Microsoft's new Dynamics 365 will bundle ERP and CRM in the cloud

A new app store, meanwhile, will help business users find line-of-business SaaS applications

Microsoft is working on a new offering called Dynamics 365 that will combine its current ERP and CRM cloud services into a single bundle and include applications purpose-built for specific business functions.

Due to be available this fall, Dynamics 365 will feature apps for functions including financials, field service, sales, operations, marketing, project service automation and customer service. The apps can be independently deployed, allowing users to buy only what they need.

Microsoft's Power BI and Cortana Intelligence tools will be natively embedded for predictive capabilities. With Cortana Intelligence, for instance, sales reps will be able to predict which products and services a customer will need next, thereby helping to focus their cross-selling efforts.

Dynamics 365 will also be tightly integrated with Office 365. Apps will use a common data model that's shared with Office 365, and they'll also come with connectors that let you integrate with applications and services from Microsoft and its partners, including custom APIs and on-premises systems.

Customers will be able license Dynamics 365 by application, but they'll also be able to license users based on their professional role. "Our new role-based approach will give customers the flexibility they need to support modern, more agile, more diverse employee roles -– enabling them to access functionality across all applications within Dynamics 365," explained Jujhar Singh, corporate vice president for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, in a blog post. Microsoft will offer more details as the product's launch gets closer, he said.

Customers already using Dynamics CRM online or Dynamics AX online will enjoy a "seamless transition," Singh added.

Much of what Microsoft has announced this week echoes things it said about Project Madeira, the cloud ERP system for SMBs that it announced earlier this year, said Frank Scavo, president of management consulting firm Strativa.

"This makes me think that the Madeira announcement was just the first shoe to drop on a larger push to offer more of the Dynamics line of products as cloud services," Scavo said. "I think this is just another sign of Dynamics being mainlined into the larger Cloud + Enterprise group, which Microsoft announced last year."

There's been considerable momentum around Office 365, Scavo added, so "by tightly integrating Dynamics with Office 365, Microsoft is hoping that it can pull Dynamics along for the ride."

Microsoft’s announcement is "long on features and benefits and short on technical details," however. "If I’m a Microsoft partner, I’d be very interested, or perhaps very concerned, about what this means for my existing customers," Scavo said. "I suppose that’s why Microsoft waited until just before its Worldwide Partner Conference to make this announcement."

Also on Wednesday Microsoft announced AppSource, a new place for business users to find and try out line-of-business SaaS apps from Microsoft and its partners. More than 200 business apps, add-ins and content packs are now available there, Microsoft said.

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