Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a core component of any digitally transformed landscape, with organisations of every kind using the Microsoft technology to modernise their operations and address core challenges.
In recent years, the Dynamics 365 offering has helped its users leave behind a world of siloed data to gain a more holistic view of their businesses. We speak with Emily He, corporate vice president of business applications marketing at Microsoft, about the recent evolution of Dynamics 365 and the wide range of partner solutions that support it across all industry sectors.
How has the portfolio of intelligent business applications contained in the Dynamics 365 suite evolved over the past couple of years?
The world of work has fundamentally changed and our focus has been on staying ahead of these shifts to help businesses proactively adapt. We have been continuously evolving business and productivity applications to help organisations do more with less, meet shifting customer expectations, and empower employees to do their best work in a decentralised hybrid work culture.
Dynamics 365 is purpose-built for the new organisation, where data, processes, insights and knowledge from people across the business are hyperconnected. That’s why we are integrating artificial intelligence (AI), automation, collaboration, and other technologies into Dynamics 365, empowering people to work smarter and more flexibly.
We have integrated the best of collaboration and productivity from Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 within Dynamics 365 and Power Platform. We’ve made it remarkably simple to exchange information, ideas and knowledge with others, right from a Teams chat within Dynamics 365. A sales representative can quickly track down pricing for a proposal or a service agent can bring together experts from different departments to troubleshoot and fix a customer issue.
Another area of innovation is automation and insights, which can help to reduce the countless hours employees spend searching for the right information, poring over data for insights, and performing manual, repetitive tasks. Automation and AI-powered insights are now built into every layer of Dynamics 365, so people can focus on what’s important and automatically receive guidance as they go about their day.
Can you tell us about any recent additions to the suite and how these will help Microsoft partners and customers?
We recently announced two major development to Dynamics 365 that bring these innovations into focus. The first is Viva Sales, which brings together any customer relationship management (CRM) system – such as Dynamics 365 Sales – and Microsoft 365 and Teams to provide a more streamlined and AI-powered selling experience. With AI embedded throughout, Viva Sales surfaces insights from interactions between sellers and their customers across Outlook mails, Teams chats, call transcripts, Office applications like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, acting as a sales coach to move deals along with recommendations and reminders. These real-time insights help sellers to better understand where each customer is in their purchase journey and gives them clear steps to guide the relationship.
The other major addition is the Microsoft Digital Contact Center Platform, through which we are modernising the customer care experience. By using this solution, contact centres have access to a comprehensive yet flexible solution that delivers best-in-class AI that powers self-service experiences, live customer engagements, collaborative agent experiences, business process automation, advanced telephony, and fraud prevention capabilities. It is powered by Microsoft Dynamics 365, Teams, Power Platform, and the newest member of the Microsoft family, Nuance. The addition of Nuance brings a new level of conversational AI, security and automation to the contact centre.
Can you briefly outline how these recent changes can further enable Microsoft customers to rapidly innovate and deliver services and products more effectively?
Let’s start with collaboration. People don't have time these days to sift through emails, dig through files and wait for voicemail responses. They need the ability to connect and collaborate with others without switching between systems and applications. By tightly integrating productivity and collaboration apps in Microsoft 365 – Teams and Office applications – together with Dynamics 365 applications, people can exchange information, ideas and knowledge in a seamless and natural way.
These collaborative apps can make a big impact by bringing together people and knowledge from across the organisation. For example, a sales team can close deals faster by understanding signals from the marketing department around demand generation.
I mentioned how combining business data with AI can guide people to the next best actions, helping people solve problems and make informed decisions. Conversation intelligence analyses the data to provide insights so that sales leaders can intelligently manage their teams and proactively coach sellers. Sentiment analysis provides service agents and supervisors with real-time insights into how customers are interacting with agents during chat sessions. AI can also identify and predict issues across the supply chain before they create disruptions, as well as help finance teams intelligently predict the company's cash flow, predict when payments will be delivered for outstanding receivables, and generate a budget proposal that can help speed up the budgeting process.
