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Every Version of the Microsoft Dynamics Family Explained

I love Microsoft. Between their powerful technology and comprehensive support, I’m never left wanting for functionality or help. But with a legacy of great products as large as theirs—which includes upgrades, updates, and versions of most of their platforms and packages—it’s easy even for hardened Microsoft veterans to get lost in the verbiage and name changes. Microsoft Dynamics, and now the Microsoft Dynamics 365 family, are no exceptions.
Here we’ll look back at the history of Microsoft Dynamics and how the various components fit together to create what we now know as Microsoft Dynamics 365. Many of the versions were the result of Microsoft’s acquisitions of established companies and software—each with its own history—but we’ll limit ourselves to the Dynamics solutions as they arrived in the Microsoft world.

ERP & CRM

One more thing before discussing the versions themselves: most descriptions assume everyone understands what we mean by ERP and CRM. ERP stands for “Enterprise Resource Planning,” and CRM stands for “Customer Relationship Management.” An ERP-focused solution enables an organization to track and manage the progress of its business functions, such as manufacturing, delivery, and human resources. A CRM-focused solution helps an organization (typically of the sales-oriented variety) to track customer interactions from beginning to end of the process, from contacts to clients to closings.

Original Recipe: Microsoft Dynamics…

…NAV – In 2002, Microsoft acquired Navision A/S (where NAV comes from), a software company in Denmark. The name has changed a few times. Microsoft Dynamics NAV focuses on the ERP side of small and medium business, or local subsidiaries of larger international companies, offering management capabilities for things like finances, manufacturing, and supply chain.
…AX – Axapta (hence the “AX”) was a collaborative effort between IBM and Damgaard Data, a Danish software company that merged with Navision before that entity was acquired by Microsoft in 2002. Microsoft Dynamics AX is also an ERP-centric software suite, but targeted for enterprise-level, multinational business.
…GP – This was the first Dynamics product to bear the name—Dynamics 1.0—in 1993, developed by Great Plains Software. Microsoft bought the company in 2000 and kept the Dynamics name. Microsoft Dynamics GP shares a great deal in common with Microsoft Dynamics NAV as an ERP-centric suite, but offers more out-of-the-box functionality while sacrificing some customization capabilities.
…SL – Standing for Solomon, or Solomon Software, SL was acquired by Great Plains Software in 1999, and when GP themselves were acquired by Microsoft, the Solomon software went along for the ride. Microsoft Dynamics SL is another ERP solution with a focus on project-oriented businesses with functionalities like budgeting and forecasting.
…CRM – Microsoft developed Microsoft Dynamics CRM to focus specifically on sales- and marketing-oriented businesses, and launched the suite in 2003. More recently, Microsoft has cultivated the product’s customizability to make it applicable to an even wider range of business models.

Newest & Best

Microsoft has completely changed their pricing and packaging models. Businesses and organizations can now subscribe to Microsoft Dynamics 365 under one of a few plans, or take from the proverbial basket of Dynamics applications, a la carte. There are three plans at this time—Customer Engagement Plan, Unified Operations Plan, and Dynamics 365 Plan. The Customer Engagement Plan focused predominantly on functions formerly housed within CRM, and the Unified Operations Plan is tailored for large-scale ERP concerns. The Dynamics 365 Plan combines them both.

Conclusion

Don’t get lost in the name game. Customers now have the power to choose the functionalities that serve them best, and to add to those capabilities as their businesses grow. Microsoft continues offering the best business solutions around, and Microsoft Dynamics 365—between Business Central and Finances and Operations—leverages the best of all available worlds for your business operations.

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