Cortana to give voice and ears to Dynamics CRM

windows phone 81 cortana main screen nokia lumia icon april 2014
Credit: Image: Michael Homnick

The new version of Microsoft's customer relationship management suite will be integrated with the Windows Phone 8.1 personal assistant

Dynamics CRM 2015 will ship next month with multiple enhancements, including one literally audible: using Cortana on Windows Phone 8.1 devices, users will be able to talk to the customer relationship management suite.

Tasks available via Cortana voice commands will include setting up meetings and reminders, searching for contacts, accounts and activities, calling up customer lists and creating new records.

The integration has a futuristic shine to it, but analysts say the move isn't a technology-for-technology's sake gimmick from Microsoft, which will unveil the Dynamics-Cortana tie-up along with other CRM and ERP announcements on Tuesday.

"This is very significant. Salespeople spend a lot of time on the road, so this lets them leave voice memos on an account while on the go, without having, for example, to be typing and driving," said analyst Ray Wang, chairman and founder of Constellation Research.

It also ties in with an ongoing push by the Dynamics CRM team to make the product simple to use so that it can help salespeople be more productive. "That's why Dynamics CRM has been doing so well," he said.

Meanwhile, analyst Rebecca Wettemann, vice president at Nucleus Research, said it's been proven that adding mobile access to CRM drives significant productivity gains. "This is just the tip of the iceberg in vendors leveraging the voice capture and analytics technologies to deliver CRM productivity," she said.

Wetttemann also views the integration as part of a broader and recent Microsoft trend to leverage its product portfolio to boost its enterprise applications under new CEO Satya Nadella. "The bigger story is that this is a great example of how Microsoft is bringing its product strengths to bear on CRM," she said.

Another recent example of this approach was last month's launch of the Sales Productivity bundle, which combines Dynamics CRM Online Professional with Office 365 and Power BI.

Tuesday's announcements, which Microsoft will make at its Convergence 2014 Europe business conference in Barcelona, also include updates to the suite's platform, which lets customers tailor Dynamics CRM in various ways; and an interoperability between Thunderhead.com's One Engagement Hub and Dynamics CRM to offer omni-channel customer engagement capabilities.

Also on tap is an update to Dynamics AX, Microsoft's ERP suite for large customers, which is due in December and which will let customers run the ERP suite in hybrid environments -- on premises and on Azure, according to the company. The update also adds a new point-of-sales client for Windows tablets and phones, and capabilities to streamline warehouse and transportation operations for faster order fulfillment.

Microsoft will also demonstrate Dynamics NAV 2015, the new version of the ERP suite for small and medium size businesses, which features a user experience optimized for tablets and other touch devices, personalized home pages for users, and simpler invoice design and production via interoperability with Word.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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