What in the World is Dynamics 365?

What’s in a Name?

Over the past year Microsoft has undergone a huge rebranding of their Business Application line of products. In an attempt to streamline their marketing efforts and create and all-inclusive platform, Microsoft merged together the Dynamics and Office 365 names and Dynamics 365 was born. What’s confusing here, is that Dynamics 365 is not one single product it is actually a culmination of:

1. Dynamics 365 for Sales (Enterprise and Professional)

2. Dynamics 365 for Customer Service

3. Dynamics 365 Project Service Automation

4. Dynamics 365 Field Service

5. Dynamics 365 Marketing

6. Dynamics 365 Retail

7. Dynamics 365 Talent

8. Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations

9. Dynamics 365 Business Central (Essentials and Premium)

That’s right… when someone says Dynamics 365 they could be referring to any of the nine cloud-based products Microsoft has brought to the market. Now, let’s not forget about the on-premise Dynamics offerings:

1. Dynamics GP (formerly Great Plains)

2. Dynamics SL (formerly Solomon)

3. Dynamics NAV (formerly Navision)

4. Dynamics AX (formerly Axapta)

5. Dynamics CRM (Microsoft actually built this one!)

When someone says they are running a Dynamics platform, they could be referring to any of the 14 products Microsoft currently has available. It is a little confusing to say the least. All of these are separate products, but they work together on an integrated platform. Some would have you believe that the on-premise systems are going away.

Personally, I do not believe this. While its become clear over the past few years that “cloud is king” on-premise still has a huge place in the business application world, especially for larger companies. Take Dynamics AX for example… this ERP system is run by massive companies with complex manufacturing processes such as Hershey’s and GM.

These companies have extremely complicated infrastructure and data protection policies in place. Moving to the cloud, much larger companies is a huge undertaking, often spanning years. Also, for the functions they are using in AX, a browser or web-based experience would not always work well. In fact, after Microsoft released AX 2012 they proclaimed they would no longer develop on the on-premise platform, only in the cloud. The backlash was quick and fierce, and Microsoft immediately changed their tune.

How do you Choose?

If you decide to utilize one of the new cloud-based Dynamics 365 products, there are a lot of things you have decide about the functionality you need. For instance, there are two cloud-based ERP system listed under Dynamics 365… Business Central and Finance & Operations. How do you decide the between the two? Well, Dynamics 365 Business Central is actually based and built on the Dynamics NAV code base.

Dynamics NAV is an extremely popular mid-market ERP system, which is why Microsoft chose to take it and use it as the base for their mid-market cloud ERP system. Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations is actually based on the Dynamics AX code base and platform.

Remember when I said Microsoft tried to stop developing AX on-premise and only continue on with the cloud-based product? Well, that didn’t work but they did continue on developing the cloud version which became Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations. That being said, this product is for a very large, enterprise organization who has an emphasis on complex manufacturing and supply chain needs.

How do you Purchase Dynamics 365?

Well if you guessed that there are almost as many ways to purchase Dynamics 365 as there are version, you would be *almost* right. There are quite a few ways to purchase Dynamics 365 and they vary from product to product.

Value Added Resellers

 The on-premise Dynamics products (GP, SL, NAV, AX, and CRM) can only be purchased by Microsoft Dynamics Value Added Resellers (VARs). These are certified Microsoft partners with a specialty in Enterprise Resource Planning and Customer Relationship Management system.

Cloud Solution Providers

All of the Dynamics 365 Products, with the exception of Dynamics 365 Relationship Sales (Dynamics 365 is only eligible to be sold on Enterprise Agreements and, therefore, is not available to all organizations), are available for purchase via a Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP). CSP partners range from Dynamics VARs to your everyday Managed Service Providers (MSP).

The talk on the street is, that while Dynamics 365 will continue to be sold via CSP, Cloud Solutions Providers will have to have certain certifications to sell any of the Dynamics product line. The reason for this is because of the complexity that Dynamics 365 brings to the table. These products are ERP and Line of Business tools. To properly implement them one must have accounting and business know how, as well as a technical background.

You don’t always find this with your everyday MSP due to the fact that they are solely IT based. Microsoft would not want partners selling these products with no way of properly implementing or supporting them. This would leave a bad taste in the customer’s mouth, not only towards the partner but towards Microsoft and the product. That is no way to gain customers or market share, especially considering Microsoft’s biggest competitors in this area- NetSuite, Salesforce.com, SAP, etc.

Microsoft Direct

With the exception of Dynamics 365 Business Central and Finance & Operations, customers have the option to purchase the other Dynamics 365 cloud apps directly, much like with Office 365. In the future, Microsoft may scale this back to only selling through the partner community, but since the offering is relatively new they do not want to limit any purchase streams. You may be asking yourself, is there a benefit to purchasing direct vs. purchasing through a partner? The answer is no, and for a few reasons:

1. Cloud Solution Providers can offer better pricing than Microsoft Direct. Microsoft is a partner led, partner drive organizations. They extend special pricing to partner so that they can then pass this along to their customers.

2. Microsoft bills their licensing monthly and directly debits your bank account. This model doesn’t work for all organizations and working with a CSP allows you to work on a more flexible billing method if you need it. At KTL, we have customers on monthly, quarterly, bi-annual, and annual billing. Part of working with a partner is setting up a rhythm that works for you.

3. Microsoft does offer some support with your subscription licensing. However, getting support through a partner allows you to work with someone that intimately understands your business and your specific processes. When you work with Microsoft support, they are able to help from a technical perspective, but they do not have knowledge on your company or the unique set up of your system.

I hope this has helped clear up some of the Microsoft Dynamics 365 mystery. It is a confusing, but exciting time in the Microsoft Business Applications space. Dynamics has been a red-headed step child of the Microsoft product line, in comparison to the golden children like Windows, Office 365, Azure, etc. So as Microsoft brings dynamics to the forefront of their product offering, bear with them and get ready for an exciting ride. It wouldn’t help to align yourself with a trusted, certified Microsoft Partner to help you navigate these waters as well!

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