To say the Microsoft suite of products for business is expansive is almost an understatement nowadays. In the beginning, it was just a few programs that worked together, with some enhanced abilities to connect your information with the people who use it. Now, it’s become its neural network of systems that can make your business better. But how?
With everything available, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. We’ve been in the industry for the past two decades, and seen the speed at which technology is evolving; we’re here to be a resource, so we’ve developed what we’re calling The Microsoft Cheat-Sheet. Below is a list of the best products to bolster your businesses’ functionality inside, and outside the four walls of your warehouse.
This is a Customer data platform, plays a very similar role as an inventory platform. However, instead of one source of inventory truth, it creates one source of customer insights. Many years ago, and was known as Microsoft CRM and is responsible for many vast improvements in technology, including world-class AI and analytics. It’s affordable and built into the Microsoft Dataverse for powerful integrations. It is particularly focused on finding and keeping customers.
The only major downside is that the UI is more akin to a hodgepodge of experiences that get worse the farther into advanced settings you go. So, when using D365, data discipline is critical.
Microsoft Dynamics Dataverse
Think of the dataverse as essentially a new and improved application platform that was originally known as the Common Data Service and the Common Data Model. For many years, we’ve worked on designing and using low-code no-code systems, and from what we can tell so far, this is the first time we can see all the pieces coming together to make the “citizen developer” a reality. Experts believe that this could be the “sleeper” disruption of the decade.
Picture it as a full application backbone that facilitates scaling and the heavy lifting of authenticating and securing a variety of ways best suited for the user types. As we see it, that’s the best-kept secret to technology; not only having the power to manipulate a system but the ability to do it easily as well.
You can take SQL server, CRM, Active Directory, Flow Connectors, orchestration, Cognitive Services, and Azure services, and Dataverse can maneuver in the backend so that you can run almost anything.
Dynamics 365 Business Central
For years, we’ve been looking for a cloud-based ERP with roots in Microsoft NAV. Marko Perisic and his team worked on enhancing D365, and took it to the cloud. Perfect for a small or medium-sized business that wants to move up the ladder in future-proofing their backend system, it has business functions for manufacturing, warehouse management, HR, even customer relationship management. Licensing can get tricky as there are only a few licensing options and manufacturing and service management cost a bit more to operate. However, we’ve seen it operate, and believe it is well-suited for inter-company and international businesses.
The downside is, that it lacks the newest form of integration to Microsoft Dataverse as of yet. But, as Microsoft announced this year, this is already being addressed. For companies that need more advanced capabilities in field service, marketing, manufacturing, and warehouse management, we suggest not leveraging out-of-the-box line of business systems and instead leverage Dataverse-friendly solutions.
Everyone loves a system that takes optimizations from wherever it can, and makes it all possible by pulling together the core systems that, frankly, anyone without a long history of coding experience would never be able to build. AI, Routing, Scaling, Security, telecommunications, failover, geo-located deployments—these are all possible with the help of Azure.
A few benefits include:
Microsoft Power BI
Power BI was the first enterprise cloud analytics play that focused on the creation and viewing of beautiful designs and real-time access to data. Connectors had their start here. R-Series was part of their ability to show time-series analysis. If you’re into data and analytics, hours can be spent here. In short, this application is all about data visualization.
It helps you unify data from many sources to create interactive, immersive dashboards and reports that provide actionable insights and drive business results. You can find and share meaningful insights with hundreds of data visualizations, built-in AI capabilities, tight Excel integration, and prebuilt and custom data connectors. Power BI has industry-leading data security capabilities including sensitivity labeling, end-to-end encryption, and real-time access monitoring.
Microsoft Power Automate
We see Power Automate essentially as a “skin” over the top of Microsoft Flow. Our whole team has been exposed to the developer side, and we can assure that it is robust and quite useful. The addition of webhooks as events makes a lot of functions less complicated and was a highlight of ours. The long-and-short of it is, It makes real-time inventory visibility possible. As you automate business processes, you can expect lots of improvements around messages, responses, and routing. The real-time triggers are useful sometimes, but when you don’t need instant calls, you can create schedules that also run a flow. There are 300 data sources available or connect any publicly available API for the discerning few who want to delve into everything. You can even automate tasks on your local computer like computing data in Excel.
