ClickDimensions’ Senior Director of Pre-Sales Consulting and 13-time Microsoft MVP Matt Wittemann shares his latest Dynamics 365 news and insights.
The middle of summer may be a lazy time for most, but Microsoft’s Dynamics team has had a busy few weeks with the Microsoft Inspire conference in Las Vegas, the Business Applications Summit in Seattle, and publication of the October 2018 Release Overview.
These events have brought a new clarity to the bewildering array of announcements, updates and new product offerings that we have seen from Microsoft since the introduction of the Dynamics 365 brand. Over the last year or so, we have seen a steady stream of news about seemingly disparate offerings that Microsoft has been promising were all heading to a unique convergence that would put them – and their partners – at the forefront of the marketplace. Things like Flow, the Common Data Service (CDS), PowerApps, the Unified Client Interface (UCI), app modules, new first-party apps like Marketing and Business Central, and a host of new licensing models and go-to-market initiatives.
For many partners who have built their businesses around traditional CRM and sales force automation, it may have seemed prudent to take a “wait and see” approach, perhaps with a few tentative exploratory forays into the new technologies.
But recent weeks have brought sharp focus to the strategy that Microsoft is pursuing, and the opportunities that it opens up for both SI and ISV partners. Bringing it all together, Microsoft has just unveiled what they are calling the Microsoft Power Platform:
- PowerApps: This is the new name that unifies the XRM story on the Dynamics platform and includes the core CRM platform whose extensibility made it a natural launching pad for highly-tailored custom applications (XRM), PowerApps “canvas” applications – a PowerPoint-like app designer, and the underlying data layer known as CDS.
- Power BI: The well-established and continually improving analytics and reporting platform.
- Microsoft Flow: An extensible, scalable, hosted workflow engine.
The Power Platform provides totally new context for understanding where first-party Microsoft apps like the Sales and Service modules in Customer Engagement and the financial application Business Central all fit in.
Let’s imagine for a moment that Microsoft had never entered the Customer Relationship Management market 15 years ago, and had never offered ERP applications like NAV. With today’s cloud-first, mobile and data-driven approach to technology, if a global software giant wanted to step into these markets in a big way, they might first create a state-of-the-art data layer (something like CDS), a powerful automation engine (like Flow) and a highly-extensible application layer (canvas and model-driven PowerApps). With those pieces in place, they might then create some first-party applications to enable business processes for sales teams, marketers, field service and accounting. If they were very forward-thinking they might even build all these things in a way that allows third-parties to extend them and build their own applications using the same building blocks.
The amazing thing is that Microsoft has done exactly this, but they did it while managing established billion-dollar businesses in each of these areas. Essentially, they re-architected the engines of business software while those engines were running at full speed.
Admittedly, there are still some details to work out, especially around licensing and delivery. For example, what plan do you need if you want to build a PowerApp that uses the lead entity? Can you create your own custom case entity? How about if someone already has the Sales Professional license? There are a lot of permutations to think through. But there is a lot of energy building around the wide-open possibility that the Power Platform enables, and as we partners begin to adjust our own focus to this new paradigm, the challenge will be to help our customers envision bigger things than were possible with just a simple CRM deployment.