At a time when several of Microsoft's (MSFT) - Get Report major enterprise software product lines are seeing limited growth thanks to some mixture of high penetration rates, competition and cloud service adoption, business apps -- a market in which SAP (SAP) - Get Report, Oracle (ORCL) - Get Report, and now Salesforce.com (CRM) - Get Reportare the largest players -- remain a big opportunity for Microsoft.
On Wednesday, the company said it's doubling down on its business app efforts by putting all of its apps into one product line, launching new business apps and integrating the products with other Microsoft offerings, including the widely-used Office 365.
While the solution isn't going to eat SAP and Oracle's lunch, it should make the enterprise software giants a little nervous, as it leaves Microsoft well-positioned to add to recent share gains.
The company's new Dynamics 365 suite will combine existing Microsoft CRM and ERP cloud apps; the former are used to handle sales and marketing tasks, and the latter core business functions such as accounting, financials, HR and supply-chain management. Dynamics 365 will also contain several new apps promised to "help manage specific business tasks" such as financials, field service, sales, operations and customer service.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is integrating the apps with its Power BI business intelligence software and its Cortana Intelligence analytics suite to surface business insights and provide recommended actions. Two shared examples: Providing sales reps recommendations on which products to cross-sell to clients, and showing IoT data within field service apps to help workers detect problems with products in the field before they fail.
As for Office 365, Microsoft will automatically push Dynamics 365 data into Office apps -- for example, making sales quote data available on tap while composing an e-mail in Outlook -- and provide a "common data model" for Dynamics and Office to make it easier to manage and integrate business data.
There are some parallels here with Microsoft's plans to integrate LinkedIn (LNKD) profile and contact data with Office 365, after Microsoft's $26.2 billion acquisition of the professional social network closes. The company also plans to integrate LinkedIn data with Dynamics apps, and to bundle LinkedIn's increasingly popular Sales Navigator social selling tool with the Dynamics line. Such opportunities help explain why Salesforce (CRM) - Get Report, by far the biggest player in cloud CRM apps and reportedly a former Microsoft acquisition target, also coveted LinkedIn.
With the help of Microsoft's giant army of sales partners, the Dynamics line has been gradually making headway in the CRM and ERP markets by providing cheap, easy-to-use apps for small- and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) that undercut more expensive products from SAP and Oracle. Though a shift from upfront license sales to cloud subscriptions is pressuring reported revenue for now, Dynamics revenue was still up 9% annually in constant currency during the calendar first quarter, with Dynamics cloud CRM seats more than doubling.
Even if one assumes SAP, Oracle, and Salesforce maintain dominant positions within the enterprise business app market, there's still a lot of room for Microsoft to grow Dynamics sales by taking more share among SMBs and penetrating the occasional enterprise account. Gartner estimates Microsoft has just 5% of a $26.6 billion ERP market, and 4.3% of a $26.3 billion CRM market.
Those numbers spell a needle-moving opportunity, even for a company of Microsoft's size.