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Last year when Microsoft officially launched their Dynamics 365 commercial offering, it marked the end of the Dynamics CRM brand. Initially launched as “Microsoft CRM” in 2003 and then rebranded as “Microsoft Dynamics CRM” in 2005 (see the first 10 years of the platform’s history in this blog post), the acronym “CRM” had become a big part of the identity for the ecosystem surrounding the software product. Nevertheless, there were fair arguments for why those three letters had gradually become a bit of a liability for the rapidly expanding cloud business applications platform that now reaches far beyond the familiar CRM grounds. My point of view can be found from the post “The End of CRM as (Microsoft) Software”, which turned out to be one of my most popular writings in 2016.
So, out with Dynamics CRM and in with Dynamics 365. Problem solved! Except that this time around the rebranding had a bit wider reaching impact, due to the fact that it covered not only CRM but also the ERP side of the house. And not just one but two ERP’s: AX and NAV. With the catchy names “Microsoft Dynamics 365, Business edition” and “Microsoft Dynamics 365, Enterprise edition”, MS has almost managed to hide the fact that each of the editions consists of two completely separate application platforms. A bit like what they did with Office 365, which seemed to have worked out very well for MS, so not a surprise we’re seeing the same playbook in action again.
In this new world, we now have the concept of an “App”. You could, for example, license just “Dynamics 365 for Sales, Enterprise edition” if you don’t want to manage cases, or “Dynamics 365 for Customer Service, Enterprise Edition” if leads and opportunities are not on your radar. Financially the incentives for buying the complete “Plan 1” with all the Apps is quite strong, though, so the App model may not become a big part of the conversation after the customer has made the license acquisition and the real fun begins – as us “consultants formerly known as CRM consultants” surely are well aware of.
The real question that remains is: what exactly do you have once you’ve bought the software license? Unless you opted for the full suite of Plan 2 and also acquired the ERP application called Operations (in the Enterprise edition), you’re dealing with a subset of Dynamics 365 that does not have any name. If you go XRM and create custom entities, they do not exist inside the walls of “Sales” or “Customer Service” specifically. They’re in “CRM”, just like 90% of the platform functionality exists across all the Apps.
Why using the generic Dynamics 365 name can become confusing is that you can’t assume any text containing it to be about the ex-CRM part of it. It might as well be about ex-AX or ex-NAV. If you go and look at the SDK documentation on MSDN or the newer site at docs.microsoft.com, all they talk about is “Microsoft Dynamics 365”.
As long as you have a long history of working with any of the three platforms, you’ll probably be able to identify what the text you’re reading refers to after a while. But what about all the newcomers that the Dynamics ecosystem needs to attract, in order to continue on its growth trajectory? How will they know what applies to which platform? As an example, here’s what the new MB2-715 certification exam page originally looked like:
“Microsoft Dynamics 365 Online Deployment”. Mmm, yeah, so will this cover both CRM and AX? If you would ignore the CRM old logo with the “Sails” that have actually been discontinued since WPC 2015 announcement already (and can still found in some Microsoft sites & services), the actual description text of the exam never once mentions if its about CRM or ERP. By scanning through the related course material on Dynamics Learning Portal, the word “CRM” is completely avoided in every place – even though it’s obviously all about our beloved platform. The reason of course being that there hasn’t been anything sensible available to replace CRM with, if you stick to the official MS branding guidance.
This is just silly, and being the brutally honest consultant that I am, I also voiced my concern over on Twitter about this. In fact, there was already an earlier discussion I had with some of the community members about this lack of proper product names for us to use. Nick Doelman wrote a great blog post about this, so go and check it out for context. Yesterday, when I was again browsing through a list of the latest DLP materials, though, I came across a term that I had been expecting to see in public facing Microsoft sites for quite some time now. Here it is:
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement. There we have it, folks! The MB2-715 exam description was updated not just with the new logo but also a name that properly describes which particular platform the exam is about. I’ve seen this term being unofficially used among MSFT personnel, but now we get a search engine hit for it that’s not just partner content.
What do I think of the name? I believe it’s the right compromise to make, given that CRM must go and XRM is too technical for the wider audience. It’s most likely not a brand that Microsoft is too thrilled about promoting, but it’s a name that must exists – because there aren’t really any other good options around. The way I see it, Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement isn’t so much the result of a grand vision but rather it has been born out of necessity. And I for one am perfectly happy with starting to use it, if indeed this becomes the third name for the XRM platform. Not the Apps, but the thing that was MS CRM and Dynamics CRM back in the days.
So, should I now rush out to buy a suitable domain name for “Surviving Customer Engagement”? Hmm, I think I’ll hold off from any rash decisions, since the kind of changes that we saw with the Dynamics 365 launch last year are maybe good for grabbing media attention but not the optimal approach if you just want to get your message across to the Dynamics community. CRM will be around for a while, even though we may gradually need to shift towards using a bit different vocabulary when talking about the business application platforms that we work with.
Happy New Year to all the Surviving CRM readers! Yes, it’s been a while since the last post, so I’m only kicking off 2017 in February this time around. That doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be anything of interest happening in the Dynamics 365 – quite the contrary. In fact, there’s so many things going on all at once that even the most hardcore XRM fans may need to take a quick breather to let things sink in and figure out where to focus their energy next in the #MSDyn365 space.
Those of you who having been following this blog for a longer time may have come across a few podcasts that I’ve been recording with my buddy Markus Erlandsson. CRM Rocks is where it’s at, and I’m glad to let you know that Markus invited me into his virtual recording studio for the fourth time. Together we did the 50th episode of CRM Rocks: The State of Dynamics 365 (Sales) in 2017.
