Microsoft Dynamics 365 (D365) has recently been experiencing substantial market momentum. In the final calendar quarter of 2017, Microsoft reported revenue growth of 67% for Dynamics 365, and analysts are expecting D365 revenue to nearly triple by 2020. While that's certainly good news for those who own Microsoft stock, it also reflects something important for both existing Microsoft CRM customers and organizations that are considering implementing it: Microsoft is 'getting it right' in terms of both functionality and pricing.
A significant contributor to this recent success is the investment Microsoft is making in the Dynamics 365 platform. For several years now, we've seen a steady rollout of new capabilities and new products across all of Microsoft's cloud offerings, including Azure, Microsoft 365, and Dynamics 365. Efforts to enhance the integration and interoperability of these products is among the key factors that are enabling significant improvements in user experience and productivity with Dynamics 365.
What’s New in Microsoft Dynamics?
So, what are the best new features, capabilities, improvements and enhancements that are helping drive this increased interest in Dynamics 365? Based on our long history of working with Microsoft CRM solutions, and an in-depth review of recent changes to the product (including the Spring 2018 Release Notes) here is BDO Digital's list of the Top 8 best things about D365 CRM for 2018:
1) The Unified Interface
With Version 9.0, Microsoft has introduced a new user experience for Dynamics 365 called the Unified Interface. As businesses seek to support productivity and growth with mobile-friendly solutions, this new interface is a giant step towards that goal. Whether you’re a customer service rep handling contacts at the desk or a field sales rep gathering customer information on-the-go, the new interface remains consistent regardless of device, screen size, or orientation.
Some examples include:
- Similar form experiences to update and view your records
- Interactive dashboards across all devices to view your information and drill into it
- Reference Panel is now available to be used with all entities supported in Unified Interface
- New support for right-to-left (RTL) languages
- All experiences on Unified Interface have accessibility improvements
A stable and intuitive interface makes it easier and faster to work with your CRM data and processes in a consistent way, across all your devices
2) Integrated Productivity Experience
Microsoft describes its Office 365 product suite as “a collection of online services designed to work together to provide enterprise-grade, anywhere access to email, file sharing, and online meetings.” This intersects directly with the need for anyone involved in customer engagement activities to communicate and collaborate, both internally and externally.
Not only does Microsoft Office 365 cover the basics of communication very well, it also includes a variety of capabilities that enable people to connect and work together more effectively. Some of the most commonly used applications include Outlook, Skype, SharePoint, OneDrive, Teams, Groups, Yammer, and of course, Microsoft Dynamics. While these solutions deliver value by themselves, their combined impact is much greater.
Dynamics 365 integrates tightly with Office 365 to provide a more seamless productivity experience for users as they access diverse mission-critical information, communicate, and collaborate with colleagues, and ultimately get more work done in less time.
3) Dynamics for Marketing
Speaking of integration, having a marketing automation system that connects directly with its corresponding CRM solution is a key element of marketing/sales alignment, and tight coordination between these groups is critical to organic growth.
Over the years, there have been several attempts by Microsoft to build and/or acquire marketing automation products that work seamlessly with CRM. With this latest offering, called Dynamics for Marketing, they might have finally ‘gotten it right’.
Dynamics for Marketing allows organizations to:
- Connect sales and marketing, automate processes, and make smarter decisions to maximize marketing ROI
- Generate more leads across multiple channels and nurture sales-ready leads with personalized experiences
- Prioritize leads, automate hand-off, and track progress with shared information and connected processes
- Improve marketing ROI with embedded intelligence and analytics that track marketing performance
- Drive innovation with an application that's easy to tailor, extend, and connect to other apps and services you already use
4) Automated Insights and Intelligence
Most organizations accumulate a lot of data over the course of their day, but few take full advantage of the potential wealth of information that is hidden in their data. Microsoft is working to change that by using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to analyze data and provide concise and actionable insights.
The Relationship Assistant is one part of this new set of AI features designed to track behaviors and collect information from sources within the Microsoft ecosystem. The system then automatically generates action cards that appear on the user’s dashboard and provide notifications for a number of relevant activities.
