Are you completely new to Dynamics and have no clue where to start? Perhaps you’ve started a new job that uses Dynamics 365 to manage their Customer Relationships or you’re wondering what all the fuss is about? Do all these conversations about Entities and Modules and Relationships and Records have you as confused as this little fella:
Well I have the blog series for you! For the purposes of this blog series I shall be exclusively working with Dynamics Customer Engagement which refers to the portion of the Dynamics platform that primarily deals with customer life cycles and relationship management. At present, I’ve also been given the opportunity to train an entire new cohort on Dynamics and ClickDimensions. As such, I’ve decided to kick off my blog series by answering some questions my newbies had around Dynamics.
So first off, what is Dynamics Customer Engagement? As briefly mentioned above, CE is exactly what it says on the box – it’s a platform that allows you to manage aspects of your engagement with your customers. While primarily used as a relationship management tool, CE also allows you to track interactions from sales opportunities with potential customers to managing customer support issues all the way up to field service requests and marketing campaigns. The CE platform gives you a way to have full visibility over all activities that impact your customer base.
Having worked in the Dynamics space for a few years now, one thing that can get confusing real fast are the many names that are thrown around to describe the CE platform. The most common one I hear among the clients I work with is CRM which is an acronym for Customer Relationship Management. Back in the day, Microsoft also called their product by this name for several years beginning with CRM4 all the way up to CRM2016. Customers who are on upgraded versions of Dynamics will often still refer to the platform as CRM. They are usually talking about the Customer Engagement segment of their Dynamics 365 environment.
So Old School!
Another common occurrence is when a client will call their Dynamics CE instance after their partner’s solution, such as Protech. Often these environments will have been heavily customised and personalised for specific industries and business needs. While the instances may look and feel different to a vanilla instance of Dynamics CE, the core functionality and capabilities are still there.
Finally, as someone who works primarily with a Microsoft Independent Software Vendor (ISV), I hear a lot of our clients call their instances ClickDimensions. If a client is using Dynamics CE primarily for the marketing functionality the ClickDimensions solution provides, it’s easy to see why the client would do this. Because the ClickDimensions product is installed into the instance as a solution, all of the entities look and feel like native Dynamics functions. This was especially apparent when training our newbies over the last three weeks and is something I shall elaborate on in a later post.
One other difference that you might notice when working with CE is if the instance is OnPremise or Online. OnPremise means that the CE instance is hosted by either the customer or the partner. So the company (customer) using CE is tasked with hosting the database and managing the software by themselves meaning they bare the costs and responsibilities of doing so. This is often seen with much older versions such as 2011 or when some companies require an extra layer of security with their data. In some cases, the customer’s partner will do this for them in what is referred to as Partner Hosted. The more common scenario these days is hosting the instance online with Microsoft. This reduces the responsibility of the company and, in most cases, is a more cost effective way of deploying Dynamics CE. The fantastic Joel Lindstrom has written this very useful blog on Comparing Online vs OnPremise which provides some more details on the pros and cons of each type of deployment.
If you’re still feeling confused, not to worry, we’ll be going from start to finish through the Dynamics CE product. Once we have established that we’re all working on the same platform, we can start to take a look at some of the core functionality that Dynamics CE provides, the kinds of customisations that are possible and what kinds of relationships those records have with one another!