Microsoft Improves Contact Management In Outlook Mobile

June 2015

Microsoft transformed and simplified its sales processes and platforms into fast, modern, and role-based systems that are holistic, intuitive, and focused on specific customer business needs. New tools, built largely around out-of-the-box Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and Microsoft Dynamics CRM features and functionalities, deliver streamlined sales processes, standardized and integrated tools, and intuitive collaboration features. 


Executive Summary

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Microsoft was challenged by complex sales processes and disparate sales tools and technologies that didn’t align with its core business. Process changes, platform customizations, and corporate stakeholder requirements introduced delays and hampered productivity. In a two-step evolution, Microsoft first dramatically simplified its sales processes. Then Microsoft developed and deployed streamlined new platforms to support direct and inside sales activities. With Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and Dynamics CRM at the core of the new sales experience platforms, sellers engage in more meaningful ways with customers, leverage integrated communications and collaboration functionalities, and use the same products and technologies that they sell to customers.

Complex processes and systems hinder productivity and effectiveness

The Microsoft sales organization engages in direct sales and inside sales activities. Direct sales follow a team-based selling model and serve primarily large corporations. Inside sales, on the other hand, concentrate on breadth, contacting large numbers of customers over the telephone. Inside sales depend on the partner channel and serve small and medium-sized businesses. Direct sales required complex processes and highly customized platforms, which hampered productivity, efficiency, and cost effectiveness. Inside sales was challenged with the lack of centralized infrastructure and automation of activities.

Direct sales challenges

Over time, the direct sales platform had expanded beyond CRM to include business management functions, such as compliance and governance. The system became highly complex and customized. Sellers spent as many as 1.5 days per week on administrative processes and tasks in disparate tools. The administrative overhead made it difficult for sellers to naturally interact with customers to determine challenges, and strategically map appropriate solutions. Platform changes to keep pace with business needs, such as customized key performance indicator tracking, were difficult to implement.

As Microsoft evolved, so did its sales processes. Modifying the platform to support process changes became complex and resource-intensive. Over time, hundreds of business rules had been coded to support non-standard business processes. The platform was built with monolithic forms that captured a variety of data elements. To be proficient, sellers needed to keep external reference materials at hand to guide them through the process. The platform was focused on market segments—not roles—and delivered a one-size-fits-all experience that could not support unique seller needs. Redundancies and duplication contributed to an expensive, customized system. This affected seller satisfaction and confidence. And sellers wanted to use the products they sell.

Microsoft realized that not only did the sales platform needed to be simplified and replaced, but that future platform and business needs required a modern and agile Microsoft solution. Adapting to the fast pace of software development, Microsoft concluded that the replacement needed to be based on an out-of-the-box retail product with minimal customization.

Inside sales challenges

Inside sales faced challenges at the system infrastructure and end-user levels. From the user perspective, representatives faced a disparate set of non-standard tools, manual call preparation, documentation requirements, and administrative tasks. Many functions actually happened outside of the CRM system, in vendor-based systems. Data had to be manually transferred from system to system. Activities across unintegrated tools not only increased the chance for error, they took significant amounts of time away from strategic customer interactions. Research revealed that up to 82 percent of a representative’s time was spent on activities such as searching across multiple tools for customer details, tracking phone calls, and copying and pasting information to create customer records—instead of speaking to customers. Even the initial account search and opportunity creation took up to 15 minutes. Additionally, knowledge management (KM) tools within the platform were limited. The KM tools could not quickly assess key customer data points and then provide appropriate messaging and customized offers. There was no central repository for customer information, call guides, scripts, or competitive information.

At a system level, there was a lack of a common process, taxonomy, and reporting. The telephony software and hardware infrastructure was decentralized, and there was a corresponding lack of visibility across worldwide telesales operations. Eleven different vendor-based telephony networks were used, including Nortel, Cisco, and Avaya. Each vendor had unique processes, requirements, and reporting toolsets. It was difficult to measure effectiveness across the organization or pinpoint ways to improve it. Microsoft wanted to use its own products, including Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Skype for Business, to create a single telephony provider across its global network of contact centers, with a consistent reporting structure.