Some of the topics we discussed during this episode include the following:
We still have “Surviving CRM”, “CRM Rocks” and many things related to the term CRM – even though in the official Microsoft lingo the product name Dynamics CRM is no more. How are things working out in real life for this?
How is Dynamics 365 really different from the Dynamics CRM Online cloud service we had just a moment ago? Is it all just a new licensing scheme invented by Microsoft? And what’s the future of XRM with all these shiny new Azure services like CDS hovering over its head?
How have the Field Service and Project Service extended the footprint of C… sorry, Dynamics 365? With both Operations and Financials apps surrounding the XRM apps, what’s the resource management story? Will everyone’s ERP’s be in the cloud now?
What’s been happening on the Social front lately? How can we expect the huge money spent on LinkedIn acquisition to start showing up in the Dynamics product portfolio? Will the Singularity arrive once the LinkedIn data and MS algorithms are fused together?
Finally: what the **** is going on with the Marketing apps? What will come after Dynamics Marketing, how is it going to be delivered and to whom? And why is MS pushing Adobe Marketing Cloud as a preferred solution over their own or ISV products?
That’s easily more than an hour worth of geek talk, but Markus managed to squeeze it into 56 minutes. So, if that sounds like your cup of audio, then go and listen to the latest CRM Rocks episode.
Whenever a new version of Dynamics CRM and now Dynamics 365 (the XRM part) are released, the first thing you should review is the “what’s new” documentation that Microsoft produces for three different audiences: users, admins/customizers and developers. For the “December 2016 update for Dynamics 365” a.k.a version 8.2 of what used to be called CRM, these articles can be found from the following links:
- Dynamics 365 Help & Training: What’s new
- What’s new for administrators and customizers in Microsoft Dynamics 365
- What’s new for developers: Microsoft Dynamics 365
As always, there’s way more goodies in there that a single blog article could ever hope to cover in meaningful level of detail. One area that deserves a mention in terms of the core XRM platform enhancements is the way activities can now be presented in the UI, so let’s focus on those in this here post.
Display the associated activities of the related entities
If you’ve happened to read my ancient CRM 2011 era blog post about how subgrids ain’t what associated views used to be, then the concept of activity rollup may be familiar to you. The way Dynamics CRM has worked up to this point is that for out-of-the-box core entities like Account and Opportunity the activities from under the child entity were presented also under the parent entity’s Associated Activities View. If you created a custom entity under the Account, though, then none of the activities linked to it would show up in the rollup view. A major inconvenience for any XRM scenarios where you then had to instruct the users not to track their activities against any of the child entity records but rather put them all to the Account level.
In v8.2 this limitation has now been addressed by the product team:
“We added a new flag called Rollup View in the customization user interface, on the Relationship Behavior form. It lets customizers indicate that associated activities of the related entity should be included in the Activity Associated View for the primary entity.”
Woo-hoo! Let’s go and try this one out in an example scenario with a custom entity called “Account Plan” that we’ve linked to the standard Account entity via N:1 relationship. Meaning: there can be several Account Plans (per year, for example) for a single Account. Being the “plan” and all, you’d find it pretty natural to track tasks and other upcoming activities against this record, but also would probably prefer to have access to them from under the parent Account of this plan.
When we open up the relationship configuration screen and have a look at the Relationship Behavior section, we find our usual list of actions where cascading behavior can be configured. Down at the bottom there’s a new option: Rollup View. This is where the magic will happen for activity rollup between the two entities. (Note: if the field is disabled, make sure your entity is enabled for activities before trying to enable the Rollup View.)
With the Rollup View behavior set to “Cascade All”, we can now go and do some activity entry on the Account Plan form. Let’s use the Social Pane to add some tasks that are set regarding this particular plan. Normally this would be the only place where we’d see them (aside from the owner’s My Activities view and their task list synced to Outlook, of course), but thanks to our cascading relationship behavior this will no longer be the case. Let’s navigate up in the hierarchy towards the Account record.
Now, in addition to the activities that have been either directly set regarding the Account or one of the built-in roll-u enabled child entities, we also see those activities created from the Account Plan form listed in the Social Pane of the Account record. A tiny step towards the mythical “Customer 360”, but a major improvement nonetheless for ensuring the complete communication history for a particular customer account is easily accessible for the Dynamics 365 end user. In case you were wondering: yes, these child entity activities also roll up the account hierarchy, so a global group’s top account may end up having a BIG list of emails in its Social Pane.
As for another follow-up question related to the article from five years ago: no, the activity subgrid still won’t show any of these “special” relationships. The feature is specific to the Activity Associated View, which is also a “special” thing in the XRM platform, supported by another “special” component called the Social Pane. The implications from this are laid out bare in the feature documentation:
“The primary entity for the relationship must be Account, Contact, or Opportunity. This is because these are the only entity forms in the system where the Activity Associated View appears. You can’t specify any other primary entity for activity rollups.”
So, this is not a generic Holy Grail to presenting activity data in XRM just the way we’d want to, but one big rock rolled in the ditch from that long road at least.
Control how activities are sorted by date
Another new feature in v8.2 that touches upon the same functional area is related to the Social Pane configuration options. Traditionally, these words would not have existed anywhere near each other – aside from the countless feature requests on
MS Connect CRM Ideas forum. Everybody liked the CRM 2013 feature in terms of rich presentation and inline editing capabilities, and simultaneously loathed it for being a completely uncustomizable component placed smack in the middle of most XRM entity forms.