The next major release of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement, the July 2017 Update, has been called “the biggest release to date” by the product team. If you look at the number of features that a single release now touches, with the product offering being further divided into Enterprise Edition and Business Edition, the number of work streams sure is massive. It’s amazing to think how much wider the scope of Dynamics 365 is today compared to “just” five years ago when it was still Dynamics CRM and the primary target seemed to be making the traditional sales-service-marketing CRM package to work with modern browsers (non-IE), devices (mobile) and infrastructure (cloud). Here’s the roadmap presented in WPC 2012:
Times change and even the Worldwide Partner Conference has evolved into Microsoft Inspire now – which I think is far too close to Microsoft Ignite as a name, since I’ve found myself mixing #MSInspire with #MSIgnite all the time. Anyway, this annual MS partner conference launched on July 10th with a keynote led by Satya Nadella. The recording of this is naturally already available, but you could also check out my Storify collection of the most interesting tweets from the event:
One of the announcements that didn’t get much space on the big stage but certainly has big potential implications for the Dynamics ecosystem was the announcement of a new ISV Cloud Embed program for partners. With a reference to their earlier success with offering Azure IaaS and PaaS services as the foundation for ISV applications, Microsoft now states that it will offer also higher level services available as building blocks for ISV apps. The list shown below includes “Dynamics 365 Embedded”.
Yes, it shows a number of other embeddable products too, like PowerApps and Flow, but c’mon – those are newcomers to the Microsoft product portfolio. Dynamics as in CRM and later Customer Engagement has been around for a decade and a half now! One does not simply rip the CRM roots out of the platform (assuming that it even is the CRM part and not AX/NAV) and then use the remaining parts as a building block for an ISV app. Except that it might just be happening soon.
This is not a brand new concept of course. Since I have a tendency of documenting the platform evolution of Dynamics CRM/XRM/365/CE/etc. onto my blog posts, all I have to do is search and reference my earlier writings these days. Back in 2010 when Office 365 was launched, I posted the first reference to the concept of “Dynamics CRM Services”. This is turned out to be pure slideware in the end, as the early illustrations of what the high level Azure services architecture was planned to be never quite materialized in that format. Read this post from Simon Hutson for a great overview of the buzz and confusion around CRM Services.
The statement in 2008 was:
“In the future, developers will have access to SharePoint & CRM functionality for collaboration and building stronger customer relationships. With the flexibility to use familiar developer tools like Visual Studio, developers will be able to rapidly build applications that utilize SharePoint and CRM capabilities as developer services for their own applications. Developers can expect a breadth of SharePoint & CRM capabilities across the spectrum of on-premises, online & the Azure Services Platform.”
With this week’s statement on Dynamics 365 Embedded, could the “future” referenced in the original text actually arrive ten years later? We don’t know for sure yet, but there are a lot of signs pointing towards that direction. If you followed the V9 Preview Executive Briefing or skimmed through my collected tweets from it, then you might already be aware of the concept of App/Plat Separation that’s taking place right this very moment. The earlier built-in application functionality of sales, marketing and services that you always got preinstalled with a CRM instance are now being moved into solutions like the newer Field Service etc. already are. Not only that, but also the built-in ASPX controls for data presentation components like grids and dialogs are now being rewritten with the new Custom Control Framework.
And what about Azure? Well, it’s everywhere you look now with the new features built for Dynamics 365. Then there’s also… something that will become more clear as the GA of V9 approaches. With all of this technical architecture being lined up for the next generation XRM, it looks like the only thing missing really is a commercial model for selling Dynamics 365 without the CRM. Now that we have the ISV Cloud Embed program announced at Inspire 2017, I would say the time has come to give the people what they want:
That Twitter poll ain’t open anymore, but please feel free to place your bets in the comments section of this post! What might the Embedded future of Dynamics 365 be and what still needs to happen in your opinion?