By Henning Lund - June 16, 2020
To understand the need for Microsoft Dynamics 365 integration tools (for example Microsoft Azure Logic Apps), it is important to look back at the evolution of business solutions. For many decades, companies have understood the importance of data and data handling to improve their performance. Software systems have been developed along the years to support these efforts and ambitions: from the first mention of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) in the 60’s and the early age of Decision Support Systems (DSS) in the 70’s, the first steps of Data Warehousing in the 80’s, to the explosion of ERP and the explosion of other systems such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Supply Chain Management, Big Data and Marketing automation in the 90’s. And let’s not forget the emergence of e-commerce in the 2000’s, followed by Business Process Management systems (BPM), Knowledge Management systems (KM) or ECM (Enterprise Content Management) systems. It has been a never ending evolution of tools to help businesses achieve more.
As the number of these business solutions grew, the need to integrate them also started to rise. The idea of connecting systems to let them work as one rather than as silos of data became very appealing. In this article, we will look at the Microsoft Dynamics 365 and why such a comprehensive business solution does not remove the need for integration. We will particularly look into how Microsoft’s own integration tool (Microsoft Azure Logic Apps) compares with template-based solutions such as RapidiOnline.
There is an undeniable wealth of business solutions available on the market today - and just as many vendors. In 2002, Microsoft decided to enter the business solutions market by acquiring Great Plains and Navision. With this series of acquisitions, they added some of the market’s top ERP solutions including Great Plains, Navision and Axapta to their growing Microsoft CRM application to form what would become Microsoft Business Solutions. Much has happened since the early 2000’s and in 2016, Microsoft renamed and relaunched their Microsoft Business Solutions to Microsoft Dynamics 365. While marketed as one solution Microsoft Dynamics 365 is really a series of 12 applications brought together to help companies streamline their entire operations:
Nucleus Research names Microsoft Dynamics 365 as a leader in the ERP market in 2019 (see below chart). With Microsoft Dynamics 365, Microsoft offers companies a range of applications that work seamlessly and brings to them an end-to-end, 360-degree view of their business.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 includes many different applications so one might wonder why anybody would need to integrate it with anything else. Although Microsoft Dynamics 365 is presented as one solution that fits and covers all purposes, integrating with Microsoft Dynamics 365 is still a very current topic. Integration to other solutions can make Dynamics 365 even more powerful and in fact, most organizations can benefit from an integration to Microsoft Dynamics 365.
While Microsoft Dynamics 365 is an attractive and comprehensive platform, it might not cater for all needs and requirements of all organizations. Microsoft Dynamics 365 can (more or less easily) be integrated with other Microsoft solutions and platforms. For example, it could make sense for organizations to integrate with it with:
In the age of data overload, an integration with PowerBi would especially make sense to allow companies to make best business sense of their customer and competitor data. A company that needs to store a large amount of documents related to their sales, procurement and other business opportunities would benefit greatly from an integration with SharePoint. Office integration, and especially integration with Outlook is a very popular and useful integration. Integration with OneNote might not be quite as common, but would come handy for organizations where multiple teams need to work together on opportunities, orders, contracts or other projects. Teams would also appreciate an integration with Yammer to facilitate communication and exchange of information. All these integrations have a common purpose: make organizations more efficient and focused in order to better serve their customers.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 is basically the result of bringing together the previously acquired solutions such as Navision (later known as Microsoft Dynamics NAV and more recently Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central) and Axapta (later known as Microsoft Dynamics AX and more recently Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance & Operations) together with Microsoft CRM and other Microsoft applications. While Microsoft Dynamics 365 is marketed as one solution, the reality is that some of these applications still need to be integrated with each other. Often, companies will have to add an extra effort (and budget) to integrate the ERP and CRM applications of Microsoft Dynamics 365 as they do not come integrated as one, at least not at the time of writing.
Not all the companies that have been using Microsoft Dynamics NAV or AX will decide to use the CRM application in Microsoft Dynamics 365 when they decide to upgrade to the 365 ERP applications. They might decide that they still want to use another stand alone, best of breed CRM solution such as Salesforce. It is common to hear about companies that wish to integrate Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP (whether it is Business Central or Finance & Operations) with Salesforce CRM for example. In this case, a third-party integration will typically be done using the APIs provided by Microsoft. The Microsoft Dynamics 365 APIs include REST-based, SOAP-based and web-based APIs.
