Everybody knows that Microsoft Dynamics CRM has always been the leader of the pack when it comes to integration with Microsoft Outlook. So nobody was expecting to see significant changes in this area with the introduction of CRM 2011. But Microsoft delivered a very nice surprise to their customers when they not only improved the Outlook integration – but in fact gave it a complete overhaul. In fact, the upgrades to CRM for Outlook are so extensive, that we expect to see fewer-and-fewer users accessing the Web version of Dynamics CRM at all. Many of our clients are providing user training only in CRM 2011 for Outlook.
There are so many different improvements in CRM for Outlook that it’s impossible to cover all of them in a single article, so I am going to focus on my favorite new CRM/Outlook functionality – good old email!
How Important is Outlook Integration with CRM?
I don’t have any official figures – but it’s a pretty safe bet that over 80% of written business communication is handled by email these days (and that number is likely to be a lot higher). So a small gain in efficiency related to email can result in a tremendous productivity gain across your business. With that in mind, it’s critically important that users be able to function in a “friction free” environment when it comes to using their CRM solution with their email software. So how does CRM 2011 deliver on that? I’m glad you asked…
CRM and Email: The Old and The New
In virtually all CRM solutions (including Dynamics CRM 4.0 and earlier), if you wanted to send an email from the CRM solution, then you suffered through a somewhat clunky interface that didn’t work the way you were comfortable working in Outlook. You couldn’t have as much control over the formatting, your signature line worked differently, and the steps for adding recipients wasn’t as intuitive. Business managers didn’t like this approach any better than users because they could not control corporate branding and compliance standards as easily as they could in Outlook.
On the other hand, if you used Outlook to send your emails, you didn’t have access to some of the rich email template, sales literature and knowledge base article integration that is available in CRM. Being able to quickly create email content using these CRM tools is an important benefit that can save users a lot of time.
In the new world of Dynamics CRM 2011, you manage your email in the place that you’re most comfortable – right inside of Outlook. But you also access all of your CRM email functionality in the same place. While creating your email in Outlook, you can quickly link the email to records in Dynamics CRM, insert templates, KB articles and sales literature. Branding and compliance standards are enforced through the Exchange and Outlook experience, and users communicate with customers while collaborating internally in the most efficient manner.
Getting Started with CRM 2011 for Outlook with Email
Getting started with using the email integration is a familiar and natural experience. You can follow along with the video and/or by following the step-by-step instructions below the video. Note that the video is part of the CRM 2011 World Premiere series of videos that we published on C5 Tube – feel free to check those videos out to learn more about the new capabilities of Dynamics CRM 2011. Please note that I am assuming that you are using Microsoft Outlook 2010 for this.
- Begin by opening Microsoft Outlook (this assumes that CRM for Outlook has already been installed).
- Create a new email as you normally would in Microsoft Outlook. You can send it to anyone that you like (but, since this is a trial run, make sure you send it to yourself or someone who won’t mind getting a test message).
- Click either the “Track in CRM” or the “Set Regarding” button (if you choose Set Regarding, then choose the record that you want to link to). After you complete this step, you’ll notice several things:
- A list of links is available below the email. This list will link to not only the record that the email is regarding, but also to all of the contacts that are receiving the email. This makes it natural and simple to navigate to any records in CRM that are associated with the email.
- In the CRM area of the ribbon menu, you can now click on buttons for Insert Template, Insert Article or Attach Sales Literature – which will we be doing in step …
- Click on Insert Template (I am assuming that you have at least one email template available in Dynamics CRM). At this point you may need to select which record should be used for the mail/merge with the template. When prompted, choose the template that you would like to use. CRM will insert the subject line, attachments and email body from the template – including any mail/merge fields. The signature line that Outlook automatically generates will be retained at the bottom of the message.
- Now all that’s left is to click the Send button.
Boom! You’ve just sent an email in a friction free CRM environment. You can send sales literature and knowledge base articles using the same process. Multiply the amount of time you saved by the number of emails you send each year, and then by the number of Dynamics CRM users in your organization … how much productivity did you just gain?
What Else Can I Do?
The email integration only scratches the surface of the overall Outlook experience that is available to users of Dynamics CRM 2011. Follow us to keep up to date on additional blogs and videos that we’ll be rolling out in the coming weeks to provide a deeper dive into CRM for Microsoft Outlook.