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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Microsoft Focuses on D365 to Help Customers Achieve Digital Transformation

Posted by Armanino Dynamics Team

We were fortunate to have speaker Mike Ehrenberg, Technical Fellow at Microsoft, at our recent Digital Transformation event. He shared a wide range of insights about the vital and increasingly robust role Dynamics 365 plays in customers’ digital transformation and in Microsoft’s own business model.

Ehrenberg said that more and more customers are asking Microsoft: How can I use digital technology to make my company more effective? That question is at the heart of the digital transformation.

Today everybody and everything are continuously connected, and data can be captured in many ways: sensors, IoT devices, websites, etc. All that connectivity is generating so much data that system intelligence—data visualization, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI)—is necessary to make it useful.

The upshot is that companies drive effectiveness in their business by having abundant data to which they apply intelligence, which surfaces insights that they turn into action through their applications.

Digital feedback loops

From Microsoft’s perspective, its role in digital transformation is to help companies:

(1) Better engage with their customers
(2) Empower their employees
(3) Make better decisions more effectively to optimize their operations
(4) Transform the products and services they offer their customers

Digital feedback loops around each of these four outcomes strengthen and reinforce them. For example, if you collect data on what your customers care about, you make the next engagement with them more positive, which generates more data…and the virtuous cycle continues.

But the “real magic,” said Ehrenberg, comes when data across feedback loops are brought together. An example is a customer reporting dissatisfaction with a product. If the maker knows the specifics of manufacture—location, the parts used, the employees involved, etc.—it can connect and act on the whole set of issues that caused the problem.

Digital Transformation with Microsoft Business Applications - Digital Transformation Loop
Explore the full presentation on Digital Transformation with Microsoft Business Applications.

Each company will start its digital transformation from a different place, for example, meeting a competitive challenge, finding the best people, or engaging their customers. Microsoft can enable independent solutions for marketing, finance, talent etc. that give the customer just what they need to start in one area. The cloud, AI and other new technologies make the business processes they will use very different from those used 10 years ago.

At the same time, Microsoft recognizes that customers will be using a variety of solutions from various vendors, and not just Dynamics. Ehrenberg said that the company sees one of its missions as enabling its customers to bring data together from all their applications—as well as IoT, sensors, etc.—in a unified way so customers can pursue digital transformation as they want.

D365 is central to Microsoft’s cloud story

“The business applications in Dynamics 365 sit at the center of the conversation about digital transformation,” said Ehrenberg. Dynamics brings data together in the business, from different things and from different processes. It is where insights are surfaced from that data, and it is the vehicle to translate that insight into action.

The increasing power of D365 for digital transformation has changed how Microsoft sees the product, and its importance to Microsoft’s business.

Microsoft’s cloud story is driving its business, and that story has three parts. Cloud One is the platform, Azure. Cloud Two is productivity: Office 365, now called Microsoft 365. And Cloud Three is business processes, Dynamics 365.

Ehrenberg said that just a couple of years ago, Dynamics would show up “somewhere around slide 27” in a Microsoft executive presentation. But now the first slide Microsoft’s CEO shows will have those three clouds, with Dynamics in the center. As existing customers transition to the cloud, the company is also gaining a whole new set of D365 customers because of it.

Microsoft is merging key talent into the Dynamics group. This includes the mixed reality applications team, which last year shipped Dynamics 365 Remote Assist, a mixed reality tool for field technicians. Microsoft also merged into D365 all parts of AI related to business applications.

As part of the cloud story, Microsoft is also optimizing D365 delivery to help users stay current. The company used to ship a new version every two or three years. Now, it updates D365 continuously, with a focus on April and October. It publishes release notes for those months, which summarize all new features and improvements, as well as information on availability date. The notes are published well in advance of each major update, so users can plan for the new capabilities.

A more robust D365: customer data lakes and PowerApps

In its effort to provide unified data, Microsoft has developed Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2 with the Common Data Model. At its core is all the Dynamics applications, which feed their data into the data lake in near real time. Customers can add whatever other data they want, as well as other analytics. Altogether, there are more than 200 connectors and gateways to data sources, including both Microsoft and non-Microsoft products. This enables greater visibility across your organization’s data on a holistic platform.

Adding to the data lake’s strength and flexibility, Adobe, Microsoft and SAP have joined forces on an Open Data Initiative. It will combine data from the three companies and other third-party systems for a customer data lake. For Dynamics users, this will create an even more unified view of data for digital transformation.

Digital Transformation with Microsoft Business Applications - Unified Data
Explore the full presentation on Digital Transformation with Microsoft Business Applications.

Meanwhile, in the apps area, Microsoft has been developing PowerApps, which extends the adaptability of the Dynamics solution for customers. It is a tool that creates an app for a unique business process that is being done in Excel, or even on paper. It enables the user who knows the specific business process and can think analytically—but who’s not a developer—to build their own app.

Tools for digital transformation

What matters to a manufacturing company may be very different than what matters to a retailer, or a bank. But regardless of industry, the patterns of the digital transformation remain very much the same. With the enhanced robustness of Dynamics, Microsoft is providing companies the tools to pursue their own digital transformation efforts.

Explore the Ehrenberg’s full presentation from Armanino’s Digital Transformation event and discover how you can empower your digital transformation with Armanino’s Microsoft Dynamics 365 team.

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