ERPs are traditionally associated with supply chain management tasks—managing inventory, production schedules, suppliers, fleets, and so on.
And yeah, ERPs do deal with all those things—but they can also do a whole lot more.
At its core, an ERP is a shared database for managing resources—which covers an expansive list of business activities including project management, commerce, even customer service and HR.
Modern systems like Dynamics 365 act as the digital foundation for your entire business.
The ERP is responsible for managing & securing data, serving up actionable insights, and providing a space for building custom apps, bots, and automated flows.
Altogether, Dynamics helps teams meet customer expectations, eliminate waste, and break down growth barriers.
This article provides a comprehensive Microsoft Dynamics ERP overview. We’ll look at some of the core capabilities the D365 ERP has to offer, and then, we’ll explore the underlying tech behind these game-changing, modular apps.
Microsoft Dynamics ERP Capabilities
While Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERPs come in a few different flavors, all have the following capabilities in common:
- Modular, pre-built apps. Dynamics 365 unites your entire business–bringing all insights/core activities into one central location. Orgs can mix, match, and add apps as they grow/evolve. You don’t need to pay for features you don’t need–just the exact tools that support employees on the job–right now.
- Flexible customization. D365’s browser-based apps can be tailored to any business or department. The platform’s built-in admin tools offer complete control over how apps and services are configured based on existing workflows, org. charts, and security & compliance requirements.
- Accessible insights. Microsoft Dynamics offers baked-in intelligence that enables organizations to capture real-time insights and take the right set of actions–without missing a beat. Add-ons like Power BI extend the value of the core platform–as do external integrations like your business intelligence platform, marketing analytics, etc.
- Built-in AI. Embedded analytics enabled by the Power Platform and Dataverse enhance your decision-making abilities and surface prescriptive insights for improving operational efficiency and business agility. Power Automate enables you to orchestrate workflows based on triggers or clicks. And Power Virtual Agents allows you to deploy AI chatbots anywhere they’re needed.
Common Data Model
Mobile and social are here to stay. AI, machine learning, advanced analytics, and the IoT continue to grow. And, soon, we should feel the impact of 5G. The point is, the “big data ecosystem” is getting bigger every day.
Companies are sitting on a gold mine of granular insights with the potential to unlock major profits, boost productivity, and give customers exactly what they want.
The problem is, you can’t scale your business or achieve business agility if you can’t access or act on those insights.
Microsoft’s Common Data Model is an open-sourced system, critical to D365’s connected modularity.
It uses modular, extensible entities and semantic metadata to enable easy integration, app development, and data sharing across all connected apps and processes.
You’ll also find a collection of standardized, extensible schemas created by Microsoft and its partner networks.
The platform includes predefined attributes, entities, semantic metadata, and relationships related to common tasks/concepts. These can be used to streamline the process of capturing, aggregating, organizing, and analyzing data.
Note: If you’d like a visual, here’s a downloadable poster that breaks down the Common Data Model schema.
Designed with “citizen developers” in mind, the Power Platform is a set of apps that allow users to analyze data, automate processes, build custom solutions, and create virtual agents.
The Power Platform helps orgs operationalize their data and improve core business functions by adding AI to the mix. It also connects to the Dataverse via 275+ data connectors that capture insights you can access and apply through any connected app.
Here’s a look at the key elements found inside the Power Platform:
Power BI is a business intelligence platform that includes a suite of tools that democratize data analytics. Inside, you’ll find customizable reports, data visualization tools, and BI apps almost anyone can use.
The platform uses the same Common Data Model used across the D365 ecosystem to connect disparate data sets. It then transforms and cleans data into a data model that makes it easy to leverage business insights across a wide range of use cases.
For example, you might create data “stories” with intuitive visualizations that engage and educate customers. Or, access real-time insights from connected IoT devices to optimize production as it happens.
Additionally, Power BI data can be embedded into external websites or applications, as well as your ERP, CRM, or other integrated tools.
Power Apps is Microsoft’s low-code development platform. It’s designed to help users build custom apps that leverage critical data and improve workflows.