If you need to integrate Microsoft Dynamics 365 with a third party solution, it might be difficult for you to decide which APi you should be using. To make it simpler and easier, you might want to consider a data integration tool. Some providers like Rapidi offer tools and solutions that enable simple and robust Microsoft Dynamics 365 integration. For example, RapidiOnline comes out-of-the box with pre-configured templates that would allow you to integrate Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP with Salesforce CRM in just days. And you do not need to be a code expert to customize it. No additional programming or code is required if you want to customize your integration.
In the “old days” (read before the cloud), integrating systems with solutions like Dynamics 365 would have happened via a middleware such as Microsoft BizTalk Server, on-premise. With a solution like Microsoft Azure Logic Apps, it is now possible to integrate Dynamics 365 directly with Salesforce from the cloud.
Microsoft Azure Logic Apps is a cloud service that Microsoft provides and recommends if you want to integrate Microsoft Dynamics 365 with other applications. Microsoft Azure Logic Apps is a consumption-based billing service so you will need an Azure subscription in order to build and run logic apps. The Microsoft Azure Logic Apps service offers a growing number of connectors (some built-in, some “managed”) to other applications. Using these connectors, you could for example connect with Salesforce or with SAP or Oracle… and many more. The connectors can be compared to “pre-built APIs” that you can use to integrate with these other systems.
To connect Microsoft Dynamics with other applications, Microsoft used to recommend the Microsoft Dynamics 365 connector, but it has been recently replaced with another connector, the “Common Data Service” connector.
In order to integrate Salesforce with Microsoft Dynamics 365 using the Microsoft Azure Logic Apps service, you will need:
The Microsoft Azure Logic Apps service has many attractive features. It is fairly cost-effective, and its drag and drop design allows you to easily create workflows.
However, it also has some very practical limitations:
RapidiOnline is a cloud data integration solution that offers pre-configured template-based integration between Salesforce and any of the Microsoft Dynamics ERP (AX, GP, NAV, 365 Business Central and 365 for Finance & Operations) and CRM. RapidiOnline features cutting-edge technology to provide data integration solutions that are fast yet flexible, simple, robust and secure. RapidiOnline can also integrate the Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM and ERP applications using the same technology.
RapidiOnline was designed to support out-of-the box the most common integration scenarios between Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics 365:
And the best part is, if you need other or additional transfers, you can easily configure them using the same logic as for the above-mentioned transfers. The RapidiOnline solution is based on deep knowledge of both Microsoft Dynamics 365 solutions and Salesforce CRM. It is fast and simple to implement and you can be up and running in a matter of days. Extending the standard RapidiOnline Salesforce - Microsoft Dynamics 365 integration with customizations is easy and straight-forward. It does not require adding code or programming.
It is fair to say that both RapidiOnline and the Microsoft Azure Logic Apps service are good solutions. Which one you should choose depends on your requirements, setup, needs and wishes.
RapidiOnline is a good solution if you value simplicity and wish to only have one subscription rather than the multiple subscriptions required with Microsoft Azure Logic Apps. The RapidiOnline pricing is simple and straightforward while the Microsoft Azure Logic Apps pricing is somewhat more complex, based on usage (triggers), data, and API-calls.
Microsoft Azure Logic Apps is probably better suited for you if you wish to build the integration and transfers from scratch yourself, which would of course require that you have in-house specialists. If you choose RapidiOnline, the Rapidi Team will configure the services from start to end and will advise you on best practices based on decades of experience.
Having a custom-made, tailored integration solution is maybe what you wish most. Both solutions can offer you this option of course. A couple of things you need to remember when you make your decision:
When you need to integrate Microsoft Dynamics 365 with other applications, you may have to look outside of the Microsoft product offering for the easiest and most cost-effective solution. While Microsoft Azure Logic Apps is a very good solution (and it comes with a good number of connectors), many providers offer interesting alternative solutions. Because data integration solution providers like Rapidi have specialized in integrating Microsoft Dynamics 365 with other applications such as Salesforce, they offer pre-configured template-based solutions that can be implemented in a matter of days and remain affordable. RapidiOnline is definitely one to consider if you wish to integrate Microsoft Dynamics 365 with Salesforce but also simply if you need to connect Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP with Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM.
You can learn more about how to use RapidiOnline to integrate Salesforce with Microsoft Dynamics 365 here.
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