Cobalt is constantly working to enhance its product offerings to provide our customers, and their customers, the best possible user experience. Below are the release notes for Engagement Dynamics as well as a history of Microsoft Dynamics CRM/365 releases dating back to the beginning of 2015.
Cobalt Release 3.9
Cobalt 3.9 overhauled our existing, single process portal checkout flows by implementing a universal shopping cart. Organizations can now enable the universal shopping cart feature to allow portal users to add multiple items (meeting registration, membership application, etc) to a global cart and pay for those items with a single transaction. This new flow optimizes the checkout process and improves the user experience by funneling portal users into a streamlined payment process. The global shopping cart also enables organizations to upsell membership more efficiently. We now have the ability to grant member pricing for other services/products when a portal user has a membership application in their cart.
The universal cart feature saves the items in a cart even once a user has closed the browsing session, so organizations can send cart abandonment emails to encourage checkout completion.
In the theme of improved eCommerce functionality, we also implemented auto-renewal and payment plan features for both membership applications and dues renewals. If allowed by the organization, portal users can opt to be automatically charged the next time they are billed for membership dues via the auto-enrollment process. Again, if allowed by the organization, portal users can also opt to pay for their membership application or membership dues with installment payments.
Finally, organizations can now configure ACH/eCheck as a payment method completely out of the box. We also now support the ability to pay for an existing order without logging into the portal.
Cobalt Release 3.8
The primary focus of Cobalt 3.8 is an admin portal. Previously, both Cobalt Engagement Dynamics and Cobalt Membership Dynamics focused on functionality that was best suited for professional associations (i.e. individual based membership). This release expanded that functionality to include tools for trade associations (i.e. account based membership). Contacts can now be given permissions to act on behalf of an account. Once a contact has certain permissions, they can do the following: manage the account details, pay and view account orders, manage the account roster, and manage the organizational membership.
In addition to the new admin portal processes, we also spent time improving Cobalt form functionality. Cobalt forms now support lookup fields, meaning staff can build portal-facing forms that set a lookup field in Dynamics 365. Cobalt forms now allow for Rich Text in the page instructions, allowing staff to both stylize page instructions and/or link to a different page. Finally, staff can now clone Cobalt forms without any third party solutions.
Finally, we overhauled our overall price calculation logic. This will provide a massive improvement in efficiency when portal facing users are renewing their dues.
Cobalt Release 3.7
The most obvious improvement in Cobalt’s 3.7 release is the portal redesign. The portal homepage has been restyled so the overall look is more modern, and the design more closely matches the other portal pages. This redesign added aesthetic appeal, but also helped with navigation and usability.
In addition to the homepage redesign, we also added a more complete set of individual tile and link controls, which are now configurable via the Web Element Designer giving customers more control over the layout.
In the spirit of increased portal functionality, 3.7 also includes updating our product to that latest SAML SSO industry standards. Highlights include full support for IdP-initiated flows and custom attributes.
Finally, we were able to achieve an exciting goal around related to quality assurance by successfully automating 40% of our regression testing scenarios. Automated testing cuts down on QA time while also eliminating the chance for human error.
The end of this release was book marked by all three of our solutions (Core, Membership, and Certification) achieving Microsoft AppSource certification.
Cobalt Release 3.5
In release 3.5, we added supportability for the Unified Client Interface (UCI) released by Microsoft for 9.x versions of Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement. The UCI introduced a new, unified experience for any screen size, device, or orientation, so that Dynamics 365 administrators will no longer need to set up separate forms or dashboards for users accessing the system via a browser, tablet, or phone; the experience will be the same across devices.
To support the Unified Interface, we created persona-driven Unified Interface apps for Cobalt modules. The goal of Cobalt’s apps is to a) meet the criteria for approval on Microsoft’s AppSource and the ISV Embed Program and b) improve the user experience by making it easier for staff users to get to the information they care about, without the clutter of things they don’t.
In order to better meet our customers’ reporting and analytics needs, we added dashboards, views, and charts to each Cobalt module. While these are geared towards the Unified Interface app experience, they have been added for all supported Dynamics 365 versions including D365 CE versions 8.2 and 9.0 On-Premise.
Cobalt Release 3.4.1
Release 3.4.1 centered around Microsoft’s transition to a true SaaS model (i.e. no more opting out of updates) in 2019. This release stabilized Cobalt’s products for Microsoft Dynamics 365 version 9.0 online so that Cobalt 3.4.1 achieves functional parity between Microsoft Dynamics 365 8.2 online and Microsoft Dynamics 365 9.0 online. This will make for smooth upgrades for our Microsoft Dynamics 365 online customers. While this release was narrow in scope and did not introduce any new Cobalt features, it will allow us to support customers who want to take advantage of a host of new features and improvements in Microsoft’s version 9.0 for online. You can find out more about those features here.
Cobalt Release 3.4
The 3.4 release was big on new features. We spent the previous few releases reworking our solutions to take advantage of the capabilities available in the latest version of Dynamics 365 and improving the performance of our portals. These efforts have been worthwhile and have made customer upgrades much easier, but we were excited to get back to some of the other big items in our backlog.
This was the next step in the evolution of our forms and web elements. This designer allows you to create your own multi-step applications on the portal including the ability to take payments. You can then link these forms/applications in using a web element control, so they can be launched from anywhere on your web site. As part of this, we also added a visual form designer to make creating forms and applications much easier for staff.
Elections, Awards, and Abstracts
3.4 included the introduction of a new module: Elections, Awards, and Abstracts. This module includes the ability to nominate people, create them as candidates (or finalists), and then allow users to vote on those candidates. Elections can be set up to allow self-nominations or not, allow write ins or not, or allow single or multiple nominations. This flexible framework can be linked to events for abstract management, committees for nominations, or for stand-alone elections.
