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Microsoft Dynamics 365: So Many Apps, So Little Time

I have been working with Microsoft Dynamics 365 since it was called Dynamics CRM.  The product was so successful that Microsoft took what was once three CRM products in one (sales, marketing, and customer service) and broke it into separate solutions along with introducing new apps including Field Service and Project Service.  Microsoft also brought its preferred accounting products Dynamics AX and NAV into the cloud Dynamics 365 world.

I have written in other posts about each of these apps and how to understand pricing the individual apps and bundles.  This blog post is not to complain about how the products have been renamed, sliced and diced into new offerings.

My topic today is how the proliferation of cloud offerings, even from a single vendor such as Microsoft, has created a need for more business analysis to determine which subscriptions, apps and features you should include in your implementation.  When you add the ability to integrate cloud services from other vendors such as Salesforce or Dropbox, the analysis is even more necessary and complicated.

Let's start by assuming that my client is using Dynamics 365 for tracking sales.  If the marketing department decides it wants to do more marketing automation, they can choose from third party products such as ClickDimensions or Adobe Marketing Cloud or the new Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Marketing from Microsoft which replaces the discontinued Microsoft Dynamics Marketing (yes, those are two different products).  If the main marketing focus is social marketing, other products may come into play such as Hubspot and Marketo.  The choice of a marketing product depends on many factors as well as architectural choices.  Should sales and marketing have separate contact lists?  Should they be replicated from sales to marketing, or passed from marketing to sales as leads become qualified?  Does the value of having both sales and marketing data in Dynamics 365 outweigh better features from products chosen separately that have their own databases? Which department owns the data and how are differences reconciled?

Marketing automation has produced hundreds of cloud software solutions, and they are not based on the same business assumptions about what marketing automation is.  Perhaps this area is the most complex to analyze, but similar complexity exists for portals and document management.

Microsoft offers Dynamics Portal to expose Dynamics 365 data to users without subscriptions or the use of the Dynamics 365 user interface.  This is often the least expensive portal option because it is included in some popular subscription bundles.  But what about customers that already have another web content management system?  Depending on the scenario, they could use Microsoft Flow to send and receive data from Dynamics using web forms.  Customers who are using Adobe Experience Manager can also use Adobe's integration with Dynamics 365 to connect their portal to Dynamics data.

For Dynamics file storage and document management, the most obvious choice for Microsoft loyalists is SharePoint.  Office 365 customers already own SharePoint, Dynamics 365 integrates with SharePoint to store documents attached to CRM records, and millions of users are familiar with SharePoint.  But Microsoft also offers native storage of documents as attachments to CRM notes, as well as Azure blob storage which is the least expensive of these three storage options.

So with the wealth of cloud options come a greater number of choices.  Don't scrimp on spending the time to analyze your options from all vendors to arrive at the best solution for your business needs.

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