Updated: May 12, 2022
Every time Microsoft changes a product name, you can hear a marketer cry.
At one point, Microsoft changed the name of one of the Dynamics products three times in just a few years. Marketers had to completely redo websites, SEO strategies, tradeshow booths, and business cards each time. It led to a standing joke, “We sell Dynamics 365 or whatever Microsoft calls it these days”.
A brilliant marketer, that I now know is Ryan Harris, gave away these "or whatever its name is now" mugs at a trade show to poke fun at the confusion within the community.
Right now, Microsoft Dynamics includes:
Microsoft Dynamics 365 (actually a suite of multiple products)
Microsoft Dynamics GP
Microsoft Dynamics SL
But these product name changes have a long history with Microsoft. So let me try to explain the Microsoft Dynamics products, then and now, in simple terms that every new marketer to our channel can understand.
What is Microsoft Dynamics GP – Great Plains?
Back in 2001, Microsoft purchased an accounting software company based out of Fargo, North Dakota called “Great Plains Software.” Great Plains had two editions called Dynamics and eEnterprise. Microsoft thought that Dynamics name was pretty catchy.
Microsoft later rebranded Great Plains as Microsoft Dynamics GP. The GP stands for Great Plains.
Microsoft Dynamics GP has a huge user base of loyal customers and Partners. It also has a large community of third-party/add-on or ISV (Integrated Software Vendor) products that work with the product.
In the Microsoft Dynamics GP Roadmap, Microsoft has publicly committed to supporting the product through 2028 and beyond, including new releases. However, I think everyone would acknowledge that the product no longer receives the R&D love it once enjoyed. Microsoft very clearly sends the message that it would like Microsoft Dynamics GP customers to please move to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central.
This has led to heated debates within the community about “GP is Dead” versus “GP is Here to Stay.” All that being said, you can still buy Microsoft Dynamics GP.
What is Microsoft Dynamics SL - Solomon?
Great Plains and Solomon Software used to be rivals. First Great Plains acquired Solomon, then Microsoft bought them both. So Solomon became Microsoft Dynamics SL.
Microsoft Dynamics SL is very strong in the professional services industry for project accounting. There are still thousands of users and a strong user group, but sadly, Dynamics SL gets even less love from Microsoft these days than Microsoft Dynamics GP. It is not even mentioned in their marketing materials, although you can find mention of it on the Microsoft Dynamics website if you really do some digging.
Technically you can still buy Microsoft Dynamics SL 2018, but mainstream support from Microsoft ends in 2023, so I don’t really know why anyone new would buy it now.
What is Microsoft Dynamics NAV - Navision?
Back in the Great Plains and Solomon days, Navision Financials (at one point called Navision Attain) was another big competitor. However, it was always the “European product” as it originated in Denmark, and the majority of users were in Europe. Then in 2002, shortly after the other acquisitions, Microsoft bought Navision.
You guessed it; it was rebranded as Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Some people say the letters N-A-V and others say “NAV” (rhymes with have).
Microsoft Dynamics NAV is no longer being sold because it is now Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. (We will get to that soon.)
What is Microsoft Dynamics AX - Axapta?
You will start to sense a pattern here. Navision had already acquired another competitor called Axapta (originally published by Damgaard). So when Microsoft acquired Navision, they got Axapta too. Axapta became Microsoft Dynamics AX. This product has always been targeted at larger enterprises and was strong in multi-national, multi-currency, and multi-lingual deals.
You always say the letters A-X and never AX (like axe), then you would just sound silly.
Note: in the past, ALL of the products above had a version number with each new release, like Microsoft Dynamics GP 8.0. Then it changed to a date, like Microsoft Dynamics AX 2019. Then Microsoft stopped using the year too. This makes it a bit harder to know if a company is on the latest version, so they have to go look for the version number in the “about” screen in their application.
Microsoft Dynamics AX is no longer being sold because it is now Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Finance. (I promise it will make more sense soon).
What is Microsoft Business Solutions?
