Microsoft is accelerating the pace of change

Corporate vice president of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Muhammad Alam tells us about how the solution is a core component of today’s technological evolution, and how organisations are using it to modernise operations and address the challenges created by Covid-19

Elly Yates-Roberts
By Elly Yates-Roberts on 20 October 2020
Microsoft is accelerating the pace of change

In recent years, the Dynamics offering has taken its users on a journey which has seen them leave behind a world of highly siloed data to gain a more panoramic view of the business landscape. How significant do you think that shift in approach has been in driving an evolution in customer-centric services, empowered workforces and agile operations?
We believe the shift has been massive. Business applications have historically been forms-over-data i.e. forms designed for end users to capture data through manual entry. That’s changing, and it’s changing because data is now coming from everywhere. In some cases it’s even coming before humans are engaged, via internet of things (IoT) sensors, cameras, social sites, devices, etc. 

This creates the need for organisations to not only have a strategy to deconstruct data silos that exist within an enterprise, but also be able to augment it with this new class of data that’s coming in real time. This leads to the need to reason over these large data sets in an efficient, intelligent and real-time manner to generate targeted, specific, contextual insights and actions for the end user. We call these data-first, artificial intelligence-infused applications. 

Dynamics 365 Customer Insights is a great example of a data-first app in our portfolio. It allows an organisation to bring customer data from any number of sources and create a panoramic view of the customers to be able to then improve and personalise the experience for them.  

For example, Unicef Netherlands is changing how they adapt to the new digital world to help fundraise from businesses and private households. That is important because more and more supporters are using digital channels. With the help of Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, Unicef can now unify all donor-related data from a variety of different sources – such as actual donations, social data and direct marketing – to create dynamic segments for targeting donors. To take it one step further, Unicef acts upon these insights to personalise campaigns and donor messaging using Dynamics 365 Marketing.

Thinking about that evolved business landscape, have you seen any variation in the cross-industry uptake of Dynamics and, if so, which particular sectors are leveraging Dynamics most to deliver a competitive advantage?
Evolving customer expectations and new technology is disrupting all industries – from retail, with the rise of digital commerce, to manufacturing and Industry 4.0. The need to harness transactional and observational data to derive intelligent insights and actions is applicable to all industries. The current pandemic has also impacted many industries in very significant ways, accelerating the need for transformation. Through our customer engagement, finance and operations applications in Dynamics 365, we have perhaps one of the most complete set of modern, intelligent software-as-a-service business applications which caters to the needs of multiple industries. Consequently, we’re seeing strong adoption across industries for Dynamics 365 and Power Platform. 

Organisations have been proactively transforming every aspect of manufacturing and supply chain operations to reduce disruptions. They have had great success driving automation and reducing downtime using IoT and mixed reality, and now have the agility to re-plan production in real time to dynamically changing demands. 

With all interactions being online and digital in this pandemic, we are also seeing customers adopt our Fraud Protection offerings to manage financial risk and reduce payment and account fraud. This is another example of a data-first app, where we have been working closely with American Express and Capital One to improve fraud detection accuracy. 

For many business leaders, technology such as AI, robotic process automation and machine learning are hot topics which, in reality, they are still struggling to position within their organisation – despite understanding the potential benefits. How is Dynamics 365 connecting customers with these new forms of disruptive technology and where are those customers seeing the biggest wins when it comes to improved customer service, increased sales and greater cost efficiency?
Our aim with Dynamics 365 is to help our customers solve business problems and address needs that unlock significant value. That requires, as we discussed, this new class of data-first app. We bring the right technology for the right problem, seamlessly embedded within the business application, ready to configure or use directly in some cases. 

For instance, we have deep AI models infused across our applications, such as conversation intelligence in customer service. We have easy-to-use IoT scenarios in our Supply Chain and Field Service applications to allow organisations to detect anomalies. We have world class computer vision models in our Connected Store app, enabling customers to leverage in-store cameras for insights into foot traffic, shelf void detection, and Covid-19 scenarios such as social distancing. Enabling organisations to transform with easy-to-set up, high value scenarios is a core promise of Dynamics 365. 

2020 has seen Covid-19 impact commercial and civic delivery at the most fundamental levels. At a time when business and community leaders worldwide are responding to the pandemic, recovering ground lost to enforced lockdown and looking at ways to reimagine their activities to succeed in this emerging ‘new normal’, where will Dynamics 365 offer the greatest gains?
Our customers are leveraging Dynamics 365 and Power Platform to solve immediate challenges and to rethink fundamental infrastructure, business models and processes to infuse more resiliency into every layer of the organisation. 

