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Small businesses have long struggled with wanting enterprise-grade software, all while getting stuck with the limited features and functions endemic to SMB software. But today, they can act like an SMB, but run software just like enterprise shops.
Not long ago, small and medium-sized (SMB) businesses relied on off the shelf ERP systems that were low cost and limited in their capabilities. Many business owners could not fathom the idea of purchasing Oracle, SAP or Microsoft Dynamics to run their businesses given the high cost. But enterprises recognized that, to support their business operations, they had to accept that ERP systems cost a lot, and that you generally get what you pay for.
The shift to a software as a service model for many vendors is a game changer, and the question now surrounds what to do with these affordable technologies, such as Dynamics 365, that have traditionally been in the hands of companies with large revenues.
In the past, many top ERP platforms were too costly, and they required a significant infrastructure investment. This forced many business owners to accept that they needed to stick to CRM and accounting for SMBs. These were packages that were catered to small businesses and that likely had limited functionality compared to their enterprise counterparts.
Capabilities surrounding CRM, such as advanced analytics and the use of AI for customer insights, in addition to the integration of the sales components with the financial components and the services module, are all features that can deliver value on day one with no investment in servers or infrastructure.
This year, Microsoft Dynamics launched Dynamics 365,which combines ERP, CRM and business intelligence into a single offering, enabling companies to augment customer information and combine it with other data, such as ERP manufacturing system data, social data (from Microsoft's recent purchase of LinkedIn) and other system intelligence.
With Dynamics 365, small businesses can increase efficiency, but end users also need to adapt to new processes and standards. Their sellers can no longer rely on Excel spreadsheets to track accounts or sales forecasts; accounting can access information from anywhere, anytime, and can take advantage of the advanced analytics capabilities and new dashboards. Finally, this platform allows the company to customize the tool so that a small business owner can design a new mobile app using PowerApps that taps into their ERP system without having to worry about hiring developers or contracting the job to a third party.
The benefits of Microsoft Dynamics 365 for SMBs
- Integration flexibility. Dynamics ERP and CRM pair well together, as does Dynamics with various elements of Office 365, including SharePoint. Dynamics is also well-integrated with Outlook to enable efficient communication for sales reps.
- Sales and marketing automation. Built-in marketing campaign management is another feature of Dynamics CRM that enables decision-makers to monitor marketing activities and to derive essential insights to fine-tune their enterprise's strategic focus.
- Growing community. Microsoft Dynamics has cultivated a community of more than 2 million active users in 80 countries. An extensive app marketplace highlights a range of reusable business applications developed by reputable third-party providers and partners.
- Scalability. Although many organizations use cloud technologies, data security, legacy applications and processes remain the prime concerns. Migrating to the cloud isn't necessarily an option for some SMBs in the near term, so customers can choose a hybrid option or remain on-premises so SMBs don't have to compromise on enterprise security.
- Zero upfront infrastructure costs: In most common traditional ERP deployments, SMBs are required to purchase far more than just the application licenses. Among the additional costs are things like server licenses, database engine licenses and the added hardware needed to help support the system. With a cloud-based approach, platforms like Dynamics 365 can eliminate those requirements and provide the flexibility to get started within minutes with zero infrastructure investment.
- Mobility support. Small and medium businesses require mobile and flexible tools at their disposal to help support their sellers. Dynamics 365 is not only able to support mobile devices on the go, but can run on any device with a modern web browser. This offers a flexibility that SMBs would welcome for all of their users, as it gives them the flexibility to run the application on any platform.
- Built-in analytics. Dynamics 365's built-in features, such as analytics, enable even smaller scale companies to avail themselves of data analytics without paying a premium.
Microsoft's new move is to deliver ERP in a subscription model. With affordable prices that range from $50 to $150 per user per month, depending on the options selected, this model will open up options for SMBs. SMB executives and owners can now use sales components, field services, intelligence, marketing, customer service and accounting without software installs or IT involvement. This will help eliminate inefficiencies and limitations that other, smaller ERP systems have in place, and will certainly enable and support business growth.
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