Microsoft Dynamics 365, a collection of customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications, is following in the footsteps of the software giant's other major software platforms.
Like Windows 10, Windows Server and Office before it, the Dynamics 365 team at Microsoft will begin releasing major updates on a semi-annual basis.
"We will deliver two major releases per year – April and October – offering new capabilities and functionality," Mo Osborne, Corporate Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Business Applications Engineering at Microsoft, wrote in a July 6 blogpost.
"These updates will be backward compatible so your apps and customizations will continue to work post update. New features with major, disruptive changes to the user experience are off by default," allowing administrators to test for incompatibilities, Osborne said.
To help businesses keep track of upcoming changes, Microsoft will publish release notes months before a major update is released. For example, on July 23, during the Microsoft Business Applications Summit in Seattle, customers will be able to see what changes are in store for the October 2018 update.
Sandbox Coming for Dynamics 365 Update
Looking ahead, Microsoft is preparing a sandbox environment for the Dynamics 365 update scheduled April 2019. This will allow organizations to validate the changes to their critical business applications well before they are implemented in a production environment.
Microsoft is also putting businesses that are planning to cling to older versions of the Dynamics 365 apps on notice.
Eventually, all users will be running the latest versions of the Dynamics 365 apps, Osborne revealed. Support for Dynamics 365 for Finance & Operations Online 7.3 ends April 30, 2020, after which Microsoft will only support the latest version of the app, Osborne offered as an example.
Some users should have no trouble adjusting to the new support scheme. Microsoft's Dynamics 365 Business Central and Dynamics 365 for Talent products are already subject to continual updates, Osborne said.
Designed for Businesses That Have Outgrown Legacy ERP Apps
Separately, Microsoft announced that Dynamics 365 Business Central is now available in Australia and New Zealand. Aimed at businesses that have outgrown their accounting software and legacy ERP applications, the solution includes finance, operation, sales and customer service management functionality.
"With the launch in Australia and New Zealand today, Dynamics 365 Business Central will now be available in 16 countries including United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden, and Finland," wrote Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central Product Marketing Manager Shruti Shukla in a July 9 blog post.
Meanwhile, Microsoft's rivals have been making moves of their own. Last month, Salesforce announced several new additions to its CRM platform, including new e-commerce capabilities and Einstein AI features. And in March, the company released its first CRM product expressly for small businesses called Salesforce Essentials.
German software giant and ERP specialist SAP announced a major push into the CRM space with the new SAP C/4HANA solutions suite during its SAPPHIRE 2018 conference in June. Built for a post-GDPR economy, SAP claims that C/4HANA can help businesses foster rewarding customer experiences without resorting to "creepy" data collection and management practices.