After playing around with the Beta and now the Pre-Release Version of CRM 2013 here are my top features (in no particular order) and changes that 2013 brings that would make me upgrade my own instance of Dynamics CRM 4.0 or 2011.
1. Quick View Forms
Users of CRM systems often need to see data from a parent record on the child record form. For example, when viewing a contact record I want to see the company address and contact details from the parent account record.
In CRM 2013 you get what is called a Quick view form. In the scenario above what a Business Administrator can do is create multiple Account Quick View forms with the fields that the users need to see and then insert these onto the contact form, in much the same way as adding a sub grid. This gives the Business Administrator a lot more flexibility and it makes it a lot easier for them to make changes to the fields that need to be seen. The Quick view forms can also be re-used by multiple entities so it also would only need to be set up once (assuming the fields required are the same).
Fig 1. Inserting a Quick View Form onto the contact form
Fig 2. Contact Form Showing Account Details
2. Quick Create Forms
For anyone that used CRM 3.0 you will remember the quick create form. Users had a very scaled down form that they could use to quickly create new records. The problem with this form back then was that it could not be customised.
The quick Create form also loads in the top of the screen so users don't have loads of popups every time they create a new record. This is especially useful when creating new records from a sub grid. To create a new record from a sub grid users will also need to first search for an existing record before clicking new. While this may annoy some people this is actually a great way to stop the system getting cluttered with duplicates!
Fig 3. Searching for existing records before clicking new on a sub grid.
Fig 4. New Quick Create form for contact.
3. Native Business Rules/Logic On Forms
The Business Administrator will be able to create conditions, in much the same way as you would in advanced find and then trigger actions based on that condition (With the additional function of being able to compare one field to another). You however cannot do an OR clause, to get around this you would create multiple rules. (Not ideal)
The actions that can be set are: "Set field value", "Set Business Required", "Set Visibility" or "Lock or Unlock field"
Fig 5. Business Rules button in form designer
Fig 6. Simple business rule configuration
4. Process Driven Forms (For all entities!)
Although process driven forms was rolled out in CRM 2011, it was only available in the main entites, with CRM 2013 it can be configured for all entities,even custom entites!
When creating processes you now have the option to create a new Business Process flow. This process flow will then be visible at the top of the screen and guide the user through the business process, this has the added benefit of not relying on training the users so that they know what to do to move forward in the process, it guides them through it.
At some point in the future I will write a more in depth blog about this feature.
Fig 7. Configuring a process flow on opportunity
Fig 8. How it looks on the Opportunity Form
5. In-line Grid Editing
While this feature is currently only available (in the pre-release) on the products grid on opportunity there is hope that it will be extended across all sub grids. It would need to respect the built in Business Rules and may force users to add certain fields to the views, but let's hope it does!
Fig 10. Products grid on the Opporotunity with in-line editing
6. Auto Save
The save button is now at the bottom left of all forms and it will tell the user if there are unsaved changes or not.
Fig 11 & 12. Save button with unsaved changes and saving indicators
7. Better Screen Layout
Microsoft have said they did a lot of research and spent a lot of effort getting the CRM 2013 layout right.
The first think you will notice is the traditional left navigation has been removed and replaced with the command bar.
Fig 13. The new command bar
The forms have then also lost the left navigation and had everything moved to the command bar as well. All records open up in the same window so users will not have multiple pages open for each record they look at. This might be annoying for some users, but there is the option to "pop-out" the form into it's own window.
The new form structure gives the users a lot more information on one screen and has been designed to show the most important information in the areas that users eyes generally go.
Fig 14. Microsoft's explanation of the new form design.
8. Workflow Enhancements (Real Time Workflows)
Traditionally CRM workflows are Asynchronous, so the user will hit save and something will run in the background and eventually the action that the workflow was supposed to accomplish executes. In CRM 2013 you now have the option of making a workflow synchronous! No more waiting for the workflow to run. This will also eliminate the need for some plugins, again putting the power in the hands of a Business Administrator. Administrators should obviously think carefully about which workflows to make synchronous as this will now impact save times.
Fig 15. Changing a workflow to Real-Time
9. Consistent Tablet and Mobile Experience
You can quite clearly see that lot of the changes to the UI that Microsoft have made are with Tablets and Mobile devices in mind. The experience when a user switches from their PC to a mobile device will now be consistent as well as user friendly on a tablet. There is also the whole Windows 8 app experience that users will now get when using Windows Mobile devices.
10. Outlook/Exchange Sever Side Sync
Users will now no longer have to have the outlook client installed to sync email, contacts, tasks and appointments. Users will be able to sync and track outlook items directly from Outlook web access (Only available in Exchange Sever 2010 & 2013).
The configuration is done directly inside CRM so it can be centrally managed by the Business Administrator or Lan Admin. Every user and queue will now have a mailbox entity that can be used with a synchronisation profile.
I will also write an in depth blog about this functionality in the future.
Fig 16. Sever Side Sync details
Fig 17. Email configuration options in CRM 2013