Are you using the Microsoft Power Platform and need to deliver customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities to the business? Or, are you maybe already using Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM solutions and would like to put the Power Platform to work to extend and finetune CRM? The underlying data management technology for these solutions is the same—the Microsoft Dataverse. That provides you with many opportunities to achieve more with your data assets and create capabilities for users without complicating the technology environment. In this article, we consider how you can efficiently align your data management and app-building strategies on the Dataverse foundation.
How can CRM technology and the Microsoft Power Platform complement each other?
When Sikich clients look to extend their business technology with additional capabilities, their first and favorite stop is the Microsoft Power Platform, which allows them to give their creativity free reign with minimal coding, instead using configurable, intuitive elements. On the Power Platform, they can build their own software tools with Power Apps, deliver data insight and decision enablement with Power BI, and simplify and automate workflows with Power Automate. As organizations evolve and refine how they engage with customers through their buying journey and support them following a purchase, they often consider CRM technology.
That means they have to decide if they want to create their own CRM solution by means of Power Apps or if it’s to their advantage to deploy Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM software such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Service, Field Service, Project Operations, or Sales. Sometimes, technology managers feel that it’s better to build their own CRM features with Power Apps, thereby keeping the data and technology environment simple and consistent.
The Microsoft Dataverse fuels your Microsoft solutions
Consistency and simplicity are worthwhile principles. You can make technology users’ lives easier with them as your guiding lights. They’re also a good reason to deploy Microsoft CRM technology designed for rapid, productive user adoption. Keep in mind that Microsoft Dynamics 365 solutions are built on the Power Platform and one foundational technology, the Microsoft Dataverse, enables Microsoft Dynamics 365, the Power Platform, Microsoft 365, Azure, and a number of standalone apps.
The Dataverse, enabled by the Microsoft Common Data Model, provides a secure, cloud-based way to store and manage data used by business applications. It stores data in form of tables, and you can easily set up your own tables in addition to the large number already available in the Dataverse to suit many frequent usage scenarios. As the Dataverse enables data storage and management for Microsoft 365, you can use the Power Platform to surface additional capabilities in Excel, Outlook, or Teams. For instance, you can easily set up automated notifications in response to certain account events or sales activities in CRM and present them through Outlook and Teams.
Optimizing Dynamics 365 CRM on the Power Platform
Deploying Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM solutions together with the Power Platform will not make your technology environment more difficult to manage or navigate. It will extend it with an arsenal of capabilities—in this case, developed by Microsoft—while keeping it consistent, secure, and efficient. What’s more, if you’re comfortable using Power BI, Power Apps, or Power Automate, you’re already a step ahead in extending Dynamics 365 CRM for specific requirements in your organization.
The reverse is also true. If your initial exposure to the Dataverse is through the CRM solutions, becoming proficient on the Power Platform is a hugely advantageous step that allows you to extend CRM efficiently and affordably. Because your Dynamics 365 data resides within the Dataverse, it’s natively available to the Power Platform, so you can create and connect to CRM whatever automations, apps, and data insight tools you need.
Unifying data sources to meet users’ insight needs
Sikich consultants often work on the Dataverse platform as they extend Dynamics 365 CRM solutions through Power Apps or connect existing software tools clients created in Power Apps with newly deployed CRM technology.
For example, we created a new app for Clarke, a Sikich client that helps customers choose their best option from several brands of kitchen appliances. To accomplish this, we used the canvas app feature within Power Apps, a highly streamlined development method that lets you drag and drop elements onto a canvas. Building tools with canvas apps makes it particularly easy to connect to data streams from a variety of sources. We embedded the new app in the client’s CRM solution, where it simplifies reporting on customer purchases.
When you create a new software tool with Power Apps this way and integrate it with your CRM modules, the conditions of the CRM environment remain pervasive. Not only can your new app access all the CRM data, it can continue to use Active Directory for user login and authentication. Any existing workflows and integrations remain intact and within reach of the new app. The efficient manageability of your Power App-augmented CRM remains the same, because the Dataverse is the foundation of the entire environment. As you add solution capabilities that allow you to realize more value from CRM without significant development cost or overhead, you can improve your total cost of technology ownership (TCO) by taking advantage of the Power Platform.
Delivering more value from data while simplifying the technology environment
By building Power Apps on the Dataverse foundation, you can tie new functionality to practically any Microsoft solution you choose and augment it with full mobile capabilities. You can enable data flows between your apps and SQL or Access databases. In addition, you can go outside of the Microsoft technology realm and connect with data sources built on Oracle, MySQL, and other solutions. You can then use that data in your Power Apps, Power Automate, or Power BI.
One example for this is the app building Sikich performed for a discrete manufacturer, a long-standing client. In an earlier project, the company transitioned from legacy ERP to Microsoft Dynamics AX and today uses Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management (formerly known as Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations) together with Salesforce as the CRM solution.
The business managed product repairs in a custom application developed internally, handled returns in Salesforce, and tracked inventory changes from returns in Dynamics 365. IT managers wanted to simplify their environment and eliminate the custom solution, but they still needed to enable repair management. For this client, Sikich consultants used canvas apps to create a Power App which captures all information needed for processing repairs and maintains a continuous flow of repair-related operational and financial data between the ERP and CRM systems.
Connecting data lakes with the Dataverse
Many Sikich clients use data lakes and are always looking for more efficient, easier ways to deliver greater visibility and insight based on data assets to their businesses. The Sikich team often uses Azure Synapse Analytics to enable bidirectional data exchanges between a data lake and the Dataverse. Standard Azure Synapse Link connectors make it possible to integrate the Dataverse—including Dynamics 365 solutions—with a data lake. That, in turn, means that you can surface information from your data lake in whatever capabilities and tools you create on the Power Platform.
For example, the dashboards and reports you create in Power BI can draw on your data lake as well as your Dynamics 365 CRM software. You can choose whether you simply want to aggregate data lake and Dataverse data for reporting, notifications, or other purposes, or whether you want to allow Dynamics 365 or Power Platform functionality to add information to the data lake and modify it.
Sikich is here to help you achieve the best possible business outcomes from your data assets, the Power Platform, and Microsoft Dynamics 365 solutions. Depending on what works best for your resources and budget, we can perform and deliver the capabilities you need or guide your team in working effectively with the Dataverse and the other technologies we mentioned. Sikich managed services can also help you operate and evolve your technology environment as the business changes and grows.
We recommend that you consider licensing costs in your planning. Power Platform licensing is typically lower than the license costs for Microsoft Dynamics 365. If you use both the Power Platform and Dynamics 365 CRM solutions, you may have an advantage in saving licensing costs. You can accomplish more with the information residing in the Dataverse and further reduce your TCO at the same time. Sikich licensing experts can help you configure licensing so that you gain all the capabilities you need in the most economical manner.
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