Review of the Year: Microsoft Dynamics 365 & CRM in 2017

Review 350

As we near the end of 2017, it's time to revisit the predictions we made at the start of the year.

What did we call right, and where did we go wrong in our 2017 forecasts?

These proved to be somewhat mixed but let's start with our better tips...

Transitioning from Dynamics CRM Online to Dynamics 365 - In the closing weeks of 2016 like many partners, Preact helped many businesses transition their licences over to the new Dynamics 365 licensing model and this activity continued well into 2017 as CRM Online agreements were renewed in D365.

This resulted in many licensing questions as partners and customers alike responded to the new licensing model of Plans, Apps and Team Members. We shared a series of posts and other resources to demystify the licensing of D365 and we updated our Dynamics 365 Glossary to explain some of these new terms.

UK data centres for D365 - in May, Microsoft confirmed that Dynamics 365 was joining Office 365 and Azure in its UK data-centres giving commercial and public sector organisations UK data residency.

Dynamics App for Outlook - following an initial preview release, the new server-side sync Dynamics app went into general production at the start of the year. By the Summer, Microsoft announced that the legacy plug-in for the Outlook client would be deprecated in the next major release.

Web Portals - with entitlement to deploy 1 portal on an instance of Dynamics 365 it was hardly surprising to see many businesses taking the opportunity to extend self-service portals to their customers. We featured the integrated customer web portal in our June webinar during a wider demonstration of Dynamics customer service capabilities.

Gamification - we predicted that Gamification would be more accessible in 2017. As this is now included with each Dynamics 365 we were hardly over-reaching ourselves with that one but in truth we didn't see a great deal of demand for Gamification in 2017 within the SMB sector, despite our enthusiastic webinar.

While those predictions were largely on the money, our other efforts were off target by varying degrees:

Business Edition - this was looking good until Microsoft surprised the Dynamics community in September when it announced that Dynamics 365 would no longer be aligned between Enterprise and Businesses editions. Instead, a single range of connected, role-based Dynamics 365 apps would be offered with varying functionality and pricing points.

Marketing App - Microsoft's decision to can Business Edition resulted in the much anticipated D365 Marketing App again being delayed. This was previously set to be a 'Business Edition' only release. In line with its revised strategy, Microsoft will now release a single marketing app that is available to all D365 customers. Currently in preview, this is scheduled for release in Spring 2018.

For the SMB market where Preact predominently works, it remains to be seen if this will be a serious ClickDimensions challenger, or a rebooted Dynamics CRM Marketing...

Financials App - while the Financials App, or Financials and Operations Business Edition to give this its full title, is still with us a broad take-up of this app was another of our predictions that didn't come to pass following Microsoft's Business Edition rethink.

As the year closed, Dynamics NAV 2018 was released to general acclaim in the NAV community. Microsoft confirmed that its project code-named 'Tenerife' would be the next version of NAV, as well as the next iteration of Dynamics 365. We'll return to this in our 2018 predictions...

Embedded AI - we'd highlighted a series of embedded AI capabilities that Microsoft released in preview towards the close of 2016 but 12 months later they are still in preview! These capabilities are impressive and they provide a good pointer to how AI can be aligned to Dynamics so we look forward to seeing them enter full production very soon.

Leveraging Better Data - this prediction was never going to be wrong but we are marking this down as a bit of a miss. That's because in the context of data quality we mainly focused on LinkedIn integration but we failed to mention what proved to be one of the hottest topics of 2017, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

In May, 12 months before the GDPR comes into force, we published our first GDPR post sharing information about the steps that Microsoft is taking to ensure its products are GDPR compliant. This proved to be one of our most viewed posts of 2017, bettered only by another GDPR post in which we shared an example of our ClickDimensions could be used to create a double opt-in process and track this consent in Dynamics 365.

Such was the demand for GDPR content, we hosted several packed webinars with our friends at Me Learning to discuss the legal implications of GDPR and the availability of online training courses, and with Data8 to discuss the important of improving CRM data quality in readiness for GDPR, as well as demonstrating their Duplicare solution to deal with duplicated Dynamics records.

Undoubtedly GDPR will be recurring theme through 2018 and we'll continue to share content on our dedicated GDPR page.

