Anyone working within the CRM space will have already soaked up the news regarding Dynamics 365. Jujhar Singh’s announcement just a week before WPC 2016 helped to set the stage for Dynamics 365 & AppSource to steal the show as part of the conference, no doubt pleasing Dynamics professionals the world over. This is a major step forward for Microsoft, as they seek to quash the dominance of Salesforce, SAP & Oracle within the CRM/ERP space; having long been the underdog within this sector, Dynamics 365 could be what Microsoft needs to tip the scales in their favour.
So, if you are working with CRM closely at the moment, what does the above announcement mean for you? Is CRM still relevant or is it time to pivot across to some of the new offerings within Dynamics 365? In this week’s blog post, I take a closer look at what has emerged from the above announcement thus far, to see where the future may lie for CRM:
Is CRM now an Enterprise-level product?
At this stage, Microsoft are speaking in very high-level terms in respect to how the Dynamics 365 product will be licensed. But I was interested to see the following slide on show at WPC (picture courtesy of Peter Cutts):
Taking the above at face-value, Microsoft are now classifying CRM as an Enterprise-only product, a potentially concerning development. Some implications of this decision could be:
- Price rise on all CRM licensing plans as part of Dynamics 365: I think in the short-term, it is incredibly unlikely that we will see a major jump in price (in order to help drive early adoption), but since CRM is now classed as an enterprise level product, it would be very surprising if pricing is not eventually adjusted, in order to take this into account.
- Rise in minimum license purchase for CRM Online: This is currently set to 5 Professional licenses, whereas the above slide indicates a minimum seat purchase of 20 users. If we assume the same price under Dynamics 365, the minimum monthly cost to start using CRM Online rises up to £810 ex. VAT, which equates to a whopping rise of £607.50 per month! [UPDATE: Since this post, I have had it confirmed that CRM Online minimum seat purchase will not be affected by Dynamics 365. More info can be found here. Big thanks to CRM MVP Jukka Niiranen for pointing this out!]
- The future of CRM within SMB’s: I am hoping that some further detail will help to clarify the position of CRM within the overall offer, but one of my major concerns at this juncture is the future position of CRM Online within small to medium size businesses. One of the huge benefits of the current structure is that is tailored for both extremes; a major shift of the CRM product towards an enterprise-only approach (i.e. in the sense that the price point precludes any other, smaller organisation from justifying the cost of adopting CRM) could spell the end of CRM within the small business. One would assume that Project ‘Madeira’ would be the alternative offer for SMB’s in this instance; but the challenge would be in convincing these organisations to migrate across to this.
Looking at this another way, Microsoft have promised that the Dynamics 365 offering will be flexible and adaptable for any kind of business. So it may well be the case that we see no major changes to how the CRM Online product is offered, something that I would welcome.
Time to say goodbye to CRM On-Premise?
One of the persistent questions, considering the increased focus on CRM Online in recent years and the Dynamics 365 announcement as a whole, is just where does On-Premise CRM sit in Microsoft’s long-term plans. Some colleagues I have spoken to recently have predicted that Dynamics 365 is the nail in the coffin for CRM On-Premise. I take a slightly more pessimistic view. With many large-scale organisations within the public/private sector still requiring the ability to literally point to a server rack in a data centre and say “This is where our data is stored!”, it will be difficult for Microsoft to convince them to migrate across to the Office 365/Azure platform, when such requirements may prove difficult to match. The UK is currently an excellent case in point, as we are still waiting on the promised arrival of UK based Azure data centres. Until Microsoft are in a position to offer commitments to every country in the world that they have data centres based within the country in question (or, in the case of Europe, within the European Economic Area), CRM On-Premise will continue to have a market for organisations who need specific assurances in regards to data storage and location.
The future of XRM
The XRM framework is a developers skeleton key, in terms of unlocking further potential from CRM and extending it to suit specific business requirements. So does the Dynamics 365 announcement mean that this key is now useless? Microsoft have provided some re-assurance that XRM is not going away anytime soon…
To extend the functionality of individual Dynamics 365 apps, partners may continue to use native application extensibility frameworks built-in to the CRM and the AX platforms.
But they have also indicated that there is a new sheriff in town…
The common data model is a cloud-resident business database, built on years of experience with our enterprise customers. It will come with hundreds of standard business entities spanning both business process (Dynamics 365) and productivity (Office 365). The standardization and consistency of schema enables partners to build innovative applications and to automate business processes spanning the entire business process spectrum with confidence their solutions can be easily deployed and used across Microsoft’s entire customer base.
Clearly, the new “common data model” is something that CRM professionals are going to have to familiarise themselves with, as well having a general awareness of the other products sitting within Dynamics 365. One good thing to note, according to this blog post, is that there is some familiar terminology! I potentially see this as a positive step forward, particularly if your organisation is developing ISV solutions that sit within CRM and the constraints of CRM Solutions mean that you cannot leverage the desired functionality from the application.
A Fork in the Road - How Dynamics 365 could lead to CRM Specialist Roles
The Dynamics 365 announcement would also look to confirm that the Sales and Service side of CRM are starting to be treated as separate offerings, within one common environment. We’ve already seen that Microsoft have segregated out the Sales and Service side of CRM into different exams, and also that, when requesting a CRM demo, you can choose to have a Sales or Service focused trial experience. I can foresee a scenario where existing CRM professionals are having to “evolve” into one of three types of roles:
- CRM Service Specialists
- CRM Sales Specialists
- Dynamics 365 Specialists
Without wishing to continue the references to Pokemon much further, we can then see situations where businesses are saying, for example, “CRM Service Specialist, I choose you!” for a particular project. Having focused roles along the lines of the above will undoubtedly lead to greater specialist knowledge of certain aspects of CRM, but could mean that professionals are no longer getting a good look over the garden fence at what’s going on within Dynamics 365 or within CRM itself.
Always Look on the Bright Side: Why Dynamics 365 could be awesome
Dynamics 365 can be seen as yet another gesture of love and attention towards the Dynamics CRM product. CRM has developed in leaps and bounds in recent history; this announcement would appear to be the cherry on the cake, designed to convince organisations across the globe that having CRM within their business can precipitate major benefits and return on investment. Dynamics 365 also gives those working with CRM an excellent excuse to start familiarising themselves with the other products in the Dynamics family. Typically, despite the shared name, these products have stood in distinct isolation from each other. Bringing them together as part of Dynamics 365 will hopefully lead to greater shared knowledge and awareness of what products, such as NAV, can deliver. Finally, the common data model, if designed correctly, could offer a much effective and less restrictive means of configuring CRM to interact with other products/systems.
There will no doubt be more news on Dynamics 365 in the months ahead, culminating with its release as part of Summit 2016 in October. For now, we will have to wait patiently, but I am eager to get my hands on it, as Dynamics 365 will undoubtedly be an important string on the bow of CRM professionals in the years ahead.