Dynamics 365 – A Light at the End of the Tunnel?

So a lot has been said recently about Dynamics 365, ranging from high praise to all-out hysteria. NDAs have been violated, pumping bits and pieces of information out, mostly around pricing. And lot’s of partners have been complaining, including yours truly (hopefully constructively). But as I continue to dig deeper into it, light-bulbs continue to pop on over my head.

A Method to the Madness

One of the challenges partners, and Microsoft, have had with Dynamics CRM, was the fact that, for all this time, we had one product: CRM. It included Sales, Customer Service, Marketing and a smattering of other features. The exact same product was being offered to enterprise customers at one end of the spectrum by enterprise partners; and to 5 user SMB customers at the other end by SMB Partners. The same product, at the same price. Like porridge, not enough features to satisfy enterprise, and too many features for SMB, it was really “just right” for very few. As Sellers, we adapt, and learn how to spin the story to fit our customers. Depending on who you are talking to you emphasize and highlight different things and before you know it, it looks like CRM is more than one thing… but it’s not.

How to Polish a Stone

The primary reasons for whatever success CRM has achieved has been: a) The Microsoft Brand, and b) Extensibility. Let’s face it, Microsoft is a big brand in enterprise technology circles. Dynamics CRM had been chosen in many cases because the customer was “A Microsoft Shop”. I know I always smiled when a prospect proclaimed their allegiance to Microsoft before I even opened my mouth, he just saved me from having so say a whole bunch of words. The other key driver has been the ability to customize the CRM platform, and I don’t mean tweaking field labels, I mean the ability to turn it into something else completely. For customers who had come from purpose built “Customer Relationship Management”, the extensibility of CRM ended up being the biggest part of the conversation. It really felt more like we were selling a toolbox, that included a few example tools i.e. Sales. But as time passed, more and more customers, in this push-button, gimme what I need, world became less interested in a Business Application Erector Set. So Microsoft starts buying finished products, like Field One for example. Building something from scratch may excite CRM partners, but customers just see dollar signs; configuring something that is already built has a lot more appeal.

Sometimes you just have to Bust Things Up

Be honest, CRM has become a Christmas tree with way to many ornaments, lights and garland, precariously tilting from the strain. CRM is still a distant second to the market leader and we were on pace to remain so for a long time. It was time to bust some stuff up! So Microsoft took an axe to what we know as CRM. The first chop was across, creating two distinct offerings, one for companies under 250 users, and another for larger companies. Finally, we actually have different offerings that will make sense to small or large customers. No more trying to convince that SMB customer that, for his basic lead fishing needs, he really wants a howitzer. Then a series of axe chops vertically: Finance, Sales, Service, Marketing, etc, all become separate pieces. Now customers who only want Sales for example, can license only that, without a bunch of other baggage that they felt they were paying for, but did not need. It’s like a Chinese menu… what’s with me and the Chinese lately?

Enough of the Axe, how about the scalpel?

Microsoft did a lot more than just chop up the current product into pieces. Dynamics 365 really is a re-imagining of what CRM needs to be (okay, that sounded like a line their marketing department fed me, take my word for it, I am sure they would be just as happy if I just shut up). There has been a lot of leaked information about pricing, and I will not be providing any more of that here. Not just because I actually respect an NDA, but because without understanding what the new Dynamics 365 is, pricing is meaningless. Attempting to draw conclusions about pricing, based on today’s product, is not fair to Microsoft, its Partners or its Customers. When you finally see what Dynamics 365 is, and does, I think you will be amazed, and pricing information will have the necessary context. Sure Microsoft is reacting, but if there is such a term, I would have to say they are “proactively reacting”. I for one, can’t wait for everyone to see what I have seen, in the next couple of weeks.

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