Microsoft Dynamics is a line of customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), and digital marketing applications for small and medium businesses (SMBs). Rebranded as Dynamics 365 in 2016 with an emphasis on customer engagement, Microsoft Dynamics 365 is part of the larger line of Microsoft Business Solutions.
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Microsoft Dynamics 365 targets SMBs mainly in retail, services, manufacturing, financial services, and the public sector. As it naturally integrates with Microsoft’s line of business solutions, organizations that already operate as Microsoft shops benefit from choosing Microsoft Dynamics as their CRM software. As a result, Microsoft Dynamics 365 was in the top five CRMs in terms of market share in 2019.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 combines several products in the Microsoft Dynamics family to create a product with CRM and ERP functionality at its core. It also offers tools for sales, marketing automation, customer service, project service automation, and field service.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 integrates with other Microsoft applications and services such as SharePoint, Yammer, Office 365, Azure, Outlook, Microsoft Exchange, Azure Machine Learning, and Power BI. This makes Microsoft Dynamics a strong choice for Microsoft shops that can take advantage of intra-brand synergies. Additional third-party add-ons and integrations can be found in Microsoft’s AppSource online store. Integration with third-party applications may require connector services such as DBsync or Zapier.
Integration with the Microsoft ecosystem expands the functionality of Microsoft Dynamics 365. For example, the CRM can draw data from the Microsoft Outlook email application to better track leads. This helps feed data to Microsoft Dynamics’ Relationship Assistant, a feature that leverages AI, machine learning, and mixed reality to track behavior, collect and analyze data from sources in the Microsoft ecosystem, and use it to provide business intelligence.
Microsoft ecosystem integration and workflow automation are key features of Microsoft Dynamics. Microsoft Flow helps the user create automated workflows across apps and services in the Microsoft ecosystem, and PowerApps is a drag and drop builder that allows users to build custom apps to connect applications in their Microsoft ecosystem.
All of this can be viewed through the Power BI dashboard. Data is imported and displayed to recommend actions and offer in-depth reports. Different dashboard displays can present the data in the ways that are most useful to different departments.
A unique feature of Microsoft Dynamics is that Dynamics 365 users get access to Microsoft’s LinkedIn list of more than 500 million professionals. This is especially useful to recruiters and sales representatives who might otherwise need to subscribe to LinkedIn separately. It also makes Microsoft Dynamics 365 one of two CRMs (the other being Salesforce) that can directly integrate and sync with the LinkedIn database—although a handful of other CRMs can connect to LinkedIn through third-party connectors.
The applications can be run from the cloud, from an on-premise installation, or as a hybrid application. Cloud deployment is hosted on Microsoft’s Azure cloud servers. The data is used for machine learning to provide actionable insights to customers. Data is synced and backed up in the cloud, load-balanced, and SQL-mirrored for disaster recovery. Cloud deployment also simplifies installing and removing applications and controlling user access and is scalable for customers with fluctuating workload and storage needs.
Traditional on-premise and hybrid deployments lack some of the flexibility and features of cloud deployment but allow businesses to create a self-hosted CRM service. This self-hosted approach can be when connection to the cloud is unreliable, for higher data transmission and customization needs, and for data control compliance in certain regulatory environments.
Dynamics 365 is modular, so businesses can pick and choose features, such as subscribing only to the Sales and Customer Service applications. Businesses can also opt for the Customer Engagement Plan, which includes the four CRM clusters including Dynamics 365 for Sales, Customer Service, Field Service, and Project Service Automation, as well as Microsoft Social Engagement, a social media management app. They can also purchase the Dynamics 365 plan, which includes the comprehensive package of CRM, social engagement, ERP, and marketing applications.
Close alternatives to Microsoft Dynamics CRM applications include CRM, ERP, marketing, project automation, and machine learning, or they integrate readily with the Microsoft ecosystem or a variety of other third-party services. Some alternatives include:
The CRM market has grown as companies recognize the value of CRM applications to sales, marketing, and customer service. In 2020, the global CRM market grew over 10.1% and is expected to more than double in size by 2028.
For more background and tools to help with the research and selection of the ideal CRM for your organization’s needs, check out this comprehensive look at CRMs, including user reviews, and comparisons of top systems.