This year's event drew a crowd of just under 7,000 attendees, according to one first-hand account, smaller than last year. The event is designed for partners and users of Microsoft Dynamics customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions.
The free additions consist of a March service update to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, plus a bunch of so-called "CRM Accelerators," which extend the solution's sales and marketing features.
With the new service update, Dynamics CRM Online customers now have a service level agreement in place. If Microsoft fails to meet 99.9 percent uptime, the company will credit the customer for one month's worth of fees. Other CRM Online improvements include Internet sales-lead generation capabilities and authentication security to work with third-party Web applications.
The event featured a keynote address by Kirill Tatarinov, Microsoft's Business Solutions corporate vice president. He noted that Microsoft recently released a set of tools, called the Environmental Sustainability Dashboard, that can be used to help reduce Microsoft Dynamics AX power consumption. In addition, Microsoft is working on a way to measure power consumption by Microsoft Dynamics GP, with similar plans in the making for Microsoft's Dynamics NAV.
The featured enthusiastic customer at this year's event was the Greater Cleveland Chapter of the American Red Cross, which uses a combination of Microsoft Dynamics GP and Microsoft Dynamics CRM solutions. The use of those solutions helped the nonprofit charity reduce its workforce from 100 to 54 staff members, according to a video presentation shown at Convergence 2009.
Another area of note, although it's not new, is the use of Role Centers in Microsoft Dynamics AX and Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Role Centers let IT pros specify the features that individuals see in Microsoft Dynamics applications.
Microsoft does "a ton of research" with its customers, as well as research in Microsoft's labs, to improve the products' role-tailored design, according to Jakob Nielsen, principal user experience manager for Microsoft Dynamics. A roles-based user interface can make it easier for people to complete tasks, he said. Nielsen added that Microsoft has seen a 40 percent jump in task completion between product versions as a result of its research.
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