(This post originally appeared on Forbes)
Will Microsoft Dynamics exist five years from now? I don’t think it will.
Dynamics 365 is the brand name for Microsoft’s business software and includes applications for both financials and CRM. The brand is an amalgamation of other past brands – including Great Plains, Navision and CRM – that were either purchased or built from scratch. Together, it’s a portfolio of solutions that enables businesses to handle all sorts of operational tasks from accounting and human resources to CRM functions such as sales, service and marketing. My company is a Microsoft partner and specializes in the Dynamics 365 CRM offerings. But I’m preparing for a much different world in a few years. A world without Dynamics.
Before you get too concerned, I don’t mean that Microsoft will abandon all of these applications. They won’t. The company supports tens of millions of users, developers, consultants and specialists in all sorts of industries whose businesses and jobs depend on Dynamics 365. But, after watching some of the presentations and reading the news coming out of this week’s Microsoft Ignite event, it seems clear to me that Dynamics in just a few years will not be the same Dynamics we’re seeing today. In fact, I don’t think it will even be around.
Why? Because, in the end, Dynamics is an office application. Its end users are accountants, administrators, customer service reps, salespeople, inventory analysts and managers. They are Office 365 users. They are Dynamics 365 users. Ultimately these two platforms will merge. In fact, that merger has already begun. And for that we can thank Microsoft Teams.
“Think about the time spent between the moment you open an email or chat, find, and reply with the requested information, and then get back into the flow of your work,” wrote Brenda Bown, Microsoft’s General Manager for Business Applications. “Add up those minutes-long interruptions, and you begin to realize why we often can’t finish everything on our to-do lists. We want to dramatically reduce those disruptions by bringing together business processes, information, communication, and collaboration, enabling an integrated workspace for teamwork. Not only does this save time and improve collaboration throughout the day but frees up time so you can stay focused on customers.”
Brown was writing about Microsoft’s newly announced Dynamics 365 integration with Teams. The new features will include an embedded Teams chat experience for Dynamics 365 users as well as shared dialing, video and audio between the two applications, along with transcription features that “analyzes content, sentiment, and behavioral style—insights that can improve the way sellers engage with prospects and customers.” There are now new tools for marketers to set up, promote, and report on events hosted on Teams from within Dynamics 365 Marketing and further Teams functionality available to help customer service agents better collaborate with each other and outsiders from within the Dynamics platform.
That sounds well and good, but why the “integration?” Why do users have to choose between multiple Microsoft applications to do their work? Isn’t all this software from the same company? Of course it is and Microsoft knows it. It’s just that the massive rise of Teams’ usage wasn’t expected to happen so fast.
Let’s not forget that Microsoft Teams did not exist a mere four years ago. It was added to Office in an attempt to counter the explosive growth of Slack and other collaboration platforms. Usage rose, mainly on the backs of existing Office users that were already taking advantage of Skype and other communication features.
And then the pandemic happened. Suddenly, Teams was no longer just an add-on. It became a crucial part of the Office 365 platform, surpassing Slack and now competing (and winning) against the likes of Zoom, GoToMeeting and Google Meet. In this new, Work From Anywhere, cloud based world Teams has become more important than Word and Excel. For many companies it’s a mission critical application, just like their financial and CRM systems.
So isn’t the next step obvious?
The cloud makes business applications available anywhere and to anyone, easier to support and much easier to integrate. Businesses like mine don’t want to juggle different applications. We want one platform that handles all of our business operations from CRM, accounting, HR, marketing and service to e-commerce. That includes email, word processing, spreadsheets. It’s all Office.
We are tired of the cost of integrating Microsoft software with Microsoft software. We are confused by the many different versions, names and brands of all the different Microsoft products offered to us. We want the holy grail of technology: an easier to understand platform that does it all for our business, from lead to cash receipt, regardless of our industry.
We’re not going to abandon applications that are so embedded inside our businesses. We don’t want to incur the cost of migrating to a new platform and re-training our people. Like it or not, we’re already Microsoft customers for life. Which is exactly what the company wants. And we’re almost there. Microsoft has the parts in place.
So what does that mean for Dynamics? It means the end. It means Dynamics and Office (which includes Teams) will inevitably be rolled in to one, big, verticalized “business” platform under one big new brand name (likely including the more recognizable and iconic “Office”) where companies and their users won’t know which application they’re using and they won’t care as long as the software is getting the things done that they need to get done. Think “Office for Retail” or “Office for Manufacturing” or “Office for Small Businesses.”
This also means that Microsoft’s users will go through yet another painful and confusing re-branding of its products like we’ve suffered multiple times in the past. It means Microsoft partners will be called upon to better understand their clients’ operations if they want to continue being a valuable resource. And of course it means yet another internal re-organization in Redmond and a new tidal wave of messaging to re-align with the new world.
A world where Dynamics no longer exists.