Right now, the Dynamics 365 and Power Platform teams are working closely with organisations on the front lines of the crisis – including governments, healthcare providers, non-profits and educators. We are also focusing efforts to ensure businesses have the digital capabilities to maintain business continuity and stability, while keeping employees safe and healthy.

Organisations are using our Return to the Workplace solution to respond to the crisis and prepare for the return to physical workplace locations. For example, Team Rubicon – a natural disaster response organisation – is using Dynamics 365 Marketing and Sales alongside Teams and Power BI to engage its 120,000 volunteers, manage communications and streamline its Covid-19 responses across the US. 

Earlier this year, a consortium of major UK industrial, technology and engineering businesses came together to produce medical ventilators for the UK’s National Health Service. Through the power of HoloLens, Teams and Dynamics 365, they produced the ventilators in weeks, instead of months. 

We are also actively engaging with retailers to help the recovery of the sector, which has been impacted in terms of production, supply chains, distribution and storefronts. Using Dynamics 365 Commerce, our field teams are proactively working with consumer-facing businesses to optimise omnichannel commerce capabilities and enable seamless transactions across online and mobile platforms. 

Looking forward, many organisations are taking a close look at how they fundamentally do business and reassessing their business models to be more resilient and relevant to customer needs. We’re working closely with organisations to empower everyone with technology to deliver value and profitability faster, make more impactful decisions and gain insights to set a clear course for the future, and empower a culture that can adapt, innovate and grow with boundless agility. We are providing a blueprint to help businesses evolve – what we call ’tech intensity’ – to streamline the adoption of technology that helps you build your digital capacity to drive better business outcomes. 

Our goal is to help organisations democratise innovation and workflows that accelerate transformative experiences and ensure products and services are relevant to the needs of customers today, while providing technical professionals with the tools to customise solutions for the toughest business challenges.

Partner perspectives
We asked a selection of Microsoft partners about how they are working in the Dynamics 365 space and driving positive outcomes in enterprise and the public sector. Below are extracts from their responses, which you can read in full from page 36 of the digital edition of the Autumn 2020 issue of The Record.

Michael Randrup, managing director at ClickLearn, says: “ClickLearn enables Microsoft partners to ensure user adoption by delivering superior training for all Dynamics platforms including Dynamics 365.  

Ann D’Emilio, channel manager at Vertex, says: “No matter which Microsoft Dynamics 365 product you are using, we have a robust and comprehensive tax solutions that covers all of your tax needs.”

Alyssa Putzer, marketing communications specialist at Metafile Information Systems, says: “MetaViewer is fully integrated with Microsoft Dynamics enterprise resource planning, helping end users perform everyday tasks with greater proficiency and accuracy.” 

Mike Rogers, director of private sector sales and marketing at Formpipe, says: “Launched in 2020, our Lasernet Vault365 solution offers a data migration and preservation platform for those upgrading their Dynamics solution or to Dynamics 365 from any other enterprise resource planning solution.”

Kari Simpson, senior director of product strategy at Upland Software, says: “Upland InGenius supports the full range of Dynamics 365 products, including both cloud and on-premises variants, and Unified Service Desk for Microsoft Dynamics 365.”

Melissa Topp, senior director of global marketing at ICONICS, says: “Our new CFSWorX connected field service worker solution easily integrates with enterprise resource planning/customer relationship management systems, including Microsoft Dynamics 365, using existing
contact information, schedules, and field workers’ catalogued skill sets.”

Daniel Fox, channel marketing director at CloudCall, says: “CloudCall was built specifically to put communication tools and data together within Dynamics, making business communications easier, quicker and more powerful.”

Mar Jorba, product manager for MECOMS at Ferranti Computer Systems, says: “MECOMS 365 is an innovative platform tailored to the specific needs of the utility market and built on the powerful Microsoft Dynamics 365 system.”

Torbjörn Thorsén, head of marketing for SignUp Software, says: “ExFlow is one of the few best-of-breed AP automation offerings built into Dynamics.”

Andrea Ruosi, CEO of AX for Pharma, says: “AX for Pharma 365, which has been natively integrated within the Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform, enables companies to automate processes and optimise operations across their entire manufacturing ecosystem to fast-track product delivery, while guaranteeing compliance with industry regulations.”

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2020 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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