What is Dynamics 365?
Dynamics 365 is not a new technology per se, as it was created on the shoulders of Dynamics CRM, which is built on the shoulders of Microsoft CRM. There is a history dating back to 2003 of multiple iterations over time resulting the current product we have, Microsoft Dynamics 365. It is made up of a suite of products, which can be confusing for people who are new to the technology. My goal with this post is to explain the different components of Dynamics 365, but before I do that, I think it is important to understand how we got here.
A Short History of Dynamics
We used to have a single product called Dynamics CRM that had three key functional areas. They were Sales (or Salesforce automation), Customer Service, and Marketing. With Dynamics 365, we have seen those three areas separated into standalone applications:
At its very core, Dynamics was about storing structured data or name value pairs. For example, my name is Mark Smith, so if we did name value pairs for this, we have First Name = Mark and Last Name = Smith. Dynamics was designed specifically for structured data and provided a “forms over data experience” that allowed people to create forms reflecting the database below.
Meaning that the people working with the application could enter data directly into the database via those forms.
Goodbye ERP and CRM
Microsoft always had a suite of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) applications. These ERP solutions included products like AX, NAV, SL and GP. When Microsoft brought out the Dynamics 365 brand, they did away with the silos of CRM and ERP type applications. Instead, they focused on answering questions like; what technology does a company need to run their business and eliminate data silos as much as possible? What off the shelf software can be tailored to the unique needs of an organization?
We are not talking about software like desktop applications such as Word, Excel, or Adobe Premier Pro. In this instance, software refers to the technology a company needs to run their business, based on their unique processes. This technology needs to take the knowledge of that business, the routines, the workflows, the patterns – the way the business is unique, and model those within the application.
So as I said, Microsoft brought these technologies together saying why don’t we combine them and allow businesses to configure software that meets their unique needs. By adding business processes to those forms over data, and automation becomes possible. Therefore, any repetitive steps carried out by people in the business can be automated via workflow. Anything from a budget approval process, where a manager receives spend requests, to an employee requesting a new laptop from the IT Department. Processes like these will have specific steps and sign offs that make up part of that workflow. What Dynamics allows you to do is automate that within the application.
Microsoft Flow allows you to configure business rules and business processes that work inside Dynamics but also work outside of Dynamics, allowing you to integrate and have flows run across other software applications such as Office 365, Azure, Oracle, Salesforce and other third party applications.
Another key element of Dynamics 365 is Reporting and the ability to see information via reports that allow you to take actions to improve processes or make them more efficient. Reporting in Dynamics 365 comes in many formats.
Dashboards give you a real time view, so you can understand the current state of affairs and decide what your next best action should be.
Views are another powerful reporting tool inside Dynamics 365. They allow you to sort and filter the records you see based on business criteria. For example, if you needed to filter all Accounts by zip code you could create a View to achieve this or you could create a View of Opportunities filtered by value.
Charts can be used in two ways within Dynamics 365. They can be part of the View experience, allowing you to filter data in Views by clicking on various Chart elements or Charts can be embedded directly into Forms. They are used whenever discrete information needs to be visualized from an entity or related entities.
Much more than CRM
Today, Dynamics 365 is so much more than a Customer Relationship Management tool. Extensions include:
As you can see, Dynamics 365 is a robust suite of applications designed to suit the needs of most organizations. Whether those organizations be government, non-for-profit or in the commercial sector.
If you would like me to deep-dive into any of these areas of Dynamics 365 in a future post, just leave a comment below.
I am not involved in selling or implementing the technology anymore, but I am happy to answer any questions as I have worked with Dynamics for the past 16 years.
I hope the information I have provided in this post is helpful and I look forward to reading your comments below and answering your questions.
Here are my previous blog posts on Dynamics 365