Microsoft Dynamics CRM: An Introductory Product Guide 

Customer relationship management (CRM) is the key process for every business. After all, few companies can generate revenue without investing in an effective CRM process and supporting tools.

Microsoft is a long-standing player in the business software space, boasting a wide range of solutions for customer experience, relationship, and service management. But perhaps because Microsoft has been in the game for so long, its product offerings are not always clear.

If you’re wondering what is the leading Microsoft Dynamics CRM solution and how it compares to earlier editions, this post provides a detailed outlook.

What is Microsoft Dynamics CRM?

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is the colloquial moniker for the company’s flagship solution for nurturing customer relationships. Offered as a collection of subsystems and applications, Microsoft Dynamics CRM includes tools for project management, sales, marketing, and analytics tools, purpose-built for customer-facing teams.

The first Microsoft CRM product was developed in the 1990s, and the first Microsoft Dynamics CRM edition came out in 2003. The product progressively gained traction, although it underwent several iterations. 

Initially, Microsoft had a vision for consolidating various ERP subsystems into a new CRM app to create one super-solution with a shared codebase, code-named Project Green. Yet, the idea did not come to fruition at that time due to several technological constraints. Microsoft chose to maintain two separate products: Microsoft Dynamics as the primary EPR solution and Dynamics CRM as a customer relationship management solution.

In 2007, Microsoft released the first online version of Dynamics CRM, hosted on the web and accessible to anyone via a dedicated CRM Online service portal. This release was the first stepping stone towards building cloud-based CRM software, unchained from on-premises storage.

Product development speed accelerated in the 2010s. The end customers demanded more flexibility and customization options to meet their evolving marketing strategies. Dynamics CRM 2011 introduced a new solution layer, which allowed development partners to provide managed packages of customizations and web resources to any organization, almost like installing apps on a smartphone. Moreover, Microsoft shifted to a bi-annual product update schedule, which sharply contrasted with the industry’s standard 2-3-year update cycle at that time.

Dynamics CRM 2011 edition also received a more convenient user interface with new charts and dashboard functionality, enabling real-time data analysis. Combined with the forms’ support for subgrids, headers, and footers, the result was a highly extensible UI on top of an already flexible CRM platform.

In 2016, Dynamics CRM underwent its most significant change. Microsoft decided to channel most of its efforts toward building a scalable, cloud-native CRM solution. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement was shortly presented to the public and named as a successor to all earlier Dynamics CRM editions.

Today, the company retains the name Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement as the official describer for its customer relationship products. The earlier Microsoft CRM and Dynamics 365 editions were either already retired or nearing end-of-support.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Editions: Explainer 

Name

EOS Date 

Dynamics CRM 2011

No longer supported 

CRM 2013

Extended end date: Jan 9, 2024

Dynamics CRM C5 2014

No longer supported 

Dynamics CRM 2015

Extended end date: Jan 14, 2025

Dynamics CRM 2016

Extended end date: Jan 13, 2026

Legacy software editions pose operational constraints and magnify security threats. If your organization still relies on any of the above Dynamics CRM editions, we strongly recommend an upgrade. Our certified Microsoft Dynamics consultants will be delighted to advise you on the best licensing options and facilitate migration planning and execution. 

What is The Latest Version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM?

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement (CE) is the latest on-premises edition of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. It was originally released in 2016 to replace an earlier product version. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement boasts sleek user interfaces, real-time data connectivity, and seamless integrations with other products in the Microsoft family.

Since then, Microsoft has changed its product positioning once again, which created a bit of confusion. Today, there’s no official Microsoft CRM product. Instead, users can build their optimal solution using various Dynamics 365 sub-modules

Is Microsoft Dynamics On-premise or Cloud?

You can deploy Microsoft Dynamics on-premises or host it in the cloud. The deployment option depends on your license. For example, Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement is the company’s on-premises edition of CRM software. At the same time, other products like Dynamics 365 Sales, Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, or Dynamics 365 Marketing are fully cloud-based. 

Dynamics 365 Features and Capabilities for Customer Engagement

Dynamics 365 is modular software where you select the features you need to build your customer relationship function. Since Dynamics 365 is a SaaS solution, you don’t have to pay for features you don’t need. You also benefit from consolidated licensing costs for marketing, sales, project management, and other business tools.

Dynamics 365 is a collection of interconnected ERP and CRM applications you can combine to provide multi-function solutions for SMBs and enterprise businesses.

Larger organizations and enterprises prefer Dynamics 365 because of its rich feature set and innovative capabilities in resource planning, business intelligence, real-time customer analytics, and intelligent lead management.

Though Dynamics 365 includes many sub-products, the following solutions are popular for setting up customer relationship management.

Dynamics 365 Sales 

Dynamics 365 Sales provides a unified interface for managing the entire sales cycle, from lead generation and scoring to conversion and opportunity closure. With robust business intelligence and analytics capabilities, D365 Sales helps create data-backed sales pipelines and empowers sales staff with better productivity tools.

