Introducing the Microsoft Ecosystem: For the Modern Worker

Velosio breaks down the Microsoft ecosystem for the modern worker. Gain insights into how each component integrates, empowers your business.

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    Investing in a fully-integrated digital ecosystem is one of the best ways to build the resilience, flexibility, and agility it takes to succeed in this new low-code, generative AI landscape.

    This is true for any business – whether they’re fully-remote or doubling down on their commitment to the in-person 9-5. 

    But, for those orgs charting a new path with hybrid, the digital ecosystem takes on even greater importance.

    Luckily, tech giants like Microsoft are stepping up their investments in cloud-based ecosystems that not only help companies tackle today’s challenges, but also give them enough space to grow and change over time. 

    In this chapter, we’ll introduce the Microsoft ecosystem and its core components. We’ll also talk about why the “ecosystem” is so much stronger than the sum of its parts – and what it takes to unleash all that “better together” potential. 

    So, What is a Digital Ecosystem?

    A digital ecosystem is a set of interconnected apps, services, systems, and strategies that, together, function as a single unit. 

    As an easy example, consider the customer-facing experience of any successful ecommerce brand. 

    There might be a main website where you can buy products, review return policy terms, or chat with a support agent. Externally, they’re running ads, posting on socials, and connecting with customers on various platforms.

    A digital ecosystem weaves all of these different elements together on the backend. This ensures that end-users receive a consistent experience with all branded assets. And, crucially, that there’s a common system for tracking orders, invoices, and inventory.

    Digital ecosystems have been around for a while. But, they’re going through some major changes.

    Historically, ecosystems were often built on an ad-hoc basis. Often, by cobbling together disparate solutions from different vendors, then tacking on additional apps or storage on an ad-hoc basis, whenever new needs emerged. 

    But, that approach has a lot of problems, including data silos, performance lags, and security gaps. It also prevents organizations from using next gen tech like AI, machine learning, and automation – all of which are becoming increasingly essential for competing in this current landscape.

    In a Microsoft ebook, The Digital Imperative, experts say that, in recent years, they’ve seen some common goals emerge among organizations across all industries. 

    Clients are coming to them for help democratizing data and aligning collaboration tools with specific objectives. They’re looking for ways to improve operational efficiency. And, of course, they’re feeling pressure to figure out AI and automation ASAP – before savvier competitors have an opportunity to crush them.

    Meanwhile, economic pressures and a persisting sense of pessimism and uncertainty have also prompted IT leaders to prioritize tech investments that help them “do more with less.”

    This group is looking for ways to streamline IT management, optimize resources, and safeguard assets in the cloud. All of which becomes exponentially harder in the context of a hybrid environment. 

    What is the Microsoft Ecosystem?

    The Microsoft ecosystem is an expansive collection of composable, interconnected apps and services – all of which support the transition to hybrid work in different – but equally important – ways.

    All MS solutions sit on top of the same Common Data Model, which enables deep integration between products and the real-time exchange of data across all entities connected to that shared ecosystem. This makes it easy to build the platform that fits your needs – without the complexities typical of “DIY platforms.”   

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    With the Microsoft ecosystem, you’re building on a shared foundation, which is a huge advantage, as it allows all users (assuming they have the right permissions) to access, share, and interact with the full range of information and resources in your network.

    Consider, for a moment, the various business units within your organization. Sure, sales and marketing might have different responsibilities and goals than their colleagues in HR, finance, or production. But, ultimately, everyone is there to contribute to the same big picture plan. 

    Each unit might have its own set of tools, based on the needs of each role. There’s the CRM that nurtures customer relationships. The knowledge management system that delivers relevant information to workers in far-off places. The ERP that uses AI/ML to ensure products meet certain quality standards.

    But, there’s also a ton of overlap between each stack. For example, productivity tools like Outlook, Teams, and SharePoint benefit everyone in your org – whether they’re in accounting, HR, sales, or part of a roving field service team.

    The idea is, all of those moving parts work together as a single unit. That means, you can manage your entire business on a holistic level. 

    Unity aside, the next few sections will focus on each core Microsoft solution, in isolation – that way, you can get a better sense of what they bring to the bigger stack.

    Dynamics 365

    Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a family of modular, purpose-built ERP and CRM apps that, together, aim to help businesses increase agility and streamline operations without increasing costs or complexity. 