Creating business-centric sales platforms based on Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Before the new sales platforms were rolled out, the very sales processes that they support were streamlined and simplified.

Previous direct sales process

A seller logging into the old CRM system was presented with a complex application that offered many opportunities to introduce errors. Duplicate information, multiple web pop-up forms, and an overwhelming product catalog were just a few examples of the potential roadblocks to opportunity creation. The seller had no way to know what to do next. The system did not return insights that could help sellers synthesize information, and made it difficult to make decisions. Collaboration between team members was not supported. Overall, the system was inefficient and was not representative of the role of its primary user—the seller. Microsoft wanted to improve the responsiveness of the system to the seller’s needs.

Previous inside sales process

Overall, inside sales processes lacked integration and automation. To create and manage customer information, representatives used multiple vendor-based CRM systems, and completed many functions outside of the CRM system. Representatives conducted company research manually, using up to ten distinct and non-standard tools. Information was copied and pasted from window to window and from tool to tool. The disparate system resulted in delays and greater chance of error. Due to lack of integration between the CRM system and the telephony system, the business lacked comprehensive visibility to performance and improvement data.

New sales processes

Microsoft Selling Process (MSP) is the standard, step-by-step process for managing an opportunity in a way that focuses sales teams on solving customer key business issues and facilitating consistent team orchestration. MSP guides the seller through a sales process and prompts them for information at the appropriate time. It is an effective mechanism to both accelerate and reduce risk to opportunities, while keeping the customer at the center of all selling activities. The MSP process contains three phases:

  • Create and Qualify Opportunities

  • Achieve Customer Buyoff and Agreement

  • Finalize Contracts and plan next steps

MSP crosses the entire Microsoft enterprise and only requires a few business rules.

The inside sales process itself did not fundamentally change, but it was significantly automated and standardized to better support a high-volume, low-touch sales model. Representatives use the Unified Service Desk (USD) interface that guides them logically through customer validation and qualification processes, and then provides a standard vehicle to determine the appropriate routing partner. It helps representatives scale their sales efforts by reducing customer research time, simplifying activities, and automating call activity creation and tracking. Standardization and consolidation to a single telephony network powered by Skype for Business and other Microsoft technologies enabled a single worldwide reporting capability for contact centers located within Microsoft facilities. Currently, Microsoft is designing a centralized telephony network for contact centers located in external vendor offices. 

The direct sales platform

The direct sales vision was to empower teams by simplifying and standardizing the sales tools and processes that they use every day, maximizing the time spent working with customers, and enhancing interaction and collaboration within the business team. Once the direct sales process was simplified, the platform could be designed around it. Microsoft mapped the process to the native features of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and then enabled Office 365 functionality, including collaboration and communication tools such as Yammer and Skype for Business. The result is an advanced sales platform that is intuitive, closely follows MSP, and enables sellers to easily collaborate.

Microsoft leaders decided to design a system with multiple types of seller personas at the core. They simplified the technology and configured it to help sellers work more efficiently, both in their own interactions with customers, and across the larger team. The direct sales experience is an integrated solution that encompasses multiple components. It supports the seller-customer experience end to end—from relationships, to business insights, to strategic forecasting.

Dynamics CRM Online provides the framework

With Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online serving as the primary framework, the seller steps through the MSP process stages. A workflow bar walks sellers through lead creation, opportunity strategy development, to negotiating terms and proving value. At all phases of the process, it is clear to the seller what stage of the process they are in and what they need to do to move forward.


