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Microsoft Readies Dynamics 365 for November Launch

Dynamics 365, a new cloud service from Microsoft that combines components of its CRM and ERP offerings, will become available on Nov. 1, the company announced Tuesday.

First unveiled in July, Dynamics 365 is a set of apps for seven CRM and ERP functions: financials, operations, marketing, sales, customer service, project service automation and field service management. Organizations can purchase each Dynamics 365 app separately, adding more as their needs change. They also have the option to purchase a set of apps as a subscription bundle.

Organizations can also bolt on other apps from Microsoft and its partners to their Dynamics 365 solution, extending its capabilities. Microsoft announced one such app on Tuesday called "Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights." This app "connects and analyzes data from Microsoft -- and other widely used CRM, ERP, web, social and IoT sources -- and applies intelligence to it to give you a 360-degree customer view with automatic suggestions to improve engagement," said Takeshi Numoto, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise group, in Tuesday's announcement.

Another app from Microsoft dubbed "Relationship Insights" was unveiled onstage at the Dynamics User Group Summit on Tuesday by Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise group. Relationship Insights lets users keep track of their correspondences with specific customers, assess the "health" of their customer relationships, and receive alerts when too much time has passed between communications.

Microsoft's AppSource app marketplace will list Dynamics 365 apps and services from Microsoft ISVs and solution integrators (SIs). Microsoft launched AppSource in July as a searchable portal where ISVs can list their business apps. As of Tuesday, the company also allows SIs to list their services on the marketplace. The marketplace currently has about 250 apps, according to a blog post by Ron Huddleston, corporate vice president of Enterprise Partner Ecosystem at Microsoft.

Microsoft's announcement on Tuesday touted Dynamics 365's AI capabilities. Microsoft has not been quiet about its AI-related efforts lately, with last month's Ignite conference acting as a showcase for those efforts. For instance, the company described the two years of investments it has made in the underlying infrastructure of its Azure cloud, effectively turning the platform into a supercomputer that has the capacity to support AI and other compute-intensive processes. It also announced the formation of a 5,000-person AI research group.

Dynamics 365 is a beneficiary of Microsoft's progress in AI, according to Numoto. "[B]uilt-in intelligence capabilities are infused throughout Dynamics 365 apps including: sentiment and intent analysis, preemptive service, relationship insights, lead and opportunity scoring, product recommendations and up-sell/cross-sell, and many more," he said. Dynamics 365 also takes advantage of the machine learning, AI and analytics capabilities in Office 365, Power BI, Cortana Intelligence and Azure.

Guthrie emphasized Dynamics 365's intelligence capabilities during his presentation, saying that the product "comes with built-in features that are backed by artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms."

The Nov. 1 availability date for Dynamics 365 will apply to customers in 135 markets and support 40 languages. Microsoft will deliver Dynamics 365 with fully native mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows, Guthrie said.

The product can be purchased on a per app/per user basis, or as one of two plans -- the Business Edition for small to mid-sized firms, and the Enterprise Edition for larger organizations. "With the app-based subscription you pay for the app you need, licensed to a particular user. With our new plan-based approach you can create roles that have access to all the apps and functions employees in that role need to perform their jobs," Numoto said.

Microsoft has not publicly shared any pricing information for Dynamics 365. However, an article last month by ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, citing a since-deleted partner blog post, suggests that the Business Edition will cost $50 per user and the Enterprise Edition either $115 or $210, depending on feature level. However, Microsoft has not confirmed these details.

Microsoft also plans to deliver lighter-weight "team member" versions of each plan.

Microsoft has not explained how, or if, Dynamics 365 will impact the delivery of its current Dynamics CRM and ERP products. Guthrie did say that it will integrate with users' existing Dynamics implementations. He also briefly described upgrade paths to Dynamics 365 for current Dynamics users.

"For existing Dynamics CRM Online and Dynamics AX 7 customers, you'll be able to automatically update your systems to Dynamics 365 without having to change anything. And all of the existing functionality you use today will continue to just work," Guthrie said. For users of on-premises Dynamics NAV and Dynamics GP who want to move to Dynamics 365, Microsoft will provide migration tools, he said.

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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