At the CRMUG Chicagoland Chapter user group meeting in May 2015, I delivered key new features/enhancements in CRM Spring 2015 release code named “Carina” overview to attendees. The Carina release added more features and enhancements to the first release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015, code name “Vega” which was released back in Nov/Dec 2014.
This post summarizes the presentation I delivered at the CRMUG Chicagoland user group meeting in May. I provided a quick summary list of features in Vega and Carina and then dived into key new features and enhancements in the Carina release. Since Microsoft is frequently adding new features and enhancements to its CRM solution, I thought it would be helpful to see various new features being included in each of the update/release in summary list.
Here’s a list of features/enhancements that was included in Vega and Carina.
Since there was not much time to go over all of the new features in Carina at the user group meeting, I selected several items from the list above and covered them at the user group. They were:
- UI Enhancements and Theming Capabilities
- Excel Enhancements
- Folder Based Tracking
- OneNote Integration
- Enhanced Business Process Flow and Business Rule
Many of the snapshots below were derived from the CRM 2015 Spring Preview information from Microsoft.
UI Enhancements and Theming Capabilities:
UI enhancements introduced in Carina was much needed feature. When Microsoft first released its touch friendly fluid UI in CRM 2013 release, users had mixed opinions about the new UI. In Carina Microsoft addressed some of the challenges users experienced.
UI Navigation Change
One particular feature that many users wanted improved was on the way in which users had to click on the arrow on the left and right to shuffle through various menu option available under each of the CRM module. Microsoft improved that experience in the Carina release by providing a drop down list of options. Here’s what it looks like:
Here’s a detail comparison of old navigation compared to new navigation and explanation on what each of these navigation does:
Carina release also added a Global MRU (Most Recently Used) option to the Navigation Bar so that the user can quickly access their most frequently used area within CRM:
Form Navigation Enhancement
Form Navigation also received an improvement. Now you can click on the “three rows of bar” icon next to the record name to get back to the base record from associated record view:
In the past, you didn’t have the ability to brand your CRM solution; however, with Carina’s new Theming capability, you can now customize the Navigation Bar and colors with your organization logo and colors. Go to Settings > Customizations > Themes and clone the default “CRM Default Theme”, rename the clone copy to whatever you want, and then customize that theme. Note that Theme is not solution aware so you cannot include your theme customizations in solution package.
Excel feature in CRM also received enhancements. This was one of my favorite enhancements in Carina. Now you can export CRM data to excel in one click, don’t have to spend extra time reformatting the data, able to update the data in excel, and import the data back into CRM with changes easily.
Here’s an old way vs. new way to export CRM data to Excel.
Here are commands available to export CRM data to Excel and their options available for import. “Open in Excel Online” command will be covered later in this blog.
Here’s a detail list of CRM Excel Integration Enhancements compared to how it functioned before Carina release.
The following table shows the behavior of CRM data in Excel:
When CRM data is exported out to Excel, the excel worksheet “Tab Name” will take on the CRM View Name:
When you export data to Excel and import it back into CRM, you need to be aware of the following behaviors.
In addition, Carina release introduced Excel Online “Immersive Excel” feature where you can view your CRM data in Excel Online quickly and be able to make updates to your CRM records via Excel Online and import the data back into CRM. You have to try this. This feature is awesome.
Here’s couple of things to note on the Immersive Excel file regeneration. Select “Open in Excel Online” from “EXPORT TO EXCEL” command to view CRM data in Excel Online.
When Excel Online opens in CRM Online application, you can edit the CRM records in Excel Online and save changes back to CRM by clicking on “SAVE CHANGES TO CRM”. This will initiate data import process and automatically submit the changes you made back into CRM. If you don’t want to update the CRM with changes you made in Excel Online, simply click “RETURN TO CRM LIST”.
Being able to view and interact with CRM data via Excel Online will be very useful for users that wants to update records in the list view like they do in Excel spreadsheet. After making updates, they simply click “SAVE CHANGES TO CRM” and let CRM do all the work in importing the data back into CRM.
