Podcast | What else can we use Dynamics 365 for? Check out the latest from the Microsoft Power Platform for communication automation

Jean
Shin

Director, Strategy & Content | Podcast Host of Mobile Interactions Now

Podcast |   What else can we use Dynamics 365 for?

In this Part 2 of our conversation with Jason Gumpert, an editor at MSDynamicsWorld, we delve deeper into the latest developments from Microsoft Power Platform and related tools. Check out Jason’s latest findings and objective insights on where Microsoft innovations can really shine for business-to-consumer interactions.

Podcast transcript

Jean:

Jason, welcome back to the show. In our previous episode, we talked about some of the new possibilities that is coming and being enabled to power Power Platform. And when it comes to helping businesses improve their customer experiences, it's starting to take a lot more components to be put together. So, I would love to get a little closer in this episode to really talk about each of the components. You briefly mentioned being at Ignite 2021, but I would love to just take you back there and see if you can remember anything that you think it would be relevant to helping companies provide fast, seamless customer experience.


Jason:

Yeah, I mean, I think one of the most interesting things I saw, I think on the customer experience side and in terms of getting control of customer data, would be some of the advances that Microsoft seems to be making around customer insights, what it considers a data platform solution, and not just sort of storing that data, but bringing it in from various sources and then using it in interesting ways.

I think they're really just in the very early days of that process, but the idea of like applying, taking the incoming data, then sort of analyzing it, either building segmentation, segmenting it for use in marketing lists or giving service agents a better insight into how to respond to a particular person based on what they know about past communications. I think that's really an area of a lot of promise. I think they're showing some good progress in evolving that vision of their own. And I know they have a lot of competition in that space when it comes to other sort of CDP players. But, yeah, that definitely caught my eye. I said, "Okay, they seem to be making progress in presenting a more mature vision."


Jean:

I actually love the part you mentioned about insights and segmentation, because I was writing a white paper that really talks about how to initiate CX transformation. And part of my big argument is that you would need to be able to test it before you start really rolling it out. And things like Microsoft segmentation tools were what I was banking on. So when you guys talk about how to get more out of insights and segmentation, is there a specific use case or industry that seems to work better with the tools?


Jason:

I would say Microsoft is really kind of playing catch up. They were not one of the early sort of vendors that was, I would say, segmenting lists. I think they're very strong and they were very early on in sort of building some of the analytical tools to actually take it and figure out how to segment or how to predict who's a good candidate for an offer, who's a good candidate for a campaign, but in terms of final execution tools, I think they're still sort of ramping up their capabilities to sort of match what else is out there in the market. The strengths, I think, are in the core capabilities whether it's sort of machine learning services or other data management tools.


Jean:

I think a Gartner figure points to 70% of the customer interaction involving some kind of a chatbot, virtual assistance and machine learning, as well as mobile messaging by next year, 2022…there's a very good chance we’re already there. Without getting into the paperclip era of a virtual assistant from Microsoft, can you talk about how they are doing in terms of enabling at least two out of the three?


Jason:

I don't have numbers for you on sort of how well adoption has gone with those things. I think overall Adoption and Power Platform usage seems to be really positive. One related thing, I don't know if you follow this at all, but like some of the portal technology that Microsoft has been building out pretty steadily for several years, that seems to be getting really good momentum and that does tie in you. You can use that in customer experience scenarios and it's intended to. I mean, they've seen like literal hockey stick growth during the pandemic, as you said. I did a piece on that because I saw the sort of the charts that they showed with. It didn't have numbers on the Y axis, but the slope of the line really did bend upward and the active use is really climbing. So, I think that's a sign that those are portals, so they can be used for ladder and things. But I think that's a sign that customer engagement is increasing within these tools.


Jean:

The developers who are working on this, how do they feel about how machine learning is happening? I mean, I know there's some kind of competition going on in the background. Are they mostly utilizing Microsoft machine learning and all their tools, or is it more of a mash job of pulling from different tools and putting it together?


Jason:

I mean, from what I see, the developers in this community are really focused on Microsoft. So, unless they really come from another ecosystem and they tend to say, "Okay, well, what can Azure do for me? If I'm working with Dynamics, what can I pull in from Azure?" And partly, that's just comfort. I think with being in this particular space because Microsoft can be so all encompassing in terms of the sort of the range of what it provides to someone. So, if you're starting in Power Platform, you might say, "Well, just let me just look over to the side and see what I can do with Azure to bring into that." So, that tends to be what I see is that people do stay in this ecosystem. If they're going to add machine learning, they'll look to the Azure services that do that first.

One of the strengths of Power Platform seems to be that when you see cases where while we already have a chat integration that uses another service that they can then bring that in, usually without too much hassle. I mean, assuming it's sort of modern and it uses a typical web services, integration points and so forth that they usually bring that in whether it's a service that does machine learning for them or whether testing models or whether it's chat or anything else, they will bring that in without too much hassle usually. Assuming it's something that's sort of adheres to modern standards if that makes sense.


Jean:

Thinking of some of the different department clouds that Microsoft has, do you know which cloud is more popular, where more activities are. I mean, marketing, sales, and service and all those things.


Jason:

Marketing is almost certainly the smallest I would take because then it's the newest product. And that's, again, going back to what I was sort of saying earlier, it's the area that I think Microsoft is the most behind in. They'd never acquired a big marketing automation vendor, the way Salesforce did or Adobe did. They built it themselves. And so, they're building that out and trying to catch up, I think, in a lot of ways or chart their own path, maybe as some far more generous way of saying it. So, sales customer service, I mean, they're seeing phenomenal growth in like the field service area.


