Microsoft Dynamics 365 is now a family of applications that has changed rapidly. So how do we structure these applications to meet specific business needs and work with each other? There are many approaches to integrated solutions and creating a game plan requires strategic thinking and preparation.

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The Customer Relationships Management (CRM) application has been “flattened out” into multiple solutions that can be licensed and purchased individually – each bearing a new name under the Dynamics 365 flag. To be fair, many continue to call the application CRM although the application by that name no longer exists. Many also call it D365, but that too, is a misnomer as D365 refers to all 10 applications under this banner.

To enable these applications, Microsoft has built these applications on a common data platform using a toolset designed to take advantage of Microsoft’s Common Data Services (CDS). Like pieces of a puzzle, this allows them to integrate cleanly with Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations and integrate to pre-defined integration points. Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement, Sales, Field Services (FS), Project Service Automation (PSA), and Marketing are technically one back-end application with multiple modular “apps” built on top and all fit seamlessly with Finance and Operations.

So how does CRM fit into an integrated ERP application like Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations (FO)? To answer this question, we must first answer what the application is natively and where it belongs integrated into purpose-built solutions.

CRM is natively:

  • The core of CRM is still about relationships with people and companies. If a business needs to manage any information about contacts or organizations, then CRM has a place within integrated ERP. Broadly speaking, this can include relationships to products, contracts, service tickets, sales cycles, social media insights, and human behavior. Creating a centralized record for a contact or an account which includes all information about how that entity has interacted with your business gives profound insight. With the ability to create custom tables/entities in CRM the application can map to virtually any information a company wants to relate to people.
  • CRM is also about managing people in your business and their activities. The configurability of the application is designed so that business processes, business rules, and workflow automation can optimize employees’ correspondence with people and companies. Tasks, appointments, phone calls, service tickets, emails, and custom activities can all be managed within the application by employees or groups of employees.
  • CRM is integrated into the Microsoft stack. The application natively integrates with:
    • SharePoint and One Drive for document management.
    • Exchange for email and activity tracking.
    • Excel online for spreadsheet management.
    • Office 365 for group and administrative management.
    • Power BI for infographic business intelligence reporting and dashboard management.
  • CRM is a solution with a highly productized marketplace. There are hundreds of proprietary solutions that have been built on top of the application to accommodate niche business needs. For example, at PowerObjects we have dozens of PowerPack add-ons that enhance the productivity and marketing automation capabilities of CRM.

CRM should be integrated in these situations:

  • CRM is not a transactional database integrated with financials and accounting systems. General ledger and sub-ledger accounting are best utilized within Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations. CRM has invoicing, contract, and quoting capabilities, but functionality ends where the dollars turn into cash in your bank account. CRM monitors sales cycles and pipeline management, but it is not designed to be an accounts receivable, payable, or collections system.
  • CRM is not a warehouse and distribution management system. If you are shipping and receiving supplies, dealing with inventory metrics, or facilitating transportation from warehouse to brick and mortar store then use the D365 for Finance and Operations Trade and Logistics capabilities, Warehouse Management, and Transportation modules and integrate with CRM for customer insights. CRM is designed to show what products and services customers have purchased or might purchase, not how the product was shipped, manufactured, or inventoried.
  • CRM isn’t a payroll or benefits tool, although the structure for resource management is available. D365 for Field Service and Project Service Automation deal with how resources are assigned to services and tasks, and can be used to tally up hours and estimates for employee optimization. Nevertheless, you need to integrate D365 FS or PSA with D365 FO’s Payroll module to push out paychecks and fringe benefits payments from your bank account.
  • D365 PSA is not a project forecasting or procurement system. D365 PSA can certainly create project contracts, assign resources, and plan task and resource assignments. However, the robustness of D365 FO’s Project Management and Accounting module is multi-talented. It allows you to:
    • Assign project resources with its integrations to the Human Resources module and search employee skillsets and certifications.
    • Procure project assets, item requirements, and expenses using its integration with the Procurement and Travel & Expense modules.
    • Capture resource time entry and integrate it within the Project Invoicing process and Payroll module.
    • Forecast project completion, planning, and budgeting.

In summary, combining the power and capabilities of the Dynamics 365 family of applications can take an organization to the next level of technology, efficiency, and productivity. But you must lay out the proper strategy and roadmap to take full advantage of these applications, assess their functionalities, and leverage the strengths of each application to work in harmony.

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Happy Dynamics 365’ing!

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Joe D365

Joe D365 is a Microsoft Dynamics 365 superhero who runs on pure Dynamics adrenaline. As the face of PowerObjects, Joe D365’s mission is to reveal innovative ways to use Dynamics 365 and bring the application to more businesses and organizations around the world.