Microsoft Dynamics 365 is Microsoft’s new approach to end-to-end intelligent business applications in the cloud. The solution unifies ERP and CRM into one cloud service with new purpose-built apps to manage all your core business functions including Sales, Customer Service, Finance, Field Service, Operations, Marketing and Project Service Automation. Dynamics 365 is a cloud-only solution built on the Microsoft Azure stack and will be available in two versions: Business Edition and Enterprise Edition. The Business Edition is targeted at companies with up to 250 users with financials based on Dynamics NAV while the Enterprise Edition is for larger organizations with financial capabilities based on Dynamics AX. It uses a common data model with deep integrations to Office 365 to seamlessly connect business apps with collaboration and productivity tools like email, spreadsheets and word processing documents. With built-in intelligence tools and a flexible, extensible platform, Dynamics 365 enables companies to stay nimble, adapt and innovate in real time.
It is these four elements – Cloud, Office 365 Integration, Business Intelligence, and Flexibility – that make Dynamics 365 a perfect fit for professional services firms.
Professional Services users are generally mobile workers who need robust access to firm resources, applications and information. As a cloud architected solution, Dynamics 365 is optimized for mobile access with flexible user interfaces for the many browsers and mobile devices that users work on. These mobile users are knowledge workers, who need extensive use of Microsoft Office tools like Word, Excel, and Excel. While some professional services firms have adopted SharePoint (or other dedicated solutions) for document management, email (powered by Exchange and organized in Outlook) is still the dominant communication and collaboration tool for dialogue and documents. For all these reasons, Dynamics 365’s integration with Office 365 is of tremendous value.
Executives and Managers in the professional services industry tend to be former or current practitioners and have similar user requirements as the billing staff. More importantly, they need better insights into finances, operations and sales. The common data model and built-in intelligence capabilities of PowerBI and Cortana Analytics will allow decision makers unprecedented insight into the state of their business by providing a single view into operations across the firm.
The financial benefits of Dynamics 365 will improve the bottom line of any organization – but, because of their structure and business model, professional services firms can get even more value. Unlike capital intensive industries, professional services firms’ major investments (and costs) are in people. After all, their profit is a function of rate and utilization. The fluid nature of human capital (versus investment in plant or product) gives professional firms greater flexibility to adapt to changing business conditions. In the past however, firms had to make capital investment decisions around systems infrastructure and licensing based on multi-year business forecasting. Thus, limiting that flexibility.
As a true SaaS solution, Dynamics 365 gives firms flexibility and elasticity in their systems and licensing to adapt to changes in their business. The flexible licensing model provides licensing by function or role, enabling firms to choose the most cost-effective model and adjust on the fly. With Dynamics 365, firms can increase capacity during peak seasonal times to leverage temporary staff or subcontractors, scale up or down with market conditions, or add new functionality to take advantage of new business opportunities. In addition, providing staff with more robust mobile access to resources can improve productivity while the educed downtime can drive higher utilization rates.
The Dynamics 365 Service will be launching this November, but elements of the solution are available today. SBS Group’s AXIO for Professional Services Solution is approved for Dynamics 365 and featured on AppSource. The solution can be deployed today with a built-in migration path to the Dynamics 365 Enterprise Edition. In the mid-market space, we work with a Dynamics NAV-based PSA solution called Progressus that will be available in the fall for Dynamics 365. Of course, CRM functionality is currently delivered through Dynamics CRM Online and Microsoft has announced that like Dynamics AX, they will provide a smooth transition for customers.
Want an early look at Dynamics 365?
We are planning a number of live and virtual events this Fall for the pre-release. Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.