Microsoft’s New CRM Release: Code-Named “Orion”

Orion will be the first major Dynamics platform update since early 2011. It’s scheduled to release in late 2013.  The full list of enhancements should be confirmed at this week’s Worldwide Partner Conference, but based on information KTL Solutions received at Microsoft Dynamics Convergence, it’s clear to us that Orion will be a major Microsoft CRM update.

It could even be packaged as Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2014, as it is a major release without the Polaris (the previous CRM 2011 upgrade release) “On-Premise” / “Cloud” non-synched release timeline.

Why Orion is such a big deal:

  • The Orion Update will be released for both the on-premise and cloud editions of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.  As this is a major platform update, CRM Online customers may be able to choose a suitable time when Orion will be applied to their environment, with a deadline by which you must opt-in.
  • For on-premise CRM 2011 customers, Orion will also include all the enhancements from the earlier Polaris cloud release.  These include the new process-driven or “flow” interface, as well as Bing, Skype and Microsoft Lync integration.  Obviously, you must be current on Software Assurance.
  • The process-driven interface introduced in the Polaris release will become the default. Following the Polaris update the new process-driven interface has been available on an opt-in basis, enabling Dynamics CRM Online customers to continue using the familiar ribbon-based menus. However, following the Orion update, Microsoft will only offer the new user interface. The classic form interface will no longer be available. An exception will be the CRM administration area which will continue to use the traditional ribbon UI and navigation.
  • Compared to the UI introduced in the Polaris release, the Orion update will apply a new menu that simplifies navigation.
  • The new UI includes a form auto-save function. As a result, existing CRM workflow processes should be reviewed and amended if they are currently triggered by users clicking the ribbon save button as this will no longer exist in Orion.
  • Early adopters of the Polaris UI have encountered restrictions when attempting to migrate CRM form customizations that involve custom code.  For Orion, Microsoft has stated that all supported CRM 2011 customizations will be migrated and supported when moved to the new UI. Legacy CRM v4 API customizations won’t be supported in this process. Once KTL has access to the beta release and software developer’s kit, we’ll be able to test and confirm its custom script support.
  • The Orion release is expected to include Exchange Server Synchronization enabling Outlook clients to be bypassed to synchronize CRM activities and meetings.
  • Orion will provide further integration with other technologies recently acquired by Microsoft, including Netbreeze and Marketing Pilot.  Netbreeze monitors social media for trends and is really a differentiator in CRM. Marketing Pilot offers integrated marketing and ad agency management. For CRM 2011 customers, this will also include integrations with Bing Maps, Yammer, Skype and Microsoft Lync that were previously only available to CRM Online cloud customers.

Orion is really something to look forward to.

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