Dynamics 365 essentials

The user experience of Dynamics 365 is described well by Microsoft and much more material is expected moving forward. In addition to following these announcements there are essential elements that can help solution developers gain a better understanding of this new and exciting business process ecosystem.

What is it?

Microsoft Dynamics 365 “introduces a disruptive and customer centric business model to build what you want and buy just the capabilities you need, while ensuring all roles have access to all the data they need to be successful in their jobs.” It is an oversimplification to say that Dynamics 365 integrates Office with Dynamics (ERP, CRM and Business Intelligence) on Azure as one can assume from reviewing the Microsoft schematic provided.

Integrating Dynamics and Office is a very good start to improve efficiency, but Dynamics 365 is more than just an integration of technology. Central to the story is the ability for super-users with knowledge of business processes to build and deliver solutions without writing code. This is based on the following 4 components that are new to both Office and Dynamics;

  • Microsoft Common Data Model (CDM) is an out of the box business database for storing and managing business entities. It is secure and built for scale as it uses the best of Azure technologies. While comprised of well-formed standard entities, it also allows you to build custom entities.
  • PowerApps provides a number of connectors to store data on SQL, Dropbox, SharePoint and many other platforms, including Twitter, Office 365, Dynamics 365, OneDrive and Excel. Setting up these connections is simple, as the CDM predefines where the data will be stored, how the data will be structured and how it will be shared with one or more applications.
  • Microsoft Flow enables super-users to automate time tasks or processes using a predefined set of templates. Combined with the CDM, it will enable the flow of data and processes between all components in the Dynamics 365 and Office 365 landscape – PowerApps can push these processes beyond the 365 landscape.
  • AppSource is Microsoft’s marketplace for business apps. Here, users can select and try the right App for their business needs by getting solutions that are tailored to their industry and enhance the functionality of the Microsoft Dynamics and Office 365 products they already use.

Core user value?

The sharing of data is critical for building efficient business applications. With Dynamics 365, companies can avoid silos of information, missing out on a unified view in their applications. Companies that can analyze a unified view of data in near real time and figure out the right actions to perform based on this data, can empower their employees and gain a sustainable competitive advantage for the organization. This is the promise of Dynamics 365 in a nutshell.

An example of the advantages of the above is The Sales and Inventory Forecast extension, which by way of integrating with Cortana (Azure artificial intelligence), predicts potential future sales using historical data. In this way, the user gains a clear overview of expected stock-outs and can create replenishment requests to vendors in a timely fashion.

Companies will also benefit from a multitude of ISV applications that can be built on top of the Dynamics 365 offering from AppSource. These can be built for various industry verticals and functions by partners with specific in-depth industry or process knowledge.

Thanks to the CDM, apps built for Dynamics 365 will function on both the Business and Enterprise editions of the offering even if some consideration will have to be taken regarding functionality.

  • The Business Edition is optimized for organizations with 10-250 users. It is a cloud only offering where the ERP functionality is based on Dynamics NAV, initially with limited CRM functionality.
  • The Enterprise Edition is optimized for +250 users. It is both a cloud and on premise offering (provided the Azure technology stack is used) that is based on Dynamics AX and CRM Online.

Ready to rethink what’s possible for your business with intelligent business apps in the cloud: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics/dynamics-365

The business opportunity

Bold moves create new opportunities and with Dynamics 365, Microsoft has made a significant bet that it can be a dominant player in the business process application landscape. This is why we find it interesting and why we think it could be interesting for companies in the app development space.

  1. It is a place to grow!Microsoft holds slightly less than 5% of the $53 billion combined ERP and CRM market according to Gartner Group. Between them, NAV, AX and CRM serve close to 200,000 organizations worldwide comprising an estimated 5 million users – with Dynamics C5, SL and GP, it is slightly more.

