Dynamics 365 history and evolution

The Evolution of Microsoft Dynamics 365: A Brief History

Do you believe that programs like Microsoft Dynamics spontaneously appear on their own? Nope. The long and rich history of Microsoft Dynamics has contributed to its current status as a CRM and ERP powerhouse.

In the business solutions sector, Microsoft Dynamics has been a well-known brand for what seems like ages. Since the debut of the products, as we know them now in 2005, the suite has continued to squeeze out a rising market share, and products like NAV and AX have grown to be synonymous with financial and operational management.

However, how did Microsoft go about building the most extensive portfolio of corporate software available today, and where did it all begin?

The background of Microsoft Dynamics before Microsoft

The majority of Dynamics users today, as well as many IT specialists who utilize the suite, have a close relationship with Microsoft. The well-known branding, the consistent innovation combined with steady dependability, and the connection with other Microsoft mainstays like Office and Outlook make it difficult to envision a period in the past when the foundations of the Dynamics suite were not inextricably linked to the behemoth of technology.

However, the well-known and cherished products that have traditionally comprised the Dynamics family were not created by Microsoft; rather, they were gradually built and carefully chosen to serve as the cornerstone of the business’s Business Solutions division.

The suite’s history dates back to the early 1980s when the company that would eventually provide these products to organizations worldwide was still in the process of creating the initial versions of its well-known Windows operating system. Growing software companies in this nation and abroad were painstakingly building the tools that would eventually become Microsoft Dynamics. Every product that is currently a part of the Microsoft Dynamics brand was formerly a stand-alone application that was successful in their respective markets and nations. Like the Avengers of company management software, they all had separate beginnings before joining forces to build something bigger.

With the advent of personal computing in the 1980s, a growing number of firms were able to use computers to manage their operations and finances for the first time.

Now that they had the hardware, firms required software to match their requirements, and software developers worldwide hurried to keep up with the demand.

More than 2,000 miles away from Microsoft’s headquarters in Bellvue, Washington, TLB, Inc. was developing Solomon I, the company’s first accounting program, in Ohio. Initially developed for the Z-80 microprocessors’ CP/M operating system, Solomon underwent many iterations over the 1980s, winning numerous accolades and distinctions along the way. TLB, which had since renamed themselves Solomon Software, created Solomon IV, their next-generation software, especially for the then-relatively-new Microsoft Windows operating system, in 1991.

Solomon IV gained widespread appreciation for its high-quality features and customizability from both users and critics throughout the course of the following nine years. Great Plains Software, who had been creating their own ERP software since the early 1990s, acquired Solomon Software in 2000.

The original version of what would become Dynamics GP was published in 1993 by Great Plains, an independent business with its headquarters located in Fargo, North Dakota. One of the first multi-user accounting applications available in the United States was Dynamics Release 1.0.

When Great Plains was acquired by Microsoft in 2001, Solomon Software—which included Solomon IV and the then-current Dynamics Release 8.0—was also acquired by Great Plains. Microsoft also purchased the Virginian software business iCommunicate in the same year. iCommunicate is the creator of the web-based CRM application known as iCommunicate.NET.

There was a rumor that Microsoft intended to launch their new Business Solutions business and an ERP system under the Microsoft name that would solely use Great Plains Dynamics software. At the time, though, there was talk that the software wasn’t quite complete enough to offer this basis on its own, so Microsoft started looking for other systems to buy to support its objectives. In the end, it would locate the missing pieces in Scandinavia, on the other side of the water, in the Dynamics puzzle.

Software developers PC&C launched PC Plus, a single-user accounting program, in Copenhagen in 1984. Three years later, in collaboration with IBM Denmark, a multi-user version called Navigator was created. The software was initially made accessible outside of Denmark in 1990 when the first version under the Navision name was launched internationally. Navision Financials, the first Windows-based version, was originally introduced in 1995.

Over the ensuing years, Navision is still being developed, and around the turn of the century, new versions for enhanced distribution and production will be available. In 2000, PC&C—now known as Navision Software—merged with Damgaard Data, a rival ERP manufacturer.

Before its merger with Navision, Damgaard was developing its own enterprise resource planning system. In 1998, the business published the initial edition of Axapta, a production, inventory, and finance management solution.

After two happy years together, Damgaard left, and as a result, Microsoft purchased Navision, the joint venture, in 2002, bringing the ERP developers into the fold with US firms Great Plains, Solomon Software, and iCommunicate.

Welcome to the Business Solutions division.

Now that Microsoft had taken full control of all these budding business management products, the corporation had all the necessary foundations in place to establish the Microsoft Business Solutions Division.

Microsoft kept releasing improved versions of its recently purchased applications over the first several years, incorporating Office and SharePoint connectors, role-based interfaces, and SQL-based reporting. The first versions of the applications to be fully branded as Microsoft products were released by Microsoft in the early 2000s. Microsoft Business Solutions Axapta, Microsoft Business Solutions Navision, and the iCommunicate.NET-based Microsoft Business Solutions Customer Relationship Management were released in 2002, 2003, and 2004, respectively, and Microsoft Business Solutions Great Plains.

