Activating my 30-day trial was a reasonably stress-free experience, despite a brief connection glitch. There are a number of different paths over the interweb to reach the setup screen, but a quick search will find what you need. Dynamics is very sales-orientated so only this module is initially selected to activate, but selecting the complete offering (Sales, Customer Service, Field Service and Project service automation) is simple enough.
You will need to plug in some details, including your ‘company name’ — if your business already has a 365 subscription, take care that you don’t attach your trial to this existing account.
As expected with newer products from Microsoft, there is a tour and links to find out more, but these aren’t as useful as hoped — getting stuck in and having a play around is the best way to absorb this product, and although there is some dummy data it is not exhaustive and almost exclusively within in the Sales part of the system.
Each solution has its own URL pointing to a portion of a cloud server, essentially a subdomain of dynamics.com formed of your company name and the product (crm11). So even without bespoke branding, you can see that you are within your application and not someone else’s CRM.
An irritating feature of the trial are the many many sales messages, not just the expected subscription pitch — but this is also an effective method of distributing information about updates.
Although familiar and comfortable when blogging, using a browser in place of a development environment feels distinctly odd in the context of a CRM — and it is clear that Dynamics is primarily about configuration rather than coding.
Security and related issues are also brought home by using a browser: my solution, data and structure, are not somewhere on a drive within this building, but somewhere in the big blue sky — Azure in fact. This poses a number of questions: under which jurisdiction does my data and ‘code’ reside, what assurances are there that data can’t seep out of my tables and into another business CRM, who actually controls the data, what security measures are in place… Dynamics is also available ‘offline’ and installed on your own servers, but this model is more expensive both for implementation and support, so is aimed more at larger enterprises.