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What are Dynamics 365 CE and the Common Data Service?

What are Dynamics 365 CE and the Common Data Service?

Microsoft likes to refresh the names of its products quite a bit and, in recent years, the Dynamics suite of products has gone through quite a few name changes. We’ve also had new phrases thrown around like modern workplace, business applications, Power Platform etc., and it can be confusing.

One of the most confusing parts of this is the difference between Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement and the Common Data Service (CDS), so let’s try and unpack this.

Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement (D365CE), previously known as Dynamics 365, previously known as Microsoft Dynamics CRM, previously known as Microsoft CRM…is no longer really a product. But don’t panic just yet. Before we get to that, let’s talk about the evolution of the solution.

The evolution of Microsoft CRM and Dynamics 365 CRM

When Microsoft started building Microsoft CRM, there was a need from the community to extend the software. Originally this was all handled by code, but Microsoft gave us the ability to do this without code in version 4, back in 2007. This empowered system administrators with no coding knowledge, but a little knowledge in data modelling, to extend the application beyond its out-of-the-box functionalities.

Skip ahead to just a couple of years ago, Microsoft knew it was building a fantastic product with D365CE, but it was almost too good. The main apps available as part of the software were Sales, Customer Service and Marketing – the cornerstones of all CRM systems. But Microsoft saw a growing trend of people who would purchase the applications to handle project delivery, memberships, asset management and more.

While some customers still used some aspects of the Sales or Customer Service apps, most were using the platform because of its good base of record types, functionality, security and great integrations with Office 365 and other Microsoft products. But, most importantly, it was a relational database that was really simple to customise and create custom pieces for without a learning barrier of knowing C# or .Net.

From this, the Common Data Service was born. It took the core functionality of D365CE, all the integrations, the security model, reporting, user interface and automation engine, combining them with easy customisation access and gave people access to it.

This is huge! Organisations that didn’t need Sales or Customer Service could get all the benefits and build the system they needed, without these extra parts and therefore extra costs.

What is the Common Data Service?

The Common Data Service platform allows you to customise the user experience by removing or adding fields, redesigning forms and changing the way you enter data. Need to record something else? Build new record types within minutes and capture the data. Model these data needs and create relationships so that you can report from this data. Want to automate a process? It’s fully capable of doing that and, with the deep integrations with Office 365, sending emails and creating tasks or appointments are all a doddle.

Back at the start of this article, I mentioned that Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement is no longer a product; that’s half true. Microsoft now refers to on-premise installs as Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement, while cloud installations are named differently. Microsoft has designed the new naming conventions to correlate with each application it offers, so if you need sales in your organisation, you purchase Dynamics 365 Sales. If you need Customer Service, Dynamics 365 Customer Service is available. We also have Dynamics 365 Field Service, Dynamics 365 Project Service Automation, Dynamics 365 Finance, Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management and Dynamics 365 Retail.

The future of Dynamics 365 and the Common Data Service

Dynamics 365 Sales turbo-charges this base platform, giving you everything in the Common Data Service but with the addition of more specialised functionality around sales. Again, if the process, fields or forms don’t work for your business, we can simply extend what it does; often in a matter of minutes.

This is the same across all the applications. The specific apps give you additional functionality with tonnes of great benefits. D365 Customer Service gives you access to SLAs and case management; D365 Field Service allows you to schedule and track field engineers, car stock and so on.

All these applications are based on the Common Data Service and allow you to extend beyond what is originally built by Microsoft. Because, while not every business has the same needs, a lot of businesses have similar needs.

Do you have specific requirements around a Dynamics 365 CRM system? Talk to TSG to find out how we can help you achieve your business goals with D365 and the Common Data Service.