An announcement was made a couple of days ago which you may have missed: Dynamics 365. Here it is, if you did not see it.
This is a bit of a game-changer and I am sure more details will come out at the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), which kicks off tomorrow, but this is what we know right now.
Taking the Sale From Cradle to Grave
Traditionally, CRM systems dealt with closing the deal and ERP systems did the billing. When CRM was implemented, there was the inevitable working out where one system stopped and the other one began and integration between the two systems.
Dynamics 365 challenges this paradigm by making them one system. To do this they have given it a common data model and application platform.
A Common What Now?
There has always been problems taking records from a CRM to an ERP system because, for example, accounts and contacts are handled differently between the systems. A common data model gets rid of all that. By sitting both systems in the same database, as soon as an account is added in one place, it is available in the other and the modelling of records is consistent.
A common application platform means if you can develop for AX you are also a developer of CRM. This is huge for partners with barriers to expand their product range to include both Dynamics CRM and AX now being significantly lowered. It also means one interface when speaking to both systems, simplifying development.
Other Application Benefits
A common need for CRM/ERP systems is reporting. Perhaps we want to link marketing/event data to invoices or customer industry/demographic data to products. With a common platform this goes from an exercise in linking and ‘unioning’ two mismatched data sources to referencing the key tables and linking with GUIDs.
Applications are no longer limited by where the application stops and can span the entire process across both the CRM and ERP systems.
Finally, this makes it a lot easier to configure solutions, rather than having to code. We can imagine a CRM-like process flow which goes all the way through to the picking slip at the warehouse and final delivery. In the past we would need to stop where CRM stops, use code to pass details to the ERP system and then use whatever process management tool the ERP had to keep going. This now becomes one simple, configured process which requires no code at all and can be maintained by a business power user, rather than burdening IT with the responsibility.
While it was necessary to license two products in the past (the CRM system and the ERP system) there is only the need to license one system in this new offering. Alternatively, Microsoft are talking about role-based licensing. For example, a common request is for sales people to have access to invoices to see if their customers are paying on time. In a traditional system this meant integration and development dollars or giving the sales staff access to the ERP system. If Microsoft get this right, it could be a significant cost differentiator against competitive offerings.
The Promise of a Decent App Store
The final piece in the new ecosystem is the promise of a ‘one stop shop’ app store for customers. This would be great. While there is an app store for CRM today, it really is quite ordinary and does not allow direct installation of solutions. While details are sparse at this point I really hope the existing store has been put to pasture and the new one is a completely new offering which automates the trialling of new solutions.
This is a bold move for Microsoft and one which is very exciting for me as a consultant (I can now start configuring AX in the new world), and it should be exciting for customers as it will remove a lot of the stress of implementation and administration.
While not there in person, I will be keenly watching to see if more announcements are made at WPC about this quiet revolution.