    On the ERP side Microsoft offers two options: D365 Business Central (for SMBs) and D365 Finance & Operations (for Enterprises).

    Both help companies migrate core functions to the cloud (i.e.: finance, supply chain, retail, HR, project management etc.), and manage them in one place. But, there are a few important differences 

    • Dynamics 365 Business Central is an all-in-one platform, pre-loaded with a collection of modules that span the entire business (at least most of it). You can fill gaps using ISV apps (available in AppSource) or DIY solutions built with the low-code dev tools in the Power Platform.  
    • Dynamics 365 F&O allows you to essentially design your own ERP – building on the foundation provided by D365 Finance. The Operations, or O, modules include Supply Chain Management, Project Operations, and HR, which extend the Finance platform with more advanced operational capabilities. 

    Microsoft’s CRM solutions, collectively known as Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement (CE), focus on the human side of the business, and extend the D365 F&O ERP with function-specific capabilities (for Sales, Customer Service, Marketing, and Field Service teams).

    These tools capture real-time insights into customer sentiment, behavior, touchpoint interactions, sales performance insights, and more. That information can then be used to create “human-centric” experiences. 

    If you want more info, this guide offers a detailed breakdown of each D365 module, what it does, and who it’s for.

    Microsoft 365

    Microsoft 365, formerly known as Office 365, is a collection of cloud-based productivity apps that includes Teams, SharePoint, Excel, OneDrive, Word, and PowerPoint. Though many of these tools have been with us for 30+ years, new technologies like the cloud, AI, and machine learning have brought the MS 365 suite into the digital age. 

    These underlying technologies have transformed Microsoft Office into a powerful force for promoting and supporting collaboration – no matter where work is happening.

    Velosio Principal Cloud Architect, Daryl Moll says, “what’s great about the Microsoft platform is it’s available from anywhere, at any time, so long as there’s an internet connection. That ability to access data from your office workstation, your personal laptop, or your company-issued smartphone or tablet enables complete flexibility.” 

    Here’s a quick look at how these tools contribute to the bigger hybrid-remote picture:

    1. Word, Excel, PowerPoint. The foundational productivity tools – Excel, PowerPoint, and Word – offer real-time collaboration allowing multiple users to work on a document simultaneously. This eliminates the need for version control or sending documents back and forth, thereby increasing productivity and efficiency in a remote setup.
    2. Teams. Microsoft Teams serves as a unified communication and collaboration platform that combines chat, video conferencing, file storage, and app integration. Teams plays a crucial role in remote collaboration allowing employees to meet, chat, call, and collaborate all in one place, no matter where they are. 

    Here’s Daryl again: “with Teams, all employees can make themselves available for the same communications — without being tied to a specific desk, device, or geographic location.”

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    1. OneDrive. OneDrive offers cloud storage that enables employees to access, share, and collaborate on files from anywhere. It integrates with both Teams and SharePoint for seamless access to documents and files, making it an invaluable tool for remote collaboration.
    2. SharePoint. SharePoint is used for creating websites for information sharing and document collaboration. It is essentially a centralized and protected space where groups can coordinate schedules, share documents, and participate in discussions, which is particularly important in a remote work setting. 
    3. Viva. Viva is an integrated employee experience platform within MS 365 and Teams that allows users to gain insights into employee productivity/behavior, connect people to the right tools and resources, and drive engagement across multiple channels.
    4. Outlook. Outlook is another “Office 365 classic.” On its own, Outlook offers the same modest benefits of any web 2.0 email client – contact management, calendars, tasks, and an inbox for managing communications. When combined with the rest of the Microsoft ecosystem, Outlook transforms into a productivity powerhouse. 
    5. Planner. Planner is a productivity tool that integrates with all MS apps and enables task management and planning across the entire ecosystem. When it syncs up with other Microsoft apps, Planner helps you coordinate with colleagues, track customer support issues, and ensure that hybrid teams stay on task – even when you can’t see them.

    Power Platform

    The Microsoft Power Platform is a suite of low-code tools that democratize development and data access, empowering everyone in your org to put data into action. 

    The platform includes five main solutions, all of which help citizen developers, seasoned IT pros, and data scientists tap into the full potential of the MS ecosystem. 

