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Microsoft Seeks to Shift CRM Market with Dynamics 365

In the latest ambitious move by Microsoft, the company is bringing together its respective Dynamics CRM and ERP suites together into a new software-as-a-service offering called Dynamics 365. The new service, slated to arrive this fall, will offer what Microsoft is describing as "deep integration" with Microsoft's Office 365 suite.

It's perhaps the most aggressive salvo Microsoft has taken yet to try to challenge Salesforce.com in the market for SaaS-based customer relationship, HR and business process automation applications other than reportedly trying to acquire the company last year. Microsoft's move also takes aim at Oracle, SAP and ServiceNow, among others. In a company blog post announcing the new service, Takeshi Numoto, Microsoft's corporate VP for cloud and enterprise, described Dynamics 365 and a suite of tools called AppSource as a move toward offering more modern and intelligent business apps.

Dynamics 365 will morph Microsoft's existing disparate Dynamics CRM and ERP cloud solutions into a single cloud service with specific apps such as Financials, Field Service, Sales, Operations, Marketing, Project Service Automation and Customer Service. While each are part of a common service that can be deployed independently, allowing customers to pay just for apps they require, they work together as customers add on capabilities, Numoto said. Microsoft is also natively embedding its Power BI dashboard tool and Cortana Intelligence, which he said will "help customers achieve their business goals with predictive insights, prescriptive advice and actionable next steps."

In a sales situation, Cortana Intelligence might serve up cross-sales opportunities or it could use IoT data to enable a field service agent to predict a failure before it occurs, he said, adding that the "deep integration" between Dynamics 365 and Office 365 will enable the structured processes and workflow in business applications to understand and interact with Microsoft's productivity tools. For example, it will allow an e-mail to respond to data from finance and sales apps rendering information such as pricing within Outlook.

The launch of Dynamics 365 will also include a new marketplace called AppSource, consisting of SaaS apps from both Microsoft and partners. Microsoft said AppSource will launch with more than 200 SaaS apps. The apps include content packs and vertical industry apps from the likes of AFS, which offers a merchandising field sales, asset management and auditing tools for consumer packaged goods companies; AvePoint Citizen Services, supplier of an automated incident response solution and Veripark's marketing software.

Microsoft has timed the announcement just a week before its annual Worldwide Partner Conference, which will be held in Toronto this year, where it will surely seek to build its ecosystem to take on entrenched rivals.

The move is not trivial considering the Dynamics suite is based on a variety of disparate products Microsoft acquired from Great Plains Software and Navision in 2000 and 2002 respectively, as well as its own internally built components. Providing a common framework was something Microsoft talked up long ago before its apps were offered online.

It also sheds more light on Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's plan to spend $26.2 billion to acquire LinkedIn, announced last month. First Microsoft is going to provide native integration between Office 365 and Dynamics. The idea is once LinkedIn is part of Microsoft, though the large professional social network will operate as a separate unit, the two companies envision brining their respective intelligent graphs together that would bring Office and Dynamics functionality into LinkedIn and vice versa.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 07/06/2016 at 2:22 PM


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