In future, automation will play a big role in increasing productivity while reducing errors and, ultimately, overall costs. Solutions like Viva Sales help sales teams to automate the capture of customer data into the CRM, and then receive insights from that data in the flow of work. Service teams can quickly address and resolve issues using AI-powered virtual agents, freeing agents to handle more complex matters. Supply chain functions can use AI and real-time inventory to fulfil orders on time, boost profitability, support the latest fulfilment methods, and elevate the customer experience.
Finally, we’re enabling everyone to build agile solutions without the need for technical skills. This takes the burden off technology departments which are often unable to keep up with the demand for new applications and solutions. It also empowers the people closest to the problem – business users and citizen developers – to solve problems themselves by building low-code apps, workflows and data solutions.
Partners clearly play a key role in the Microsoft value chain. Where is the Dynamics 365 partner ecosystem delivering the greatest benefits?
Dynamics 365 has a rich history with the partner channel, a major way Microsoft brings products to market. Different from an off-the-shelf software-as-a-service product, business applications often require consulting around business process transformation and customisation during the implementation phase. Partners are key to helping customers identify which Dynamics 365 applications best fit your organisation and business needs. They can also help tailor existing solutions by customising and enhancing business processes with partners applications to add industry-specific functionality and provide ongoing support and council along the way.
An example of our extensive partner ecosystem can be seen in the recent launch of the Microsoft Digital Contact Center Platform. Microsoft partnered with leaders in contact centre infrastructure and integration, including Accenture, Avanade, Avaya, Genesys, HCL, NICE and TTEC, to ensure interoperability and compatibility with contact centre systems and components. With this robust set of launch partners, customers around the globe will be positioned to create new and sophisticated solutions to address specific contact centre challenges and add capabilities at the right time.
Can you share a few recent examples of where enterprise businesses and public sector organisations have scored tangible wins through the adoption of Dynamics 365?
First, on the commercial side, we are seeing great momentum across industries. With Dynamics 365, the Campari Group can now gain a 360-degree customer view and enhance the personalisation of its marketing, sales and customer service efforts and build real-time customer journey orchestration. Dextra Group, a global leader in the construction and industrial infrastructure, is saving 60 per cent on its CRM costs while also increasing seller productivity and lead quality.
In the public sector, we have worked with many different healthcare, state and local governments and schools. Italian government agency Invitalia has been using Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management to easily track and coordinate the delivery of personal protective equipment with hundreds of suppliers to more than 1,000 hospitals across Italy during the pandemic. And the City of Richmond in Virginia transformed its non-emergency case management capabilities to deliver omnichannel engagement for improved efficiency, becoming a benchmark for how governments nationwide can use digital tools to better serve their communities.
We’re honoured that so many organisations look to us for help modernising sales, marketing, service operations and more. We genuinely believe that with connected data, underpinned by industry leading AI and insights, there are no limits to what organisations can do. Dynamics 365 is helping organisations level-up employee experiences, improve team productivity, and build deeper relationships with customers.
What aspect of Dynamics 365’s constant evolution particularly excites you, and what can we expect to see coming down the line next?
We’re building on momentum with integration points across AI, automation, low-code innovation and collaboration. You should expect to see some fascinating use cases across customer experience functions, service, supply chain and finance in the coming months into next year.
As we enter an era of continuous disruption and change, much of our innovation will help businesses and people do more with less, empowering everyone to focus on higher-value and more satisfying work. We’ll be introducing more ways to remove barriers to progress with new ways to streamline workflows and processes so that they can spend more time on higher-value work. We also aim to make AI even more accessible for everyone, so that they can be guided with prescriptive next steps or gain insights from everyday interactions. And, of course, we’ll continue to weave collaboration into our business applications, bringing together cross-functional ideas and knowledge in powerful ways.
A variety of Microsoft partners also contributed to this feature: Avalara, C5 Insight, ClickLearn, Experian Data Quality, Infosys, JourneyTEAM, Metafile Information Systems, SignUp Software and Work 365. Read about how they are building on Dynamics 365 to provide customers with new business insights and opportunities.
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2022 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.
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