According to a Forrester report, enterprises using D365 Sales have avoided over $4 million in legacy CRM costs in the form of labor and data center savings. Moreover, they’ve reported an increased sales volume of $2.9 million and improved seller productivity worth $2.5 million in recaptured labor. Dynamics 365 Sales also increased data task productivity by 30% among the served organizations. On average, sales managers save 127 hours yearly with the new software. 

Key features and capabilities: 

  • Insights-based sales acceleration: contextual insights, recommend next best actions and automated workflow steps. 
  • Reliable sales forecasting, thanks to comprehensive activity tracking and advanced analytics engines. 
  • A complete view of the customer journey. A 360-degree view into all customer touchpoints and nurturing actions are different touchpoints and deal stages. 
  • Smart process automation. Set up flexible business rules to guide users through company best practices as they perform day-to-day sales tasks. 
  • Integrations with other Microsoft products. Surfaces all communications, appointments, and tasks from Office 365. Create new apps with Power Platform or channel customer service insights from a respective software module. 

Dynamics 365 Customer Service 

Dynamics 365 Customer Service is a suite of tools for establishing leaner support operations via task centralization, smart request routing, and advanced performance analytics. With D365 Customer Service, agents can effortlessly tackle support requests across channels, platforms, and devices without switching screens. You can achieve greater support function performance with the embedded case, SLA, and entitlement management tools, flexible workflow automation, and conversational AI technology (chatbots and virtual agents).

Dynamics 365 Customer Service aims to help organizations exceed customer expectations at every touchpoint while maintaining a productive and satisfied workforce.

Key features and capabilities: 

  • All-in-one, multi-session workspace for agents with an intuitive interface, conversation history, and critical tools. 
  • Embedded AI assistants for information look-up, contextual prompts, and intelligent auto-suggest. 
  • Prioritized task lists with suggested execution sequences built in line with corporate rules and policies. 
  • Streamlined case management, thanks to smart workflow automation and 360-degree visibility into customer journeys. 
  • Smart ticket routing engine for optimizing query management, escalation, and resolution times. 

Dynamics 365 Marketing 

Dynamics 365 Marketing brings robust automation and generative AI features to the forefront of managing customer experiences. With D365 Marketing, companies can build personalized marketing campaigns at scale to engage with customers in real-time across multiple touchpoints and build a holistic customer experience jointly with other teams.

D365 Marketing seamlessly integrates with Dynamics 365 Sales, Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, and Microsoft Teams, among other products, which allows teams to effectively collaborate on every aspect of the customer journey.

Key features and capabilities: 

  • Design advanced customer journeys with a built-in builder. Incorporate pre-made or custom triggers to create a more realistic representation of standard customer flows. 
  • Automate interactions across popular channels (email, texts, social media apps) for each customer journey stage. Prevent message fatigue with smart frequency capping.
  • Design and store pre-made templates for different marketing channels and campaign types. Collaborate and customize new collateral in real-time. 
  • Leverage dynamic content for new campaigns, courtesy of new generative AI tools. 
  • Schedule A/B tests and other marketing experiments to optimize journey segments with in-depth analytics. 
  • Track all marketing metrics and KPIs via Power BI dashboards or out-of-the-box analytics solutions. 

Dynamics 365 Customer Insights

Dynamics 365 Customer Insights is a complementary solution larger organizations use for marketing personalization. This customer data platform (CDP) helps unify disparate insights from multiple sources to obtain a helicopter view of the customer base. Slice and dice available insights to locate new target audiences, lookalike customer profiles, and promising segments for remarketing.

D365 Customer Insights leverages AI to process transactional, behavioral, and demographic data sources and report valuable insights. Sales and marketing leaders can use these insights to build persuasive 1:1 customer experiences.

Key features and capabilities: 

  • Secure customer data aggregation and storage from multiple sources. 
  • Customer profile enrichment with first and third-party data sources. 
  • Real-time customer analytics via integration with other Microsoft products, custom data science models, and third-party tools. 

Benefits of Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM

Dynamics 365 arms leaders with multiple tools for customer relationship management — from first contact to ongoing support and nurturing. Unlike other popular CRM solutions, you can configure Dynamics 365 to cover every step of the customer journey, no matter its complexity or duration. Your teams get all the tools they need via a single, collaborative workspace designed to promote workflow continuity. Instead of switching between interfaces and products, every customer-facing department in your company can jointly work from the same hub.

The key benefits of adopting Dynamics 365 for customer relationship management include: 

  • Enhanced workforce productivity, thanks to workflow continuity, intelligent automation, and modern UIs. On average, D365 Sales saves up to 83 hours of work per seller per year. 
  • End-to-end customer relationship management. Optimize every customer touch point from a single workspace with aggregated insights, collaborative tools, and built-in tools. 
  • Data-backed decision-making. Benefit from native AI solutions for real-time context cues, conversational intelligence, and at-scale data analytics. Combine Microsoft BI tools with third-party and custom analytics models. 
  • Increased security. Securely store, process, and exchange sensitive custom data. Benefit from Microsoft’s latest innovation in access and identity management, compliance, and cybersecurity. 
  • Better personalization, thanks to a unified view of customer profiles and behavioral insights. Deliver consistent experiences across touchpoints and company representatives with centralized customer management tools. 
  • Cross-team collaboration. Remove silos between departments and consolidate multi-step workflows in one solution.  Ensure all teams can access the information and subject-matter experts, regardless of location. 
  • Robust automation. Dynamics 365 products include smart process builders and contextual suggestions for streamlining repetitive operations. Moreover, your workforce can also get extra capabilities with low-code apps built with Power Platform. 

