail like Gmail and Hotmail will also be supported.

Microsoft also continue their shift towards cloud computing with regular updates which can be scheduled to suit users. Actions in the CRM can be created and edited even by non-developers.

Naturally, there is full compatibility with Microsoft’s office products with which the new interface shares many superficial similarities judging by the screen shots made available.

A release date for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 is yet to be confirmed, with two updates to complete some of the integration with email and phone systems due sometime in 2014.

As few people have actually got their hands on this new release, we shall have to trust what Microsoft is saying for now, but things sound promising and the interface shots look great. You can find out more and take a test drive here.