But the division’s ambitious aim went beyond just continuing where the software developers had left off. Project Green was Microsoft’s attempt to combine all four of its new ERP properties with its CRM software into a single super-solution with a single shared codebase.

Shortly after completing its final acquisition, Microsoft started working toward this utopian goal in 2003, announcing that a beta version of Project Green would be ready in late 2004.

Then Microsoft ran into a snag. It was unexpected how difficult it would be to integrate four dissimilar systems, particularly for a business that had just entered the ERP market. Microsoft progressively modified its solutions, revamping the interface to bring them in line with the appearance and feel of other Microsoft products like Office and Outlook, as it pondered the specifics of Project Green.

And, Microsoft Dynamics Was Born.

In 2006, the division and its goods had a name change as part of a more comprehensive rebranding. Microsoft Dynamics replaced Microsoft Business Solutions. Dynamics replaced Microsoft CRM, Navision transformed into Dynamics NAV, Axapta into Dynamics AX, Great Plains transformed into Dynamics GP, Solomon became Dynamics SL, and so on.

The division’s applications were rebranded as Dynamics throughout the course of the following several years. In 2005/2006, upgrades were made to Dynamics NAV, Dynamics GP, and Dynamics AX. One year later, Microsoft CRM’s first post-rebranding version is made available.

Up until 2007, Project Green had been abandoned, and the brand-based fusion was the closest Microsoft would go to carrying out the initiative. Less companies wanted to invest in solutions that were practically on the cutting edge, therefore it should come as no surprise that Microsoft’s business solutions product implementations had all but stopped. Officially, Microsoft declared that it will concentrate on creating distinct solutions for each of its Dynamics platforms to better cater to the respective clientele that each product has amassed.

A voyage into the clouds.

After Project Green was formally shelved, at least in its original form, the Dynamics section focused on a brand-new area of technology: cloud computing.

Following the introduction of Dynamics CRM 4.0, Microsoft’s first online business solutions client gave the North American market a sneak peek at the direction the corporate software market will go in 2007. A Microsoft partner or Microsoft’s dedicated CRM Online service might be used to access Dynamics CRM Online, a web-hosted version of the program.

With the migration, the Dynamics family took the first step toward a future free from the constraints of local hosting and one that is more accessible and adaptable.

When Microsoft announced a bi-annual update schedule for its Dynamics products in 2011, it signaled another step towards its new agile methodology. This plan allows for more innovation and faster development than the conventional 2-3-year schedule for business software.

Moreover, GP received a web client in 2012, while NAV did the same in 2013. Microsoft was progressively aligning the suite with the “cloud first, mobile first” philosophy, which would eventually become its catchphrase.

The greatest advancement in Microsoft’s Dynamics division design was still to come, but mobile applications for certain Dynamics platforms made the programs much more usable and accessible while on the go when they were released in 2016.

A new era begins.

Microsoft introduced Dynamics365, the next step in the development of its business solutions, five years after Office365, the company’s widely used Office suite, got the cloud treatment. Dynamics 365 was an integrated suite of CRM and ERP applications that combined new capabilities and a new licensing model aimed at providing users mobility, intelligence, and intuition while enabling full digital transformation for companies of all shapes and sizes.

A unified, next-generation business solution has been “a dream of the industry, but also for me since 2000 when Microsoft acquired Great Plains,” according to Satya Nadella, who announced it on LinkedIn.

Microsoft introduced a new suite of apps in October 2016 that included segmented versions of current capabilities and renamed versions of Dynamics programs like CRM and AX. The company positioned these apps as the unified yet flexible future of corporate software.

Dynamics 365 was created with its capabilities divided into many applications, allowing customers to begin with just the functionality they required and expand at their speed by adding additional features as and when needed.

The Dynamics of today differ from its counterparts because of this shift toward a more complete yet more approachable platform, claims Tribe. According to him, Dynamics is now an application platform for business processes rather than just CRM. We now have a genuine cross-industry, cross-process platform; we are no longer restricted to Sales, Service, and Marketing. Dynamics has a universal and progressive interface that makes it accessible wherever it’s needed.

The suite included Microsoft Flow and PowerApps, two tools that let users create their web and mobile apps and link apps to other services, in addition to native integrations with Power BI and Cortana, the digital assistant. Dynamics 365 can link to external applications using Microsoft’s Common Data Service for Apps, and it has tight integrations with sister products like Office 365 and Outlook.

The platform has become more democratic as a result of all these advancements, reflecting Microsoft’s recent shift towards openness and equality in technology. Ben Hosking (Capgemini, Senior CRM Solution Architect) says, “With the launch of Microsoft Dynamics 365, Microsoft has moved from developing competing products—such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM, NAV, and AX—to focusing on creating services which can be used by many different applications.

