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Microsoft Dynamics 365 adds customer journey orchestration

Dynamics 365 users in marketing and sales get CX features forged from the pandemic economy that enable one-to-one digital experiences.

Marketers and e-commerce users of Microsoft Dynamics 365 get the shiniest toys in the new feature bag at this year's Ignite virtual conference.

Added to the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Marketing platform is customer journey orchestration, a feature that Microsoft plans to publicly preview in April. It enables marketers to program actions such as making offers or emailing content when they engage with customers at different touchpoints.

Customer journey orchestration will contain hooks into Microsoft's customer data platform, which will make actions not only real time but personalized down to individual customers, said Lori Lamkin, Microsoft VP of Dynamics 365 product marketing. The Adobe Experience Platform and Salesforce offer similar tools, as do a host of other vendors, including Kitewheel, Thunderhead, Pointillist, Usermind, NICE and Alterian.

Microsoft also plans to release a public preview of Intelligent Order Management in April, to be generally available July 30. It tracks customer orders from the front end of e-commerce systems to back-end ERP applications. The "intelligent" part comes into play with AI features that track exceptions in order processes as users manually alter order paths to fulfill customer orders from different locations. From those AI learnings, the order management can make more effective fulfillment recommendations to optimize inventory.

The order management features follow Oracle and Salesforce's introductions of similar feature sets. Connecting customer experience applications to back-end ERP systems makes sense for technology buyers, many of whom have renewed focus on digital customer experience during the pandemic, said Nicole France, Constellation Research analyst. Not only did e-commerce use skyrocket during the COVID-19 lockdowns, but supply chain disruptions delayed deliveries.

"It's a streamlined response to what has become an extremely big challenge for all kinds of businesses in the last year," France said. "It's nice if you have a great, glossy commerce tool and the front end of that transaction works well. It's not great if you can't actually deliver stuff to your customers. That's the problem they're trying to solve."

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Marketing Customer Journey Orchestration
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Marketing sports a customer journey orchestration feature that brings it in line with platforms such as Salesforce and Adobe, as well as numerous standalone vendors.

Teams integration with CX apps continues

Also available for Microsoft Dynamics 365 users are deeper integrations between Teams collaboration tools and CX applications.

Sales teams will be able to see LinkedIn Sales Navigator data for their prospective customers within Teams, as well as make calls and manage calls with other telephony systems through Teams. Customer service and field service users can collaborate with experts in the contact center and in the field via Teams to resolve customer issues. Commerce users on the retail side -- both managers and employees -- can create task lists and manage assignments.

It's nice if you have a great, glossy commerce tool and the front end of that transaction works well. It's not great if you can't actually deliver stuff to your customers.
Nicole FranceAnalyst, Constellation Research

On the marketing side, Microsoft had introduced webinar functionality to Teams last year, which became a much-requested feature as in-person events were canceled. New Teams integrations with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Marketing put hosts in touch with attendees prior to webinars and after they have ended with marketing content and offers. Customers who used Teams for webinars will get six months of Dynamics 365 Marketing free to try it out.

"You run a webinar, and those registrants just disappear, they go away," Lamkin said. "We're coming in and saying, 'Hey, you want to continue the customer conversation.'"

The Teams integrations are one more step along the way of a grander plan to make Teams more of a front-end interface for Microsoft Dynamics 365, France said.

That may appear to jaded technology buyers as a reaction to Salesforce's acquisition of Slack last December; Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said when the deal is complete, Slack will become "the interface for Salesforce Customer 360." In reality, Microsoft has been moving in that direction with deeper integrations between Teams and its CX applications for two years.

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Microsoft widens Teams' reach with Dynamics 365 integration

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