Microsoft Dynamics 365 & The Evolution of CRM


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At its Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto in July, Microsoft updated the partner community on its vision for Dynamics.

WPC is the most important event of the year for us as it is where Microsoft demonstrates upcoming improvements and shares its goals with the partner community for the coming year.

Whereas, previous conferences tended to concentrate on new CRM features this year’s event attended by Preact concentrated on the evolution from Microsoft Dynamics CRM to Microsoft Dynamics 365 and how this new service will be packaged.


So what is Dynamics 365?

First impressions might suggest this is merely a re-brand but the introduction of Dynamics 365 is designed to be a crucial step towards achieving Microsoft’s aim of empowering businesses with insights and intelligence by digitally transforming processes from connected apps.

As Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella highlighted in his keynote address and LinkedIn post this requires data to be unlocked from silos and combined with other sources to drive new insights, adapt and extend processes.

Aside from CRM, further applications in the Microsoft Dynamics family include ERP solutions, NAV and AX, but there’s the rub.

These were built from different platforms and although they sit in the same Dynamics ‘suite’ they don’t integrate natively. For example, ‘Account’ detail will be stored in CRM but the same company details are then duplicated in ERP.

To resolve this, and deliver on Microsoft’s goal, Dynamics CRM Online and ERP products are being rolled into an integrated cloud product, Dynamics 365 which offers a standardised and consistent framework built on Azure. This sits in the Microsoft ecosystem utilising a new common data model with built in end-to-end integration across the application platform (also including Office 365) which features embedded Power BI and Power Apps - another recent announcement to quickly build connected mobile and web apps using low code / no code development tools.


This move towards a shared application platform combines with another Microsoft initiative to simplify its CRM licensing.

Microsoft has been steadily increasing the scale of Dynamics CRM in recent years which has seen arrival of modules such as Project Service, Field Service and Social Engagement which have added to the licensing mix and its complexity.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is designed to support every type of user by enabling subscriptions to be picked on the basis of Apps, Plans and Team Members:

Apps

Full functionality for individually integrated Dynamics 365 apps which include sales, marketing, service, project service, operations (formerly AX), financials and field service. For example, if a user only requires sales functionality they would be able to subscribe to the Sales App only. We’ve already seen a taste of what a single app interface might look like with the Interactive Service Hub for Dynamics CRM.

Plans

Plans will offer increased value for users who need to work in multiple apps. Dynamics 365 plans leverage the extensibility of PowerApps and Microsoft Flow whereby individual processes may jump across multiple apps via Flows and as a result these will be able to span many more stages than regular CRM processes.

Compared to app based licensing and the CRM licensing we have today, Dynamics 365 Plans will offer tiered pricing based on licence volumes.

Team Members

Team member licensing provides light usage to read data across Dynamics 365 apps and be able to share knowledge insights.

All three Dynamics 365 licensing options can be used on a mix and match basis so an organisation might choose to license employees by a combination of plans, individual apps and by team members.


Dynamics 365 Business & Enterprise

Microsoft will release Dynamics 365 in November 2016.

Based on the information shared at WPC, the Business Edition for small and medium sized firms seems very much work in progress but the main takeaway is that this will be built from Project Madeira, the new cloud edition of Dynamics Nav.

The initial Autumn release leads with Dynamics Financials (Madeira) with future apps to be released in 2017 for sales and marketing and a supporting Business plan. Interestingly, there is no mention of a servicing app for the Business edition at this stage.

The Dynamics 365 Enterprise edition is more clearly defined with two plans available upon its release and organisations that would normally be drawn to the Business edition will be offered reduced pricing to get started with Enterprise until the Business edition is fully launched:


Plan 1 comprises apps for the CRM components of Sales, Service, Project Service and Field Service alongside the Flow and PowerApps. This will also include a dedicated Marketing app that will be released in 2017, legacy Dynamics CRM marketing functions including Campaigns and Marketing Lists remain available in the Sales app.

Plan 2 will include all of the above and brings in Operations (AX7)

Subscriptions can also be licensed by these individual apps &/or light 'Team Member' licences.

And what of Microsoft Social Engagement?

This will be distributed across all apps reflecting Microsoft’s often repeated commitment to put social tools and insights in the hands of all teams.

In the future we can also look forward to the prospect of LinkedIn people-based data coming into the mix.

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