How Microsoft is transforming CRM with machine learning

Microsoft will be adding a tool to help with that to a future version of Dynamics CRM Online. Currently in preview with the codename Meeting Sense and built on the Azure Machine Learning service, Tatarinov says it "uses machine learning to analyse past interactions with the people you're about to meet, to make your meeting make more sense for you and be more productive for them – all in the context of a particular opportunity, in context of a particular sales and marketing engagement."

Other Dynamics customers are starting to build their own machine learning and Internet of Things solutions, he says. "Azure ML and Azure IoT services really enable most of our customers to become software companies by creating unique things that differentiate them competitively."

JJ Foods started using Dynamics AX seven years ago. "They deployed the system of record and that enabled them to assemble a structured history of orders. Then they took that history and they piped it into Azure ML and that gives them intelligence; it tells them how customer orders are typically made, what those customers like to order. So when those customers come to their web portal or the range of mobile device apps they have, what they see are products arranged in the way they typically purchase them."

Instead of picking the same list of products every time, the predictive shopping cart suggests what they'll want to buy, as well as some complementary products they might not have thought of.

Accessibility is key

Dynamics has to be able to connect to a range of services and APIs for building those kinds of solutions, but it's also key to make it accessible to business users. "First and foremost, the end-to-end business process needs to be modelled in a way that a non-technical person can understand it.

"One realisation we came to a couple of years ago when transforming our CRM tools is that business processes needs to be front and centre, because it's really the business process that drives the rest of the interaction and the rest of the tool. If you're a business optimiser or business analyst with permissions to adjust business process you can do it without having to write code."

It's not just that the person who owns a business process expects to have a graphical tool to work in. "The biggest breakage in enterprise software deployment is happening because of the seam between people who understand business and people who understand technology," Tatarinov claims. "It's a priority for us to enable the people who understand the business to essentially implement the requirement inside the tool themselves."

"The core is about reinventing productivity and business process. There is no business productivity without business processes being reimagined, without business applications – and without the two being completely joined."

That's more than just being able to move information between two different tools. Microsoft offers a sales productivity solution where you can buy Office 365 embedded in Dynamics CRM Online and Power BI, complete with pre-built sales dashboards, and there will be similar tools for other roles beyond sales says Tatarinov.

Beyond integration

The spring update to Dynamics CRM Online that comes out in May is designed to work like this. "What we're doing is that OneNote is embedded in CRM Online for note-taking and sharing, just like Yammer is embedded in CRM for online social collaboration. Excel is embedded in CRM Online for data analysis and prediction and scoring. This goes beyond simple integration that we've had for the longest time. With Outlook, CRM has the option of being a CRM tool inside Outlook. It's not integration, it's inside Outlook. It's the way people want to work."


Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.