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Microsoft announces solutions to help businesses modernize in the digital world


Monday, at its annual Convergence EMEA conference, Microsoft Corp. introduced new innovations that will enable companies to succeed in a mobile-first, cloud-first world. Chief Marketing Officer Chris Capossela detailed new capabilities in Microsoft Office 365, including meetings and voice services in Skype for Business; announced the worldwide availability of its customer engagement solution, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016; and introduced Microsoft PowerApps, a new enterprise service empowering employees to create the apps they need, connect to business systems in a secure way and easily share their apps with coworkers.

In a new commissioned study of European business and IT leaders, Forrester Consulting found widespread recognition of the importance of digital transformation in their organizations, and the need to dramatically reshape their business around customer outcomes and desires. The innovations Microsoft announced Monday are aimed at helping businesses achieve this by igniting entirely new ways to collaborate and intelligently engage with customers. Through comprehensive first-party solutions such as Office 365 and Dynamics CRM, along with innovations that empower businesses to rapidly create new business apps and easily share them on any device, organizations can control and drive their own transformation.

“As businesses strive to keep up with the pace of change, they are looking to technology to drive digital transformation,” Capossela said. “Microsoft can help businesses achieve their transformations by empowering individuals and organizations with innovative solutions that unleash the productivity and potential of their workforce, spur entirely new ways of collaborating, and infuse intelligence into their systems and processes.”

New Office 365 enterprise capabilities

Today marks the general availability of new capabilities in Office 365 that modernize the enterprise across meetings and voice, intelligence, and security and privacy. These new services represent the single most significant release of new enterprise value in the history of Office 365:

  • A complete meeting and voice solution. With Skype Meeting Broadcast, Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN) Conferencing, PSTN Calling and Cloud Private Branch Exchange, Office 365 customers now have one platform for calling, conferencing, video and sharing integrated with the Office applications they use every day.
  • Analytics and data visualization. Delve Analytics empowers individuals by providing rich, interactive dashboards that surface insights into how they spend their time and who they spend it with, so they can focus on the tasks and people that matter most.
  • Advanced security and compliance. Customer Lockbox offers customers full control over access to their data in Office 365 by giving them ultimate approval rights in the rare instances when a Microsoft engineer must request access to the service. Office 365 Advanced eDiscovery brings machine learning and text analytics that reduce the costs and risks inherent in managing large quantities of data for e-discovery.

Starting today, these capabilities along with Power BI and Advanced Threat Protection are available to customers in a new premium enterprise suite, Office 365 E5.

“We need a strong voice and meetings solution that meets the evolving needs of our business and our employees,” said Andre Garcia, assistant vice president of Global Infrastructure Services in IT at ABM. “Office 365 with Skype for Business is a game changer. It will give us the ability to consolidate on a single platform for all our productivity and voice services, reducing our costs and complexity while giving employees the flexibility they need to get their jobs done no matter where they are or what device they are using.”

Dynamics CRM 2016 now generally available

Beginning today, Dynamics CRM 2016 will be generally available for online and on-premises deployments. The most comprehensive CRM release to date, Dynamics CRM 2016 includes advancements in intelligence, mobility and service, with significant productivity enhancements to help businesses and customer-facing employees achieve more.

Data and intelligence are critical components of next-generation customer engagement, and Dynamics CRM 2016 delivers intelligent capabilities that surface insights to enable sales, marketing and service professionals to make quicker decisions and take action. Powered by Azure Machine Learning models, Dynamics CRM 2016 previews capabilities such as intelligent product recommendations for sales reps to personalize up-selling and recommended knowledge articles to more effectively resolve customer service issues.

This version of Dynamics CRM will preview industry-leading, full offline capabilities for mobile professionals on phones and tablets and across all major platforms. Dynamics CRM 2016 also provides the ability to create task-centered mobile apps to streamline the completion of customer-facing activities, like meeting follow-ups, and Cortana integration that surfaces data to drive proactive interaction and voice-driven CRM.

Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts is one such customer that knows the benefits firsthand. “To transform how you operate and to become a leader requires an internal transformation,” said Abdullatif Awadh, director of customer relationship marketing at Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts. “We found Microsoft Dynamics CRM had what we needed, and now we’re shifting our focus to ensure our campaigns are relevant to the guest, rather than the business, because it’s the guest who drives our business.”

Earlier this month Microsoft also announced the next version of its flagship ERP solution, Microsoft Dynamics AX.

Introduction of PowerApps

The way businesses work is changing, with employees more mobile than ever before. Consumer applications have evolved rapidly and employee expectations have followed suit. However, limited developer resources mean business apps haven’t kept pace with employee demand. In fact, Gartner predicts, “through 2017, the market demand for mobile app development services will grow at least five times faster than internal IT organization capacity to deliver them.”* To address this, today Microsoft introduced PowerApps, a new service that empowers employees to create the apps they need, connected to business systems in a secure way, and easily share their apps with coworkers. Available in preview, PowerApps helps businesses create employee-facing apps of all kinds, from the simplest app — like an employee survey — to long-lived, mission-critical apps that connect to line-of-business systems and cloud services and run on any device.

PowerApps benefits the entire organization:

  • Employees. Quickly create apps that work on any device, using the familiar Microsoft Office experience, with no coding required.
  • Professional developers. Expose data and services to empower employees to innovate on their own, and continue to create native Web and mobile apps and APIs with Azure App Service.
  • IT professionals. Manage organizational data and app sharing in a controlled and secure way.

PowerApps makes it easy to get an app up and running within minutes, with built-in data connections to SaaS services like Office 365, Dynamics, Salesforce, Dropbox and OneDrive in addition to on-premises business systems including SharePoint, SQL Server, Oracle databases, SAP and more. The service provides a familiar, Office-like experience for creating new business apps, templates to help get started quickly and a visual designer for automating workflows. These tools work in concert with enterprise-grade services for professional developers and IT professionals, so everyone can work together to unlock new business agility.

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) is the leading platform and productivity company for the mobile-first, cloud-first world, and its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

* Gartner, The Enterprise App Explosion: Scaling One to 100 Mobile Apps, Adrian Leow, 07 May 2015

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