Microsoft is rethinking traditional IT and business operations to change the way people do business by bringing together data, systems, and processes.

By Jim Willsher

Back in the day, most traditional organizations would have a suite of applications to run their business: Finance, Inventory, HR. They’d all look different to each other, behave differently to each other, and yet they’d probably all be used by the same people. Different logins, different keypresses, each one the master of its own destiny. And on top of that, none of the systems were aware of the others; each one was an island.

The problems surfaced by this are clear: data duplication, data inaccuracies, and simple inefficiency of people, data, and even storage costs. Each system would benefit greatly from data held in “the other system” but it was invariably out of reach.

New world – familiar problem

Fast forward to now, and many organizations still have this landscape, even though they have migrated to the cloud completely or have a hybrid system in place. Having multiple solutions is now a conscious decision rather than an accident. With so much choice available, many organizations – especially the larger ones – want to choose “best of breed” for each business function. They no longer want to choose a system because of its strengths in one area and then accept its weaknesses in other areas; they need a composable ERP, CRM, and Professional Services Automation (PSA) landscape that is the best of everything. But they also need to solve the data-sharing challenge, and having multiple systems only exacerbates that problem.

Also, in this post-pandemic era, people no longer want to be tied to their offices;, they want to consume and interact with data wherever and whenever it suits them. We’re in a fully connected world now, and no organization wants their systems to inhibit employees’ productivity.

The Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem consists of many applications, mirroring what might be seen above. Dynamics 365 CE for client and opportunity engagement, Dynamics 365 HR for managing a workforce, and Dynamics 365 Finance for running the day to day. Whilst they are separate applications, they do not suffer from the “islands” problem, they can all share their critical data with each other via a secret sauce. That sauce is called Dataverse, designed specifically for the Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform, and it works behind the scenes to disseminate applicable data from each application to the others, ensuring that each is up to date with the latest information regardless of the source.

Imagine that HR registers a new employee. With this connected landscape, that new employee immediately becomes available in the project planning system for resource allocation. Similarly, when the Sales team raises an invoice, that information is immediately available to the Customer Relationship Manager who spends his day tracking customer success. The power is there, and the barriers are removed.

Dataverse operates through transparency, and it does this in two ways. When data is stored in the “best of breed” master system, it is held in a database, and each system has its own database. Dataverse sits in the background, monitoring changes to the underlying tables of interest, and quietly replicating that data into the other system, in real-time. This ensures that the data in each linked system is transactionally consistent. No more “two versions of the truth” and with no lag.

However, this doesn’t solve the remaining issue of data duplication, so Dataverse also provides another way of working, the concept of virtual tables. Here, data appears to be held in one system, but it is actually held in “the other” system. This brings in the best of both worlds; storing data just once but making it visible to other systems. Win-win!

Why is this important? Your data is stored in one, central location and is available to be viewed in different solutions. This helps your business in the following ways:

  • You have one source of truth that can be viewed and modified from different locations
  • Employees from across the organization can collaborate more efficiently by using the same data
  • There is no duplication of work as the data once stored can be used by different business functions like Finance and HR
  • There are fewer chances of error as different applications pull the data from the same source

Everything mentioned above is focussed on the systems themselves, but what about the users’ interaction with those systems? It’s well-known that people want to interact with their data whenever and wherever they like, but what about the “however”? What if people want to use a mobile device, and access a system in an “app” that’s properly designed to work on a small screen? Dataverse does that too! Microsoft’s Power App ecosystem utilizes Dataverse too, so a company’s data held in a cloud-based CRM or HR solution can be made readily available to a Power App, built using low-code/no-code tools, and tailored exactly to the way the user needs to use it. A truly mobile experience, secure and efficient, and still retaining that crucial tenet of “one source of the truth”.

No matter where you are accessing the data from, be it business applications like Microsoft Dynamics 365 or applications from Power App ecosystem, Microsoft’s “secret sauce” ensures that you are accessing the same data.