With regards LinkedIn integration with Dynamics 365, in the first instance this focused on a new link with the LinkedIn Sales Navigator. This resulted in automatic matching of people within D365 to their LinkedIn profiles enabling users to see connected contacts in LinkedIn and access additional data including shared relationships, previous contacts and file sharing history. LinkedIn messaging also arrived in Dynamics 365, with users able to send InMails directly from the Dynamics 365 interface.

LinkedIn integration would also form part of a new Dynamics 365 app released in 2017...

Talent App - in Spring 2017, Microsoft announced a new Talent app that features HR functionality built out from Dynamics AX. This uses new integration with LinkedIn to support HR teams during hiring and on-boarding processes. Many businesses that hadn't previously considered the possibility of connecting HR functions with CRM tools were now able to see the benefits of doing so. In some instances, the initial release of Talent would prove too narrow in its current release and as we close out 2017, Dynamics HR Management is attracting many new opportunities in this emerging market and we look forward to working with them in the New Year.

Dynamics 365 Version 9 - announced in July, Dynamics 365 v9 was released for new UK customers in November while existing D365 users will be able to upgrade from early 2018. Our post summarizing the main points of this release was by some distance our most popular in the second half of 2017.

v9 sees a fundamental change with a separation of code between the platform and apps. As well as delivering on Microsoft's promise of an app-centric structure, this introduces a new unified user interface to provide a consistent D365 user experience across different browsers, devices and screen sizes.

In the first instance, many existing Dynamics users will likely opt to deploy a refreshed web UI and wait for further updates to the Unified Interface but wider improvement in v9 included: multi-select fields, virtual entities and new advanced find controls.

We presented D365 v9 in our November webinar when we demonstrated the new version and fielded a series of questions from Dynamics 365 users about the new features and latest changes.

The news of v9 was accompanied by confirmation that several legacy Dynamics CRM features would be deprecated with this release. In addition to the Outlook client, further deprecations included dialogs, contracts, mail merge and standard SLA's.

ClickDimensions - perhaps mindful of Microsoft's planned Marketing app release, ClickDimensions were very active in 2017 with a string of new releases. These included new capabilities to schedule social posts in Dynamics, new wait controls in automated campaigns that restrict email sends and other activities to selected days and times and an improved layout for email sends.

Preact were thrilled to be named a ClickDimensions Gold Partner at the start of 2017 and we shared a series of posts to demonstrate the breadth of its capabilities embedded within Dynamics. These included webinar integration and examples of automated campaigns.

Live Assist - Cafe X introduced their new Live Assist solution developed with Microsoft to offer integrated web chat capabilities for Dynamics 365 as well as web content engagements, co-browse, click to call and video chat.

Power BI - in addition to a fast flowing series of releases we saw a noticeable increase in organisations using Power BI to improve their reporting processes and extract new insights from their Dynamics 365 data. In August, we demonstrated Power BI and explained how this app is increasingly helping organisations learn more about their business performance through data visualizations.

Microsoft Social Engagement - of the updates released in 2017, the new social selling tool seemed to be the biggest development. We demonstrated how this uses machine learning to promote posts to sales users that will help them keep up to date on topics that interest them and simplify the process for individuals to share relevant content on LinkedIn and other social channels with the aim of increasing their network reach and generating new leads. In our first webinar of 2018 we will be demonstrating the Social Engagement app.

Digital Transformation - we were delighted to publish a series of new case studies in 2017 which shared examples of the successes achieved by our customers with the help of Microsoft Dynamics 365, and how this is enabling them to digitally transform their business. In many instances, this is evidenced through a combination of greater processing efficiency, more insightful reporting, increased productivity of mobile workers and better service delivery.

It was apparent in many of these narratives how important a managed service agreement proved to help businesses evolve their Dynamics 365 system by responding to change requests, and in some instances how these resources have helped to turn around the results from their Dynamics project.

We are extremely grateful to all our customers who gave up their valuable time in helping us document and share their experiences.

Thank you!

2017 has proved hugely successful for Preact as we have expanded our operation and responded to the incredible pace of change in our industry.

We sincerely thank everyone who has read and shared our content this year or attended any of our events, and especially to all of our customers for their continuing business. We look forward to working with you in 2018!


Microsoft Dynamics 365 Predictions for 2018

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