Bing beta page, Portugal
Salesforce it isn't, but Microsoft continues to upgrade OCM to make it a viable option for larger companies PHOTO: Bruno Pedro

Microsoft started rolling out its Outlook Customer Manager (OCM) for general release this week, adding a few updates to what it had initially previewed last November

The initial release provided an OCM iOS app and cloud-based customer relationship management solution designed for small businesses. This general release added access for Outlook on the web and Outlook for iOS.

Roping In Dynamics 365

More importantly, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft added intelligent reminders and integration with Bing, Cortana and Microsoft Flow in the latest version.

While the company marketed the preview release as a kind of 'Salesforce Light,' the addition of Bing and Cortana may make it more attractive for larger companies looking for a lighter-weight CRM.  

Customer relationship management software has been top of mind for Microsoft this week, which also saw an update to Dynamics 365.  

At the time of the Outlook Customer Manager preview release, the company appeared to be positioning it as way of roping smaller companies into the Dynamics 365 environment.

“Now included at no extra cost in the Office 365 Business Premium plan, Outlook Customer Manager is a cloud-powered solution designed especially for small businesses. And as your business needs grow, you can move to Dynamics 365 to take advantage of enhanced customer information, process efficiency and consistency, and deeper financial and customer insights,” Vivek Kumar, product marketing manager for the Outlook team wrote at the time.

Automation and Intelligence

This week’s general release makes no mention of Dynamics 365, but the addition of enhanced workflows, Bing and Cortana makes it unnecessary. New additions to the general release include:

  • Intelligent understanding of requests made in emails for meetings, information or files and automatic creation of a reminder to ensure those requests are met
  • Up-to-date information on a company through Bing so sales people can see information surfaced from numerous sources using Bing search
  • Enabling Cortana, the Microsoft digital assistant, to arrange meetings on behalf of the user. The first time it is used, Cortana walks users through the steps to get it up and running
  • New integration with Microsoft Flow to allow for automation of repetitive workflows 

If you are looking for something to replace Salesforce, this still isn't it. That said, with the connections that OCM and Office 365 have to other data and apps, it’s a powerful tool, even at the enterprise level.

With Outlook Customer Manger and Dynamics 365, Microsoft now has most of the bases covered in CRM and enterprise resource planning, and all through the cloud. 

Microsoft is releasing the new service globally in 39 languages. For eligible existing users, look for an icon in the home tab in Outlook 2016.