    Here’s how each app contributes to the bigger picture:

    1. Power BI. Power BI is a business intelligence platform designed to give everyone in the organization access to powerful data visualization and analytics capabilities. The platform transforms raw data into interactive, visual dashboards and reports, making it easier to understand complex data, identify trends and patterns, and make informed decisions.
    2. Power Apps. Power Apps allows users to build custom apps without code. With the right training, non-technical employees can build apps that solve real problems and deliver value to the customers they work with each day. Meanwhile, veteran IT pros and developers, the Power Platform represents a catalyst that activates and amplifies the capabilities embedded across the rest of the MS ecosystem.
    3. Power Automate. Power Automate enables users to build automated workflows across different applications. 

    If you’re using Microsoft 365, employees already have access to their files and can collaborate with colleagues in real-time. But, you can take things to the next level by using Power Automate to automate repetitive tasks within those productivity apps.

    1. Power Virtual Agents. Power Virtual Agents is a platform for building custom chatbots using data from Dynamics 365 and Microsoft 365 apps to answer common questions and help users find the information they need. 
    2. Power Pages. The newest addition to the MS Power Platform, Power Pages is a low-code platform for creating, hosting, and managing external-facing business websites. Like the rest of the tools in the Power Platform, Power Pages accelerates the web development process by using the data stored in Dataverse, reusable templates & components, and built-in automations. 

    Azure

    Azure, Microsoft’s cloud services platform, includes 200+ solutions designed to help organizations build, manage, secure, and scale their apps across multiple environments. 

    While can’t cover all of them here, these solutions break into five main categories: 

    • Compute
    • Storage
    • Networking
    • Analytics
    • AI & ML

    Azure offers secure, global access to all data, devices, apps, and end-users connected to your network. Tools can be combined with both each other and any apps and services connected to your network — whether they’re officially part of the MS family or not.

    The platform supports an endless array of functions, but the common thread is, Azure enables you to make sure that all apps, services, and solutions are working the way you want them to – even if you’re managing a large, distributed workforce or have partners operating out of different countries.

    The platform is probably best known for its holistic approach to security and compliance, as well as its role in supporting DevOps processes including CI/CD pipelines, user testing, deployment, and software updates.

    But, Azure also helps businesses “help themselves” with solutions that target specific goals such as advanced security, scalability, or data management. 

    The Strategic Advantage of Leveraging the Entire Microsoft Ecosystem

    Most of the apps and services in the Microsoft ecosystem can technically stand on their own. But, they were meant to be used together – layered on top of each other, and combined or customized in new, sometimes unexpected ways, to create value.

    You can make calls from Teams or organize your CRM contacts in D365 CE. But, aside from downgrading Teams and D365 to basic utilities, there’s nothing transformative going on here.

    If, instead, you combine Teams and D365, the resulting solution is far more powerful than either tool in isolation. 

    “If you’re working within Dynamics 365, you can access customer details or vendor information and quickly share that data with your colleague who is working from Teams. That way, the person you’re sharing it with can click a link, understand what’s happening, and collaborate right there without ever leaving their workspace,” says Carolyn Norton, Velosio Director of Cloud.

    That’s only one example, but it shows a multiplier effect beginning to emerge – with each new addition amplifying the impact of what was there before. 

    There are no hard limits on what the Microsoft ecosystem can offer. Apps and services can be combined in countless ways. Or, build completely new solutions. As you might expect, its potential benefits get real niche, real fast. 

    Still, the Microsoft ecosystem offers many big-picture advantages  any organization can appreciate.

    1. Give Your Business an Instant Agility Boost. According to Accenture, composable platforms give companies more flexibility to adapt strategies as new needs emerge. They can also be hyper-personalized, allowing companies to design a platform with unique capabilities that set them apart from the competition.

    Microsoft’s modular operating model breaks solutions, resources, and processes into reusable components you can quickly replace, reconfigure, or reuse to take action on emerging opportunities or dodge threats headed your way. 

    Ultra-tight integration makes it easier to orchestrate workflows, customer journeys, and cross-functional collaboration – and, crucially, implement security and compliance policies that protect your business and the people connected to it.