To add one extra level, I’ll mention the Business Solutions era. In the early 2000s, when Microsoft finished its ERP software acquisition shopping spree, it introduced the “Microsoft Business Solutions” brand. The products were called Microsoft Business Solutions Great Plains, Microsoft Business Solutions Solomon, Microsoft Business Solutions Navision, and Microsoft Business Solutions Axapta. Everyone predicted that Microsoft would scrap all of these and develop one super-duper ERP system with a new name. (This was called Project Green). That didn’t happen, and instead, everything was rebranded as “Microsoft Dynamics.” So we can just forget about Microsoft Business Solutions now. (Although at tradeshows, I still see the logo on some old company polo shirts).
What is Microsoft Dynamics 365?
Oh boy, this is where it starts getting tricky. Microsoft Dynamics 365 was introduced in 2016. It is not just one product but a suite of different products that all have the same name.
We will start with the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) aka Financial products.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central or “BC” is the name for the souped-up version of Microsoft Dynamics NAV. It is a new cloud-based product, but with mostly NAV under the hood.
In the early days of Dynamics 365, there was a lot of confusion about what this product would be called. That was a dark time for marketers, and I have kind of blocked it from my memory, so we won’t even mention those options.
Dynamics 365 Business Central is a financial/distribution system that is widely promoted as the logical “upgrade” for companies running Microsoft Dynamics GP. (Although GP Partners will get quite upset when they hear that as they accurately point out that it is not really an upgrade, but a switch to an entirely new product.)
On the Microsoft Dynamics 365 main website, Business Central is listed under “small and medium business.”
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance is the name for what used to be Microsoft Dynamics AX.
First it was called Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Financials and Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations.
Then it changed to Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations
Then shortened to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations. (Marketers called it Microsoft Dynamics 365 F&O to use less space.)
Then Microsoft decided to split everything into separate brand names, so we have Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Supply Chain. Plus, there is also Microsoft Dynamics 365 HR, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Project Management, and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce. You can license these “apps” separately which means you can mix and match and only get what you need.
Okay, now we are going to move over to the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) products. Except, Microsoft does not say CRM anymore. Even though everyone else in the world still does.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales – Microsoft Dynamics 365 Marketing – Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Service
In the past, the product was called Microsoft CRM, then Microsoft Dynamics CRM. CRM included sales, marketing, and customer service. Then it was rebranded as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement (CE). Then it was rebranded again to be three separate product names - Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales – Microsoft Dynamics 365 Marketing – Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Service.
Customer Insights and Customer Voice is in there now too, but I am not even sure what that was before.
I think this rebrand was the hardest for marketers. Prospects will ask, do you have a CRM product? Yes, but it is not called CRM anymore. Search engines rank for “CRM software,” but technically, we are not supposed to use that acronym. Most of us do it anyway.
I admit this list doesn’t include every single mention of the old product names, only the ones I think are important for new marketers who are trying to make sense of all this. If anyone wants to take a trip down memory lane and add the other names you remember in the comments, go for it.
What is next for Microsoft Dynamics?
As of today, here is a current listing of all the apps, or products, within the Microsoft Dynamics 365 brand. (Note: Tomorrow this could already be out of date.)
Interestingly, on the official Microsoft Dynamics website, if you look at “All Microsoft Dynamics Products,” you will see no mention of Microsoft Dynamics GP and Microsoft Dynamics SL, even though they are still sold on the Microsoft Dynamics price list.
Be careful, don’t confuse Microsoft Dynamics 365 with Microsoft 365 for Business, because that is totally different.
Did I mention that Microsoft does not actually have separate product logos for their Dynamics products?
Listen, you just heard a marketer cry a little more.
So remember, if you are reading some marketing materials and you see a product name that doesn’t match the Microsoft site, have some pity on the marketers. We know what we sell; we just can’t keep up with the changes.
The final word is that Microsoft Dynamics has many excellent products. You should work with a trusted Microsoft Dynamics ERP Partner or Microsoft Dynamics CRM Partner who will help you choose the right product to purchase for your company.
Then you can name it whatever you want.
By Anya Ciecierski, Co-Founder, ERP Software Blog/CRM Software Blog
Anya Ciecierski has worked in sales and marketing in the Microsoft Dynamics channel since 1999. In 2009 she co-founded ERP Software Blog and CRM Software Blog, now the largest group blogs in the space. These sites encourage collaboration between 150 Dynamics partners across the world and educate more than 90,000 readers each month. Anya is committed to the idea of “using the power of the group” to benefit the community as a whole. Explore group blog memberships benefits at www.groupbloggers.com