Our Microsoft expert, Paul Rutter, explains why Dynamics 365 for Outlook is being depreciated, why you need to upgrade, and what it all means for businesses.

January 2018 Update: Dynamics 365 for Outlook will now not be depreciated and the COM add-in will continue to be supported after depreciation. However, Microsoft confirms that COM add-ins are older, slower technology and are encouraging customers to adopt Dynamics 365 App for Outlook – a modern Office add-in.

What’s out?

Dynamics 365 for Outlook (Outlook Client)

A legacy Outlook CRM add-in that will soon stop being supported by Microsoft for version 9, newly released in October 2017. This will then be removed as of version 10 of Dynamics 365 which will be the next major release – and this could be as soon as next year.

What’s in?

Dynamics 365 App for Outlook

A new Microsoft Office add-in – more reliable, easy to maintain, and runs across all platforms: Outlook Web App, Outlook for Mac and Outlook for mobile. With server-side synch, you can see relevant information from Dynamics directly within your inbox, and link up emails, appointments and Dynamics records.

What is the Outlook Client?

The whole point of a Dynamics CRM system is to track interactions. You’re sending emails to people, making phone calls and tracking appointments. Dynamics 365 for Outlook (Outlook Client) is there to embed itself within Outlook, to give you one single view of everything, so that you don’t have to go into a web browser and start using Dynamics 365 outside of that; it’s all within Outlook. It’s a great idea, but it’s been poorly executed for the last ten years.

The Outlook Client has long been one of the most problematic parts of the Dynamics offering. It’s very bloated and sluggish, and it slows down Outlook. As soon as you go outside of the bounds of a nice perfect environment and you try and put it into Citrix, or Terminal Services, it really starts to struggle. We’ve spent many hours over the years making this work for various clients and different scenarios.

What have Microsoft done to resolve those issues?

Recently they have introduced the Dynamics 365 App for Outlook, which is a lightweight version of the Outlook Client. You deploy through Dynamics 365 and that gets pushed out to the desktop, online and mobile versions of Outlook, so it all works in the same way. The previous Outlook Client only worked on the desktop version, and only Windows as well, it didn’t work on Mac.

What does that mean for clients with the Outlook Client?

They are now deprecating the Outlook Client with Dynamics 365 for Outlook. It’s supported for now in version 9, but then when we hit version 10, it will be removed completely.

Some of our customers who are remaining on premise will start having issues with the one good feature of the Outlook Client; offline mode. You can go offline in Outlook and it will take your defined Dynamics 365 data offline. You can go out to the field and use your laptop and Dynamics 365 as though you were plugged in, and it resynchs the data when you’re back in the office.

What about offline mode for those without Outlook Client?

The way we do that in the modern world with Dynamics 365 online is to use Azure; so we have the mobile app for Dynamics 365, and we have the Azure services in the back end, and that lets you take all of Dynamics 365 offline to access it through the app.

If you have an appointment in your calendar, you can see information from Dynamics directly in Outlook. So again, giving that single view of the world, you’re not having to pop around to find this stuff. It’s a consistent experience so whether you’re in the web, desktop or mobile version that’s how it works. It’s a much better way of doing it.

What if users of the Outlook Client want the app?

The Outlook Client will only synch when you have a connection to Dynamics 365. For example, if an appointment is put into CRM for me, it wouldn’t appear in my Outlook calendar until the Outlook Client had talked to Dynamics 365 and pushed it to Exchange, and then pushed it to my phone.

The first thing we do is turn on server-side synchronisation to get rid of all that, and to let Dynamics 365 and Exchange talk directly to each other. So, in that same scenario, if you put an appointment in my calendar that would flow straight through to Exchange in about 15 minutes without having to go via Outlook. Another benefit is that you get rid of another bit of on premise software. Traditionally, the Email router has been utilised to pass email messages between Dynamics and Exchange. The email router costs in terms of infrastructure resource. We’re now moving that workload back to the Dynamics 365 server, which is very useful, especially if the servers need to be scaled out, or if it needs updating, that becomes Microsoft’s problem.

Where can I find out more?

Though the Outlook Client isn’t going to be removed until version 10, we recommend that you begin looking now at upgrading, for a smooth and effortless transition. If you would like to find out more about the depreciation of Outlook Client and what it will mean for you and your business, please get in touch with us today and speak to one of our friendly experts, or call us on 0800 996 1833.

Paul Rutter – Microsoft Expert at Perfect Image

Paul Rutter is a Senior Solutions Architect at Perfect Image and Microsoft certified Partner Technology Solutions Specialist (P-TSP) in Dynamics 365. He is certified in Microsoft Dynamics 365, SharePoint and Scribe software. In 2008, he started his career in IT as a developer, and began working for Perfect Image in 2010, working his way up to lead a team of certified Microsoft consultants who are experts in architecting, implementing and supporting Dynamics 365. He has since transitioned into the solution architecture role, providing guidance and oversight to the wider delivery teams within the business.