Some examples of Actions Cards notifications include:
- Remind you of upcoming activities
- Evaluate your communications and suggest when it might be time to reach out to a contact that’s been inactive for a while
- Identify email messages that may be waiting for a reply from you
- Alert you when an opportunity is nearing its close date
- And much more…
Relationship Analytics (currently in Preview) can show a graphical display of KPIs and activity histories for any contact, opportunity, lead or account. From a business perspective, this gives sales and marketing even more power to engage with their customers.
Relationship Analytics helps sales professionals and managers quickly answer questions, such as:
- Which opportunities should I spend my time on?
- Do we have a good relationship with the customer?
- How much time have we spent with our customer?
- How long does it take our team to respond?
Of course, CRM not only provides robust built-in dashboard capabilities to provide at-a-glance insights but can leverage other integrated tools such as Power BI to provide even more comprehensive and powerful analytics capabilities.
5) Process management and automation
Business Process Flows in D365 CRM allow you to create visualizations of your business processes by placing special controls at the top of the data entry forms. Users are guided through various stages of sales, marketing, or service processes towards completion. Each process supports multiple stages and steps.
Recent improvements to Business Process Flows (BPFs) include a new visual drag-and-drop process designer that allows you to create business process flows, task flows and business rules using an intuitive graphical interface. It also provides programmatic access, so you can drive BPFs automatically via workflows.
Microsoft D365 has long included a powerful workflow engine, which enables developers to create automated processes and system integrations. Now, 'Power Users' can create their own notifications, data integrations, and even process automation without having to write code, by leveraging the Flow, Logic Apps, and PowerApps capabilities of O365 and Azure.
Most businesses are likely already using some form of business process automation, but the latest innovations in Microsoft's cloud platforms present a huge opportunity to decrease cost, free up more of employees' time, and ultimately increase profits.
6) Security and Compliance
The General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, is a new law in the European Union that is designed to unify data privacy regulations across Europe, and shield its citizens from data breaches and misuse of their personal information. It is fundamentally about protecting and enabling the privacy rights of individuals.
While the GDPR is directly applicable to organizations that do business in/with the EU, its provisions are useful standards for all types of organizations to adopt and embrace.
Microsoft is committed to helping customers meet their GDPR requirements. The Microsoft Trust Center provides comprehensive information about how D365, O365, and Azure can help you meet or exceed the standards set forth in the GDPR.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 - Gamification is a solution for D365 that enables employees to participate in individual and team-based competitions that motivate them to achieve certain pre-defined KPI’s, by offering prizes, awards, privileges, and recognition.
The solution relies on fun, engaging activities that drive collaboration and competition to increase performance and participation. Employees compete in games with sports themes, draft teams, or root for their favorite teams. The solution uniquely encourages broader participation by getting more employees in the game.
By keeping employees engaged, the business can increase performance, productivity, and adoption of business applications.
8) Revised Packaging and Pricing
In order to meet the needs of both enterprise organizations and smaller businesses, Microsoft has recently made some adjustments to the way it packages and prices its Dynamics 365 offerings.
The full D365 suite endeavors to provide a comprehensive, end-to-end approach to business applications, including Finance and Operations, Retail, Talent, Sales, Customer Service, Project Service Automation, Field Service, and Marketing. Each module can be purchased separately, or as part of a plan:
- The Business Edition is optimized for organizations with up to 250 users and includes capabilities that are relevant for most mid-market companies.
- The Enterprise Edition, which is intended for organizations with 250+ users, provides deeper capabilities that larger operations require.
Both editions provide several subscription pricing levels for various types of users, depending on the capabilities each user requires. The flexible pricing means that D365 can compete head-to-head with other vendor offerings, and match or even exceed their capabilities for a fraction of the price.
All That And More
The Top 8 Best Things we discussed above just scratch the surface of how Microsoft Dynamics 365 is transforming businesses today. If we really look closely, these 8 items are more like 20 – 30 different features and capabilities. While keeping pace with the fast pace of innovation in CRM can seem daunting, the good news is you don’t have to go at it alone.