Many key new features for Dynamics are built on Azure services. For example, the Meeting Sense tool Microsoft previewed at Convergence which aims to analyze the interactions you've had with people you're going to meet and show you pertinent information about them is built on top of Azure Machine Learning.
Then there's Azure IoT, a service that makes a lot of sense when you think about putting RFID tags on all the parts in your warehouse so you can track them in your ERP system, and other ways you can instrument your business with sensors.
Predictive analytics bring those two things together, warning you when your expensive machinery needs maintenance before it breaks down.
Increasingly, companies using Dynamics are also building their own apps to deliver CRM and ERP inside the business, which might also build on Azure Machine Learning. Dynamics customer JJ Food Service, for example, built a predictive shopping cart that suggests what you're most likely to want to include in your order.
Building business-quality workflow into apps
That doesn't just mean that it's key for Visual Studio to make it easy to create apps that take advantage of Dynamics; it's also an opportunity to make Dynamics one of the services that's available in Microsoft's new development tools like Azure App Services.
Launched in April this year, App Services brings together a wide range of Microsoft services in an easy to use interface for building mobile and Web apps, as well as "logic apps" that make it easy to combine APIs and services into business processes and workflows. You can connect that to your own systems like SQL Server using Azure BizTalk Services. What used to be an EDI and application integration tool that connected your different servers and systems has become a hybrid integration service, giving you a simple way to build business-grade workflow into apps, combining cloud services and APIs with information that lives inside your firewall.
That's a scenario Dynamics fits perfectly into and it also matches the trend that Salesforce.com has seen, where over half of the transactions on the Salesforce.com platform now go through its APIs, rather than being done by users logging onto the web site. Instead of thinking about Dynamics as a standard ERP or CRM system that you install or run in the cloud, it could become much more of a service that you use to build custom business systems that give your company new ways of working.
Scavo argues that this is the direction Microsoft was already highlighting for Dynamics at Convergence, which has shifted from being an event purely covering Dynamics to one where Microsoft showcases its range of business solutions. "For example, there was a presentation by Ford on its connected car initiative using Azure. Ford is a Dynamics customer, but that's only a small part of how it's leveraging Microsoft technologies. Likewise, WASH Multifamily Laundry Systems is a Dynamics CRM and GP customer, but it shared about its use of other Microsoft products, including Azure and Machine Learning, to analyze data from its field locations. Microsoft is one of the few vendors that can bring such a wide variety of technologies to business customers, but having Dynamics as a self-contained business unit really didn't promote those synergies. The new organizational model is much better aligned to the One Microsoft strategy."
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