Search for an official Microsoft answer and you’ll quickly be pointed to Dynamics 365 CRM or the ‘build it yourself’ Power Platform. What about the standard Microsoft Office 365 platform you have? Why should you care, and how far can you go?


There’s ‘crm’ and There’s CRM

A CRM is often described as a centralised and efficient way of managing contacts / customers lifecycle and the relationships they have with your organisation. It should make everyone’s life easier and give valuable insights.

To us there’s one other important aspect often overlooked – it should be flexible enough to be configured to how your organisation works rather than telling you how you should work.


Why Microsoft Office 365?

If you’re reading this you most likely will or have already invested in Microsoft Office 365 as your primary productivity tool, using things like Microsoft Teams, Outlook, SharePoint, OneDrive etc. We think that’s important for 3 reasons:

1. Keep Things in One Place: Your meetings are in Teams, your email is in Outlook, your Files are stored in SharePoint / OneDrive / Teams. If you use a 3rd party CRM, you need to integrate all that and end up creating multiple copies or versions of documents

2. Get your ROI: You pay for Microsoft licensing, and it isn’t cheap. Everyone likes getting value for their money.

3. Data Compliance: OK it’s a boring topic, but Microsoft Office 365 can let you control data retention, audit history, and is where your data already sits. 3rd party product means 3rd party database, which means potentially losing control of data.


10 Key Features

There are hundreds of 3rd party CRMs and features, but we’ve distilled down to 10 features which can all be addressed with Microsoft Office 365 technologies found within the standard business packages.


1. Contact Management

Storing contact record information such as name, email, phone, and potentially other fields specific to your field in a centralised database for all staff.

Consideration: You may want different fields for different types of contacts, e.g ‘Contractors’ and ‘Customers’ may share similar fields, but also have their own unique fields.

Microsoft 365 Features:

– A Microsoft List – Customisable lists
– Dataverse for Teams – Customisable tables


2. Track Communications

Store documents, emails, tasks, and notes to keep a timeline of interactions with contacts.

Consideration: If there are cases where information is sensitive, you may need a way to control access to all content and communications for a particular contact.

Microsoft 365 Features:

– SharePoint / Teams – Groups of users can store documents and emails together
– Planner – Groups of users can manage tasks together


3. Sales – Managing Leads, Opportunities / Deals

Many organisations use a CRM to manage sales. If that’s you, then managing leads, opportunity / deal record types and linking them to contacts is an important capability. The ability to define processes around converting leads to real sales opportunities.

Consideration: You may want the capability to separate leads and contacts e.g importing a large database of unqualified contacts which are not yet ‘real contacts’

Microsoft 365 Features:

– A Microsoft List – Customisable lists with lookup fields
– Dataverse for Teams – Customisable tables with relationship fields


4. Record Stage Management / Pipeline

Managing the stage of an individual record or seeing a summary of the stage for all records is not only necessary for sales, but really any record which has a start and an end.

Consideration: Look out for the ability to create business rules, being able to make field information required at certain stages. For a sale for example, you may only know the probability of a sale when the deal is at a certain stage.

Microsoft 365 Features

– A Microsoft List – Utilising a choice field and utilising Group By views for summary
– Dataverse for Teams – Configuring Business Process Flows


5. Workflow Automation

You may want business process rules which execute when a stage change or field value occurs, to create notifications or events, and much more. Workflow is a key part of not only stopping repetitive tasks, but also ensuring there are consistent processes.

Consideration: A workflow engine should enable low / no code workflow builds, with many existing connectors available into commonly used applications and tools.

Microsoft 365 Features

– Power Automate – Create scheduled, triggered, or instant button flows for lists or tables


6. Email Integration

If you’re a Microsoft Office 365 user, then you will almost certainly be using Outlook web or desktop edition. Most organisations need emails and attachments to be accessible to others, stored against records in the CRM, the ability to manage contacts within Outlook, and integrate the Outlook calendar.

Consideration: Some users prefer to work primarily within Outlook and only go into a different screen when necessary. Outlook usage is an important part of any CRM.

Microsoft 365 Features

– Outlook – Share to Teams capability can save emails and attachments
– Outlook – Contact groups can be used to share contact information


7. Reporting / Analytics

Regardless of what you use a CRM for, you’ll most likely want to gain insights from the data in some way. For sales it’s standard to see forecasts, measure behaviours, and for other use cases things like contract renewals, marketing campaign insights.

Consideration: Unless all your business systems are on a single platform, you will most likely need a reporting tool which can bring data together from multiple sources.

Microsoft 365 Features

– Power BI Free – Any data in Microsoft Office 365 can be reported on, as well as many well-known 3rd party systems.


8. Document Management

Think of all the documents you create, where you create them, review and approval process, version management, templates. All those aspects are features of a document management system. Some examples could be contracts, quotes, proposals, onboarding forms, applications.

Consideration: There’s standard document management capabilities, but also more advanced options like retention policies, tagging, live collaboration, and many more.

Microsoft 365 Features

– SharePoint – OneDrive and Teams also store files in SharePoint. Not only does it come with a massive amount of storage, but it is a feature rich service for document management.


9. 3rd Party Integration

A CRM acts as a central repository of information for contacts / customers essentially, but in any organisation, there are financial transactions, marketing, potentially line-of-business applications. You need a way to intuitively connect those systems to your CRM.

Consideration: Not all integrations are equal. Just because an app or connector exists for a 3rd party service, does not mean it is fit for your needs. Always evaluate and where applicable read reviews.

Microsoft 365 Features

– Teams – There are many apps in the Teams store which are often ‘click and go’
– Power Automate – There are approximately 500 connectors for 3rd party products. If customisation is needed, potentially use ‘HTTPS connectors’ or UI flows for legacy application integration (Robotic Process Automation) *Note these are extra costs.


10. Accessibility and Ease of Use

This often doesn’t make a ‘CRM features’ list since it’s more than a feature, but having an easy interface that is inclusive of all users in an organisation is critical. Microsoft are big on accessibility, for example the ‘Check Accessibility’ feature in the Office apps.

Consideration: Accessibility and ease of use is often treated as box ticking, but any good CRM puts those at the core of it’s interface.

Microsoft 365 Features

– PowerApps – All services and apps have extensive guidance and consideration for accessibility, but to bring it the services together into an accessible and easy to use interface you can use PowerApps.


Putting it All Together

OK great – you have all the components of a CRM with Microsoft Office 365, but where do you go from here to bring it all together? You have a few options:

OptionsWho’s It ForNext Step
1# Build a Solution Within Microsoft Office 365Tech enthusiasts with a clear vision and timeLearn the technologies listed above for each feature here
2# Get Someone to Design and Implement Within Microsoft Office 365 Tech enthusiasts with a clear vision but no timeTalk to your Microsoft partner, or our Betasoft certified experts
3# Try Out the Microsoft 365 App We Built – SharePortalsYou get the value of Microsoft Office 365, but want an off-the-shelf CRM experience. Start evaluating SharePortals using the free first user licensing, and let us help