Author:  Dan Johnson | GraVoc | Vice President of Business Development

This is important information for anyone thinking about implementing a cloud ERP system. The selection, implementation, and integration of core business applications is often a key, if not primary, component of most business’s digital transformation process. As a result, picking the right one is enormously important to the point of being perhaps the critical factor in the success or failure of your rollout.

So what is Dynamics 365 and the Common Data Service anyway?

I’m not a fan of re-inventing a wheel that’s already pretty round so I give you this: the most comprehensive explanation of the Common Data Service, and why it’s good, I’ve seen yet.

For those who are newer to ERP systems the gist is that ERP, CRM, Outlook, Excel, Word, third party software etc… have been used to run businesses for a long time. Nothing you don’t already know, I know. Users always want these systems to share some similar data and, in some cases, they want them to share a lot. The problem was how to get the data from one place to another, determining which system was the source for accurate data, and putting it into a logical format to be consumed. So we had to create connectors, integrations, run synchronization jobs, batch imports, write reports, dashboards, export to Excel/Access, massage data, etc… In a nutshell – it wasn’t perfect.

Then one day, the whole world changed. Microsoft launched the 365 platform. Think everything Microsoft that you use on a browser. It wasn’t nearly perfect at first but it continues to get better and more powerful, and more integrated. It ties all of your data points together by having all of your business applications use a common data service. This is a more academic description:

“The Common Data Service is the Microsoft Azure-based business application platform that enables you to easily build and extend applications with their business data. The Common Data Service does the heavy lifting of bringing together your data from across the Dynamics 365 family of services so you can focus on building and delivering the apps, insights and process automation that matter to you and your customers with PowerApps, Power BI, and Microsoft Flow.”

Why this is important? 

Nobody else has it. Not Oracle, not SAP, not Sage-Intacct, not NetSuite. Nobody. Fact, not opinion. They can claim integration, they can say they synch, they can even say they can use data from the same sources that Microsoft applications do. But they can’t do it in the same way, using the same platform. They cannot out-integrate the author of the applications and underlying data structure.  Microsoft and their partners are the only ones able to claim the ability to leverage data cross-platform in this way. So if you’re using Dynamics 365 Business Central, Finance & Operations, Sales, Marketing, Project Service Automation, Retail, etc… you can leverage the Common Data Service.

It’s like when the first typewriters hit the market! (Fun side read:

Is it a panacea? Not a chance. Custom development isn’t what it used to be in olden times (2 years ago). But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Anyone out there ever try to upgrade a highly customized ERP system? Don’t, it’s not worth the years off your life. But from an integration and data integrity standpoint it’s an enormous step in the right direction. It’s a game changer and it should be discussed during the evaluation and selection process early and often. Because what’s the objective at the end of the day? It’s better data. Better, more meaningful, more accurate, more easily accessible data. The marketplace wants and craves the ability to integrate data across all of their business applications and we can actually do it (finally!).

So if you’ve stuck with me so far, thank you. I just wanted to get the point across that Microsoft has created something new, fresh, and exciting that will kick the rear of most things it is put up against whether it’s on-prem or in the cloud. If you’d ever like more information on how we got here and where it’s going next let me know. I have a ton of information to share.

That’s it (steps slowly off his soapbox).


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