A connector is a “wrapper” or a proxy around an API that interacts between power automate or Power Apps and the back-end service or data source. It allows bi-directional communication between the two. These connectors are coupled with data transforms and templates that people can take and make their own, in a way that is very easy to learn. If you are looking to integrate to an API, custom or catalog connectors are a great way to help you achieve it. We publish our premium connectors as well, to make integration easier.
Before the release of power platform and custom connectors, to integrate with an external service, we must usually build the integration using plugin or custom workflow activity to connect to the API, which requires C#, .Net skills. Now, with the release of a custom connector, special skills are no longer required to implement integration between Power Apps and an external service or source.
Microsoft Power Apps
From what we’ve seen this year from Microsoft, Power Apps could be a big deal. In the past, Microsoft wouldn’t use their software to support their own business, and the advancements we see here are a good sign. Even though the apps may not be the best made by a craftsman, the ROI is high. That’s because the developers and project team aren't at the expense anymore of creating, managing, and supporting as much.
With this, you can quickly build and share low-code apps. You’re getting a first look at prebuilt templates, drag-and-drop simplicity, and quick deployment, with the advanced functionality previously only available to professional developers—including pre-built AI components. We are excited to provide professional developers the tools to seamlessly extend app capabilities with Azure Functions and custom connectors to proprietary or on-premises systems.
Microsoft Supply Chain Management
SCM is great for very complex scenarios, as well as very simple scenarios. Almost anyone using SCM, however, is usually in the former, not the latter. We see many developers use X++ and Dual-Write custom solutions to integrate into the Power Platform. To use a little inside language, we believe this is because of “left hand, right hand” issues and roadmaps from differing groups at Microsoft. Time will tell if this becomes easier.
SCM, like every other WMS, creates an intelligent and adaptable supply chain. You can Predict disruptions and respond fast by digitizing your supply chain, enhancing visibility, improving planning, and maximizing asset productivity. Predict demand and plan supply and production in near-real time, while building agile factories and manufacturing processes with predictive technologies, IoT, and mixed reality to improve throughput, quality, and delivery.
The biggest issue we’ve seen is the skills gap and learning how to configure this large engine. Our approach is, WithoutWire aims to make it work very quickly at the start of a project, with basic assumptions, and let the user easily tweak as they go without coders.
Microsoft Intelligent Order Management
One of the newest advancements from Microsoft, IOM is focused on how we automate and optimize order fulfillment within a rule-based orchestration system. Effectively, managing delivery capacity to support fulfillment strategies. The ability to enable smarter fulfillment orchestration and achieve optimal stock levels using real-time omnichannel inventory data is exciting, but this is just the beginning. Users gain real-time visibility into orders, from intake to fulfillment, with customizable integrated dashboards to track and improve operational efficiency.
It used to take months to model and automate the response to order-fulfillment constraints and help ensure on-time delivery by using drag-and-drop tools to modify the order journey. Now, we can integrate with existing enterprise systems and scale to support order intake, fulfillment, and delivery partners using prebuilt connectors.
Microsoft Distributed order management (DOM)
DOM optimizes order fulfillment across a complex network of systems and processes. It relies on a single, global view of inventory across the whole organization to intelligently manage orders so that they are fulfilled accurately and more cost-effectively. By improving the efficiency of a retailer's supply chain, DOM helps the retailer better meet customer expectations.
Azure Active Directory B2B and B2C
These are External Identity solutions for empowering organizations to allow users outside their corporate network to access their applications and resources. With low effort, these solutions lend flexibility to external users to use their preferred identities for signing in to the organization’s applications. Stakeholders such as vendors, partners, guests, and suppliers can use the “bring your identity capability” of Azure AD External Identity solutions to take advantage of company resources. This means external users can use identities from managed-IT solutions such as other Azure AD tenants or unmanaged identities such as those from social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Field Service
Simply put, it lets you deliver proactive service. You can Ensure consistent and dependable operations by predicting, detecting, and resolving service issues before your customers even know there’s a problem. AI helps you optimize resources and costs by dispatching technicians when and where they’re needed most. By giving technicians and service managers the right tools and the information they need to resolve problems the first time, you can build customer trust and loyalty.
If you’re curious about coupling your ERP, enhancing your Inventory Management strategy, adding or replacing your WMS, connect with us. The Inventory Platform is simple, robust, and more than just a WMS. It’s how we find inventory truth. Get connected with us today!