Microsoft Dynamics 365: What’s Ahead?

Our Take as an Early Adopter

What’s the first thing you do when you log on to your work computer in the morning? Open Outlook and check your email? Thanks to Microsoft, you soon will be able to check your business’ financials, pipeline and metrics as well—without having to log into another application.

You’ve probably read about Dynamics 365, which delivers Outlook, Office, CRM and more through a cloud-based SaaS environment. It’s Microsoft’s entry into the “one-stop-shop apps” space, which is the next logical extension based upon their enormous global investment in the cloud - Azure.

Instead of accessing multiple systems for specific features or information, users from salespeople to folks in finance and membership will have access to everything they need, by role, from a single, comprehensive environment.

But what does it mean for your organization? What are the pros and cons? Are you ready to make the move — and if so, when?

Having worked closely with Microsoft for the last 15+ years, we’ve been invited into the Dynamics 365 Early Adopter program – less than 75 Partners were awarded this opportunity.  We’re currently in the “Pre Release” phase—learning, reading, studying functionality, participating in meetings and providing feedback to Microsoft. And we’ll be sharing what we discover here in more blog posts to come.

Advantage 1: “Right-Time, Right-Person” Data Access

Nowadays, it goes without saying that employees need to be able to connect to the data they need from anywhere, 24/7. It’s happening right now, but it’s cumbersome with legacy applications.

Picture a business development rep getting ready for a big meeting. She leaves Outlook and logs in to the company’s CRM to review the contact’s history. Are frequently purchased items in stock in the online store? She logs out of the CRM and into the inventory system to find out—which is not the most convenient way of doing things when using a smartphone in the airport.

Are there any financial issues like past due accounts to address? She then leaves the inventory system to log into the accounting system. If her organization doesn’t give her access to these two systems, she picks up the phone to call colleagues in these departments—and hopes they’re in the office to deliver the answers she needs. Or, if her organization does grant the access, then most likely that means multiple software licenses creating higher expense to operate.

Dynamics 365 consolidates these silos into one big, happy platform—everything from financial processing to CRM functionality to office productivity via the whole Microsoft Office Suite. With this new smart tool, our rep needs only to log into Microsoft Office. Here she has a “waffle” (Microsoft’s term for menu) for productivity tools, finance, sales, marketing and more, with data and access based on her role.  

Dynamics 365 is a modern, intuitive way to get data from anywhere, 24/7. It seems to be fundamentally different from, and more comprehensive and complete than, other offerings in the marketplace. And given Microsoft’s work with the Cortana Intelligence Suite and machine learning, we anticipate prescriptive advice powered by analytics—empowering even smarter decisions, that are good for staff and good for customers.

Advantage 2: Productivity-Enhancing Familiarity

When organizations roll out a new system, adoption is always a problem. When will you squeeze in time for training? What about the inevitable dip in productivity as employees tackle the learning curve?

Familiarity is another advantage offered by Dynamics 365. These are the tools your employees are familiar with today. Everyone knows how to operate Outlook or Office.

And what about your IT department? Cloud and SaaS sure makes their jobs easier, too, eliminating the need to manage the hardware, software, licensing and network concerns of multiple platforms, or the expense of server farms.

Non-techies should have much to like as well. In addition to speeding up productivity across your CRM, invoicing, renewals and more, Dynamics 365 promises to let non-developers in on the action. For example, it enables them to load data and run models from the portal screen, then right-click for the implementation code—something you’d normally need 10 programmers to accomplish.

Microsoft is making the purchase and implementation easy as well. With a “purpose-built” app like this, you buy as little or as much as you need (because you know all too well how organizational needs can change over time).

Our take: Dynamics 365 is the latest in a range of smart collaboration tools that let you focus on your mission instead of figuring out what hardware and network to purchase, or how to operate it.

Now the Tough Stuff...

So far, Dynamics 365 seems strong. But no new product is without its challenges.

Many organizations are still operating systems on premise, and may be for the next three or four years. How do you work through the issues of becoming a hybrid system? And if you already have agreements with other cloud services, like Azure or Amazon Web Services, how do you navigate these conversations?

Any departure from the status quo risks disrupting the momentum of your operations. Assistance from a seasoned partner (like BroadPoint - cough, cough) can help ease and speed the transition.

Our take on the cloud: Moving to it is not a question of “if” but a matter of “when” (if you haven’t made the move already). And we’re betting on Microsoft in this area. If the company’s last 24 months of performance is any indication, you should be betting on Microsoft as well.

The bottom line: Dynamics 365 is a game-changer, but there’s much still to discover. We’ll be posting more as we learn how this exciting new offering applies to the industries we serve. Stay tuned….