Jean:

Out of some of the use cases that you've seen, is there something that really excited you?


Jason:

I mean, there's a lot of really cool ones out there. I usually have more of them on hand cause I've been out at conferences and talk to sort of seeing some of the coolest demos. So, I'm not seeing some of those face-to-face demos these days that I used to, but some of the cases around like mixed reality are really fun. And I think we'll see more and more of those where it's blending either sales or field service or something else with mixed reality with a headset and that kind of holographic stuff, but tie directly into real business cases. But there's a ton of possibility there, obviously. I don't have a good case for it, but I think there's a lot of possibility for is another product that's still pretty new called Customer Voice.

So, it's sort of a somewhat competitor to Qualtrics, doing quick surveys, getting sentiment from users, sentiment in different situations and being able to measure that and then incorporate it into a sales system, a customer service scenario, and sort of knowing how customers are feeling at any point in time. You can put it onto mobile, you can insert it into chat, you can send it through email, whatever, put it on a website. Again, it's one of those areas that Microsoft seems to be investing in. And when they are serious about just by nature of the kind of company they are, they can really press forward quickly to advance that vision. So, I'm really interested to see how that evolves as a competitive product in the marketplace, but just also how it works with these other Power Platform and Dynamics products, because that tends to be where they start the integration point, where they build out stories from this is sort of like taking it in combination with the other products they already offer.


Jean:

Speaking of communication channels, are the channels, Microsoft Teams, Skype and others…what’s happening with these, all integrated more so now?


Jason:

Yeah, yeah. And we haven't touched on Teams, but that was the big headline six months ago was bringing Teams together with Power Apps for internal work and building apps that work within Teams so that you have sort of more things you can do within the context of that. And, yeah, that's a huge trend for Microsoft going forward. I didn't see as much about Teams in the presentations just because they seem to be focused on all these other things. But, yeah, that's a huge one for the future.

Personally, I think there's a lot more work needed. This is just sort of my own view, but I think there's a lot more work needed to really come up with a really great examples of where these apps that work within Teams that build on, Power Platform and insert that into that sort of collaborative workspaces are going to deliver a ton of value and be really innovative. I don't feel like I've seen the examples that made me say, "Wow," compared to some of these other areas where maybe it's just been spelled out for me in more detail. So, I understood it better, but I can certainly see why they think there's a big opportunity there. There probably is.


Jean:

Is there something that you're looking forward to seeing as a consumer that could be powered by things happening at Microsoft?


Jason:

That's a tough one. So, as a consumer, I mean, the things that come to mind are, boy... I would say a consumer is going to see these things in a couple of places. I think retail is a great example because that's one of the places where I think consumers are kind of working directly face-to-face with companies the most. So, like you said, clienteling, retail experiences are one place where you might see this, whether it's in store or online, but things like this customer voice that we talked about that could certainly be something that touches more and more customers.

And, hopefully, you get sort of smarter communications from businesses that you engage with. So, they are like, we talked about segmentation, that when you talk to customer service they know who you are. I mean, these are really maybe more general benefits of sort of modern CX and some of these monitor systems. But I think Microsoft really is in the hunt to deliver those to consumers. So, that would be, I don't know if that quite gets at what you're asking, but those would be the areas where I would imagine consumers kind of feel this.


Jean:

Places like Germany, you have no idea how many businesses are saying, "Okay, so we are not getting any attention unless we are on WhatsApp." And there’s a huge drive because that's the communications channel that everybody uses here. It becomes a topic. And that's why we go into a meeting and hear, "Okay, so how do we enable this WhatsApp?" “What's that experience can look like…oh, by the way, can it work with my CRM?" Conversation is going that way. How is it going in the US market, in the Microsoft community versus what we are seeing out here which is very mobile messaging driven?


Jason:

It seems a little more agnostic. I don't think WhatsApp has, for example, has had quite the impact here that has had another other countries. It seems to just be more agnostic that they want to try to have everything covered so that they can take communications coming in from a lot of channels, whether it's through other social networks. I think, I've heard Facebook mentioned maybe not in the last few months, but in past conferences and in past presentations, I've seen that messaging there versus messaging. Yeah, and some of the major apps like WhatsApp. So, I don't know that any one channel has really gotten that kind of commitment that you kind of described for Germany.


Jean:

This will be my last question, Jason. Just so that we get to know you better, can you tell us the three things you do most on your mobile phone?


Jason:

So, I'm probably looking at either a couple of news sources. I do like to have sort of purpose-built apps for news outlets there when I'm service browsing regular news, not just tech news. So, I'll be looking at like the Bloomberg app, which I really started to enjoy. I think they did a nice job with theirs. I've been trying to use a workout app to sort of manage my runs. So, it just tells me what run to do on any particular day. So, and that was just all websites, but now I have an app for that. So, I'm trying to track my runs there that would be probably the two of the biggest things. And then the third one maybe would be Twitter, which is not all that interesting, but I'm probably using it to sort of scroll through Twitter. I don't tweet a lot personally, but I sort of use it to follow all the people I'm interested in the world, whether it's in the text base or just sort of rest of sports and entertainment and all that.


Jean:

Thank you very much. That was excellent. I enjoyed it.


Jason:

Yeah, my pleasure. It was fun.