By Nicola Wright
Digital transformation is a long-term goal for almost every business operating today.
But revamping the way you manage your finances, resource planning, human capital, and customer relations is a huge undertaking; one that can require a great deal of time, energy and capital to carry out. For many businesses, rolling out new processes across an entire organization all at once just isn’t an option.
As the creators of one of the most popular business application brands in the market, Microsoft is taking steps to remove those barriers to progress with their new strategy to help businesses “start smaller”.
Less than a year after it was released, Microsoft announced that it is restructuring the way it licenses its business solutions suite Dynamics 365.
Though Dynamics 365 apps were previously available in two pre-packaged editions depending on the size of the customer, Microsoft has recently shifted to a simpler and more flexible set-up, doing away with editions, and streamlining the way the apps are licensed.
The second phase of this effort to make the suite more accessible was the introduction of modular SaaS apps to the suite. These spin-off apps aimed to give customers the option to take up only parts of an app’s functionality; a practical and welcome alternative for smaller businesses, or those who were not looking to overhaul all of their businesses processes at once by licensing a full, comprehensive Dynamics 365 app.
The modular licensing model not only gives organizations access to transformative products at a much lower cost, but also offers them more control over where and how to start their digital transformation. By splitting larger solutions into more niche, scalable chunks, businesses can build solutions targeted to their specific areas of need.
According to Microsoft’s Corporate VP of Engineering James Phillips, businesses must pursue digital transformation in order to “stay ahead of the competition, realize new opportunities, new markets and reimagine how they do business”; the company’s new modular approach was aiming to level the playing field, allowing businesses of all sizes and circumstances to take the first step towards transforming how they work, and begin to reap the benefits of intelligent business systems.
In Microsoft’s eyes. the modularization of the suite was going to help customers, who might previously have felt a cloud-first overhaul of their processes too mammoth a task, to make important changes “one discrete, high-value business process at a time”.
The company announced that the first app to get the modular treatment was Dynamics 365 for Talent, Microsoft Dynamics’ human resources platform.
The fact that Dynamics 365 for Talent was selected as the first app to spawn modular platforms was telling; while many apps in the suite are favored by particular verticals and industries, human capital management is a universal need across all organizations.
The professional landscape is changing. From the way people look for jobs, to employee expectations, to the way businesses manage their staff, the very culture of work is undergoing a huge shift, and employers who don’t keep up will lose out on the talent they need to take their business forward.
Technology has contributed enormously to this mammoth transformation, opening doors to new ways of working, new ways of hiring, and new ways of engaging with employees. Human capital management systems are becoming more advanced, enabling organizations not only to find the best staff, but better support them once they’re onboard by enhancing transparency, improving employee satisfaction, and bolstering personal development.
Dynamics 365 is no exception.
Microsoft’s first dedicated human capital management app, Dynamics 365 for Talent is designed to bring everything you need to optimize your human resource management together in one app.
One of the newer Dynamics 365 applications, Dynamics 365 for Talent was first made available in July 2017, and helps its users manage and engage with their employees throughout their entire working journey.
Dynamics 365 for Talent’s road to optimized human capital management can be boiled down into five steps; attract, onboard, engage, learn and optimize, and licensing the full Talent app will get you access to all of those features.
According to the app’s official documentation, the app includes features enabling users to:
As well as seamless assimilation with other Dynamics 365 apps, and Office 365 services like Outlook, Dynamics 365 for Talent has another obvious, giant-killing advantage; LinkedIn.
After months of global head-scratching following Microsoft’s acquisition of professional networking site LinkedIn, the company revealed that it would be putting this new tool to work in the Dynamics 365 suite, with Dynamics 365 for Talent the first to utilize data from LinkedIn’s 500 million registered users.
But as any switched on company will tell you, there’s more to building a great, productive team of people than just the hiring process. Companies that make a long-term commitment to employee engagement are most likely to enjoy maximized productivity and minimized staff turnover.
Talent contains a number of functions to help companies manage their staff effectively.
