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Deciphering Microsoft on the Accounting, ERP or CRM Software Side

Microsoft’s branding in general and the “Dynamics” brand, in particular, has created a lot of confusion in the market. Frequently, I hear that a company is running “Dynamics” but that’s just a brand akin to hearing that a person drives a Toyota or Ford without providing the specific model let alone the myriad of factory or aftermarket options installed.  

deciphering microsoftOver the years, Microsoft acquired four Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and one Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.

Microsoft acquired iCommunicate in 2001 and re-named the software Microsoft CRM. Around that same time, Microsoft acquired Great Plains Software and, shortly thereafter, renamed Great Plains as Dynamics GP and renamed CRM as Dynamics CRM.  The Great Plains acquisition also brought the Solomon accounting software package to Microsoft which it renamed Dynamics SL.

As these three evolved, they took on the year as the version. For example, Dynamics GP is currently marketed as Dynamics GP 2018. 

That pattern held until recently when Microsoft began marketing its newer, more modern enterprise software products as Dynamics 365. Thus, the CRM solution was again renamed as Dynamics 365 CRM while the older, mature (some say legacy) products like GP and SL have not been granted the “365” in their names.

Not done yet, though, because Microsoft decided this year that Dynamics 365 CRM needed to be changed yet again and it is now called Dynamics 365 CE (Customer Engagement).

Shortly after acquiring Great Plains, Microsoft found that GP was not the platform for the coming e-commerce and internet explosion nor did it have the breadth or depth of features for sophisticated manufacturing or distribution companies. In 2002, Microsoft acquired Damgaard-Navision, a Danish software company, and its Axapta and Navision ERP and CRM software products. 

As it had done with the Great Plains’ products, Microsoft renamed these two products Dynamics AX and Dynamics NAV creating the 3rd and 4th Dynamics ERP solutions along with its Dynamics CRM solution.

While sharing a common brand and owner, there was and still is today very little common among these Dynamics products. They have no more in common than a Ford F-150 has in common with a Ford Mustang.

Since the 2002 acquisition of Damgaard-Navision, the bulk of Microsoft’s ERP investment has gone into AX and NAV. These two have been Microsoft’s obvious “go-to-the-cloud” offerings.

In late 2018, Microsoft released fully “cloud ready” versions of Dynamics AX and Dynamics NAV but opted to abandon those model names.  Instead, Microsoft renamed the latest rendition of Dynamics AX as Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations and latest rendition of Dynamics NAV as Dynamics 365 Business Central.  Each of these two offers its own CRM solution or can work in conjunction with Dynamics 365 CRM.  All three are now primarily cloud-based, subscription licensed products running in the Microsoft Azure cloud.

To be sure, despite still sharing the Dynamics brand name, Microsoft’s ERP and CRM solutions remain five separate software “packages” with three now being pure-cloud offerings with bright futures and two being traditional, on premise solutions likely to be left out of the cloud world.

So, to summarize, these packages that are used by many have the following ancestry:

Great Plains Accounting ➡️Dynamics GP ➡️…. ➡️Dynamics GP 2018

Solomon ➡️Dynamics SL ➡️… ➡️Dynamics SL 2015

Damgaard Navision Navision ➡️Dynamics NAV ➡️Dynamics 365 Business Central

Damgaard Navision Axapta ➡️Dynamics AX ➡️Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations

iCommuicate CRM ➡️Microsoft CRM ➡️Dynamics CRM ➡️Dynamics 365 CRM

Please contact us if you have any questions.

Scott Holter is the Director of Meaden & Moore’s Business Solutions Group. He has spent 20 plus years in manufacturing and technology consulting.

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