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Microsoft Moves to Embed AI into CRM Portfolio

Wednesday Sep 19th 2018 by Mike Vizard

Microsoft is embedding a range of AI functionality within Dynamics 365 for Sales, Dynamics 365 for Marketing and Dynamics 365 for Customer Service.

Microsoft this week announced that starting next month, it will make available previews of a range of customer relationship management (CRM) applications that embed artificial intelligence (AI) functionality directly within a suite of packaged applications that require no application development effort or training of AI models on the part of an internal IT organization.

In addition, Microsoft unveiled a pair of augmented reality applications for businesses based on the Microsoft HoloLens headset.

Alysa Taylor, corporate vice president for business applications and industry, says Microsoft is embedding a range of AI functionality within Dynamics 365 for Sales, Dynamics 365 for Marketing and Dynamics 365 for Customer Service. That latter application especially differs from rival offerings in that it enables organizations to leverage virtual agents without having to write any code or hire a data scientist to integrate an application with, for example, the IBM Watson service, says Taylor.

AI functionality embedded with the Microsoft CRM applications will service recommendations on how to optimize sales pipelines, discover marketing insights, and provide an enhanced digital customer experience. Taylor says the AI functionality embedded with the Microsoft portfolio of CRM applications is another step toward turning CRM applications into “systems of empowerment” versus rival “systems of oppression.”

Overall, Taylor says sales of Microsoft Dynamics 365 applications increased 65 percent last year to achieve a billing rate north of $1 billion.

“That growth rate is occurring on a substantial base of customers,” says Taylor.

 Taylor cited that growth rate as clear evidence of Microsoft momentum in a CRM application category that today is led by Salesforce, Oracle and SAP.

The HoloLens applications make use of what Microsoft describes as “mixed reality” to provide an ability to remotely inspect equipment and engage in spatial planning. Dubbed Dynamics 365 Remote Assist and Dynamics 365 Layout, both applications are part of a growing portfolio of augmented reality applications for business that Microsoft is developing around the Microsoft HoloLens headset.

There’s no doubt both AI and augmented reality will play a major role in re-engineering a raft of digital business processes in the months and years ahead. In fact, most organizations will get their first hands-on experience with AI via packaged applications because vendors uniquely have access to the data to train AI models at scale. Less clear, however, is to what degree that transition will result in major shifts in market share among the leading providers of business applications.

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