Employers can roll out self-service portals through the app, enabling and empowering employees to manage their own profile, tasks, training activities, and appraisals. They can also use portals to carry out administrative tasks, such as processing leave requests. Utilizing self-service functions can not only cut down the workload for your HR department, but boost employee satisfaction by giving staff the tools to manage their own development, and autotomize certain operational processes.
In addition, Dynamics 365 for Talent helps create transparency by providing templates for defining organizational structures such as departments, positions, and roles. The app even contains a fully integrated Learning Management System, so employers can build and deliver training and development courses to help onboard and upskill their teams.
Third-party payroll systems can also be integrated, and native payroll features include benefits and compensation management, and succession plans.Dynamics 365 for Talent aims to make finding, acquiring, and keeping the best talent simpler and more effective by fostering a culture of excellence where both your operations and your employees can be at their best.
The app not only helps users attract, hire and set up new employees, it also allows managers to better guide and support their employees’ professional development, by offering a channel for continuous feedback, performance tracking rewards, and clear pathways to progression.
With the help of Dynamics 365’s inbuilt AI, Talent can automate routine HR tasks, and improve planning through tracking and analyzing core operations.
It can also help organizations ensure their compliance with local regulations. Privacy and security are hot topics in this data-driven world, and mishandling personal information of employees or customers can spell disaster for businesses.
Recent updates to Talent have been rolled out to help customers comply with the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation rules, for example.
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At present, two key areas of Dynamics 365 for Talent functionality are available via standalone apps; Attract, and Onboard. More segmental HR apps are due to release in the near future, with one in technical preview, and two more that are yet to receive release dates.
Through these SaaS apps, those who don’t need the entire Dynamics 365 suite, or even the full Talent app, can access some of its most valuable capabilities without having to commit to a larger package. The modular apps will also be able to bolt on to existing HR platforms, for those looking to bolster, rather than replace, their current system.
The first (though undoubtedly not the last) slices of the Dynamics 365 for Talent pie to be made available as standalone apps are Attract and Onboard.
Encompassing everything a business needs to find and nail down the best talent, Dynamics 365 for Talent: Attract silos the app’s hiring services, allowing users to streamline and optimize their search for new employees.
Every step of the hiring journey, from headhunting and receiving applications, to scheduling interviews and issuing offers, can be done directly from inside Attract itself. So no more missing attachments, neglected voicemails, or mixing up resumes; Attract creates a clear, unified roadmap for every job role.
Attract employs all the benefits of Dynamics 365 for Talent’s marriage to LinkedIn, so users can scour the network for suitable candidates from within the app interface. Users aren’t limited to the LinkedIn platform however; open jobs can be published to external job boards through the app too, with many leading job sites integrated as standard.
Each new job role can have numerous hiring team members added to it, so that the relevant people are able to view and give feedback on any candidates that are shortlisted, with each team member having to submit their own feedback before viewing others’ to prevent bias.
Job candidates are more than just a one-sheet resume, and by centralizing the selection process your team can get a 360° view of candidates, with information from their LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook profiles, personalized aptitude tests, application history, and professional connections coming together to give decision-makers a complete representation of the applicant.
Integration with LinkedIn InMail and Outlook calendars eliminates the back and forth wave of missed calls, allowing the candidate to provide their availability and generating suggested interview times based on the schedules of the selected interviewers. Once the interview is over, interviewers get another chance to submit feedback, accept or reject the application, and issue offers.
The benefits of Attract cut both ways; from submitting an application to receiving an offer, Attract lets the candidate engage with the process by turning it into a two-way street. Candidates can login to Attract to see how their application is progressing, schedule interviews, upload supporting documents, and keep track of all application-related correspondence.
With any luck, Attract could mark the end of days spent filling in an online form, crossing your fingers and hurling it into the digital abyss.
Anyone who’s started a new job lately knows how crucial the first week is for new employees. Not only is their impression of their new company likely to cemented in that tentative time, without the right procedures in place the newbie’s first week can be wasted chasing passwords and filling in forms.
