In November 2016, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 was replaced by Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement. In this post, we will be answering some frequently asked questions on the difference between the two. How different are the two products? What new functionality was introduced in Dynamics 365? Does this change the relationship with Office 365? How did licensing change? What is the upgrade path between Dynamics CRM and Dynamics 365?

How different are the two products?

Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement is a further iteration of Dynamics CRM 2016: the underlying purpose and design of both systems is the same, and while both are designed for the cloud, both can be installed on-premise. To understand why the product was fully rebranded, we need look at this in the context of Microsoft bringing together its business applications (CRM as well as AX and NAV, its ERP offerings) to form a single cloud platform encompassing CRM and ERP: Microsoft Dynamics 365.
The re-brand of the Dynamics CRM product as Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement as much of a statement of intent and strategy as it was reflective of a new product. It was a statement that Microsoft intends to wipe out the traditional silos of internal information (ERP) and external information (CRM), instead focussing on delivering the tools each individual needs to perform their role. In practical terms, this means that Dynamics 365 offers more opportunities to leverage information in other cloud services such as Office 365 or Azure.

What new functionality was introduced in Dynamics 365?

Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement has a number of improvements on Dynamics CRM 2016. Going into depth on these would merit a post on its own, so let’s look at some headline items:

Apps and Sitemap Editor

In keeping with the Dynamics 365 concept of “the right functionality in the right place”, we can group together different functional areas of Dynamics 365 into “apps” and display these to particular users. For example, if we decide that our Marketing team doesn’t need to see service cases, we can quickly and easily create a marketing “app” with only the relevant functionality. This design process is supported by a graphical sitemap editor – doing away with the days of editing sitemaps in XML.

Editable grids

Dynamics 365 gives us the ability to present lists of records as editable grids – allowing the user to make inline changes to the records without having to load the whole record. Let’s say a manager in your organisation needs to approve quotes to customers before they can be sent out – they can now simply view the list of quotes awaiting approval and mark each as approved there, rather than having to open each individual record, locate the approval box, check it, close the record and open the next one.

Relevance search

The global search functionality in Dynamics CRM was based on specifying which record types and fields we wanted to use to find records. Dynamics 365 has built upon this by adding Relevance Search, a full “Google-style” search function that matches any word in the search term with any field in an entity, before returning results in a single list sorted by entity. This is a particularly useful piece of functionality with the coming of GDPR: for example, if an individual contacts us to request that we summarise information we hold on them, we could simply be able to search the system for their name using relevance search, rather than having to manually search all records that could possibly hold relevant information.

Relationship Insights (Preview Feature)

This suite of features, in public preview at the time of writing, is designed to give your users contextual insights into their interaction with your customers. One form this takes is action cards, automatically generated prompts to, for example, remind your users of deals that are due to be closed, or using Azure Machine Learning to automatically identify potential sales opportunities from emails in Outlook. Similarly, the Auto-Capture functionality can surface untracked emails from Outlook to users, saving effort and energy on manually checking that all appropriate email threads are tracked in Dynamics 365. Learn more about the new features in Dynamics 365.

Does this change the relationship with Office 365?

Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement has a closer relationship with Office 365 than Dynamics CRM 2016 had. As we saw in the last section, new functionality in Dynamics 365 actively leverages information in Outlook to give users insight into their own work, and to raise awareness of any key pieces of information that have come into Outlook.
Furthermore, Microsoft Flow allows Office 365 Users to create custom workflows running across Dynamics 365, Outlook, Excel Online, Azure Machine Learning and more. For example, a user managing customer support could specify that when an email comes into an Outlook mailbox, the body of the text is sent for Sentiment Analysis to establish if the email contains negative sentiment (e.g.”We are having serious problems”) and if it does, automatically create a case in Dynamics 365, allowing us to triage serious issues as soon as possible.

How did licensing change?

Much remained the same in licensing terms between Dynamics CRM 2016 and Dynamics 365. Both are primarily designed to be implemented as cloud Software as a Service (SaaS) products, with licences sold on a per-user per-month basis. However, there is one key difference between licensing for Dynamics CRM and Dynamics 365. As we have seen, Dynamics 365 has the concept of apps – sections of Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement functionality designed for specific functional roles (for example, “Sales” or “Marketing”).

In Dynamics 365, we can save money by only licensing our users for the functionality they need. In Dynamics CRM 2016 we might have needed to pay for a full licence for each of our Marketing team members, despite some of the functionality not being relevant. In Dynamics 365, we can save money by only licensing our users on the functionality they need.

What is the upgrade path between Dynamics CRM and Dynamics 365?

If you are a current Dynamics CRM 2016 user, you may have noticed messages from Microsoft asking you to schedule an upgrade to Dynamics 365 – upgrading to Dynamics 365 is free, and may enable you to simplify your licence costs (see above).

Dynamics 365 is based on the same underlying framework as Dynamics CRM. Upgrading from Dynamics CRM 2016 to Dynamics 365 therefore involves a similar approach to upgrading from Dynamics 2015 to Dynamics 2016. Customisations can largely be exported from Dynamics CRM 2016 to Dynamics 365, while code-checks should be performed on any custom plugins, integrations, or JavaScript to ensure that they work on the latest version. Finally, any features that have been deprecated need to be replaced with supported functionality.

Upgrading from earlier versions of Dynamics CRM such as 2015 or 2013 will typically involve a staged upgrade path via intervening versions. Migrations from Dynamics CRM On-Premise to Dynamics 365 on cloud are more complex, with approaches to user authentication and reporting typically also needing to be revisited.

Find out more about Microsoft Dynamics 365