Back only a few years ago, when events such as a reality TV star becoming President of the USA were the stuff of fantasy fiction, Microsoft had a somewhat niche Customer Relationship Management system called Dynamics CRM. Indeed, the very name of this blog still attests to this fact. The “CRM” acronym provides a succinct mechanism for describing the purposes of the system without necessarily confusing people straight out of the gate. For the majority of its lifespan, “CRM” very accurately summarised what the core system was about – namely, a sales and case management system to help manage customer relations.

Along the way, Microsoft acquired a number of organisations and products that offered functionality that, when bolted onto Dynamics CRM, greatly enhanced the application as a whole. I have discussed a number of these previously on the blog, so I don’t propose to retread old ground. However, some notable exceptions from this original list include:

Suffice to say, by the start of 2016, the range of functionality available within Dynamics CRM was growing each month and – perhaps more crucially – there was no clear mechanism in place from a billing perspective for each new solution offered. Instead, if you had a Dynamics CRM Professional license, guess what? All of the above and more was available to you at no additional cost.

Taking this and other factors into account, the announcement in mid-2016 of the transition towards Microsoft Dynamics 365 can be seen as a welcome recognition of the new state of play and the ushering in of Dynamics CRM out of the cold to stand proud amongst the other, major Microsoft product offerings. Here’s a link to the original announcement:

Insights from the Engineering Leaders behind Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Microsoft AppSource

The thinking behind the move was completely understandable. Dynamics CRM could no longer be accurately termed as such, as the core application was almost unrecognisable from its 2011 version. Since then, there has been a plethora of additional announcements and changes to how Dynamics 365 in the context of CRM is referred to in the wider offering. The road has been…rocky, to the say the least. Whilst this can be reasonably expected with such a seismic shift, it nevertheless does present some challenges when talking about the application to end users and customers. To emphasise this fact, let’s take a look at some of the “bumps” in the road and my thoughts on why this is still an ongoing concern.

Dynamics 365 for Enterprise and Business

The above announcement did not go into greater detail about how the specific Dynamics 365 offerings would be tailored. One of the advantages of the other offerings within the Office 365 range of products is the separation of business and enterprise plans. These typically allow for a reduced total cost of ownership for organisations under a particular size within an Office 365 plan, typically with an Enterprise version of the same plan available with (almost) complete feature parity, but with no seat limits. With this in mind, it makes sense that the initial detail in late 2016 confirmed the introduction of business and enterprise Dynamics 365 plans. As part of this, the CRM aspect of the offering would have sat firmly within the Enterprise plan, with – you guessed it – Enterprise pricing to match. The following article from encore at the time provides a nice breakdown of each offering and the envisioned target audience for each. Thus, we saw the introduction of Dynamics 365 for Enterprise as a replacement term for Dynamics CRM.

Perhaps understandably, when many businesses – typically used to paying £40-£50 per seat for their equivalent Dynamics CRM licenses – discovered that they would have to move to Enterprise plans and pricing significantly in excess of what they were paying, there were some heads turned. Microsoft Partners also raised a number of concerns with the strategy, which is why it was announced that the Business edition and Enterprise edition labels were being dropped. Microsoft stated that they would:

…focus on enabling any organization to choose from different price points for each line of business application, based on the level of capabilities and capacity they need to meet their specific needs. For example, in Spring 2018, Dynamics 365 for Sales will offer additional price point(s) with different level(s) of functionality.

The expressed desire to enable organisations to “choose” what they want goes back to what I mentioned at the start of this post – providing a billing/pricing mechanism that would support the modular nature of the late Dynamics CRM product. Its introduction as a concept at this stage comes a little late in the whole conversation regarding Dynamics 365 and represents an important turning point in defining the vision for the product. Whether this took feedback from partners/customers or an internal realisation to bring this about, I’m not sure. But it’s arrival represents the maturity in thinking concerning the wider Dynamics 365 offering.

Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement

Following the retirement of the Business/Enterprise monikers and, in a clear attempt to simplify and highlight the CRM aspect of Dynamics 365, the term Customer Engagement started to pop-up across various online support and informational posts. I cannot seem to locate a specific announcement concerning the introduction of this wording, but its genesis appears to be early or mid-2017. The problem is that I don’t think there is 100% certainty yet on how the exact phrasing of this terminology should be used.

The best way to emphasise the inconsistency is to look to some examples. The first is derived from the name of several courses currently available on the Dynamics Learning Portal, published this year:

Now, take a look at the title and for the following Microsoft Docs article on impending changes to the application:

Notice it yet? There seems to be some confusion about whether for should be used when referring to the Customer Engagement product. Whilst the majority of articles I have found online seem to suggest that Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement is the correct option, again, I cannot point to a definitive source that states without question the correct phraseology that should be used. Regardless, we can see here the birth of the Customer Engagement naming convention, which I would argue is a positive step forward.

The Present Day: Customer Engagement and it’s 1:N Relationships

Rather handily, Customer Engagement takes us straight through to the present. Today, when you go to the pricing website for Dynamics 365, the following handy chart is presented that helps to simplify all of the various options available across the Dynamics 365 range:

This also indirectly confirms a few things for us:

  • Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement and not Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement looks to be the approved terminology when referring to what was previously Dynamics CRM.
  • Microsoft Dynamics 365 is the overarching name for all modules that form a part of the overall offering. It has, by the looks of things, replaced the original Dynamics 365 for Enterprise designation.
  • The business offering – now known as Dynamics 365 Business Central – is in effect a completely separate offering from Microsoft Dynamics 365.

When rolled together, all of this goes a long way towards providing the guidance needed to correctly refer to the whole, or constituent parts, of the entire Dynamics 365 offering.

With that being said, can it be reliably said that the naming “crisis” has ended?

My key concern through all of this is a confusing and conflicting message being communicated to customers interested in adopting the system, to the potential end result of driving them away to competitor systems. This appears to have been the case for about 1-2 years since the original Dynamics 365 announcement, and a large part of this can perhaps be explained by the insane acquisition drive in 2015/6. Now, with everything appearing to slot together nicely and the pricing platform in place to support each Dynamics 365 “module” and the overall offering, I would hope that any further change in this area is minimal. As highlighted above though, there is still some confusion about the correct replacement terminology for Dynamics CRM – is it Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement or Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement? Answers on a postcode, please!

Another factor to consider amongst all of this is that naming will constantly be an issue should Microsoft go through another cycle of acquisitions focused towards enhancing the Dynamics 365 offering. Microsoft’s recent acquisition plays appear to be more focused towards providing cost optimization services for Azure and other cloud-based tools, so it can be argued that a period of calm can be expected when it comes to incorporating acquired ISV solutions into the Dynamics 365 product range.

I’d be interested to hear from others on this subject, so please leave a comment below if you have your own thoughts on the interesting journey from Dynamics CRM to Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement

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