Spring has ushered in the latest release of Microsoft Business Applications, with new cloud-based solutions geared to sales and marketing professionals, upgraded models for introducing data into customized business solutions, and artificial intelligence infused throughout the suite.
The update, rolled out this week, looks to enable customers relying on Microsoft's cloud-based business tools to glean greater insights from larger quantities of data coming from more diverse sources, Alysa Taylor, Microsoft's general manager for business applications, told CRN USA.
One highlight of the latest release is Dynamics 365 for Marketing, a marketing automation application for midsize users. While Adobe Experience Cloud and Creative Cloud, delivered in partnership with Microsoft, remain the anchor for large B2B customers, the new app serves smaller companies looking to connect a marketing environment directly into their sales pipeline.
Another new app, Dynamics 365 for Sales Professional, is similar to the current offering, but limits capabilities for smaller organisations or singular departments that don’t need the full enterprise offering.
"It's designed to continue the mission we have of offering modular applications for organisations of all sizes," Taylor said.
Microsoft is also introducing a new line of applications called Power BI Insights, delivering out-of-the-box analytics with common data models to targeted departments, starting with sales and service. The solution applies intelligence to evaluating data from a range of Microsoft and third-party solutions that can be customised in Power BI and enhanced with Azure data services.
Power BI for Service Insights and Power BI for Sales Insights will be available in public preview with the Spring release. Those solutions embedded into Dynamics 365 facilitate analytic assessments of relationships generated from data culled from a variety of sources.
To make the business suite more extensible, Microsoft is upgrading its development platform for analytic solutions.
Common Data Service for Apps, a component of the PowerApps development platform, is incorporating new capabilities for modelling data in custom applications. And Common Data Service for Analytics introduces a standardized model to pull in data across many Microsoft and third-party sources into Power BI's data visualization tools.
Finally, Microsoft is introducing Dynamics 365 Business Central, a cloud version of the NAV Platform that many midsize organisations use for ERP functionality. The product, which offers lightweight capabilities and an accounting platform, will be sold exclusively through partners, with dozens already involved in a preview program.
"We have a number of partners working to take that offering and be able to customise it for specific customer needs," Taylor said. "This can take data from a variety of sources and surface it through Power BI or the Dynamics suite."
The full portfolio of business products have collectively been upgraded with artificial intelligence, Taylor said, "harnessing the power of the Azure platform and machine learning capabilities directly through Dynamics 365."
Microsoft is working to foster an ecosystem of partners that can build on top of or extend the analytics capabilities of the suite.