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Microsoft Brings AI, Modular Apps to Dynamics 365

Microsoft announced a string of new capabilities coming to Dynamics 365 on Monday at its Ignite conference, taking place this week in Orlando, Fla.

Formally rolled out late last year, Dynamics 365 combines Microsoft's separate CRM and ERP business applications into a single cloud-based suite that businesses can customize according to their needs.

Dynamics 365 AI
Microsoft announced at Ignite that it was expanding Dynamics 365's intelligence capabilities with so-called "Dynamics 365 AI solutions." These solutions "are designed to tackle high-value, complex enterprise scenarios," according to a blog post by Steve Guggenheimer, corporate vice president of Developer Platform & Evangelism at Microsoft.

These solutions run on Microsoft's existing investments in AI, machine learning and advanced enterprise search. During his Ignite presentation on Monday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that Dynamics 365 extends the data surfaced by the Microsoft Graph to help users "create systems of intelligence."

The first of the Dynamics 365 AI solutions is aimed at improving customer support and engagement for sales teams using "virtual agents." As Guggenheimer describes the solution:

This is accomplished by having virtual agents engage with customers to solve their issues, and seamlessly transfer to support agents only when necessary. The agents receive real-time suggestions when a customer is handed off and can provide real-time feedback to train the virtual agents to become even more effective over time. Everything comes together in a comprehensive conversation management portal that empowers service managers to monitor and refine the conversations the virtual agents have with customers.

This AI solution is already being used by retailers Macy's and HP Inc., as well as within Microsoft's own customer support unit, where it handles more than 650,000 sessions weekly, according to Guggenheimer.

Modular Apps
Microsoft also announced new modular apps coming to Dynamics 365.

The Dynamics 365 suite is already componentized according to function; for instance, there are separate modules for human resources, sales, field service and so on. However, Microsoft plans to support even more specific scenarios with modular apps that are expected to roll out "later this year," according to James Phillips, head of Microsoft's Business Applications group, in a blog post.

These new modular apps will be delivered as SaaS offerings and integrate with data from users' existing Office 365, Dynamics 365 and LinkedIn accounts.

The first two modular apps will supplement the existing Dynamics 365 for Talent app, which became generally available in July. The upcoming "Dynamics 365 for Talent: Attract" modular app will help HR departments better screen prospective employees, while "Dynamics 365 for Talent: Onboard," as its name suggests, will help organizations facilitate their onboarding process for new-hires.

Improved Integration
Also coming are improvements to the ways Dynamics 365 integrates with other Microsoft productivity apps, as well with LinkedIn.

Launched at July's Microsoft Inspire partner conference, the Microsoft Relationship Sales solution integrates the Dynamics 365 for Sales app with LinkedIn's Sales Navigator tool. On Monday, Microsoft announced that it is deepening the integration between the two products, delivering an improved user experience. For instance, users will be able to send LinkedIn messages from within Dynamics 365 for Sales, without the need to launch Sales Navigator.

In addition, "[t]his deeper integration breaks apart the all-in-one display windows in our previous integration into smaller, bite-sized chunks, so you get relevant Sales Navigator insights throughout the Dynamics user interface," wrote LinkedIn Group Product Manager Steven Kaplan in a blog post.

Other coming integrations Kaplan described include:

  • Microsoft PowerApps: Users will be able to leverage PowerApps, Microsoft's solution for building templated SaaS apps, to embed contact information from Sales Navigator into their applications. Those interested in testing out this capability can request access to the preview program here.

  • Microsoft Power BI: This integration will let Sales Navigator users create and analyze detailed reports on their usage. The Power BI integration will be included in the Enterprise Edition of Sales Navigator.

These capabilities will be available in 2018, Kaplan said.

Microsoft's Phillips also described improved integration between Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Flow, which is a tool for creating workflow applications with if-then scenarios. The Flow integration will bring "a modern approvals system" and the ability to "more easily create approval workflows," Phillips said.

About the Author

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