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Arbela OnDeck | Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement - Explained

By Sarah Morgan, Customer Success Lead, Arbela Technologies

The Arbela OnDeck Services Program makes all Arbela line of business experts available to Microsoft Dynamics AX and Dynamics 365 users at any time. One line of business poised for significant growth is the Arbela practice for Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement (formerly Dynamics CRM), which now offers solutions in Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Project Service (Project Management), Field Service, Talent (Recruiting), and still has the flexibility as a rapid business application deployment platform.

To best understand the offerings of the Arbela Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement practice, Richard Wu sits down for a Q&A. Richard is responsible for developing the organization and focused on advising clients about the best Microsoft Business Solutions that meet their company goals in a cost-effective manner that maximizes Return on Investment. Richard answers basic and thought-provoking questions about CRM, about the importance of flexibility for survival and why Dynamics is leading Salesforce in the market today.

SDM: Richard, to understand your background, of all functionality out there, why have you focused your career on CRM?

RW: It is definitely a conscious choice. Rapidly changing business models and macroeconomic factors require almost all companies to have a strategy for On-Demand change and that requires a technology that can keep pace with that change. I used to sell ERP systems but find with CRM, platforms can be deployed dramatically faster to meet business needs will still maintaining the highest security and logging data. This is true for sales, marketing, and customer service, or even as a custom application development platform. For many use cases, such as with recruiting and onboarding CRM, it is the perfect solution because it can tap natively into LinkedIn to find talent, coordinate interviews, store notes, and seamlessly transition into having organized and auditable onboarding of a new employee.

With ERP, there is always a dedicated need for financials and back-end to meet regulatory and audit requirements for managing a business process. This means that the smallest customization or change has to be realized over many different data tables and modules. Outside of dealing with the accounting of money that rolls up to AP, AR, and the General Ledger, almost all other business functions are more quickly served in the Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement [CRM] platform. Not only can the feature be deployed faster, it can be in a place that can be continually changed, automated with workflow, and exportable to other systems for further action or reporting.

SDM: Assume I’m the CEO of a midsized company, what should I be thinking about in terms of CRM?

RW: The answer applies to large and midsize companies but especially midmarket. They are often subject to the whims of economic change and therefore have to remain more agile and easy to learn.  This is clearly evident in the modern workforce, where some studies predict that a worker will change positions approximately 14 times before they retire. That is a tremendous amount of replacement training to manage, but also new ideas to absorb into an organization. With that reality, companies need to have technology match the pace of those new ideas and still make it easy to use. Microsoft has worked very hard over the last few years to provide that platform. 

SDM: What is the primary difference in the products on the market today?

RW: When it comes to top tier there are really only two: Salesforce and Microsoft. Salesforce sells just a CRM. Microsoft sells many products and they are sold to many types of companies across the globe. All other CRM solutions are what we would call point solutions that do one thing, like sales, in a strict methodology or they are tied to a specific industry. As soon as you try to make a change it is either too expensive or what you usually find, you simply can’t even do it. That just puts you back into the manual tracking world of Excel or even worse, knowledge retained only by the end-user.

For those who are in the know, Dynamics is feature rich and secure in today’s hack happy world, backed by Microsoft’s industry-leading Active Directory login and cloud security suite. The key difference between Salesforce and Dynamics 365 is that the business function is not just related to the sales, marketing, and customer services. It is more than that – more than what comes out of the box since it ties into Office 365, Microsoft 365, LinkedIn, and much more.  Dynamics flexes to you and your existing investment, versus the other way around and it is your unique processes and system synergies that give you that advantage over your competition. If you just followed what everyone else did, then that’s not really being competitive. Why just run the race to be in it, when you can do so much more by picking the right program. Being a web-based application, you can access Dynamics anywhere and with Microsoft’s commitment to any platform, they even provide mobile apps for free. This is the flexibility that defines a company’s success in today’s markets.

SDM: Is it true that Dynamics is leading Salesforce?

RW: Yes. It took quite some time – certain functions were missing when you compared what was out of the box in Salesforce and Microsoft CRM even just a few years ago. The default products will continue to go back and forth with every passing version, however, the big advantage is the publisher and platform is much broader for Microsoft and economy of scale keeps the platform consistent across those workloads from data to security – and that is what really matters in the end. It also doesn’t hurt that the licensing is less with Microsoft and it can be bundled with many of the other Microsoft products a company already owns, so the total TCO is lower in a lot of ways.

On a secondary point, Microsoft truly has transformed and listens intently to their customers about how to improve the usability of their products. Better yet, they have done so with plenty of cash on hand that they continue to pour into R&D. On the other hand, Salesforce continues to go into debt, mostly through accounting tricks, to try and match Microsoft through the acquisition of small companies. If you plan on betting on one company, you are usually safe with the one which will still be around in 5 years.

SDM: Is it true that Salesforce really has a disadvantage not being an end to end solution?

RW: Yes. Your productivity is not truly limited to a single system like Dynamics 365. It automates processes and centralizes data better than anything out there, but you have to tie it into your day to day applications like email communication and content creation with Word or Excel to gain efficiencies but then expose it all to internal collaboration tools like Microsoft Team, external partner sites like Microsoft Portal, or through a live communication tool like Microsoft Skype. Overlay all of that with Microsoft Cortana AI (Artificial Intelligence) that will provide recommendations and suggestions, and your workforce productivity will be measurable in multiples and your Efficiency Ratio will dramatically decrease. Combining all that with flexibility makes for a very powerful advantage.

SDM: What is AI in relationship to CRM?

RW: The AI is embedded in the Dynamics application itself. If you were sending correspondence to that prospect, the system would point out your last interaction, tell you if the recipient opened your last email, and suggest to you the next best step, even going so far as to suggest complimentary items from your product catalog to cross and upsell.

SDM: Everyone seems to care about mobility.

RW:  The integration of the smartphone into the day to day lives of everyone can never be separated again – courts have already ruled that an individual’s smartphone is as much a part of one’s identity and should receive a higher level of protection from police access - so with that companies need to embrace that trend of miss an opportunity to ride the wave of that change. To provide that ease of use to their employees is providing better service to their employees that is key to recruiting the best talent and keeping existing and productive employees happy.

SDM: How can CRM help retain not just employees, but the customer as well?

RW: The most important part of customer retention – they know you are listening – business make mistakes in delivering their products but if they listen, make the best effort, they can still keep that customer and even make more customers through that positive corrective action. Making sure a complaint isn’t missed and allows followed up is common sense. Better yet we can proactively send customer satisfaction surveys and that listening alone increases the customer experience. Next step is reporting and making sure you resolve the issue. That entire resolution process is easily tracked in Dynamics.

SDM: Has the cost of all these new features and integration with productivity, collaboration, and communication apps increased?

RW: Actually no. Quite the opposite. If you are familiar with the Adoption Curve, we are really in a late majority section where what used to be expensive for business is now mainstream and easily accessible with a monthly subscription. It’s quite amazing actually. You can get the same application as a Fortune 500 company at the same price. Furthermore, the systems have become dramatically less expensive to operate and configure is becoming easier – requiring less dedicated IT intervention. As you see these lines cross, you will find that your line employees can make the changes themselves while your more costly IT talent can focus on other areas.

SDM: Richard, can people reach out to you?

RW: Yes of course – Arbela has built their engagement model around making our best talent available first, so if you have questions feel free to contact Arbela OnDeck and request Richard Wu. If you already have Dynamics, we know system changes are happening more frequently, but the budget for those changes is smaller. It is why we created OnDeck As-Needed Services. It’s the fastest way to get access to our experts. 

Note: This blog post was originally published here.