Last week we announced a new application, Search for Dynamics (you can read the announcement here). Search for Dynamics plugs into the Dynamics UI and brings up relevant information using the search engine inside SharePoint and SharePoint Online.
There are several benefits of this:
- Users don’t have to leave Microsoft Dynamics to get the information they need. They see a unified view of information across multiple silos because we can connect from Dynamics 365, SharePoint, and from over 80 other enterprise systems (such as Yammer, Jive, Veeva Vault, iManage, and Confluence) and display results directly within Dynamics 365.
- Users get a faster, more natural, and more familiar search experience. Search for Dynamics directly embeds compact search results within all common Dynamics 365 objects (e.g. Case, Account, Contact, Opportunity), as well as provides enterprise-wide search from the Dynamics 365 home dashboards.
Users are presented with relevant results in context, regardless of where the data is stored. Any information from any source can also be linked into Dynamics as a note or an email.
For IT, this unifies Dynamics and SharePoint, allowing you to leverage both more fully. It also reduces work as improvements to search experiences in SharePoint also apply to Dynamics.
Does Search Suck in Dynamics? Then Fix It!
As we talk to Dynamics customers, we’ve heard a constant refrain: “search sucks”. Users expect search to work seamlessly, and the bigger the Dynamics deployment, then the worse it seems to work. I’ve been focused on search for a long time, so I know that there are many factors involved in making search work well. I also know that Microsoft has made enhancements such as the “relevant search” feature. So, we dove into the factors involved to be sure we had a good solution that complemented anything Microsoft had done or would do in this area.
There are eight main areas where people need more than what Dynamics search gives them. Our Search for Dynamics addresses all of these:
- Get at data that is outside Dynamics
- Better refinement/drill-down
- Get related information, not just information that is directly linked
- Personalize results and ranking
- Find people and groups, not just information
- Do more than straight matching; handle linguistics, spelling, etc.
- Resolve gaps in Dynamics/SharePoint integration
- Surface different entities, not just the one I am currently looking at
It’s fairly obvious how the first three are solved by our products – our Connectors, AutoClassifier, and Related Search components. To understand the next three (#4, #5, #6) you have to get a bit more under the hood, which I won’t cover here. However, they are areas in which we have developed some great proven capabilities that extend beyond what SharePoint search provides.
The last two are areas that I personally expect Microsoft will eventually address. I have been surprised at some of the gaps (#7). For example, you can save a file within Dynamics into OneDrive or SharePoint, but then it doesn’t show up in Dynamics search…one person described this to me as a “black hole”. For the cross-entity search issue (#8) Microsoft has an option for some Dynamics 365 configurations (online only). We want people to get the most out of their OOTB capabilities, so I don’t advise people to buy Search for Dynamics for only these areas, but we do offer a free edition that covers these and some of #5 and #6 as well.
If you’re trying to explain Search for Dynamics simply – it makes Dynamics search work well. And the top feature is #1 – integrating content from multiple places, inside and outside of Dynamics.
Gaining Insight Across Silos
I never get tired of seeing magic happen. Time and time again, I’ve seen customers become more productive and effective simply by unifying information across silos using search. It’s also wonderful to see how people make connections and gain new insight when they see information from different places presented together.
There’s value in improving search even in one silo. But that is multiplied when you integrate across systems. It’s fairly typical that our customers start with a few sources (for example, Dynamics, SharePoint, Box, and Confluence) and then add additional sources as they go. I’ve seen this work well hundreds of times now, and I usually recommend starting simple and learning how to onboard new content sources one at a time, as long as that fits the project. With experience, it gets easier and easier.
Keeping up with Dynamics
Our release coincided with Microsoft’s Business Forward event, which unveiled a lot of exciting developments with Dynamics. Microsoft is making a major push to accelerate Dynamics. In 2016, the two big developments were the introduction of Dynamics 365 and the acquisition of LinkedIn. Now, only six months after announcing plans to pay more than $26 billion for LinkedIn, Dynamics 365 is integrated with LinkedIn Sales Navigator. There are also other exciting advances in Dynamics that were announced last week. I’m confident we’ve made the right bet with Dynamics.
I’ve been asked many times how we keep up with the changes in Microsoft’s offerings, especially in a cloud-first and cloud-only world. We’ve managed this for years with SharePoint and Office 365, and have developed a rhythm about it that includes both a close connection with Microsoft and a lot of experience about how things roll out over time. Ultimately, our commitment to our customers is to cover this so they don’t need to worry about it. Part of our value is that we keep our products current and ensure they work with and complement Microsoft’s products.
Dynamics has a bright future and a lot of investment from Microsoft, which also means there is a lot of value we can add, both today with this first release of Search for Dynamics, and on an ongoing basis. We’re thrilled by the strong reception we’ve received for our new offering.
We are always interested in new ideas and difficult challenges, so if you have questions or suggestions around Visual Refiners and how to make a great search UX, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Which EDITIONS OF Dynamics DO YOU SUPPORT?
Search for Dynamics currently supports:
- Dynamics 365 Enterprise Edition for Sales, Customer Service, Operations, Field Service, and Marketing
- Dynamics CRM 2016
- Dynamics CRM Online 2016
Q: Which systems can I connect to from Dynamics?
Content from any of our connectors can surface in Dynamics.
Q: Can I add managed metadata to Dynamics information?
Yes, by using our AutoClassifier you can tag any entity in Dynamics. This metadata is then written into the search index in SharePoint or Office365 to improve navigation and findability. It is not written back into Dynamics.
Q: Does this work in hybrid environments?
Yes, we support hybrid environments. SharePoint on-premise combined with Dynamics Online, Dynamics on-premise combined with SharePoint Online, and Hybrid SharePoint combined with Dynamics Online or Dynamics on-premise are all supported.