Dynamics 365 Cloud vs. On-Premises: Which Option to Consider?

Microsoft currently positions Dynamics 365 as a cloud (SaaS) solution. However, there’s also a Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement on-premises edition available. Unlike the modular Dynamics 365 cloud stack, on-premises D365 CE comes as a consolidated license with bundled apps from multiple units (Sales, marketing, etc.).

That said, the on-premises Dynamics 365 CE is less frequently updated and lacks access to some of the newest Microsoft CRM tools, like generative AI and real-time business intelligence, among others. On-premises Dynamics 365 deployment also means that your company will have to cover the data center bill, plus all other upkeep and software maintenance costs.

Dynamics 365 Cloud runs on Azure — a Microsoft cloud service powered by a global network of data centers. Multinational companies can select one or more deployment region(s) for Dynamics 365 to minimize latency. Microsoft takes full responsibility for securing, hardening, and updating Dynamics 365 software, according to the SLAs. In case of any uptime or product performance issues, the support team is quickly available.

Dynamics 365 Cloud 

Dynamics 365 CE on-premises 

Advantages

  • Immediate access to all the innovative product features, often at no extra cost 
  • No CAPEX spending on local infrastructure 
  • 99.9% uptime guarantee and embedded disaster recovery 
  • Automatic data backups to ensure data redundancy 
  • Unlimited scalability potential and easy product upgrades 
  • Access to product add-ons via AppSource; seamless integration with other Microsoft cloud products
  • Ability to use own IT infrastructure 
  • Complete data ownership 
  • One-time license purchase with no ongoing subscription costs 
  • Almost limitless ability for product/deployment customization

Disadvantages

  • Data is stored off-premises, which may not be allowed by certain regulations. 
  • Progressively increasing cloud data storage costs 
  • High reliance on undisrupted connectivity. No offline operations are possible. 
  • You must regularly do manual updates and product patching
  • Data security is fully on your end 
  • No option to create self-service web portals for customers 
  • No access to cloud-native CRM features such as PowerApps, Power BI, generative AI, etc. 

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Pricing Overview

The cost of your CRM with Dynamics 365 will vary based on the number of selected sub-modules (Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, etc.) and the total user count. Discounts apply for stacking multiple products. For example, Dynamics 365 marketing price starts at $1,500 per tenant/month. However, each next qualifying Dynamics app is only $750 per tenant/month.

Likewise, Dynamics 365 costs will vary based on the selection license tier (and the respective features included with it). A Professional Sales license for D365 Sales is $65 per user/month, while an Enterprise Sales license is $95 per user/month.

Microsoft provides ample resources on Dynamics 365 pricing, and Edvantis’ consultants would be delighted to further advise you on optimal licensing.

Conclusions 

Microsoft has spent decades building out a robust suite of tools for customer relationship management. Its latest CRM edition — Dynamics 365 — is a flexible, customizable, cloud-native platform you can configure to suit any type of industry or sales cycle. By investing in Dynamics 365, you pay for CRM features your company needs today while maintaining easy access to more advanced tools to support you at your next growth stage.

Edvantis is a certified Microsoft partner, offering a range of migration and customization services for Dynamics 365 products. Contact us to receive further guidance on Microsoft CRM capabilities. 

FAQs about Microsoft CRM Products 

What is Microsoft Dynamics 365 used for?

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a composite product, combining multiple products for enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), finance, and wider operations. Because it’s a platform with multiple sub-products, the use cases very from payroll management and supply chain optimization to customer support and conversion optimization.

What is Microsoft Dynamics 365 CE?

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement (CE) is an on-premises version of the company’s customer relationship management tools. It includes a set of tools and applications for marketing, customer service, and sales process management.

Is Dynamics 365 a CRM tool?

Yes, Dynamics 365 offers customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities via its sub-products, such as Dynamics 365 Sales, Dynamics 365 Marketing, and Dynamics 365 Customer Service, among others. That said, Dynamics 365 is more than just a CRM solution since it also includes modules for finance, operations, supply chain, and field workforce management, among other functions.

What is the difference between Dynamics 365 and CRM 2016?

Dynamics CRM 2016 is an earlier product edition, released in the stated year and supported until Jan 13, 2026. Unlike Dynamics 365, you can deploy CRM 2016 on-premises. Dynamics 365, in turn, is a cloud-native solution boasting advanced features such as AI workflow assistants, Power BI dashboards, better mobile tools, and a host of other tools for improving workforce productivity and performance.

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