One in three new employees leave within six months, so having the right onboarding procedures can set the right tone for the rest of that employee’s lifecycle. The onboarding capabilities in Dynamics 365 for Talent aim to get new hires right down to business, accelerating productivity and igniting employee success.
Encompassing all your necessary onboarding functions within one web-based app, Dynamics 365 for Talent: Onboard allows hiring managers to build personalized onboarding guides, trackable workflows and to-do lists mapped out by day, ensuring your new team member knows exactly what they’re doing from the get-go.
To help your new employee settle in and get to know the people around them, the app identifies which co-workers your new starter needs to connect with, and helps them become acquainted with their team and their individual responsibilities. It also uses data from LinkedIn to suggest colleagues they might already know.
By laying out goals and training resources from day one, you establish a culture of learning and efficiency, helping new employees feel valued and productive. Onboard’s welcome guides can even include details of work social groups, activities, and other cultural resources to foster a sense of inclusivity that can help increase the likelihood of long-term employment.
With all your relevant HR documents and resources built into Onboard, new hires will get instant, customizable access to everything they need to hit the ground running, and you can be confident that all the relevant paperwork has been completed at the right time. All this can even be done before they’ve even started or been given a company email address; onboarding guides through Onboard can be accessed through personal emails.
Onboard can also help optimize your hiring process even further by monitoring onboarding success on real-time dashboards.
Gauge, currently in technical preview, lets employers build custom questionnaires and quizzes, and send them to candidates as part of the hiring process.
With the internet making it easier and easier to apply for jobs with just one click, hiring managers may find themselves requiring new tools to assess the suitability of their candidates, without having to manually sift through swathes of applications and resumes to separate the wheat from the chaff. Utilizing custom skills assessments as part of the hiring process can help eliminate unsuitable candidates easily, and allow businesses to benchmark those candidates who make the cut.
These assessments are delivered to candidates through the Talent candidate app, available on any device, allowing them to easily navigate to and complete the assessment. Results can then be viewed by hiring managers directly in the Gauge app. Gauge is a standalone service, but can be plugged into any other Talent app, so assessments can be included at any stage of the hiring process.
Like all apps in the Dynamics 365 family, Gauge features Microsoft’s clean, familiar interface, so putting together an assessment or survey is as simple and intuitive as writing an email. Videos, images, and custom code blocks can be added to questions, and assessments can be timed, automatically scored, or manually graded.
Microsoft has revealed its intention to release further segmental HR apps, including Engage, and Perform. So far, no details have been released about what exactly these apps will entail, but it’s a safe bet that they’ll encompass the employee engagement, and performance management portions of the Dynamics 365 for Talent core app.
Pricing for Dynamics 365 for Talent currently sits at $40 per full user per month, and $8 for additional Team Member licences, which gives users access to read, write and self-service functions.
Representing only a portion of the features of Talent, pricing for Talent’s modular apps is unsurprisingly cheaper, with full user licences for both Attract and Onboard individually available for $8 per user per month.
If you want to license both modular apps together, you’ll enjoy a slight discount, with pricing for the pair coming in at $12 per user per month.
Compared to the rest of the standalone apps in the stable, individual app licensing for Talent is reasonably inexpensive, with other apps ranging from $95 up to $170. These apps do feature more broad functionality however, and are likely to become more affordable if and when they’re broken down into individual SaaS pieces like Talent.
At the moment, two of the three available Dynamics 365 plans feature the full Talent app; the complete ERP and CRM Dynamics 365 Plan, priced at $210 per full user per month, and the back-end focused Unified Operations Plan, which will set you back $190 per full user per month. There is, however, likely to be special deals for users who’ve purchased a modular app, and want to expand their Dynamics 365 solution to a full plan, or even the complete “parent” edition of their current app.
Still not sure which Dynamics 365 app is best for your business? Check out our infographic for the crib notes.
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