Earlier this month I published an article about how Microsoft’s Dynamics 365, which Microsoft rolled out in late 2016, is perfect for small businesses (1-500 employees). For the uninitiated, Dynamics 365 combines both Microsoft’s ERP and CRM products under the same roof, and for the first time ever, budget-conscious businesses won’t have to choose one over the other. Because of this, Dynamics 365 is a game-changer in the CRM and ERP space. I also wrote a new Guide to Choosing a New AMS/CRM for Your Association.
In this article, I zoom out a bit and talk about why every business and organization should make the jump from their on-premise CRM system to Microsoft’s latest cloud solution – Dynamics 365. Here are my top five reasons:
At first glance, the pricing for Dynamics 365 might not seem like a great deal. A license for Dynamics CRM is $65 per user per month while Dynamics 365 costs $115 per user per month. Yes, that’s a $50 increase, but Microsoft has added a new “team member” license at a much lower cost of only $10 per user per month.
What is a team member license? It gives read-only access to everything inside CRM and complete access to what many would consider the core entities — contacts, accounts, activities, and notes. In my experience, this covers many of the users that may have previously used the higher-priced licenses. Most of your employees will only need to view data and track activities, and you can save the full-priced licenses for your sales and customer services teams. Let me give you a hypothetical scenario: If you have 50 users today using professional licenses, but only 20 of them really need full access and the other 30 could get away with a team member license, you could save $7,800 per year.
Improved Outlook experience
In the old version of Dynamics CRM, there was an Outlook plugin you could install on your PC, but it was notoriously slow and resource-intensive. This past Spring, Microsoft released a new, lightweight Outlook application that operates much faster. While the old version was what’s called a “thick client” that you install on your computer, this new version is a “thin client” that pulls from the cloud.
The latest version of the Outlook App that came out with Dynamics 365 is even better. Not only has Microsoft made the client easier to use, but it has also actually incorporated artificial intelligence inside of the application. This allows it to give a user recommendations based on information already on your CRM system. For instance, if you receive an email from a potential customer who expresses a wish to buy something, Outlook will automatically provide a recommendation that says, “It looks like you should create an opportunity for this person.” Or if, in an email exchange, a customer asks you to reach back out to them at a later date, then Outlook will prompt you to create a task reminding you to reach out. It’s a salesperson’s dream.
The other big feature is that the application actually allows you to track your email opens and clicks from within the CRM. Previously, you needed a third party add-on in order to do this. In other words, if you wanted to track an email, you had to use an integration with something like MailChimp or Click Dimensions to see if somebody opened an email. Now that is all included natively inside of Dynamics CRM.
As we’ve written before, Power BI, Microsoft’s business intelligence tool, has introduced cutting-edge analytics to Dynamics CRM. In previous CRM releases, Microsoft has introduced connectors for CRM Online that allow you to pull data into Power BI, but with Dynamics 365 you can not only connect the data, but also pull those Power BI dashboards back into CRM. This really expands your capabilities from a business intelligence standpoint because you no longer have to leave your CRM. If your CRM can serve as your one-stop-shop for all your information needs, then you are more likely to use it than otherwise. This will result in a higher return on investment if it is easier for your employees to access.
Non-developer tools for building applications
In the past, Microsoft introduced visual designers to create business process flows that allow you to create custom processes inside of the CRM system to guide people. A classic example of this tool in action is often deployed during the sales process; a company creates a flow customized to how it takes in a lead, qualifies it, turns that lead into an opportunity, and then converts the opportunity into a customer. While this functionality has existed for a few years, with Dynamics 365, Microsoft has released a new version that includes a visual designer. These drag-and-drop processes include conditional branching and really make it easier to create and deploy these process flows.
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Another great addition to the Microsoft cloud suite is Microsoft Flow. Flow allows you to create quick integrations with other applications. For example, you can set up a flow to create a lead when someone tweets a specific term.
Finally, Microsoft released Power Apps, a new tool that actually allows you to build mobile applications in a drag-and-drop non-code environment. Will it be an earth-shattering mobile app that will result in millions of downloads and allow you to retire on a beach somewhere? Absolutely not. But it will allow your staff to create mobile apps customized to their own CRM needs, all without a developer.
A common data model
Perhaps the best thing about Dynamics 365 is that it’s now much easier for your ERP and CRM software to actually talk to each other. The idea that you could have your operational and financial data all sharing a single common data source is a significant development, and the potential is enormous. Custom integration is expensive, it is difficult to test, and you have to worry about continually monitoring it to make sure the integrations are functioning as expected. The overhead can be extremely costly. The marriage of CRM and ERP will result in significant cost savings.
Of course, Dynamics 365 only just launched, and many of its biggest innovations are still to come. With Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn, I can only imagine the future benefits once it’s integrated with Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform. So while you won’t realize all of these innovations immediately, by getting on the platform now you are setting yourselves up to have access and take advantage of these innovations as they continue to play out. That’s why it’s the perfect time to ditch your on-premise CRM and migrate to Dynamics 365.
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