Microsoft Adds Muscle to Dynamics 365

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Microsoft last week shared new information about its upcoming Dynamics 365 cloud service: the addition of 100 new apps; the inclusion of Solution Integrator partners in Appsource; the division of apps and features into Enterprise and Business Editions, the latter for SMBs; and a new subscription model.

Many of the new capabilities will be available in both editions when Dynamics 365 rolls out on Nov. 1.

With the new subscription model, customers can get apps on a per app, per-user basis. They can take advantage of a new plan-based approach to create roles that can access all the apps and functions they require, replacing subscriptions to several apps and features with one.

Customers will pay only for the app they need, licensed to a particular user.

The Dynamics 365 for customer insights app analyzes data from Microsoft and other widely used CRM, ERP, Web, social and IoT sources, and applies intelligence to the data to provide a 360-degree customer view with automatic suggestions to improve engagement.

It leverages the capabilities of Power BI, Office 365, Microsoft Azure and Cortana Intelligence.

"We've already seen the productivity benefits and clear ROI from integration of Office 365 and Dynamics CRM online," said Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus Research.

"Dynamics 365 takes it a leap further by making it easier for customers to buy and deploy the components they need," she told CRM Buyer.

This will "drive faster time to value and [will mean] less cost and complexity for future upgrades," Wettemann noted.

Dynamics 365 uses a common data model that lets customers extend functionality and build custom apps using PowerApps, Microsoft Flow, or Microsoft's professional developer solutions. Microsoft's ISV partners also use the model, which means industry- and function-specific apps in AppSource will work with Dynamics 365 installations.

"It's the same as before but with new branding," said Denis Pombriant, managing principal at Beagle Research.

"I always thought Dynamics 365 was a strong offering with all of it in the cloud," he told CRM Buyer, "but I don't agree with any argument that because it has ERP, it's more comprehensive. Other products like SAP and Oracle make the same argument."

Salesforce "makes a different one, because it has several ERP partners on the AppExchange and can provide a choice," Pombriant said. "The existence of the Salesforce platform and the number of solutions that are native means Salesforce can play as an equal."

The new Dynamics 365 is much more than a packaging and branding effort, contended Wettemann. "Microsoft is really bringing the power of its AI and analytics investments to bear in these apps in a way that will boost productivity for users."

Also, the purpose-built apps that don't necessarily rely on CRM or ERP are "ways for customers to get just the functionality specific users need to get their jobs done," she pointed out.

Digital transformation is the wave of the future, said Sheryl Kingstone, research director at 451 Research.

Enterprises "must streamline the process for customers, partners and employees to ensure the systems used for customer engagement enhance the process," she told CRM Buyer, "and provide accurate and reliable information for various back-end systems of record."

Microsoft Dynamics is "in a strong position as it relates to transactional applications," Kingstone noted.

"Organizations can digitally transform their businesses to best attract, win, retain and support customers, employees and partners," she said, "by leveraging the latest applications, analytics and infrastructure."

All business application providers are "embracing aspects of machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies," according to Kingstone. Salesforce has Einstein, Oracle has Oracle Adaptive Intelligent Apps, IBM has Watson, SugarCRM has Candace, Microsoft has Cortana, and OpenText has Magellan. Those are some of the players leading the charge.

That said, Microsoft's existing bench and R&D investments and its focus on usability, she said, "give Dynamics 365 a compelling value proposition."

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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