Microsoft in an extensive demo today unveiled the capabilities of its Azure-based Dynamics 365 service announced in July — describing it as a significant undertaking combining its customer relations management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) offerings with Office 365, Power BI analytics and Cortana artificial-intelligence capabilities, all delivered as a service over the internet.
“This is a major initiative at Microsoft and involves the work of literally thousands of engineers,” said Scott Guthrie, executive VP of cloud and enterprise, as he began the demo at the Summit conference in Tampa.
The software as a service will be available on Nov. 1 in more than 135 markets and over 40 languages, Takeshi Numoto, corporate VP for cloud and enterprise, wrote in a blog post before the demo. It can be bought in individual modules, such as sales, customer service or operations, with additional, integrated modules available to add as desired. Pricing hasn’t been released, though Microsoft did say the modules will be bundled into an enterprise edition and a business edition.
Artificial intelligence has been center stage in many product announcements lately, perhaps most notably Salesforce’s Einstein. Numoto appeared to take a swipe at Salesforce, with which Dynamics CRM will compete, when he wrote that “with so much attention on artificial intelligence and the promise it holds, it can be hard to tell what’s real and what’s not.” In contrast, he said, Dynamics 365 is “powered by advanced analytics and machine learning – what we call intelligence.”
Guthrie showed off what Microsoft means by that, demonstrating “Relationship Insights,” a service within Dynamics 365 that monitors the number of emails exchanged with customers and attempts to characterize the relationship’s health, for example warning if there have been no communications within the past 30 days.
Other demos showed the sale of merchandise, usually split among multiple applications, being addressed from lead generation to invoice (or “prospect-to-cash”) within Dynamics 365. Power BI is integrated into the modules, showing clickable graphics as appropriate. All the modules can be accessed on iOS or Android devices. From within a single email, a salesperson can review all correspondence with a customer, check accounts payable and outstanding sales proposals, and formulate new proposals.
Dynamics 365 uses a common data model that Microsoft said lets customers extend functionality and build custom apps. Independent software vendors use the same model and since July have created 100 new Dynamics 365 apps, available on its AppSource online software marketplace and from within Dynamics 365, Microsoft said.
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