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Future stars: Dynamics CRM roadmap news from Las Vegas

We didn’t yet get a new Statement of Direction or Release Preview Guide for the future releases of Microsoft Dynamics CRM from today’s eXtreme CRM 2012 Las Vegas keynote by Craig Dewar, titled “Microsoft Dynamics CRM – Now and In the Future”. That is scheduled to happen next week, but who wants to wait around for the information that has been shared to the privileged few who attended the eXtreme CRM session?

Lucky for us who weren’t able to go to Vegas, the best new bits revealed at the session were tweeted out by outstanding #MSDYNCRM community contributors like Neil Benson, Shawn Tabor, Brad Koontz, Bob Hatcher and Eric W Cahoon. Here’s a “best of #eXtremeCRM tweets” collection that tries to summarize what was presented in Dewar’s session.

Q4 2012: Polaris

Let’s start with the updates coming in the very near future. The next release is codenamed “Polaris” will be out in Q4 2012, so this is the “Fall 2012” release we saw on an earlier roadmap slide. More specifically, the new functionality will be delivered as a part of Update Rollup 12 during December 2012 for both on-premise and for CRM Online customers.

Polaris will contain upgrades to the browser UI as seen in the WPC 2012 session in July. It will include the Process Driven Refresh UI and deliver a more “flat” user experience to better match the look & feel of Office 2013. Also, the cross-browser support originally scheduled for Q2 2012 Service Update will now be delivered in December with UR12 and this part will affect also on-premise and hosted CRM environments. The previously delayed custom workflow activity support for CRM Online will be delivered within the same UR12 update schedule.

New announcements made at the eXtreme CRM keynote for Q4 2012 include click-to-call integration with Lync and Skype (both of which are Microsoft products these days, in case you forgot). CRM Online customers will get a simple Bing Maps integration with maps embedded on the customer forms. Presumably the CRM Online subscription will in the future include a license to use Bing Maps on an internal application whereas customers who’ve bought perpetual server and client licenses from Microsoft need to acquire a separate license to use the mapping functionality through the API (remember: it’s not a free service, like the Bing Maps or Google Maps website).

Q2 2013: Orion

The release after Polaris carries the codename “Orion” and is scheduled for Q2 2013. What’s special about this release is that it will be CRM Online only. Whether on-premises and hosted CRM clients will be completely left without updates in Q2 remains to be seen, but the new release cadence suggest only a single major update for on-premises customers per year. The Update Rollup release schedule with an 8 week cycle should still remain unchanged, though, so it’s likely to be a bit of a mixed bag of what’s really “Online only” in terms of new or changed functionality. Update: it’s actually the Q4 2012 Polaris that will be Online only, see the comments at the end from Craig Dewar.

As I’ve already speculated for a long time, the new Agaves in Office 2013 apps will be used as the means to deliver Dynamics CRM support for Outlook Web Access, both in OWA and MOWA (mobile app). This will finally enable tracking content from your inbox into CRM without having to live with the Outlook desktop client legacy. Also the synchronizing of items from Exchange will be possible on the server side with the Orion release in Q2 2013.

Yammer integration, which presumably goes much deeper than the current integration solution built by Yammer before being acquired by Microsoft, is scheduled for Q2 2013. Other than this, concreted evidence of bringing social channels into Dynamics CRM was not leaked from Vegas, so we’ll need to wait a bit longer to see how Microsoft intends to deliver on the social story they’ve been promoting for CRM since this time last year. Back when we were still talking about Polaris as the R9 release this was supposed to connect Dynamics CRM with the external communities in a big way, but no major announcements have so far been made on this front.

Ok, I did spot one physical evidence of social CRM from the Extreme CRM announcements, in the form of a new Social CRM solution built by Sonoma Partners. It’s baked into the updated version of CRM Demo Builder, which now allows you to provision CRM + SharePoint on the same, shared Office 365 platform, thus achieving single sign-on. Whether this particular Social CRM app will be made available to all CRM customers is something I’m not yet sure, but it looks like quite a solid little app for bringing Twitter feeds into CRM by using the same look & feel as the previous Activity Feeds solution. You can promote tweets into new/existing leads, contacts, accounts, cases or opportunities, after which you see the original tweet in CRM as an Activity Feed post. Nothing revolutionary in itself, but a welcome feature, if something like this is actually on Microsoft’s roadmap.

