An ever increasing number of companies are realising that Dynamics 365 can provide much of what they need in terms of core business applications. I should quickly say that for anyone who saw the image above hoping this article was Beatles related then you have probably already realised you're going to be disappointed! I thought it might be useful to share my views on how the Microsoft platform has evolved from CRM 4.0 and how the latest version is a leap forward in terms of both design and implementation.
For the last 7 years I have worked with all versions of Dynamics CRM/365. Starting initially with CRM 4.0 right up to Dynamics 365 Online which we use heavily ourselves today, as well as offering consultancy/support to customers. Over this time I have seen it steadily improve, from 4.0 to 2011 then to 2013 and 2015 and 2016, until Dynamics 365 which is what we have today. An example of steady improvements would be the Service Management component which did not include SLA tracking prior to CRM 2013. In CRM 2013 the SLA engine was basic, it was not until CRM 2015 that you could do things like pause the clock on Cases. For anyone familiar with how service desks operate being able to pause the clock on cases is a requirement. This is just one example, slowly but surely the new functionality comes along, the gaps are closed, improvements are made. Another is searching, it has always been a somewhat painful experience in earlier versions of CRM but Dynamics 365 Online now integrates with Azure to offer powerful searching across entities and attached files. The improvements I am referring to have come across all the core components of Sales, Marketing and Service Management. This has continued across the different versions but then Dynamics 365 came along and really shook things up.
How exactly did it shake things up I hear you ask! Two key changes:
- The platform was expanded, no longer did you just get Sales, Marketing and Service Management, suddenly they offered brand new "apps" like Project Services Automation (PSA), Field Service and Talent. As well as bringing Dynamics CRM's slightly weird and hard to talk to cousin Dynamics AX into the fold under the Operations app, which to me makes a lot of sense. In parallel was key change number two...
- Microsoft decided they wanted all staff using Dynamics 365, all staff accessing it directly. Forget about an employee portal connecting to Dynamics, replicating some of the functionality, just let staff in. They did this by making the interface much better and offering a basic license called "Team Member" which is around €7 per user per month. Just look at how the PSA app offers timesheets and expenses for staff to fill in.
The latest version was such a step change it even got renamed, no more Dynamics CRM, Dynamics 365 was born. The name of course makes perfect sense because Office 365 and Dynamics 365 are definitely a dynamic duo (see what I did there!). Think of Batman and Robin, with Dynamics 365 as Batman (more important and a better costume). I find it interesting that only a few years ago people would have talked about Dynamics CRM and SharePoint in a similar way, they were seen as having a similar importance as business applications. Look at how each has changed, or not changed as the case may be. The way the online versions are licensed says a lot I think. SharePoint Online is bundled into Office 365 licenses beside Flow and Power Apps, whereas Dynamics 365 is not, the licensing is completely separate. My point being that Dynamics 365 is now a real game changer for Microsoft, it's taken time but the platform has matured and can now become the main application companies will use to run their business. Supported by Office 365 of course but with Dynamics 365 playing the central role.
Before I finish I need to just balance things out a little. I mentioned already i've been working with Dynamics CRM/365 and its different versions for 7 years. Those years weren't plain sailing. It is safe to say I have lost weeks of my life to investigating and resolving a veritable smorgasbord of bugs and issues during that time! But i'll say it again, slowly but surely improvements were made and gaps were closed.
We are rolling out the Project Services Automation app at the moment for tracking Time and Expenses. We have our eyes on the Talent app to replace our current HR system. As the platform grows so too will the number of businesses that will be run predominantly with Dynamics 365 and Office 365. Already there is some basic Cortana integration and Azure Machine Learning integration in Dynamics 365. The July 2017 update is hitting Europe during November/December with another round of improvements. (Yes you read that correctly the July Update is out in November/December!) We are rolling out more and more of the Dynamics 365 apps internally, there can be no greater endorsement than using it ourselves. As we like to say, we drink our own champagne and preferably while listening to the Beatles!