Yesterday, 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 Office 365, including meetings and voice services in Skype for Business, announced the worldwide availability of its customer engagement solution Dynamics CRM 2016 and introduced PowerApps, a new enterprise software service designed to empower business, IT and developers to create, connect and share new business applications on any device.

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 today are aimed at helping businesses achieve this by igniting entirely new ways to collaborate and intelligently engage with customers. Through comprehensive first-party solutions like Office 365 and Dynamics CRM, along with innovations that empower businesses to rapidly create new business apps and easily share 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,” said Capossela. “Microsoft can help businesses with 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. These new capabilities include:

  • A complete meeting and voice solution: With Skype Meeting Broadcast, PSTN Conferencing, Cloud PBX and PSTN Calling, 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 on 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. Customers Lockbox offers customers full control over access to their data in Office 365 by giving them ultimate approval rights in the very rare instances when a Microsoft engineer must request access to the service. Office 365 Advanced eDiscovery for Office 365 brings machine learning and text analytics that reduce the costs and risks inherent in managing large quantities of data for eDiscovery.

“We need a voice and meetings solution that meets the evolving needs of our business and our employees,” said Andre Garcia, associate vice president of IT at ABM. “Office 365 with Skype for Business is a game changer. It will allow us 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.”

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

Dynamics CRM 2016 Now Generally Available

Beginning today, Microsoft 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 [link to service blog], with significant productivity enhancements [link to CRM 2016 blog] to help businesses and customer-facing employees achieve more.

Data and intelligence are critical components of next generation customer engagement, and 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, 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, as well as Cortana integration that surfaces data to drive proactive interaction and voice-driven CRM. Earlier this month Microsoft also announced the next version of its flagship ERP solution, Dynamics AX. (link to Mike and/or Christian’s blog post)

Introduction of Power Apps

The way businesses work is changing, with employees more mobile than ever before. Consumer applications have evolved rapidly, but scarce developer resources can result in a gap in business app innovation. To address this, today Microsoft introduced PowerApps, a new software service designed for businesses of all sizes to unlock the value of existing systems and data by giving employees the ability to access the information they need to be more productive. Available in early preview, PowerApps helps businesses create enterprise, employee-facing applications 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 across any device.

PowerApps benefits the entire organization:

  • Business Users can create, connect and share apps quickly with anyone on their team.
  • Pro Developers can continue to create native web and mobile apps and APIs with Azure App Service to expose data to empower others to innovate on their own.
  • IT Pros can manage 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 connectors to the world’s most used SaaS services like Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, Dropbox, Twitter, Google Drive and OneDrive. The service provides a familiar Office-like experience for managing screen layouts, colors, themes and fonts, and even allows users to create dynamic interactions in apps through Excel-like functions.  It also includes templates for many of common app types to help you get started.

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