Figure 1. Direct Sales Workflow

Integrated reporting documents customer engagement details at all points in the process. Central to the Dynamics CRM Online user interface is the Social pane that incorporates Yammer and private social networking to communicate customer information with immediate colleagues or others on the larger sales team. Yammer activities, such as conversation history and file collaboration, are automatically tracked. The history keeps teams informed and makes customer conversations up to date and productive. Yammer is an integral part of how Microsoft collaborates, including connecting the field with product development and customer support groups. Click to Call and other functions of Microsoft Skype for Business simplify communicating with customers in multiple modes. Within the workflow, sellers can click to call a customer’s phone number, send an instant message, or set up an online meeting with a customer, including a multiparty, high-definition online videoconference with content-sharing tools. As with Yammer, Skype for Business interactions document customer activities. Because Skype for Business and Office work together, collaboration from Office apps is supported. Contact cards of everyone working in the same app can be used to quickly send an IM or email, or to start a call. Meetings can be scheduled in Outlook or started from apps like Word and PowerPoint to present current documents. Finally, Exchange and Outlook integration supports the tracking of appointments, emails, and contacts, either online or offline.

Windows Apportal for Sales

The “front door” to the direct sales experience is the Windows Apportal for Sales. While Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online supports the primary customer and relationship management workflow, components of the Windows Apportal for Sales support rich mobile experiences, business intelligence, and sales tools and reference functionalities. Windows Apportal for Sales presents apps and tools that are specific to the seller’s role. This relevance eliminates unnecessary searches and navigation, and provides a simplified and comprehensive view.


Figure 2. Windows Apportal for Sales

In addition to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, Windows Apportal for Sales hosts the following key sales experience components:

  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online mobile app. Microsoft IT leveraged the mobile version of Dynamics CRM Online that runs on Windows tablets and Windows phones, and that is integrated with Microsoft Outlook. The mobile app provides users with all the tools and functionality they have in the desktop experience.

  • Power BI. The Power BI (Business Intelligence) app provides rich, standardized operational insights to support workbench activities such as assessing customer pipelines, forecasting, and Transformational Leading Indicators (TLIs). TLIs are a set of performance indicators, designed to provide insight into how fast the Sales, Marketing, and Services Group is moving to the Devices and Services business model.

  • Sales tools and additional information. Additional apps support customer activities such as forecasting, profiling, consumption, and Business Investment Funds (BIF). The BIF program makes funds available to Microsoft organizations, sales teams and general managers, to support long-term business strategies, and to engage Microsoft Services and Microsoft Certified Business Partners on pre-defined strategic categories. This section also hosts role transformation guidance, reference materials, and other mobile apps.

The inside sales platform

The inside sales platform vision was threefold. First, bring a greater return on the telesales investment to the overall business. Second, deliver value to telesales management by enhancing the ability to measure, monitor, and improve the organization’s effectiveness. Finally, serve telesales representatives by delivering features and functionalities that maximize every customer interaction.

Microsoft delivered a platform that drives efficient transactional sales through automation and simplification. Standardizing and consolidating its contact center telephony network to a single provider powered by Skype for Business and other Microsoft technologies such as Dynamics CRM unified the telesales hardware and software infrastructure. Microsoft uses Skype for Business for its contact centers located inside Microsoft facilities. Currently Microsoft is designing a centralized telephony network for its contact centers located in external vendor offices. 

A centralized worldwide performance reporting capability improves the analysis of telesales effectiveness, productivity, and ROI. A common taxonomy of call metrics for telesales applies across regions and sellers, improving data quality, and reducing training costs. A performance dashboard provides lead scoring, and a variety of telesales roles (Corporate Sponsors, Representatives, Supervisors, and Business Analysts) can now effectively manage their business by viewing and customizing reports on end-to-end lead flow, pipeline management and call reporting. Finally, the platform frees more productive time for representatives to sell more effectively. Internal and external tools used to perform customer research are automated and integrated, and the platform automates and integrates CRM. Complete and timely access to customer information improves customer insight and relationship management, and frees representatives to focus on qualifying large volumes of customer leads, and efficiently routing those leads to the partner channel for follow-up.

Unified Service Desk

Inside Sales representatives log into Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The user interface is called the Unified Service Desk (USD). USD incorporates CRM, outbound email contact management, call preparation, telephony integration, call recording, reporting, and scripting functionalities. USD focuses on working through large volumes of customers, completing initial lead qualification based on budget and time frame, qualifying or disqualifying a customer, and then routing the customer opportunity to the partner channel for follow-up. Skype for Business functionalities are integrated. USD automatically logs all the customer activities and metrics, allowing sales managers to measure and calibrate representative productivity.


