Dynamics 365 – Needs More Cowbell!

Hey, what do you think about that cool new Insights feature in Dynamics 365? Which one? Yes, it seems that the Microsoft cloud team has a new favorite word. On its own, or in conjunction with another word, “Insights” is all the rage, and well on its way to being the most overused term in Microsoft’s history.

What the hell is an “Insight”?

A quick dictionary lookup returned “the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing“. That does indeed sound quite useful. But while defined by the dictionary as a noun, Microsoft appears to have applied the term as a verb, and appended it to a number of things. In order to have a conversation about it, we must first clarify which particular “Insights” we are talking about. I was listening to a podcast the other day of MVPs, who spent a great deal of time attempting to clarify this very thing, to each other. They ended up in an uneasy détente, not entirely agreeing with each others’ definitions, but content to agree to disagree. I thought if the MVPs are struggling, then the rest of the community definitely is. I will seek to clarify below, with no promises that I won’t make it even more unclear by the end of this post.

The World of Insights

Before we try and drill into these, it probably helps to throw them all out on the table… or page. A Bing search, limited to Microsoft.com, returned over 914K references for the term “Insights” (Google returned more than 4 million when limited to Microsoft.com, what’s up with that?). I am sure I am missing some, but here are the ones I found so far: Insights, Organization Insights, Customer Insights, Relationship Insights, Application Insights, Azure Insights, Azure Operational Insights, Domain Insights, Azure HDinsights, Power BI Quick Insights, Bing Image Insights… okay, you get the idea.

Let’s drill into the ones that are relevant to Dynamics 365, with an eye towards your being able to differentiate and explain them to a SMB customer.

Insights

Microsoft has an OEM relationship with a company called InsideView for a version of their product that they are calling “Insights”. This tool was around before Insights became a hot term, so it has the honor of being called simply “Insights”. This feature shows up on Lead, Contact and Account record forms in Dynamics 365. Personally, I think its highest value is on the Lead form. What does it do? Well, with very little information, for example only a company name, it will jump out and scour the worldwide web. In less than the time it takes for you to take a sip of coffee, it comes back with a wealth of information about the company in question. With one click, you can then populate a bunch of previously blank fields on that Lead record with darn good data. Data that would take quite a bit of web searching and copy-pasting on your own. In addition, it can then go back out and find people connected to those companies, and just as simply, with one-click add their personal information to the Lead record. I have yet to demo this to a sales focused SMB customer who did not start salivating.

Customer Insights

This one, and the one that follows, are the two that the MVPs were grappling over in the podcast. Cherry-picking what they said, and augmenting that with my own reading and slant, I would say this one is mostly about the companies that you do business with. This one requires Azure, and lets you connect up to a number of Microsoft and non-Microsoft services. It pulls data from all of these services into a washing machine and spits it back to you in the form of “How are we doing with this Customer… all up”. Also, based on this customer’s Big Brother generated profile, what else can we sell them, and when. There is a lot more going on, but that would be a good summary for your customer call. Personally, I might not bother bringing this one up to most SMB customers.

Relationship Insights

In contrast to the companies you do business with, Relationship Insights centers around the people you do business with at those companies. This one connects Dynamics 365 and Hosted Exchange together, to bring in a view of how your Contacts and Leads are engaging with you. It includes a “Relationship Assistant”, “Email Engagement” and “Auto-Capture”. The Relationship Assistant is basically a nag over your shoulder, watching everything you do, or don’t do. Big Brother taps you on the shoulder in the form of a “Card” on the screen suggesting that, based on what it sees, you might want to call Bob and offer your Check-Up service. Email engagement, extends Big Brother out to Bob. For example, a workflow generates an automatic email to Bob, letting him know that it is time for his Quarterly Up-sell Check-Up call. With this tool, you can see if Bob opened this email, or if he scrolled past it because he is sick of your up-sell-veiled-as-a-check-up call. Lastly, Auto-Capture, which instead of waiting for you to track an email from your Outlook client, instead just goes ahead and tentatively tracks everything it finds in your mailbox to Dynamics 365 records, and from D365 asks you to confirm if you want to track each item it found. We are quickly running out of places for us lazy people to hide, but I can see this one having a lot of appeal to the SMB customer.

Organization Insights

This one manifests in Dynamics 365 as a dashboard about how your customer’s users are using Dynamics 365. With this tool for example, you can see that your user Larry, who has strangely not complained about the Dynamics 365 launch at all, has simply not engaged with it, and is still hoping it will just go away. I assume at some point we will even see Insights into how users are engaging with other Insights. It’s all very insightful. I would enable this for SMB customers, it’s simple enough to do and they may get some value out of it… why not. Of course, Larry will not be a fan.

Application Insights

This one covers a lot, but one of the things it can do, if you have built Appsource applications, is give you data about those applications. It covers a lot of others things to, for example, it lets me know when this website is down. This one is a little deep for me, and is tangentially related to Dynamics 365, so that is all I will say about it. Needless to say, this one is not worth mentioning to SMB.

Feel free to add your “Insights” in the comments below.

Update – 12/15/16

Some folks have asked me what the “More Cowbell” reference is from… enjoy:

23 Comments

  1. James Crowter

    The 365 Financials option adds another ‘Insights’ link to Outlook for your contacts financials info. confusion about what you get from where will be huge when you use sales & financials. And isn’t that the whole point of 365, to encourage customers to use more of the components?

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