Dynamics 365, Microsoft’s line of enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management apps, is gaining enhancements to aid enterprises in “transforming” their operations. A Dynamics 365 Customer Insights update will bring connectors to enrich customer profiles and enable insights with Azure Synapse Analytics, Microsoft’s cloud analytics service. Both Dynamics 365 Sales and Dynamics 365 Sales Insights will get predictive forecasting capabilities and an engagement center for sales reps. And two new services — Dynamics 365 Finance Insights and Dynamics 365 Project Operations — promise to automate repetitive and time-consuming project development tasks.

Excepting Finance Insights and Project Operations, which will be released at later dates, the features are part of the Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Power Platform 2020 Wave 1 release, scheduled to become available between April and September 2020.

“Joining more than 400 new and updated features in … 2020, these new capabilities expand a fast-growing set of applications powered by AI-driven insights, as well as further propel[ling] our vision to empower every organization to unify data across the business and then use it to power personalized customer experiences and processes,” wrote Microsoft president of business apps James Phillips in a blog post. “We look forward to sharing more updates and customer stories in the weeks and months ahead.”

Finance Insights and Project Operations

Finance Insights, which will launch in preview beginning in May, taps AI to help managers take proactive action to understand and act on cash positions by automating “low-value” tasks. By combining data from a general ledger and subledgers, it offers a picture of financial health, unifying metrics like KPIs, charts, and financial statements.

As for Project Operations, which will become generally available in October, it connects cross-functional teams to provide visibility, collaboration, and insight to drive organizational success “from prospect to cash.” Like Finance Insights, Project Operations leverages universal resource scheduling to enhance bookings, availability calendars, requirements, and skills and competencies, and search for scheduling resources.

“Our continued investment in expanding AI capabilities across Dynamics 365 helps … organization[s] accelerate digital transformation initiatives while empowering employees with insights to drive better business outcomes every day,” wrote Phillips. “By applying the power of Microsoft Project, together with Dynamics 365, Microsoft is developing the next generation of tools to reinvent how project-centric organizations operate.”

Customer Insights

New on the Customer Insights side are the aforementioned first- and third-party connectors, which offer a combination of audience intelligence and data sources like demographics and interests, firmographics (sets of characteristics to segment prospects), market trends, and product and service usage data. Additionally, Microsoft Forms Pro, Microsoft’s service that facilitates surveys, can now be integrated across channels to capture customer behavior.

Customer Insights now plays nicely with Azure Synapse Analytics, allowing managers to run customer data through analytical processing pipelines and machine learning models. In conjunction with prebuilt APIs that enable onsite clienteling and dynamic marketing campaigns and ad targeting, Microsoft says, this can help predict customer needs and surface guidance on next best actions to reduce churn and capitalize on revenue opportunities.

In related news, Customer Insights is being extended to Government Cloud Computing environments, meaning government and public customers with high compliance needs can use it to understand and interact with citizens and employees.

Sales and Sales Insights

Last, but not least, Sales and Sales Insights have gotten a revamp with manual and predictive forecasting features, in addition to the new engagement center.

According to Microsoft, the forecasting is performed on patterns from customer relationship management data, including current and historical leads, won or lost opportunities, contacts, accounts, customer interactions such as emails and calls, and other data sources. As for the engagement center, it provides guidance and AI-imbued tools that help triage, research, and engage leads and opportunities with queues to take action on tasks based on built-in predictive scoring.

The enhancements follow the introduction in Dynamics 365 of chatbots designed to field customer service queries, as well as the since-retired Attract and Onboard, which targeted different parts of the recruiting and hiring process. Microsoft recently introduced a series of solutions for the workplace, including enterprise Cortana skills and Microsoft’s first HoloLens-powered augmented reality experiences for the workplace. And in September it rolled out Dynamics 365 Connected Store, which taps a combination of computer vision, cameras, and internet of things sensors to track customers inside stores and personalize recommendations based on their browsing and buying behavioral data.


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