It aims to simplify the development process, offering a standard set of forms, dashboards, and built-in processes. The platform allows non-technical users to create apps without code.
And–it allows development/IT teams to save time and focus on more complex projects.
1. Canvas Apps
Canvas Apps allow users to build apps from a “canvas” in the Power Apps builder without any code. Instead, the design process takes place inside Microsoft’s drag-and-drop editor.
Users can automatically generate an app from any of the following sources:
- Sample app
You can also connect data from Microsoft tools and external data sources, define logic, and decide what data displays in each app based on user role/workflow/behavior.
2. Model-Driven Apps
Like Canvas Apps, Model-Driven Apps simplify the development process, allowing users to build custom apps without writing any code. Unlike Canvas apps, much of the layout is already defined by sample apps, which act like templates you can customize and add to your UI.
While you’ll give up some control over the final design, model-driven apps make it easy to create complex, responsive apps with a consistent UI. The development process is relatively straightforward and consists of the following components:
- Model business data, using a metadata-driven architecture that enables code-free customization
- Define process flows
- Apply business logic
- Compose the app
Dataverse is an API that allows users to securely store and manage data from all connected business apps.
Data is stored in tables (represented by a set of rows & columns)–each column is responsible for storing a specific type of data (name, date, account type, etc.).
You’ll get a set of standard tables with your subscription that you can use out-of-the-box for common functions (invoicing, basic reports, etc.) or you’ll have the option to create custom apps that better align with your business processes.
According to Microsoft documentation, tables allow you to define how all your organization’s data will be stored, categorized, and used within various apps and reports.
It’s easier to manage and secure metadata/data in the cloud. Users can set role-based security permissions to which users can access each table based on job requirements.
Dataverse also makes it easy to access data from your D365 apps, which enables you to build new apps and workflows as well as extend/customize existing apps within the Power Apps platform.
Dataverse also includes “connectors” which are used when building Canvas Apps, Power Automate flows, or any other app that doesn’t integrate directly with Dataverse.
You’ll also find built-in logic & validation tools that allow you to define rules, workflows, calculate columns, set process flows, etc.
Power Automate is a cloud-based service that lets users build workflows that automate and streamline repetitive manual workflows without any prior coding experience.
It connects to 300+ data sources, as well as any publicly available API. You can use it to automate processes, set reminders, and transfer data between systems and data sources on a preset schedule.
Users can set three different flow types:
- Cloud flows. Tasks triggered by a specific event. Think automatically following up after a sales call or sharing a resource based on which pages someone visited.
- Instant flows. Tasks that run an automation with the click of a button. For example, you can send reminders to everyone on your team by tapping a button on your phone.
- Scheduled flows. Tasks that run automation on a regular schedule. Think daily data uploads or sending a weekly report to specific stakeholders.
Altogether, these automations stand to save organizations a ton of time. Focus on tackling the tiny tasks that waste employee time, error-prone processes that keep teams from doing the work that matters most.
Power Virtual Agents
Power Virtual Agents is Microsoft’s chatbot-building tool. Users can create bots that answer questions for employees, customers, or anyone who visits your site. It allows you to provide the self-service support users crave, without having to build a bot from scratch.
Instead, Microsoft provides content blocks, pre-made conversational templates, and trigger phrases. All can be customized inside the Bot Framework Composer and published to the Power Virtual Agents platform.
You can also embed chatbots into various apps, automations, and external platforms. Depending on your goals, you might use bots for lead gen, after-hours support, or helping employees find specific files.
Microsoft Dynamics 365’s modularity, powerful data management capabilities, built-in intelligence, and low-code customizations support the goals of any business.
Microsoft Dynamics’ capabilities come from the tight integration across the entire D365 ecosystem and tools like the Common Data Model, Dataverse, and Power Platform that make it easy to access, share, and leverage data from any connected app.
That said, it’s hard to realize the full promise of Dynamics 365 without some extra support. Whether you need help with an upcoming D365 migration, extracting insights from Power BI, or optimizing the business processes in your ERP, Velosio experts can help.
Contact us today to find out more about our services.