Thursday, August 03, 2017

Introduction to Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights (DCI)

Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights (DCI) was introduced in December 2016 and has recently received some interesting updates in the Dynamics 365 Spring update.  DCI is an Azure-based SAAS service which enables organizations to bring together transactional, web and social customer data to visualize it in a Customer 360°. DCI also allows you apply advanced data transformation algorithms (KPI calculation and machine learning) on this data to generate role-specific insights for different roles within an organization. 

The key differentiators within Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights are:
  • It provides a scalable data infrastructure which can handle millions of interactions, entities and relationships between entities. Building such an infrastructure can be a daunting task and will consume a lot of upfront investment in  IT capacity. By providing a platform where you only pay for the data that you need to handle, you will be able to shift investment to resources and more value added tasks such as integrating the intelligence within your existing business processes
  • Out of the box connector for Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement (CRM) which allows you to rapidly get going starting from the existing effort that you put into building your CRM platform
  • Ability to match customer identities in different systems using conflation algorithms and predictive matching – this allows to merge/cluster customer identities at scale.
  • Built-in advanced machine learning applications such as segmentation – which identifies cohorts of users with the same characteristics or at the same stage of the customer journey – and built-in predictive scoring. Business users will be able to define the business outcome they want to predict (e.g. customer churn = customer for which status becomes inactive) and DCI will automatically create a machine learning model and validate it (behind the scene it will do feature selection, machine learning selection, training and validation,…). Prediction scores will be automatically generated for new entities or they will be recalculated for entities for which one of the signals/characteristics impacting the predictive score will change. This allows you to get up and running quickly with a machine learning solution without hiring data scientists.
  • Extensible platform – ability to ingest data from multiple data source by building your own connectors and ability to expose DCI entities,metrics and predictions through Power BI, Power Apps or using the REST API
Customer Insights is leveraging the same components which are also used within the Cortana Intelligence Solutions but they are taking it a number of steps further by providing out of the box connectors, configurations screens, ingest and egress paths as well as built-in visualize layer. You however have less control on the inner workings of the Customer Insights solution since this is a SAAS solutions whereas most Cortana Intelligence Solutions combine a SAAS, IAAS and PAAS platform components.

One of the customer cases that you should definitely take a look at is Marston’s and Customer Insights - Marston, is a brewing company operating more than 1700 pubs in the UK and was one of the early customers that started using this application.  In order to create a personalized pub experience for their customers and achieve a more targeted marketing they wanted to bring together customer data from social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and TripAdvisor. They also wanted to look at Wi-Fi registration data, point of sale transactions, table bookings and survey results to understand their customers.  This required a level of data integration and analysis that goes beyond just CRM alone and that’s were Customer Insights comes in. Shown below is an example of dashboard within DCI, which is tailored towards a house manager of a Marston’s inn.

Word of advice: Customer Insights for Dynamics 365 is currently in preview – available functionality is subject to change and both pricing and product naming might change before the final release. From a licensing perspective, we know see two tiers as described on the Dynamics 365 Customer Insights pricing page. Pricing is based on the amount of data which needs to be processed as well as KPIs used, predictive match policies and predictive score models.


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