What Is Microsoft Dynamics CRM?

Explaining the names, capabilities, basic components, and pricing of Microsoft Dynamics CRM solutions

To start, it’s important to understand that Microsoft’s core customer relationship management (CRM) software is no longer called Microsoft Dynamics CRM. There are now several different Microsoft Dynamics apps for different CRM needs, the most prevalent being Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales.

Microsoft’s CRM product has seen a handful of rebrand and repositioning changes in recent years, leaving some companies confused about which product they should investigate. Understanding how it has evolved during its almost two decades of life can help provide clarity as your company researches CRM functionality and features.

Evolution of Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Microsoft CRM was born in January 2003 and quickly advanced. This led to its first rebrand in 2005, announcing the product as Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0. Over the next ten years, there were several more major versions of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, most of which were named for the year the release hit the market (e.g., Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, Microsoft Dynamics 2013, etc).

Dynamics CRM Product Names Over Time

Product Name Date of Change
Microsoft CRM 1.0 Jan 2003
Microsoft CRM 1.2 Dec 2003
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 Dec 2005
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 Dec 2007
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Feb 2011
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Nov 2013
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 Sep 2014
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 Nov 2015
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Apps: Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Project Service Automation, and Field Service Oct 2018

In 2018, the product evolved into five advanced and specialized apps for different CRM needs. These apps work together but can be licensed separately. More details on that below.

Dynamics CRM Capabilities Over Time

Microsoft CRM (2003) was Microsoft’s first attempt to create a one-stop shop for all contact information, activities, analytics, and associated work tasks. It was a standalone system that operated with its own unique database.

Over the years, the system grew to accommodate complex customizations, which allowed it to provide solutions for any type of relationship management need — for donors, investors, etc., as well as customers. You may have heard this capability referred to as “xRM.”

Later, Microsoft saw opportunity in creating a unified foundation on which CRM could sit together with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and other business solutions to share the same data warehousing schema. The combination of a rapidly advancing relationship management platform and a common data model led to two important changes: (1) the product’s inclusion into the Microsoft Dynamics 365 product line and (2) its evolution into five complimentary apps:

Each of these 5 can be owned independently from other Microsoft Dynamics 365 products but is designed to work with them. They speak the same language and have a similar core data design (which is now called Microsoft Dataverse). Though all 5 find their roots in what was previously known as Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Dynamics 365 Sales is most like its predecessor.

Core Components of Dynamics 365 Sales

All Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions rely on the same core entities (or types of records), and Dynamics 365 for Sales is no different in this regard. It uses Accounts (aka companies), Contacts (aka people), and Leads (aka possibilities) to track relationships. This sounds simple, but the system can be adapted to the complexities of human relationships by using related records and business processes, which are all configurable to unique business needs.

It excels in these areas:

  • Real-time management of sales operations
  • Team and user sales pipeline management
  • View and manage the customer experience
  • Mobility (anywhere, anytime)
  • AI providing insights and suggestions
  • Predictive analytics
  • Automation of regular activities
  • Standardizing and sharing sales collateral

Quick Look at Pricing

Dynamics 365 Sales capabilities dramatically expand with each tier, so it’s important to engage a partner who can assess your current sales processes and goals and then match them to the plan that best supports your organization. The beauty of Dynamics 365 Sales plans is that you can change plans as your company grows and/or streamlines.


Final Word of Warning: Don’t Try This at Home

As mentioned above, Dynamics 365 CRM apps tackle the complexities of human interactions. This means that the system requires careful and educated consideration when it comes to licensing, set up, implementation, and training and adoption. That’s why, in order to realize your return on investment (ROI), it’s invaluable to engage with a Microsoft Dynamics partner you trust as early in the process as possible. Installing a system that has the potential to reach every staff member and every customer should not be taken lightly.

Contact us if you’re considering a move to Microsoft’s CRM solution so—for starters—we can help you identify the right licensing mix for your workers.

Download our eGuide, where we walk you through the most important elements of planning activities. Discover the long term benefits of planning, how to build the right implementation team and how to ensure a successful adoption. Download the eGuide.

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