App for Outlook, CRM, CRM features, Dynamics 365

(RIP) Microsoft Dynamics Client for Outlook (CRM/365)

This is a clone of my original article from LinkedIn which can be found here and grammar corrected. I have added this article here as to collate all blog posts I write in relation to the D365 Spring Release as stated in my later blog.

Next Dynamics 365 Release Update

Over the last few days, Microsoft announced their latest update to Dynamics 365 – The Microsoft Dynamics July 2017 Update (spring release in summer!). To say this is a small minor update would be a big understatement, this is probably the biggest update that Microsoft have ever undertaken since Dynamics CRM v4.0.

Pierre Huslebus tweeted:

After working with #msdyn365 since 2002 v 1.0 this is by far the biggest update we have ever seen. So many #GameChangers#MicDrop

Dynamics 365 MVP Jukka Niiranen collated tweets across 3 Storify boards (1 for each day) which the CRM community shared for others too see on Twitter (thanks again Jukka!).

I am sure more and more blogs will posted with various CRM community members over the next few weeks detailing an overview or focusing on specific areas of new functionality that will be released. Whilst there are so many new pieces of functionality I would like to blog about, I will focus on one item I have taken immediate note of – an announcement which may slip under the radar for most:

Deprecation of legacy Microsoft Office components

The deprecation announcement includes:

  1. Outlook Client – Which includes Outlook Offline and Online Sync (Finally)
  2. SharePoint List Component – (nothing new here – already announced before)
  3. Mail Merge Word Addin (I also assume this will apply to not being able to download and use Export to Excel: Dynamic Worksheets as this requires the Outlook Client)

Back in March – Dynamics 365 MVP Steve Mordue wrote an excellent blog on the why the Outlook Client for Dynamics 365 should be deprecated; yesterday his wish came true!

Email Router/Office 2010 Deprecation

Microsoft have previously announced that the Email Router has been deprecated and so had support for Office 2010, it was only a matter of time before the last client based email synchronization method with the Outlook Client deprecation announcement.

What does deprecated mean?

Deprecated means that Microsoft will remove support for this product some time after the Dynamics 365 July 2017 release.

This does not mean it will immediately stop working (unless this is fully dependent on the 2011 endpoint which will also be removed) and there will be some time to allow Organisations to switch to the new App for Outlook.

It is worth also noting that you obliged to apply at least 1 major update per year with Dynamics 365 online’s update policy – so if you have just upgraded to Dynamics 365 Online – you will still have about 1 year to consider your options and test any new functionality/changes.

App for Outlook – preparing for the Cloud

Over the last few releases – Microsoft has slowly but surely adding support for the various Server Side Synchronization combinations which the App for Outlook requires and Users will need to be running at least Exchange 2013+ with Office 2013+:

  • CRM Online – Exchange Online
  • CRM Online – Exchange On-Premise (most recently added)
  • CRM On-Premise – Exchange On-Premise
  • CRM On-Premise – Exchange Online

The App for Outlook

Companies will need to start thinking about looking at the new Dynamics 365 App for Outlook – the cloud based Microsoft Exchange Addin (which also will gain some vast improvements in the next release).

There is no client installation (I hear Consultants/support teams screaming with happiness) as it is provisioned through Exchange as an Third Party Addin at the server level. This also allows it not to be device specific (i.e. just Windows OS with Office installed)

This allows you to:

  • Track Emails (and Set Regarding) and view related record information
  • Track Appointments (and Set Regarding) and view related record information
  • Track Contacts and link them to Accounts
  • Create Tasks/Phone calls*
  • Use on multiple devices – i.e. Outlook, Outlook Web App, Phones (iOS, Android and Windows using the Outlook Device specific app) and Outlook for Mac

*Tracking functionality not currently available for Tasks and Phone calls

There are some technical requirements/limitations to the App from a Software point of view.

Will I loose Offline Capabilities?

The Outlook client as the option of an Offline mode – which basic installs a local SQL database and synchronised your Dynamics 365 data so you can work offline when you loose an internet connection. So the initial answer is – yes, if you have enabled this.

The App for Outlook is currently used in an “Always Connected” instance – meaning that there needs to be a constant active connection to the Dynamics 365 server (i.e. Online requires an internet connection.).

There are workarounds to Offline

The Dynamics 365 for Phones/Tablets App (remember you can install the tablet version on your Windows PC through the Windows Store) has Mobile Offline Synchronization capabilities. These apps provide another way of accessing your Dynamics 365 data, formatted to the display of your device. In my opinion – this is a better way of accessing your data than through the clunky interface of Outlook web page rendering.

Preparation for the App for Outlook

Whilst a lot of Dynamics CRM/365 customers may be shocked at this path Microsoft has now laid out, they will need to be considering the impacts to their organisations from a business and technical point of view and start preparing to make the switch. Some questions/items to consider:

  • Switching/Testing Server Side Synchronization for each Mailbox (incoming Emails, outgoing Emails and Activities, Contacts and Tasks).
  • What is your Microsoft Exchange version – will this need to be upgraded? (if running 2010 – you need to be at least on 2013).
  • Which Microsoft Office versions are installed on Users machines: Office 2013 is a minimum (anyone running earlier versions cannot use the App).
  • How will you uninstall the Outlook client across each Users machine?
  • Do your mobile devices run the Outlook App?

The good news

Support Teams and Implementation Consultants (and even infrastructure teams) will be rejoicing at the news – the Outlook Client has always caused a fair amount of pain over the years. It has been unstable – memory leaking (left, right and center), synchronizing/network/firewall issues where common place and was very costly to support (from a resource perspective). So over a period of time – the (hidden) cost of the Outlook Client will become more noticeable (absent) as the number of support issues that arise (where implemented) decrease drastically!

Final thoughts

As a Technology consultant, I am always trying to keep up to date with the latest technology – but also be aware of the changes and impacts to existing organisations/customers that are using soon-to-be obsolete technology. This is a very exciting release of Dynamics 365 and I look forward to learning (and reading) other community content about the latest release.

Thanks for reading.


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