    The Office platform dwarfs these numbers. In 2010, Microsoft Office served 750 million individuals and its successor in the form of Microsoft Office 365, is rapidly approaching 100 million users. More to the point, ISO.org estimates that, in the past two years, 50,000 small businesses signed up for Office 365 every month. Many currently use ERP or CRM software other than Dynamics.

  2. Cloud first, mobile first is where the action is!According to Gartner, the Public Cloud Services market totaled $175 billion in 2015 and is forecasted to grow by 16,5% in 2016. Double digit growth is hard to come by these days, even in the IT business.

    At the same time, mobile represent 65% of digital media time. While this may not seem relevant for business processes at first, it indicates that an increasing number of the younger workforce consider using or working with mobile as standard.

  3. It is an efficiency booster!Microsoft’s own research suggests that people waste up to 40% of their time switching between applications when performing business processes. According to Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, “It’s no longer about one monolithic suite and its deployment. It’s this continuous wiring and rewiring of the digital feedback loop, that’s where the power of cloud and the graph of the data in the cloud come to bear”.

    By being the only player in its class that fully integrates needed business process functionality in one application suite, Dynamics 365 is an opportunity to offer unmatched business efficiency.

The Microsoft investment

Microsoft has invested heavily in the Azure platform and with the recent acquisition of LinkedIn, Microsoft is building a fully integrated platform for business processes that is ready for the next wave of efficiencies related to social listening, chat-bots, machine learning, augmented reality and cloud-based automation.

Microsoft is clearly building a business process eco-system and will be very aggressive in pushing it forward. Dynamics 365 is not only an opportunity to go after e-conomic, QuickBooks and even NetSuite – it is an opportunity to boost efficiency while addressing the working habits of a younger generation.

Dynamics 365 provides exciting opportunities for companies wishing to be part of this journey, especially if they wish to build standard solutions for business processes. Taken to seriously, Dynamics 365 will allow Dynamics partners that were previously providing linear services to offer standard products and it will offer service providers the opportunity to interface with a new cloud based ecosystem.

Building Dynamics 365 Apps

Dynamics 365 brings the ERP offerings of Microsoft to a new level as we take the full step to Software-as-a-Service offering (SaaS). This requires that solutions are designed, developed, tested, maintained and marketed in new ways – at least for the traditional Dynamics partner.

In SaaS, the source code has to stay the same and every additional functionality needs to be examined to make sure that the design is in line with the strategy of the solution and that it is kept secure. For Dynamics 365, one of the key elements when designing a solution is to keep it in line with Microsoft’s philosophy for the service i.e., it has to be simple and intuitive to use.

In order to build Dynamics 365, Microsoft has scaled down the traditional functionality in Dynamics by adding a meta-layer. This, in effect, keeps full functionality in place but limits the user to work with the functionality that offered by the Business and Enterprise editions. The reason for this is that Microsoft wants a fast adoption rate for the new product using e-learning and user guides within the system. Essentially, users should be able to, more or less, figure out how to use the service themselves.

This situation means that when designing an App for Dynamics 365, the functionality and processes that are available to users need to be considered first with an eye to possible future new functionality. This to ensure that any solution offered is intuitive to the user and is embedded in the CDM. However, when building the App for Dynamics 365, the solution is built within the full application and then extended from the standard code.

Deploying in AppSource

In addition to the above mentioned considerations of design and architecture, Microsoft has outlined the four Dynamics App steps to AppSource.

Certify your offering by verifying that your App meets the criteria of a SaaS App. Register in Dev Center, provide App information for submission and provide access for Microsoft to test the application.

Publish your offering (in Publishing Portal) based on the Publisher Agreement. Create offer and service plans, input marketing content and support links, tag App categories and Geo details as well as submit the package for staging.

Test in staging. Here, Microsoft runs tests and validates the app. Based on this, approval for production can be requested.

Go live in production. Once here, the solution will be subject to further sales review i.e., it must have 10 customer reference for 36 months with at least one being less than 12 months old.