We expanded our revenue recognition capabilities in this release to include automatic recognition for common scenarios. These include monthly dues revenue recognition, recognizing event registration fees when the event occurs and deferring certification application revenue until the test result is received or the eligibility expires.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 “July 2017” Release
This is technically the 9.0 release of Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement (what we all have been calling CRM for the past 14 years) and it’s a big one. Here are some of the highlights that have been made public by Microsoft. Note that we are focusing on the Enterprise Edition here because that is what Cobalt’s clients use today. Microsoft is also getting ready to release the Business Edition offerings for Sales and Marketing later this year as well.
This blog post from the Microsoft Dynamics Premier Field Engineering team provides a great overview of the features that are coming down the pike.
Cobalt Release 3.3
The primary feature for this release was to extend the native multi-currency capabilities included in Microsoft Dynamics to Cobalt’s e-commerce portals. You can now offer events, store products, subscriptions, membership applications and renewals, certification applications, and any other e-commerce enabled functions in any currency your payment provider supports.
Support for TLS 1.2
Most payment providers are ending support for systems that do not support the Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.2 protocol. We updated all of our products to support this protocol.
Cobalt Release 3.2
The 3.2 release was our first feature release on our new 3.x code and the Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform. We focused on some key items in our backlog including enhancements to our events and forms modules. We also focused on ensure compatibility for December 2016 Update for Dynamics 365 (version 8.2) and SQL Server 2016.
Cobalt Release 3.1
Microsoft Dynamics 365
The December 2016 update for Dynamics CRM came with a new name – Dynamics 365. This update was available for online and on-premises environments. While much of the focus was on the new name, a lot of great new features were introduced with this version as well.
- Dynamics 365 App for Outlook Enhancements
- Relationship Insights (Preview)
- Learning Path
- Concurrently Running Business Processes
- Interactive Service Hub Enhancements
- Relevance Search Enhancements for (Online Only)
- Editable Grids
- Office 365 Groups Enhancements (Online Only)
- Live Assist Powered by CaféX (Preview & Online Only)
For more information on this release, check out What’s New for Dynamics 365.
Cobalt Release 3.0
For this release, we reworked the architecture our solutions and updated all the forms, views and dashboards to take full advantage of the latest features available from Microsoft and to make the products easier to upgrade in the future.
Cobalt Release 2.10
The main focus of this release was improved performance especially for your end customers/members.
We’ve completely overhauled the receipts on the web portal so that they can be printed easily. They are also stored in CRM so that staff can resend them to customers on demand.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016
This release is fully compatible with CRM 2016 including the latest CRM Online release.
Cobalt Release 2.9
In this release we swapped out our PDF receipts for HTML versions that can be printed or sent via email to the customer.
Excel Template Reports
To adapt to the requirements of CRM Online, we are leveraging the new Document Template functionality in CRM 2016. We have recreated our existing Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) reports using Excel Templates.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016
CRM Online and On-Premises Update
The fall-wave update was for both CRM Online and on-prem, bringing Carina (CRM 2015 Update 1) updates to on-premises customers and introducing new features to both. Here’s a quick list of items included in this release:
- CRM App for Outlook
- Excel Integration
- OneDrive for Business Integration
- Word & Excel Templates
- Cortana Integration
- Voice of the Customer (Online Only)
- Interactive Service Hub
- Enhanced Knowledge Base
For a full rundown of all the new features, download the Release Preview Guide.
Cobalt Release 2.8
Cobalt Portal Widgets & CMS Configurations
More widget controls available to customers out of the box. Expanded out of the box configurations to include more content management systems.
Web Element Designer
The Web Element Designer lets you customize the style and format of your Web Element outputting a simple HTML script that can be copied and pasted into your CMS page.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 Update 1
CRM Online Update Only!
Carina, Microsoft’s spring-wave update to CRM, is an update for CRM Online only. On-premise customers will have to wait for the fall-wave release to see some of the cool features being introduced here.
Improved Navigation & Custom Themes
Carina introduces significant improvements to navigation and even adds the ability to customize your logo and color-scheme in CRM.
Tighter Office 365 Integration
Carina increases the integration between CRM Online and Office 365 applications with immersive Excel and OneNote integration.
Cobalt Release 2.7.1
Cobalt Portal Widgets
Turn any Cobalt portal page into a widget that can be dropped seamlessly into your existing website.
Configuration for single sign-on/integration with Higher Logic available so you’re ready to use our portal widgets out of the box. Additional data integration available with Higher Logic Communities (engagement activities, meetings and meeting registrations, contact and member information, user groups, and more).
Cobalt Portal API
Cobalt’s Portal API allows you to write your own integration for whatever content management system you want to use with your Cobalt Dynamics CRM solution.
Cobalt Release 2.7
Improved Performance & User Experience
- System performance enhancements for faster portal browsing and portal/CRM process completion.
- New contextual CRM wizard concept to consolidate existing wizards into “smart wizards” for increased productivity and improved customer service.
- Enhanced customer self-service options on the portal resulting in less staff involvement.
- WYSIWYG HTML Editor available in CRM for simplified styling and formatting of portal text.
- New wizards using “smart wizard” concept – Payment Wizard, Credit Wizard, and Write-off Wizard.
- Updated logic to allow for more robust payment and refund functionality.
- Coupon redemption expanded to all portal checkout processes.
Events, Meetings, and Education Enhancements
- Additional meeting waitlist options and new meeting activity waitlist functionality.
- Edit meeting registration functionality available on the portal and in CRM.
- “My Meetings” & “My Classes” portal pages for upcoming and historical meeting and class registrations.