    1. Design Thoughtful, Hybrid Experiences. MIT and Deloitte research shows that applying a holistic ecosystem approach to managing everyone in your org  – HR, IT, finance, procurement, sales, marketing, and the rest – is a key enabler to enterprise success. 

    Analysts say that, in order to achieve critical workforce objectives, you’ll need to design strategies that make it easier for everyone to do their part. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about DEI initiatives, sustainability, or enabling hybrid work, you’ll need to make sure your infrastructure is equipped to support that new set of goals.

    The Microsoft ecosystem allows users to do just that: design an ecosystem within an ecosystem for facilitating hybrid work.

    1. Leverage Powerful AI, BI & Analytics. One of the most compelling benefits of the MS ecosystem is that it allows you to tap into the latest technologies. Out-of-the-box, D365 includes a wealth of pre-built reports that can be customized to fit your needs. 

    With all data unified in a single platform, you can use Power BI to combine data from disparate sources to surface unexpected patterns, new opportunities, and adapt to change as it’s happening.  

    Or, you can build niche-specific analytics solutions in Azure Synapse to support things like just-in-time inventory management, predictive maintenance, or fraud detection. 

    Developers can use Azure Cognitive Services to incorporate advanced machine learning models into existing reports or citizen-built Power Apps prototypes. Or, link D365 to the Azure IoT Hub to capture and analyze data from physical assets.

    On the AI front, D365, Azure, and the Power Platform have had embedded intelligence capabilities for a while. 

    But, with Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI, along with the recent launch of Copilot for MS 365, Dynamics 365, and the Power Platform, the platform is perfectly poised to help you get moving on your generative AI strategy.

    1. Scale Solutions with Ease. Whether you’re expanding storage capacity on Azure, adding more users to Microsoft 365, or using Power BI to tackle high-volume data-streaming projects, the MS ecosystem allows you to scale up or down as needs change. 
    2. Optimize Costs. Working from a unified, cloud ecosystem also allows you to avoid the costs associated with buying, building, managing, and maintaining physical infrastructure yourself. It also allows you to consolidate the licenses in your stack, which, per Microsoft, could save you up to 60% per user.

    Licenses are billed at a predictable monthly rate, and you only pay for the storage and computing power you use. This saves on upfront costs, as well as recurring expenses such as energy or maintenance. 

    1. Safeguard Your Entire Hybrid Network. A lot of enabling hybrid work is about balancing flexibility with the security, compliance, and governance protocols that protect your business and the people connected to it. 

    The platform’s end-to-end approach allows you to apply security protections to the entire threat surface in a matter of clicks. You can use AI and automation to detect and respond to threats, and protect and manage identities and sensitive data with Entra.

    1. Streamline & Simplify IT Management. By leveraging a single ecosystem, companies can consolidate their IT infrastructure and simplify the management of various interconnected components. Because it’s now on Microsoft to manage bug fixes, updates, patches, and maintenance tasks. Meanwhile, you’ll always have the latest version of every app in the stack.

    Final Thoughts

    Dynamics 365, Microsoft 365, Azure, and the Power Platform all offer unique capabilities designed to enhance productivity, optimize operations, and foster collaboration in remote settings. 

    Leveraging Microsoft’s interconnected solutions as one, holistic ecosystem allows you to build a hybrid environment that not only solves for today’s challenges, but helps you prepare for whatever the future has in store. 

    Still, unity isn’t enough. You need to think about which specific tools and technologies will help your employees – and how they might contribute to the bigger picture.

    Velosio is a certified Microsoft partner with 30+ years in the game – helping clients modernize, streamline, and evolve their business with the right solutions, services, and hands-on support. From D365 and Azure to the Power Platform and Microsoft 365, we know the ins and outs of the entire ecosystem – and the legacy solutions that came before. 

    Contact us today to find out Velosio can help you leverage the MS ecosystem to drive innovation, agility, and lasting success in a hybrid environment.

    Modern Worker E-Book

    If you found this blog insightful, there’s much more to explore in our comprehensive eBook: “Enabling the Modern Worker with Microsoft.” Dive deeper into the strategies and tools that can empower today’s workforce. Click here to get your full copy now!

     

    If you found this blog insightful, there’s much more to explore in our comprehensive ebook: “Enabling the Modern Worker with Microsoft.” Dive deeper into the strategies and tools that can empower today’s workforce. Click here to get your full copy now!