Microsoft's New Dynamics 365 Combines CRM, ERP In The Cloud, Enticing Channel Partners To Expand Practices

Microsoft's introduction Wednesday of Dynamics 365, a cloud offering that combines the company's Dynamics CRM and ERP products while incorporating deep integration with Office 365 productivity apps, could prove to be a catalyst for encouraging channel partners to expand their Microsoft practices.

The comprehensive suite, scheduled to be released in the fall, offers Dynamics CRM and ERP as a single online service bulked up Microsoft's cloud-based analytics tools and industry-specific apps from Microsoft and its technology partners, according to a blog posted by Takeshi Numoto, corporate vice president of Microsoft's enterprise cloud division.

"Microsoft Dynamics 365 evolves our current CRM and ERP cloud solutions into one cloud service with new purpose-built apps to help manage specific business functions, including: Financials, Field Service, Sales, Operations, Marketing, Project Service Automation and Customer Service," Numoto said in the blog.

Complimenting the platform is a new app store, AppSource, which will distribute those business-focused cloud applications from the vendor and third-party developers.

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[Related: Microsoft Dynamics Partners Can't Wait To Add LinkedIn To Arsenal Against Salesforce]

The introduction of Dynamics 365 represents an important step in melding the Dynamics and Office ecosystems, one that will reverberate through the channel, said Allen Falcon, CEO of Cumulus Global, an Office 365 solution provider based in Westborough, Mass.

For Microsoft partners like Cumulus that currently only resell and offer services around one of those products, the suite could accelerate the timetable of launching a new expanded practice, Falcon said.

"As a partner, I need to look long and hard at how I want to play in the Dynamics space -- directly or through partnerships," Falcon told CRN. "When you consider tools like Power BI, the [customer] expectation will be tight integration of information between Dynamics ERP, Dynamics CRM, and Office 365 applications."

Because of the integration benefits for customers, bringing the full Dynamics suite to the cloud is a logical extension of the Office 365 and Dynamics CRM cloud services that are already available through a Software-as-Service model, Falcon said.

As for AppSource, the software marketplace component is a clear signal that Microsoft sees Dynamics as a platform, much like and, and not just a SaaS solution, Falcon added.

"For partners, the move further reinforces the need to expand out of technology-specific silos and focus on business solutions and integration, either internally or by establishing strategic relationships with peers," Falcon said.

The launch of Dynamics 365 gives Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft a new card to play against Salesforce in the CRM space. While Salesforce holds a larger share of the CRM market than Microsoft, it now will find itself competing against a Microsoft product that offers integration with a much broader range of applications and services.

The two companies have been butting heads of late. Salesforce tried to buy LinkedIn, according to Bloomberg, but lost a bidding war to Microsoft, which in June unveiled plans to buy the social networking platform for $26.2 billion. Partners at that time told CRN they anticipate LinkedIn's unrivaled repository of professional data will be seamlessly integrated into the Dynamics and Office 365 products.

Dynamics 365's deep integration with Office 365 will allow users to work with management, financial and sales functions through familiar tools such as email, according to Numoto, connecting "the structured workflow of business apps with the unstructured work of collaboration and productivity."

Cortana Intelligence, a platform for building analytics functionality, and the Power BI visualization dashboard, will also be natively embedded into the new product.

Microsoft's Numoto said the apps to be introduced through Dynamics 365 will be designed for easy and independent deployments. That will allow customers to start small and pay for only the capabilities they require.

But the seamless integration between those products will also encourage those customers to add a la carte services as they grow, he said.

"They include built-in insights, predictive intelligence and workflow optimization, all of which will be delivered through simple, easy-to-use, mobile experiences with offline capabilities," Numoto said.