This is my third blog relating to new features with the Spring Release of Dynamics 365 (July 2017).
My previous blogs can be found here:
Please note any pictures are taken from the Dynamics 365 Preview Executive Briefing which can be found at the following link (by CRM Innovation). All information contained in this blog is a summary of the Activity Timeline presentation on the first (of three) days of the briefing – there are still a lot of unknowns at this point so please bear with me!
Activities in CRM
Activities play an important role in providing key information to some or all Users who interact with a particular set of records in your CRM system – after all, CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. Part of managing your customer relationships is being able see all interactions/communications with your customers in a singular view.
Activities from a Sales perspective:
- This could be Emailing out a Quote to a customer regarding your Opportunity with them
- Nurturing your potential Leads by providing additional information with a Phone Call or Sales Meetings
- Setting up reminders to chase your finance team to see if the Account is on credit hold or not.
Activities from a Customer Service perspective:
- Sending out automated Email notifications to your customers about the progress of their support ticket
- Providing Phone call support to your customer as you walk them through a potential resolution to their issue.
Recording Activities in CRM
All this information is can be tracked in Dynamics 365 as Activity records, which can then be related to key records in the system (with Set Regarding). For example – the Email notification would be related to the Case (Ticket) and visible from the Case record.
Tracking of these Activities records (creating a copy in CRM) can be achieved via Outlook by one of two ways:
- Dynamics 365 App for Outlook
- Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Outlook (this has been announced as deprecated)
Collaboration in CRM – Activity Feeds
Collaboration between Users is crucial in successful organisations – recording the collaboration or providing new ways to collaborate is even better – especially from a CRM perspective as you can ask questions to other Users who may be able to respond to a wide audience or in the context of a record.
Activity Feeds were introduced back in the early days of CRM 2011 (roll up 4 or 5) as a separate managed solution (and integrated into product at a later date) – this allowed Users to send messages (in CRM) to each other directly from the context of a record (for example the picture above shows a post on the Account Wall).
With Activity Feeds you can:
- Follow Records
- Record Manual or Automated Posts
- Like/Unlike Actions
The following blogs provide a good overview on Activity Feeds:
The rise of the Social Pain (Pane)
CRM 2011 UR12 (or the Polaris release) introduced the Social Pane to the CRM community as part introducing a more social concept to CRM.
It was initially well Microsoft received and provided a much need upgrade to viewing the following types of records in a singular view:
- Activities (combined list with the possibility of interacting with them)
- Notes (new way to view and create and attach new Notes to the record)
- Posts (if enabled)
As it currently stands, the Social Pane looks like this:
The upgrade to Dynamics 365 has actually caused some graphical problems – increasing the spacing between the “Add Activity “options (Add Phone Call Add Task ….).
The Social Pane allows users to interact or complete simple actions with Activities individually (like completing the Activity) without having to open the record itself – effectively an in-line edit.
Users can switch between the three different (4 with KB articles on a Case) areas of information quickly on the same area on the form.
Room for improvement
You know about the CRM Ideas website don’t you? If not – take a look here because the CRM community provided feedback to the product team.
Some of the most requested functionality/improvements to the Social Pane are:
- Sorting Order of records displayed in the Activity View
- Customizing the fields displayed (show created on)
- Changing the filters (remove custom activities)
Microsoft knew that they needed to improve the Social Pane, and here is the answer.
Introducing the Activity Timeline
Microsoft have announced the Unified Interface – one of the standout features of this is the new activity Timeline Control (Social Pane 2.0).
That looks like the Social Pane?
Yes – it does, but it has been redesigned from the ground up and has the standout points:
- Combined single view of:
- Activities (and custom Activities)
- Replaces the Social Pane from the legacy web client and Timeline Control on Interactive Service Hub (ISH)
- Available on Mobile and browser client and dashboards!
Unified Interface Only
This is only available on the Unified Interface and not the Web Client – although the Web Client has had a refresh and the Social Pane is still included in that refresh (i.e. clearer tabs)
What is new with the Timeline?
Firstly – when you navigate to a record enabled for Activities (like an Opportunity or Case) you will have new filtering capabilities (i.e. Text or Visual) to filter down all the records displayed in the Timeline. Here we can see the Timeline has been filtered to show Activities and the the 1 Closed Activity:
Extending Inline Actions
The quick actions that you can take on Activity records has been extended to allow you to choose between:
- Closing (Mark Complete) the Activity
- Add to Queue
- Open Entity Record
- Assign the records (cool if I want to create a task and assign the task to a different User)
- Delete the record
Who needs a Ribbon to carry out these actions?
Microsoft has added the ability to view all attachments (including Email Attachments) and download them, inline, without opening the record!
So a customer has requested that you read the document attached to the Email they sent you, these are the steps you would have to take currently in Dynamics 365:
- Open the Email record
- Find the Attachment
- Open the Attachment
- Download the Attachment to your computer
- Open the Attachment
It will also open the correct Office product (like Word) if it detects the correctly associated file type if the attachment is clicked. #ProductivityIncrease
What you missed?
Your first action when opening records is to view what has changed since last time and would probably involve looking at the recent Activities.
Now Dynamics 365 will record the time you last accessed the record and display a summary (filter) allowing you to see what Activities/Posts/Notes have been recorded since then.
Timeline with the Mobile App
If you are using the Timeline Control on the Mobile App – you will be able to interface with your Phones Camera/Microphone to capture Videos, Pictures and Audio recording automatically and save those as Attachments with Dynamics 365 (make sure you start considering to manage online storage here!).
Activity Feeds (Posts) will now work in the Mobile Client (in the Unified Interface). These were previously not available.
Configuration – Wait there is more?
Microsoft have listened – they have also included configuration options for the Timeline control providing customisation possibilities for what used to be a hard-coded approach!
You can now specify what appears in Timeline by Module Type (Activities, Notes and Posts). If you do not use Notes, hide them!
Do you use custom Activity Types (i.e. Portal Messages) and do not want these showing on your Account Timeline? Filter them!
Say what now?!
You can also sort the Timeline by different fields (i.e. Last Updated or Created On etc.which was introduced with 8.2)
Activity Card Forms
You can now choose which forms display (and type of forms to use) for each different Activity Type.
- Decide whether to create records using the Quick Create or Default Forms
- Display Activities using a Card Form
- Choose which Card Form to use on an Activity by Activity basis
Timelines on Dashboards
New option for creating a Timeline Control on a Dashboard – this is a logical replacement for the Activity Wall Web Resource (currently available in the Web Client).
There are several limitations with the Timeline Control for Dashboards – which should be immediately noted so you can plan for them:
- This will not automatically replace the existing Activity Wall and will need to be built to replace it.
- The existing Activity Wall web resource will not render in the new Unified Interface
- Vice Versa – the new Timeline Control will not render in the Web Client
- Only shows Activities and Posts
WOW – Timelines look impressive in my opinion, they are a much welcome change to the way we currently interact with Activities in general and will hopefully provide an easier experience for all. But – this is all because of you, the CRM community.
The preview briefing want to emphasize the importance the CRM Community played here in driving the functionality provided. So, thank you everyone!
The following slide shows which Feedback has driven the development of Timeline. This shows that most of the feedback originated from the Idea Site.
If you still think there is room for improvement – then raise an idea! What is the worst that can happen, hey?
There is a lot coming with the new Unified Interface, and whilst the Timeline feature is a small portion of this new functionality – this has the potential (in my eyes) for one of the greatest impacts to the User Experience across each device. I am thoroughly excited with what is to come in the next release of Dynamics 365 – yet there is still so much to learn.
Thanks for reading,