Figure 3. Unified Service Desk in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

USD enables Inside Sales representatives to preview the customer queue and click into customer profiles to learn more about specific customers. In the customer profile, representatives can see information such as the type of product that the customer is looking for, what the customer’s business is, a link to the customer’s website, and other third-party information. Telephony features are automated, activities are documented, and supporting marketing material, knowledgebase content, and communication templates are provided.


The Direct Sales Experience and Inside Sales Experience solutions make associates and representatives more effective by putting the customer at the center of the workflow, providing performance transparency for sales managers, enabling more cross-selling and up-selling opportunities, and streamlining the measurement of sales effectiveness.

Direct sales benefits

  • Business-First Benefits. Avoiding custom code by configuring features of Microsoft Dynamics CRM wherever possible made modifications easier to implement, and sped deployment. A strong partnership between multiple groups, along with a commitment to simplification, reduced process complexity by approximately 50 percent. The product innovation and the feedback provided to the Microsoft Dynamics CRM product development group key to driving future software improvements.

  • Enhanced Productivity. Resources are easier to find and intuitive interfaces walk sellers through the tasks to successfully complete a sales engagement. Working across teams is enhanced by the integration of application functionality such as Exchange, Skype for Business, and Yammer. The relationship is documented by the history of touch points with the customer.

  • Improved Customer Focus. With the advanced productivity and collaboration tools, sellers can focus on customer interaction. The modern, process-driven sales experience guides them through the tasks and information they need to close deals and deliver exceptional customer experiences.

  • Higher-Quality Sales Opportunities. As a result of building the solution around the sales process, Microsoft was able to appropriately separate demand generation from opportunity management. Microsoft expects to see an increase in the dollar value of sales opportunities, as well as greater outreach across the larger business. For example, specialist teams can work closely with customer sales teams to recommend intelligent cross-sell and upsell opportunities. Microsoft now runs on one sales platform that delivers shorter decision and engagement cycles, provides seamless team-based selling, and realizes more sales.

  • Customer Credibility. Sellers now sell and demonstrate exactly what they use. This helps elevate the role of seller to partner or a trusted advisor. Additionally, Microsoft runs the largest known Dynamics CRM Online implementation. Customers can see that Microsoft made the strategic decision to effectively run their global enterprise on Dynamics CRM Online and other Microsoft products.

Inside sales benefits

  • Increased Productivity and Revenue. On average, reduced cycle times have enabled representatives to become 13 percent more productive, generating an additional $66M in potential revenue enablement. Anecdotally, users have reported the new system as being twice as fast as the prior platforms, by enabling more calls and talk time per day.

  • Greater Visibility and Objective Performance Analysis. A centralized IT software and hardware infrastructure for worldwide telesales operations has enabled consistent systemwide reporting, objective measurement of organizational effectiveness, and improved analysis of telesales and ROI. The adoption is complete at contact centers in Microsoft buildings. Going forward, external vendor contact centers will be incorporated into the platform.

  • Development and Showcasing Opportunities. Microsoft successfully demonstrated that Skype for Business can be leveraged as an enterprise telephony provider across multiple contact centers. USD enabled telephony integration with Dynamics CRM. Going forward, Skype for Business will be used to increase contact center capacity even further. The integrated solution can be showcased outside of Microsoft as an enterprise contact center system.


With the Direct Sales and Inside Sales Experiences, Microsoft improved productivity, collaboration, and customer satisfaction across its sales platforms. By relentlessly simplifying processes and committing to configuration instead of customization, Microsoft created a streamlined and iterative platform to support team-based direct sales and collaboration activities. Automation and simplicity now drive efficient transactional-based inside sales, and the platform provides insights into business performance. The contact center telephony network is now standardized to a single provider powered by Skype for Business, other Microsoft technologies such as Dynamics CRM, and unified telesales hardware and software infrastructure.

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Microsoft Dynamics Product Information

For More Information

For more information about Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, go to

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© 2015 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Microsoft and Windows are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners. This document is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.

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