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Microsoft Debuts New Office 365 Features, CRM Update, More

Craig Galbraith**Editor’s Note: Click here for our recently compiled list of new products and services.**

Following up on a promise it made earlier this year, Microsoft this week unveiled new Office 365 capabilities “that modernize the enterprise across meetings and voice, intelligence, and security and privacy,” the software giant said.

The first is actually a trio of new services designed to form a complete meeting and voice platform. They are Skype Meeting Broadcast, PSTN conferencing and Cloud PBX with PSTN calling.

The second is Delve Analytics, which offers interactive dashboards that provide insight into how businesses spend their time and with whom they spend it.

The third is a pair of services that offer advanced security and compliance. Customer Lockbox aims to give customers full control over access to their data in Office 365. A business gets ultimate approval rights in times when a Microsoft engineer has to request access to the service. Advanced eDiscovery delivers machine learning and text analytics that reduce the costs and risks that come with managing large quantities of data for e-discovery.

These capabilities, along with Power BI and Advanced Threat Protection, are available to customers in Office 365 E5, which Microsoft calls a new premium enterprise suite.

“As businesses strive to keep up with the pace of change, they are looking to technology to drive digital transformation,” said Chris Capossela, chief marketing officer at the Redmond, Washington-based company. “Microsoft can help businesses achieve 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.”

Microsoft business partners wasted no time in touting their connections to the new features.

  • Sonus Networks, for one, announced support for the new Cloud PBX feature, noting that it “provides advanced intelligence, security and interworking capabilities that simplify enterprise transition to Office 365 Cloud-based Skype for Business implementations.” In addition, the company, in a partnership with Plantronics, Nectar and Numonix, introduced a “Cloud Connected Bundle,” an interoperable suite of products that work with the new Cloud PBX feature.
  • MSP Carousel Industries said it has completed the requirements to support the new Skype for Business services in Office 365 and is adding it to its own production Office 365 tenant.
  • AudioCodes introduced CloudBond 365, which enables unified communications for Skype for Business. Calling CloudBond 365 “ideal for hybrid environments, main sites and branch offices, AudioCodes says the service facilitates smooth migration of users from on-premises Lync, Skype for Business Server or legacy PBX deployments to Microsoft’s Cloud PBX. It will be generally available in January.
  • Sennheiser announced that its portfolio of headsets and speakerphones is now Skype for Business-certified and ready for use with the new Skype for Business Online services offered via Microsoft Office 365.

“The launch of new enterprise capabilities in Office 365 presents …

… a natural migration path for existing Microsoft Lync environments and a compelling proposition for new customers,” noted Ed Wadbrook, vice president, Applications and Collaborative Solutions, Carousel Industries. “We are confident that with Carousel’s full integration and managed services support, Skype for Business will enable organizations to realize unprecedented collaboration and business productivity.”

Beyond the Office 365 announcements, Microsoft has unleashed Dynamics CRM 2016 for online and on-premises deployments. It includes advancements in intelligence, mobility and service, with what the company says are significant productivity enhancements to help businesses and customer-facing employees achieve more.

This version of Dynamics CRM previews full offline capabilities for mobile users on phones and tablets and across all major platforms. It also provides the ability to create task-centered mobile apps to streamline tasks such as meeting follow-ups, and features Cortana integration that drives proactive interaction and makes voice-driven CRM possible.

Also new from Microsoft is PowerApps, a service that helps workers create apps, securely connect to business systems and easily share apps with co-workers. Available in preview, PowerApps aims to help businesses create employee-facing applications of all kinds, available on any device.

PowerApps has built-in data connections to SaaS services like Office 365, Dynamics, Salesforce, Dropbox and OneDrive, as well as on-premises business systems such as SharePoint, SQL Server, Oracle databases, SAP and more.

Follow senior online managing editor Craig Galbraith on Twitter.


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