Microsoft's ERP solutions have gone through several name changes over the past decade. When Microsoft acquired Axapta, this ERP solution was first called Microsoft Business Solutions Axapta. That turned into Dynamics AX and finally Microsoft Dynamics 365. Today, Microsoft's flagship ERP solution is called Dynamics 365.
The Evolution of ERP
Before enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions existed, most companies ran their business areas separately. The finance team had accounting software. Human resources (HR) had HR software. Manufacturing ran their own production system. Minimal, manual, or very expensive integration kept the business units somewhat in sync.
The first ERP software solutions were a big improvement in connecting business processes, but they were still limited to just the backend processes, like finance, HR, and manufacturing.
Today's modern ERP solutions have truly become enterprise solutions, capable of managing the entirety of the customer journey, product lifecycle, and the hire-to-retire process for employees. So, what are the major ERP products (or modules) in Microsoft Dynamics 365?
Microsoft ERP Business Applications
The future of ERP applications is in the cloud. Cloud-hosted apps like Microsoft Dynamics 365 make it easy for employees to work remotely and reduce the level of IT administration needed. Microsoft's end-to-end ERP solutions create a connected experience that allows organizations to adapt and innovate, creating visibility across business areas like:
- Human Resources (HR)
Each Microsoft ERP business application can be used independently - but organizations derive the most benefit when the solutions are integrated. Combining Dynamics 365 with Microsoft Teams, Outlook and other Microsoft productivity apps creates an easy, seamless experience for customers and employees.
Microsoft’s ERP front office solutions are connected through the Customer Data Platform
Beneath the intuitive face of Dynamics 365 Sales, Marketing, and Service application is a connected experience that cuts across all modules, but especially those areas that are customer-facing. By accelerating data sharing through AI-driven insights, organizations gain the ability to improve retention and loyalty.
One of the challenges in most organizations is that sales, service, and accounting don’t see what’s happening in the other departments. A customer could be months past due, or constantly complaining and returning a product without the sale team’s knowledge. Incorporating big data, like loyalty program information and creditworthiness can help sales teams focus on winning the right customers – and keeping them.
The Customer Data Platform connects with Microsoft Dataverse and Power Apps for even greater extensibility across lines of business applications.
Unlike clunky time-intensive customer relationship management (CRM) systems of the past, Dynamics 365 Sales is easy, intuitive, automated, and integrated. Finally, a CRM solution that salespeople actually want to use! With the Sales application, sales teams can collaborate on complex sales opportunities, working remotely or working globally. Reps will know what needs to be done next and be able to adapt to changes. They can even engage with prospects, customers, and partners on LinkedIn – and have all the communications and connections stored in the Dynamics 365 Sales application.
With add-ons like the new Dynamics 365 Product Visualize, salespeople can present products in a mixed reality format, allowing potential customers to explore products in a completely new and innovative way.
Marketing lets your team manage the end-to-end customer journey, improving relationships with timely, relevant communications. The Marketing application is a fit for both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) types of marketing. For B2C companies, Dynamics 365 differs from other solutions on the market in that it offers opportunities for real-time interactions. Whether people visit your website, open an email, or start a support chat, your Marketing team has more opportunities than ever to earn customer loyalty. Customers experience your brand as one seamless experience instead of distinct sales, marketing, and service departments.
Microsoft actually has three ERP applications related to service:
- Customer service – for your inbound call center and ticketing solution
- Field Service – to provide your onsite field technicians with the spare parts, knowledge, and electronic forms they need to complete repairs, site inspections and conduct proactive maintenance on your equipment
- Remote assist – Connects with a HoloLens virtual reality / mixed reality headset that allows technicians to support complex machinery from any location.
Retailers can use Microsoft 365 Commerce to engage with customers across channels to build greater loyalty and gain market share. Dynamics 365 Commerce—built on the proven Dynamics 365 Retail capabilities—delivers a comprehensive omnichannel solution that unifies back-office, in-store, call center, and digital experiences.
The backbone of any ERP system is its finance module – and Microsoft’s ERP solution is no different. Microsoft’s Finance application provides dashboards that are customized to user roles, so anyone can drill down into real-time information. On top of standard accounting tasks like tracking cash flow and profit & loss statements, the finance module serves as a hub to deliver operational excellence.
Now, key operational and financial processes within your business are all seamlessly connected into one application: supply chain, financials, sales and purchase orders, inventory, production, and distribution.
Gain insight into your global supply chain and improve inventory management. Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management empowers employees and organizations with the ability to obtain a unified view of inventory, warehouse, manufacturing, service, and logistics with predictive analytics that turn data into insights to support better strategic decisions.
Manage employees and contractors throughout the process from hire to retirement, including the ability to track employee performance, certifications, and other credentials. Dynamics 365 Human Resources provides the workforce insights you need to build data-driven employee experiences across multiple areas, including:
- Leave and absence
- And more
Professional service firms like engineers and construction companies need project-heavy time and resource management tools to keep projects on track.
Why ERP is critical for your business
While one singular solution will never be able to manage every business process, ERP solutions are getting better all the time. By crossing departmental and business unit boundaries, employees are able to better collaborate and improve customer experiences. Your organization can finally see the big picture and gain the capabilities to make data-driven decisions and improve business operations.
Some businesses are afraid to embrace ERP implementation despite all the options out there. There could be many reasons why, but where there's a fear, there's a solution.
What’s the right ERP solution?
The right ERP solution is one that your employees use. One of the advantages of Microsoft Dynamics 365 is its familiar, intuitive design and its tight integration with other productivity solutions like Outlook, Teams, and Excel.
Do we have to implement ERP all at once?
Nope. Go at your own speed. Each module can be licensed separately. A technology partner (like us) can help you develop a technology roadmap, prioritizing the processes that will give you the greatest business boost.
What happens to my ERP existing data?
We do not recommend implementing legacy transactional data into the new system. As a workaround, many companies choose to keep those records preserved in a database to use for historical comparisons. This is a great point to discuss with your technology consultant because there are lots of options with different tradeoffs and costs.
Author: Mark Lanoue, Solution Architect, Dynamics 365 for Finance
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Don’t implement an ERP system that simply replaces what you have. Use this opportunity to propel your organization to the next level. Microsoft is leading the digital transformation revolution and has invested billions of dollars in building a worldwide cloud computing infrastructure that enables their modern ERP solution capable of replacing legacy enterprise systems. When you combine Microsoft software with MCA Connect’s expertise, your technology becomes a strategic asset that sets you apart from the competition. Let us help you get started at your pace! Contact us here.