On the right hand side, you will notice time stamp that this list was generated by CRM “Generated…” (ex: Generated 5/19/2015 11:42:08 AM). CRM will only generate Excel file in Excel Online every 5 minutes, per view per user so as to not taxi the CRM system. That means if you open set of CRM records in Excel Online and then go back to CRM and then after 2 minutes or so reopen that same view records in Excel Online again, it will show you the same version of that record view that you originally viewed 2 minutes ago.
Folder Based Tracking
Folder Based Tracking is a new feature that allows tracking emails in CRM without the need of CRM for Outlook client. Hence with Folder Based Tracking feature enabled, users now have the ability to:
- Auto Track emails in entire Exchange folder
- No additional clients installation required
- Available on ALL mail apps on ALL devices
- Use Exchange Rules to route emails
There’s two types of folder you can create in your Exchange mail account to track email in CRM:
- Quick Track (generic folder “Track in CRM” to promote emails to CRM and associate it with contacts and leads in CRM)
- Persona: Generally for any end users
- Track a Project (specific folder mapped to a CRM Account, an Opportunity, or any custom entity records)
- Persona: Power users, organize emails by folders “Project” with longer time span
For Quick Track method, you simply create a generic folder say “Track in CRM” under your email Inbox and then go to CRM and select “Track in CRM” folder you set up in Exchange.
For Track a Project method, you create a specific folder under your email Inbox and then go to CRM to map that folder to CRM entity. In CRM, go to “Set Personal Options” > Email and click “Configure Folder Tracking Rules”.
There are some requirements to use the Folder Level Tracking feature. They are:
- Server-side sync required
- Exchange server required
- Folder under Inbox required
- Folder mapping set up
- Enable “Use folder-level tracking for Exchange folders…” in System Settings
From Best Practices standpoint, note the following:
- Enable the regarding mapping for big projects
- Use the folders under your inbox
- You can have multiple folders regarding same CRM record
- Use sub folder tricks for personal emails
- Sub folders are not part of the rule for parent folders
- Clean up mappings when no longer needed
- The max is 25 rules per Mailbox / User
- SDK support to manage the rules
- If you remove the rule, all emails in the folder will not be impacted
- Learn more on how to set up Exchange rules
- If regarding not specified, you can set it later
- Use it on your phone, OWA, Outlook
- Folder list in Rule UI is updated periodically
- When the mailbox is processed by server-side sync
OneNote integration in CRM is another great feature. The OneNote integration with CRM allows users to document customer information in OneNote and tie it back to CRM records. This allows users to take advantage of many OneNote features.
OneNote can be accessed via
- Online or Desktop
- Mobile Phone
OneNote integration appears in the Social Pane in CRM (same area as where Posts, Activities, and Notes are located in the form).
CRM has a feature called “NOTES”; however, this note capability is very limited and OneNote integration provides more capabilities to users as shown below:
The following lists difference between traditional Notes in CRM and OneNote Integration.
Enhanced Business Process Flow and Business Rule
Last set of features covered at the CRMUG meeting was on Business Process Flow and Business Rule Enhancements.
Business Process Flows – Honor required steps
Enhancement to Business Process flows now honors required steps in the process flow so that it doesn’t bypass stage gating on steps. For example in Lead Qualify (or Quote to Order), if you set a particular field to required, then you will not be able to qualify the lead and convert it to Account, Contact, and Opportunity until that required field is populated.
Business Process Flows – Move back to previous stage on a different entity
Business Process flow now allows the user to move back to previous stage on a different entity which was not possible in previous release.
Business Process Flows – Set Active
If you need to move to a different stage, you can simply click on the stage you want to go to and then click “Set Active” to jump to the business process stage you want to go to. In the past, the user had to manually click “Next Stage” or “Previous Stage” button multiple times.
Enhancement to Business Rule – clear field value
There are other enhancements introduced in Carina release but the ones mentioned above were the ones I chose to present and demonstrate at the user group meeting.
General Availability of the Spring 2015 Release was announced by Bob Stutz, Corporate VP of Microsoft Dynamics CRM back in May this year. Here’s his blog posting on the CRM Spring 2015 Release: http://community.dynamics.com/b/msftdynamicsblog/archive/2015/05/04/amaze-your-customers-announcing-general-availability-of-the-spring-2015-release-of-microsoft-dynamics-crm-online-and-microsoft-dynamics-marketing