Microsoft, Cortana, Halo
Cortana, Microsoft's personal assistant and a lead character from the Halo video games. (Image: Microsoft).

Published: December 3rd, 2014

Microsoft Corp. is releasing a slew of updates to its Dynamics line of products, with its latest releases aimed at making the tools more attractive for business employees in marketing, sales, and service.

Dynamics is a line of customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools, which basically help employees do most of the activities involved in the day-to-day running of a business. The idea here for Microsoft’s updates is to help employees save time, according to a Microsoft blog post that went live Tuesday.

One of the biggest updates has been to Dynamics CRM 2015, which now includes “voice-enabled experiences” through Cortana, Microsoft’s personal assistant. First appearing in Microsoft’s blockbuster video game franchise as a major character, Cortana has been a personal assistant for mobile users on Windows Phone 8.1. But now, she’ll be gracing Dynamics CRM 2015 to allow employees to ask questions and issue commands in natural language.

This is an enticing sneak peek for Windows 10 as well, as Microsoft will be adding capabilities to use Cortana into the newest version of its operating system, according to Mary Jo Foley for ZD Net. However, support for Cortana hasn’t been made available in the Windows 10 technical preview.

Using a new Sales Collaboration Panel, Microsoft is also aiming to combine functionality for salespeople and marketers. It’s added a new interactive marketing calendar so marketers can visualize their plans, and it’s integrated webinars via Lync, a new graphical marketing workflow and email editing capabilities. There’s also an added ability to A/B test and to integrate offers for reaching customers and generating leads.

Salespeople benefit from the Sales Collaboration Panel through being able to upsell and cross-sell products, with an improved version of Guided Sales Processes to help them understand what their company’s sales goals are. Microsoft has also added personal dashboards, analytics, and home pages for employees in the sales department, helping them stay on track with their jobs.

The latest version of Dynamics CRM is generally available now in 130 markets and 44 languages, in both its online and on-premise forms. It’s also available as a trial version.

Microsoft has also updated Dynamics GP. Geared towards small to mid-sized businesses, its 2015 iteration has focused on simplifying a lot of the things employees need to do everyday, like streamlining approvals for purchases, sales, payroll, and expenses.

It also allows for single sign on, tapping into Microsoft Azure Active Directory to allow users to work with cloud-based applications like Microsoft Dynamics GP, Office 365, and whatever else they use during the workday.

As a last improvement to Dynamics GP, Microsoft is now providing service-based architecture, allowing customers and partners to speed up the process of creating and editing solutions on top of Dynamics GP. The latest version of Dynamics GP is generally available now.

Finally, Microsoft turned its attention to Dynamics AX, its enterprise ERP solution. In a blog post published Monday, the company explained how it’ll be allowing its customrs to use both Dynamics AX and Azure as a whole solution, end-to-end.

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