Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement (CRM) Is the Hidden Flagship behind the Microsoft Power Platform
Updated August 30, 2019
Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement (CRM) Is the Hidden Flagship behind the Microsoft Power Platform
Score 9 out of 10
Overall Satisfaction with Microsoft Dynamics 365 (formerly Microsoft Dynamics CRM)
Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement (CRM) is used by Sales, Customer Service, Marketing, Purchasing, our Creative Labs, our Quality Control Labs, Shipping, and Regulatory. Besides the out-of-the-box functionality we use, typical customer relationship management, we also have built on top of its custom, line-of-business applications. Traditionally, this was called XRM, but now the proper term would be model-driven PowerApps. Without these tools, we could not function.
- Some useful out-of-the-box features, like mass uploads of Leads from trade shows or when qualifying a Lead, CRM automatically creates the Opportunity, Contact, and Account for you, etc.
- Really powerful customizations through the user interface to improve user experience. Things like Business Rules, for example, if Field A = 1, then Field B = 2 and Field C = 2, if Field A = 2, then Field B and Field C don't apply, so automatically hide them.
- Or other functionality that improves user experience, like Business Process Flows. These walk users step by step through our business process, helping them know when certain actions should take place, and at what point other data is now required. We've used this extensively with our Lead to Opportunity to Quote to Order process, helping users understand the business process each step of the way.
- Customizations built on top of the platform now called model-driven PowerApps. You can have connections to "typical" data, like Accounts, Contacts, or Opportunities, for example, but then connect that data to custom entities, records that only apply to your specific business. This is all done through the user interface and allows you to customize and automate specific line-of-business applications for your specific needs.
- Behind the scenes, D365 CE is built on SQL. So the data conforms to industry standards and makes it much easier to interact with. Your developers and IT team will thank you.
- Small learning curve, obviously. You won't figure this out in a day, a week, or even a month. But given time, you can learn to be an expert. Or you can always get a consultant or hire in somebody. But learning the tool isn't out of the questions by any means.
- Licensing can be confusing at times and isn't cheap, but it is cheaper than Salesforce. Plus no additional fees for data calls to better integrate your D365 CE data with other systems.
- The Classic user interface left a bit to be desired, but now with the much-improved Unified Interface, the web client and the mobile client look the same, much more modern, and have more flexibility and power behind them for customizers as well.
- Using customizations of forms and Business Process Flow, we've lowered the amount of training necessary. Customizations on forms make it more obvious how to fill out certain records, and in what scenarios specific data is necessary or not. The Business Process Flow walks a user through various business processes.
- Using the model-driven PowerApp approach, we can streamline navigation for specific users, only showing them which tools they actually need to access and getting rid of the unnecessary records that pertain to other departments. And it's automatically mobile friendly as well.
- Building custom and connected line-of-business applications has been useful for our entire company. There are many business processes which would get lost in email or personal interactions if we didn't build them. And the connection to vital business data makes the applications all the more useful.
- Workflow automation through the older, internal workflow engine or the newer connection to Microsoft Flow allows us to streamline business processes and make sure they are followed correctly automatically.
- Data controls keeps are data cleaner. If you need certain data, it is required. If the data has to be a certain type of data, the field is built that way. We don't want to rely on a user to remember how to do something, we want to make it easy for the user to automatically do something in the right way.
- Salesforce App Cloud and SugarCRM
Ultimately, D365 CE is more cost-effective for licensing and for data connections than Salesforce, more powerful than SugarCRM, and allows greater flexibility for customization. And continuing to tap into the Microsoft ecosystem keeps our lives a little simpler. Connections to other Microsoft software we already use like Outlook, SharePoint, PowerApps, Flow, Power BI, etc. helps our users and helps IT. And Microsoft continues to make huge investments in D365 CE, especially around XRM aka model-driven PowerApps, that it really is the hidden flagship behind the Microsoft Power Platform and the Common Data Service.