That’s all of the news I picked up so far from the event by following the social networks. Did I miss any interesting tweet from or an important piece of news? Leave a comment & let’s assemble the pieces of the Dynamics CRM roadmap together!

Update 2012-09-04: I received clarification on the release roadmap from Craig Dewar himself, here’s the update:

  • “Polaris due Q4 2012 is online only with one exception. There is one capability in Polaris namely cross browser that is of such high interest we will release that capability on premise also.”
  • “Orion due Q2 2013 is online and on premise. It will include all Polaris functionality in addition to many new capabilities.”

Based on my interpretation of the above, CRM Online customers will get the Polaris functionality first, while on premise and hosted CRM customers receive these updates 6 months later when Orion comes out.


  1. One small correction to the above story. The Polaris release is the one that will be online only (with the exception of the cross browser capability which will be delivered both online and on premise). The Orion release will be on premise and online.

  2. With Yammer coming next year and no news about new Activity feed features, I’m assuming Activity Feeds are being replaced with Yammer?

    • Simon, I somehow doubt that the functionality would be removed from the product. Yammer is and will most likely remain cloud-only. For companies who cannot or don’t want to make the leap there yet in terms of storing their customer data outside the borders of their own country, Activity Feeds are a much better option than having nothing. My guess would be that there will be some type of data replication available between Yammer posts and AF posts. If we look at the Social CRM solution by Sonoma Partners, then having a similar level of integration that allows viewing posts from an external source like Yammer and then converting them into AF posts or promoting them to other types of CRM records shouldn’t be very difficult for Microsoft to build.

      What remains a bigger question to me still is if there will be any shared functionality across SharePoint 2013 and CRM Activity Feeds. Then again, the problem of positioning SharePoint feeds vs. Yammer feeds is pretty much the same as with CRM and Yammer. The best outcome would be a shared architecture across all the feed enabled Microsoft products (incl. Lync). That could offer MS a unique advantage over competing products, something that goes beyond just leveraging the API’s available for anyone to build their integrations (like Yammer already did before the acquisition).

  3. Thanks Jukka,

    Yes, interesting trade off between Yammer and other connected integrations vs traditional on-premise CRM installations (I see the deployments are already beginning to split with Polaris online only). Perhaps we’ll hear more activity feeds and the big picture strategy when they cover the social developments in CRM.

    All the best,


  4. Thanks Jukka,

    I have to say I’m pretty confused by the CRM Online only aspects of the two releases (whichever way round they are supposed to be!). The corrected way round would mean the process driven UI was only available in CRM Online? That would also mean that sandboxed custom activities were not available On Premise? (or perhaps more importantly not for Partner Hosted?) Have I understood that right???

    • Simon H, I did find that quite a strange message as well. Surely the core UI should not start to differ between Online and on-premise in such a wild manner. Anyway, Craig Dewar said that he would email me more details from the announcement yesterday, so I’ll update the post to reflect the latest info if I receive it. In the meantime, if the new Statement of Direction comes out next week, that will probably lay out the differences between different deployment models in a precise manner.

  5. Hi Jukka,

    Thank you for the article.

    One of the advantages of MSCRM against SaleForce was always the option for an Online customer to move their app to OnPremise (or the other way down – bar certain customizations).

    If the codebase and functionality of the 2 deployment options diverge as I’m reading, this advantage disappears, and a client is stuck with their first deployment choice.

    Another side-effect of making functionality available to Online only, is that Micosoft gets an unfair advantage over their Hosted CRM Partners.

    I hope Microsoft reconsiders and maintains the delivery of new stuff in sync.


