Choosing Microsoft Dynamics 365

Andrew Ho, CIO, Global Strategy Group
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Andrew Ho, CIO, Global Strategy Group

Andrew Ho, CIO, Global Strategy Group

This story may be somewhat apocryphal, but I feel that I first heard of Microsoft Dynamics well over a decade ago at a tech conference. I was listening to a panel discussion debating the pros and cons of different Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, when someone asked about Dynamics. Almost immediately, there were chuckles from audience members. The panelists were more politic with their answers, but the overwhelming message was clear—people did not consider Microsoft Dynamics to be a major contender in the CRM marketplace. The opinion was that Dynamics was just Microsoft’s token entry into the CRM space and that, really, only the most die-hard Microsoft shops would ever use it. The conversation then focused on the comparisons amongst Oracle (which had purchased Siebel Systems at the time), SAP, and Salesforce. Over my career, I would work in each of these systems: Siebel (pre-Oracle purchase) from 2002 – 2004, SAP from 2006 – 2009, and Salesforce from 2010 – 2017. During most of this period, I never heard anything to change my negative perception of Microsoft Dynamics.

I tell this story to explain my long-held prejudices against Dynamics and set the context for my 180-degree opinion change in 2017. In the beginning of that year, I saw first-hand Microsoft’s latest iteration of its CRM, Dynamics 365 (D365), in action, and was blown away by how genuinely functional it was. Considering that for much of my career Dynamics was the punchline, this was a genuine revelation. Here was a system that legitimately met all the CRM requirements that I had, plus have additional advantages that I was not even aware of until I finally gave the system an objective evaluation.

  ‚ÄčThe opinion was that Dynamics was just Microsoft’s token entry into the CRM space and that, really, only the most die-hard Microsoft shops would ever use it  

In 2017, I found myself evaluating new CRM/Project Service Automation (PSA) systems for Global Strategy Group (GSG). GSG had been using Salesforce as its CRM/PSA since 2008 and the system was no longer keeping up with GSG’s evolving business. Effectively, our Salesforce implementation needed a dramatic and expensive overhaul. To make matters worse cost-wise, Salesforce’s annual fees were continually increasing with no sign of relief and so our return on investment in Salesforce was decreasing steadily. As a result, we decided to rethink our dependence upon Salesforce and look at the marketplace for better alternatives. Much to my surprise, after an exhaustive search, Dynamics 365 rose to the top and beat out Salesforce to be our new CRM.

Here are the two biggest reasons for why we chose D365:

1. Seamless integration between its CRM and PSA modules – It goes without saying that D365 met all our business requirements. However, what’s notable is that D365 met these requirements with one unified suite. Salesforce can only meet our CRM requirements out-of-the-box. It has no PSA functionality unless you either custom develop it or purchase a 3rd party module like FinancialForce or Kimble. (Note: FinancialForce is owned by Salesforce, but it is effectively sold and implemented like a 3rd party package.) In our original Salesforce implementation, we had custom developed this functionality, but if we did it again in Salesforce, we were not going to custom develop as that requires continual upkeep that we’re not willing to maintain.

2. Cost – D365 is a more cost-effective solution than Salesforce because D365 user licensing is less expensive than the equivalent Salesforce user licensing. However, straight cost comparisons aside, there are additional cost-related factors in favor of Dynamics:

a. Like death and taxes, Salesforce price increases are a sure thing, with licensing costs increasing by up to 7 percent a year. You can temporarily delay this by signing a multi-year contract, but Salesforce account executives will still pressure you to increase your total spend with them year-after-year. There is simply no such pressure from Microsoft. Unlike Salesforce, Microsoft is not dependent upon continuously increasing CRM licensing fees to increase its overall revenues.

b. Microsoft divides its licensing tiers in a much more cost-effective way for its customers than Salesforce does. In Salesforce, if you just need to view sales-related data but never add or edit it, you still need a full Salesforce license. In Dynamics, only people that need to have full read/write access to sales data need a full D365 license. If a person just needs to view sales data (e.g., executives), then they only need a team license, which is a fraction of a full license cost. As a result, even if Microsoft and Salesforce had identical licensing costs, one could still achieve significant cost savings with D365 because you have less people needing the more expensive full license.

c. Salesforce requires customers to pay their entire annual licensing costs upfront each year. Microsoft bills its D365 licensing fees monthly. Needless to say, CFOs everywhere prefer the monthly option.

If you are considering a new CRM and have not reviewed Microsoft Dynamics 365, then I would recommend checking it out. It has improved significantly since its early years and has some clear advantages over its competitors, including industry leader Salesforce.

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