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Dynamics takes to the field

Microsoft’s CRM solution has been extended to handle field services, Rolls Royce on board with deployment…

Microsoft_rolls_royce_serviceMicrosoft’s deal to buy LinkedIn may have taken up all the column inches last week, but the addition of field services and sensors integration to Dynamics CRM as part of its recent ‘Spring Wave’ releases also caught our interest. In an age where data is ubiquitous, it’s what you do with it that counts, so the new features are designed to help business users to offer predictive service capabilities. Features in this release include an “end-to-end service solution, including new field service capabilities; enhanced portal capabilities to better connect and share information with customers, partners, and employees; and embedded machine learning and Internet of Things scenarios that harness the power of Microsoft Azure to anticipate a customer’s unspoken needs, triage incoming social posts and provide predictive service.”

So far, so much jargon.

To help interpret the hyperbole, none other than Rolls Royce was on hand at the ‘Spring Wave’ launch to translate that into practical terms.

Nick Farrant, Senior VP at Rolls Royce, walked users through how the company is using Microsoft Azure, Dynamics CRM, Cortana and the Azure IoT Suite to offer an improved service to its customers. He presented a vision of how the aviation industry could collaborate to provide a better service to the whole industry by using big data and machine learning.

“The industry does not have a shortage of data,” he said, “the industry has a shortage of insight – it’s a lack of consistent information in the same place being managed, analysed and visualised in the same manner.”

Rolls Royce has been collaborating with Microsoft so that in the future it will be able to offer predictive services to its customers. Ultimately airline customers want their flights to be safe and on time, and traditionally there is a lot of activity behind the scenes to make sure this is the case. Rolls Royce wants to help to reduce the stress of this activity.

Taking the example of an under-efficient aeroplane engine, Farrant described how Rolls Royce will be able to use IoT sensor data and analytics to identify a possible underperformance issue. Although this is not an imminent safety hazard and the engine could go on happily functioning until its next scheduled maintenance, money can be saved by fixing it earlier. Using linkages with Dynamics CRM the system can identify when the aeroplane is next scheduled to fly and whether there are the time and people resources available on site for preventative maintenance to take place prior to take off. It can then go further, assigning those resources to the job, then providing further information and diagrams to help the maintenance crew identify the solution to the problem.

“Millions and millions of tonnes of fuel could be saved per year in the aviation industry through efficiency,” Farrant said, underlining the huge fiscal impact that such predictive maintenance can achieve.

Scott Guthrie, Microsoft’s executive VP for cloud and enterprise, who made the Spring Wave announcement called this proactive, predictive model of doing business “intelligent customer engagement”.

“Integrating your additional data and insights from these millions of IoT devices into your business processes will transform your organisation even further,” he said.

Speaking to iStart after the launch, local APAC Microsoft expert Raj Raguneethan, said that these integrated IoT capabilities and new field services will have a massive impact on the Dynamics solution and are a major area of focus for Microsoft.

He explained that the field services portion was originally a product called Field One, which Microsoft acquired a year ago. Since then the software giant has integrated the service with the rest of the Dynamics CRM stack so that it is available out-of-the-box. Because of this integration, resources shared across multiple areas (eg field services, project management etc) can be easily allocated without the fear of double-booking.

The impetus for the purchase was in response to Microsoft’s customers wanting new ways to differentiate their businesses and field services are one way that can be done. He said that rather than focusing on a specific vertical, Microsoft thinks that any business in the area of predictive maintenance will benefit from it – for example, any public services, utilities, power companies or telcos would be a natural fit. He added that Microsoft is already seeing a significant interest in the field services capabilities.

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