    • Massoud, I largely agree with your point of view. I’d prefer to see CRM Online catching up CRM on-premise in the areas that it’s still lagging behind (such as reporting capabilities, SharePoint BCS integration etc.) rather than receiving new features into CRM Online that are not available for local deployments.

      However, I do think that Microsoft needs to be able to integrate their cloud services like Bing Maps or Yammer into their products just as ambitiously as would do with their acquired services. If it means that certain services are not available or are more difficult to set up for the on premise environment, well, such is life. Having the on premise option is an important differentiator when selling Dynamics CRM, but it shouldn’t turn into a handicap that slows down the Online offering.

      It’s a tough balance to maintain and they will probably upset some partners & customers along the way.

  6. Hi Jukka

    As you might know we are working towards an extended MAP integration with Bing and just to clarify after discussion with the Bing Team it is unlikely the Bing Map Licence will be free or part of CRM as VAR’s globably are setting up to sell Bing individual cals at £2.50 per user per month.

    with eMAP the cal is included and will work for all version of CRM 2011, not the above demo is Silverlight but for release we have removed this and opted for Javascript.


  7. Thanks for the updated info Jukka. BTW others are suggesting that the Bing licence is unlikely to be included with CRM Online:

    I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. It is curious that it looks like we’ll have to wait 6 months to get the process driven UI for On Premise and Partner Hosted. It’s starting to sound like this is really Beta functionality that you might have the option to turn on and try out in CRM Online – what do you think?

    BTW should I get an email alert for new comments – I never seem to get one from this site? I’ll check back if I remember…

    • Unless there are some new licensing models or purchasing channels introduced for Dynamics CRM customers, I really wonder what exactly would then be the “new feature” of Polaris in terms of Bing Maps? There’s a wealth of free solutions available already today that enable you to embed a basic “show the customers on the map” feature into your Dynamics CRM environment. That’s the easy part, whereas acquiring the API license or even figuring out what it would cost is not in line with the CRM Online subscription buying process today. As a result, maps integration is found in far less customer environments that it would be if the subscription would be bundled into the license. Plus, if a customer really wants to utilize a map integration in their business processes, there’s no benefit for them in choosing Bing Maps over Google Maps, which is what most of them will already be using for their location information needs.

      Simon, I’ve always received updates for new comments that are posted on the blog, but that may well be because I’m the administrator. I’ll investigate if this is something that the current WordPress should do by default or whether I’ll need to install/configure something. Thanks for pointing it out.

    • Simon, I’ve now update the blog with a new WordPress plugin that allows you to subscribe to new comments by checking the “notify me of follow-up comments by email” box at the end of the comments.

  8. Thanks Jukka – I just thought it strange that the form asked for my email address but then didn’t appear to use it. I’ve ticked the button now.

  9. David: read Jukka’s post and his TechNet CRM Wiki page again – UR12 does NOT include the Polaris functionality you cite on your own blog (where I was unable to post a comment by the way).

    Jukka: have you noticed that the dates/times of comments seem to have gone weird here? Your last one say 2nd October 2012…

    • Yeah, the comment timestamps have broken down with some WP update long time ago already. It’s probably an issue with the theme I’ve been using, as the comment data looks fine on the admin side. Guess I’ll need to update the look & feel of the blog someday…

  10. Hi Jukka ,

    We are planning to integrate one of our crm application with yammer, so i wanted to if there is any api readyly available , or what is the procedure to get yammer into crm 2011 , i read that it will be fully into crm 2011 in polaris release , is it so ?

    • June, the Yammer integration will not arrive directly in the Polaris time frame, but it’s been scheduled for a release by the end of February based on the latest information given to MS partners. It’s important to note that since Polaris is CRM Online only, there’s been no promises made that the integration could be applied to CRM 2011 on-premise environments. Update Rollup 12 will contain some updates to the Activity Feeds components also for on-premise servers, so I guess technically this could be possible. As for any CRM specific API for Yammer related features, I’m not aware of anything being published yet. Based on your needs for integration, the Yammer API documentation is probably the best source of information currently.

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