As businesses increasingly digitize their operations both onstage and behind the scenes, the challenge arises of making sure they grow in the right direction – and Microsoft Corp. would like to help.

The first major update to Dynamics 365, the Azure-based customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform the Redmond, Wash. tech giant released last July, includes two features that integrate with LinkedIn and a cloud service designed specifically for omni-channel retail, among other upgrades.

At the updates’ heart, much like Dynamics 365 itself, is Microsoft’s commitment to giving customers an easily understood big-picture view of their business, in contrast to the outdated, complicated, and siloed CRM and ERP systems the platform is designed to replace, Scott Guthrie, executive vice president with Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise group, wrote in an April 24 blog post.

Dynamics 365 turns “what was rigid and disconnected into a set of intelligent cloud services that allow any business to start small with just what it needs, scale on demand as its needs grow and add additional solutions as its needs change,” he wrote, noting that too many customers “are slowed down by fragmented, disconnected and unintelligent business applications that don’t give them a holistic view.”

The first integration with LinkedIn combines the professional social network’s Sales Navigator platform with Dynamics 365 for Sales. The latter already allows salespeople to create quotes using customer information, product information, and inventory data within Outlook, while the LinkedIn sales integration will allow them to incorporate their networks into the process, improving efforts by enabling introductions and customized connection requests through LinkedIn, and providing salespeople with account and lead updates such as news mentions or job changes, and tailoring content in response.

Human resources, meanwhile, will likely appreciate Dynamics 365 for Talent, which is integrated with LinkedIn’s Recruiter platform and provides managers and interviewers with the most up-to-date information available.

Dynamics 365 for Talent also allows human resources staff to tailor the onboarding process to each employee by providing them with targeted activities, learning resources, and access to relevant contacts; maintain HR profiles for each employees that incorporates Office 365, Dynamics 365, and LinkedIn profile information; and measure and improve their HR program’s effectiveness with integrated intelligence features.

Finally, Dynamics 365 for Retail provides retailers with a centralized, end-to-end view of their operations, including store, employee, customer, inventory, and financial information, along with mobile-optimized point of sale capabilities and omni-channel features that allow shoppers to access personal account information or return merchandise to any physical location.

Other updates to Dynamics 365 include Dynamics 365 Business Edition apps, optimized for sales and marketing staff at small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), which is expected to be released in July; and a series of industry-specific SaaS solutions being added to Microsoft AppSource, which you can learn more about here.

The LinkedIn/Microsoft Dynamics 365 integration is also expected to be released in July. More information can be found here.

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