Dynamics 365 was first marketed as a SaaS-only solution, but Microsoft has subsequently added more deployment choices, allowing customers to utilize the suite on-premises, in the cloud, or in a hybrid model that combines the two.

Microsoft also announced the opening of AppSource, an online store where customers can find SaaS plugins, extensions, and add-ons from Microsoft and its authorized partners to help increase Dynamics 365 users’ productivity without requiring custom coding. AppSource hosted 200 business solutions at launch; now, there are about 700 accessible.

The new solution’s main features were centralization, productivity, and accessibility. According to industry analysts, this would let Microsoft more effectively compete with Salesforce and other market giants.

The announcement of Dynamics 365 made Microsoft’s acquisition of the professional networking site LinkedIn much more logical. Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for around US$26.2 billion, an acquisition that was announced in mid-2016 and completed soon after Dynamics 365 went online. This acquisition left many wondering what Microsoft intended to do with the company.

As is common knowledge among CRM users, a system is only as good as the data it contains; in other words, what goes in, gets out. Now that Microsoft owned LinkedIn outright, its 500 million members’ data was directly accessible to the company and its clients.

Due to its CRM solution’s natural integration with one of the biggest online communities, which allows users to connect with hundreds of millions of people, Microsoft gained a significant competitive edge.

What comes next?

Given that Microsoft is heavily funding several cutting-edge computer fields

The Navision name will no longer be applied to NAV versions going forward; all on-premise and cloud-based versions of NAV will now be referred to as Dynamics 365 Business Central. This includes NAV 2018.

In late 2018, GP users will receive another upgrade. The upcoming edition, called GP Next, will include additional features that users have requested. The GP program will be developed for at least another year, till 2019. Similar to Dynamics SL, which received its 2018 version upgrade in the spring of 2018, SL Next is slated to launch in 2019 and later.

The duration of GP and SL’s support as well as whether or not they will be renamed and integrated into the Dynamics 365 stable, similar to NAV, AX, and CRM, are currently unknown.

July 2017 saw the formal retirement of the Dynamics AX name; however, the software will be developed under the Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations moniker.

July is when more information on Dynamics 365’s future plans will be revealed, but we already know that some of the capabilities that have been hinted at will be included in later releases. Regarding the platform’s longer-term prospects, Tribe believes Microsoft will keep building on Dynamics’ underpinnings to create a cohesive, inventive future.

According to Tribe, “Microsoft will move from providing software to providing focused applications on the Dynamics platform in the future, with technologies like Microsoft Graph unifying all Microsoft web services and the Common Data Service platform having Dynamics at its core.

“Redundancies like ERP and CRM will be left behind. Businesses will either quickly configure new apps or add ones from the Microsoft AppStore, creating a system that is uniquely suited to their operations and line of business.

With Dynamics 365 for Talent: Gauge and Dynamics 365 Sales Professional, a condensed version of Dynamics 365 for Sales, slated for release in 2018, there will undoubtedly be more modular apps in the works. These updates are in line with the company’s goal of providing clients with a more segmented and configurable Dynamics 365, enabling them to begin with the simplest set of operations and expand their digital transformation from there.

A further significant advancement being worked on by the Dynamics 365 team is the incorporation of a virtual assistant. Soon after the new applications were introduced, certain Dynamics 365 customers were given a sneak peek at a possible Cortana integration; however, that version has now been abandoned in favor of a new, more reliable approach. A new digital assistant experience that will work with all Dynamics 365 apps and many channels, like Cortana, has been promised by the team. Natural language integration and machine learning will be included in the new digital assistant solution.

Future iterations of Dynamics 365 will continue to incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning, as Microsoft continues to allocate substantial financial resources into this field of study. It’s quite likely that capabilities utilizing data from the 500 million members on the network and integrations with LinkedIn will also surface in upcoming upgrades.

Although it took a bit longer than anticipated, Dynamics 365’s release has allowed Microsoft to realize its vision of a cohesive platform for business solutions that seamlessly integrates ERP and CRM features. According to Hosking, the firm is constantly improving and upgrading the suite to make sure that Dynamics 365 is and stays at the forefront of what is possible in digital business management. This is in addition to building on its success with Microsoft Dynamics.

We are not constrained to using Microsoft Dynamics 365 to construct corporate solutions thanks to the common data service, PowerApps, and Azure. According to Hosking, “future projects will integrate a wide range of services, process customer data using Microsoft Cognitive Services, and intelligently automate business processes.” In the future, Microsoft Dynamics 365 will be utilized in the digital transformation of several sectors and enterprises.

With over two decades of expertise under their belt, the Dynamics team has a storied past, and we can be confident that their most remarkable breakthroughs are still to come.

The Microsoft Dynamics Learning Portal has made it easier for Microsoft Partners to enter the Dynamics space for those who are interested. There has never been a better moment to work in the Dynamics industry, and we’re thrilled about the opportunities it presents to use the Dynamics platform to provide you and your clients with even more value.

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