Typical customer relationship management is great. Accounts, Contacts, Leads, Opportunities, etc. Those are obvious. But where it really shines is in the customization and integration with other Microsoft tools. Outlook connection for painless contact creation or tracking email communication. SharePoint and Office 365 Group connection to store documents related to a client and allow others to collaborate on overlapping data without additional D365 licenses (or at least get the much more cost-effective Team Member licenses to read data but make only limited edits). Or, full-on model-driven PowerApps, allowing quick development of custom line-of-business applications whose data can be related to other "standard" business records, like the "normal" CRM records. And the connection to Flow allows for hundreds of other systems to be connected to D365 and allows you to automate business process. Or, other third-party tools, such as Tibco Scribe, can be used to pass data back and forth between systems.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Feature Ratings
Evaluating Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Competitors
- Product Features
- Product Usability
- Product Reputation
- Analyst Reports
- Third-party Reviews
Product Features and Price were probably the two most important for us. First, we went with the cloud option, as we are moving further and further away from having all these on-prem servers. It just keeps things like upgrades and new features so much simpler. Second, connections to other Microsoft software keeps our required skill set smaller, both from a user's perspective and from IT's perspective. Third, going with the cloud allowed us to start up quickly and add or remove licenses quickly and with little start-up cost. Fourth, it's cheaper than Salesforce both from a licensing perspective and from a data perspective. We have a number of systems and make various data calls behind the scenes. With D365 that was no extra charge. With Salesforce, it wasn't.
I'd probably ask to get my hands on it sooner. Spinning up a trial environment, adding some of our own data, and then giving some quick demos to our users would be the way to go. It doesn't take a lot of time to make a D365 CE environment already look and feel like it's really yours. And it's always better to understand a tool when you can get in it and play with it. So getting a duplicate Sandbox up and running for IT to play with would also be the route I'd take. Better for the end user and better for IT.
Using Microsoft Dynamics 365
Things can always be better, but the recent improvements with the Unified Interface have improved both the mobile version and the web application. And effectively making D365 CE customization, formerly known as XRM, part of the Power Platform as a model-driven PowerApp says a lot about the focus for Microsoft. They've vastly modernized the interface for customizers even in the last six months, and with CRM data now being the Common Data Service, this only goes to show that Microsoft will continue to focus on D365 CE functionality and make more and more usability improvements. Microsoft only continues to connect D365 CE to other tools, obviously PowerApps but Flow, SharePoint, Office 365 Groups, OneNote, and Power BI as well, for example, making the tools even more powerful than they are alone. They become both easier to use and can make solving real business problems easier as well.
Like to use
Easy to use
Technical support not required
Quick to learn
Feel confident using
- Customizations of forms and views and building custom line-of-business applications on top of what is already there.
- Qualifying a Lead is a painless process, automatically creating the Opportunity, Account, and Contact for you. Great user experience!
- Advanced Find allows a typical user to take a much deeper dive into the data within the system. It doesn't require special training or a lot of time. If you understand the way the records are related (Contacts are connected to Accounts, Accounts are connected to Orders, etc.), Advanced Find can be an incredibly powerful tool that anyone can use.
- As with any software, there are always some gotchas. The first time you try to build a workflow, for instance, or even certain steps in the workflow, like creating a custom email. Some things aren't obvious and some things can be a little buggy.
- Staying on top of all the new technology isn't always easy. Being part of the Microsoft Cloud, updates and improvements are always coming. You can to find the right Microsoft MVPs to follow or the right blogs or podcasts to go to just to stay on top of all the news. But it's also exciting to learn about all these features coming and what new functionality will be added.
- The Classic user interface left a bit to be desired. Everyone, no matter what business role they played, had the same tool with the same navigation. You can obviously control permissions via roles in D365 CE, but that only got you so far. Now with the model-driven PowerApp, it's much easier from a user's perspective, as you can give each functional group it's own slimmed down application. Navigation isn't overwhelming with all the links and options, but instead, it's paired down to just the handful of tools the specific users need.
Yes - It's good, especially with the new Unified Interface, giving the mobile app and the web application the same look and feel. There are a few things left to be desired, such as offline usage. But that is coming (always new features rolling out). Or you can use a third-party application now, which makes mobile usage even more appealing.