In late 2016 Microsoft rolled out Dynamics 365, as part of the company strategy to capture the demand for cloud-based business software solutions. This new cloud-based version of the successful Dynamics brand extends the company’s business applications for CRM, and other vital functions such as financial management, and ERP.

Simultaneously, the company acquired the LinkedIn professional network, giving Microsoft access to account data that could potentially make it the crown jewel of a revitalized business software empire. Unsurprisingly, Salesforce.com has interpreted these aggressive moves as a direct attack on their dominant position in the CRM marketplace.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 For CRM

Microsoft rolled out Dynamics 365, making it available to all customers. The new software-as-a-service (SaaS) suite provides applications to support and facilitate sales, marketing, customer service, field service, operations, business process automation, and finance.

The differentiating feature of Dynamics 365 is that it gives customers a cloud-based subscription version, paid by the month and per user. Customers gain access to the tools typically reserved for enterprise software without the high overhead costs. These are the customers who would balk at high capital on-site hardware and software investments.

A Transformation In Pursuit Of Ubiquitous Computing

Satya Nadella has worked to provide the company with a new sense of purpose, since arriving at Microsoft in 1992, specifically in targeting cloud-based services. He became CEO in 2014 and has changed the direction of Microsoft away from the previous devices-and-services focus toward mobile and cloud-first software applications.

Long before Nadella took over as CEO, he was responsible for much of Microsoft’s work on cloud-based and CRM products. He was well placed to see the potential for cloud computing and the company is now reaping the rewards of his previous work. The new CEO defines the mission for Microsoft business applications as mobile first and cloud first, based on a vision of ubiquitous computing and ambient intelligence.

Microsoft Goes For Cloud-Based Product Alignment

Microsoft has gathered its business applications into an integrated set of tools designed to attract and retain customers. The immense popularity of Windows and Office 365 provide incentives to investigate new subscription services; these platforms give Microsoft a significant home-court advantage.

Many industries have demanding compliance regimes. For example businesses in healthcare must have certifications under HIPAA. Dynamics users have the benefit of inclusion in the certifications held by Microsoft. Dynamics 365 customers have the advantage of a world-class compliance department while retaining their independence as businesses, and lighter administrative workloads.

Other suites of business applications, such as Power BI and Azure Machine Learning, integrate with Dynamics 365 and build directly on its capabilities. The free FastTrack migration tool makes it easy for customers to start using the company’s applications. Microsoft AppSource integrates third-party SaaS tools to customer accounts.

Dynamics 365 supports Omni-channel engagement so that users can deliver results for their clients more consistently. Subscribers can combine customer service communications channels, such as chat and email, directly to their CRM databases. Dynamics 365 customers can integrate precisely the tools they need to create a branded experience for their markets, regardless of the channels they choose.

Acquiring LinkedIn Leads To A Salesforce Face Off

While it was launching Dynamics 365, Microsoft was also finalizing the acquisition of the LinkedIn professional social network. The addition of this massive set of user accounts will complement the other business building applications with access to professionals around the world. Microsoft will gain all of the insights from LinkedIn data about members and their professional relationships.

The LinkedIn acquisition has unsettled the company’s competitors in the CRM space, with good reason; with all of the resources of Microsoft working toward one congruent web of goals, the company is set to grow and dominate the business software marketplace. Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for $26.2 billion in late 2016.

Salesforce.com, a former Microsoft ally was also a LinkedIn suitor, causing the relationship between the companies to sour considerably since the acquisition. The combination of Dynamics 365 and LinkedIn will move Microsoft into direct competition with Salesforce. Now the two companies will compete directly to fill their insatiable needs for data about customers and business activities.

Aggressive Acquisition And Product Alignment Deliver Growth

Microsoft is making a determined effort to bring all of its applications closer together, including LinkedIn. Under Satya Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft seems to have hit upon a formula that generates continued success and new growth from its business applications.

Along with Microsoft Azure, Windows 10, and Office 365, Dynamics 365 contributes a substantial share of the company’s growing revenue. Since buying LinkedIn, Microsoft has reported earnings that beat the expectations of Wall Street. The company will be a strong competitor in CRM and all areas of business computing for many years to come.