Dynamics 365/Business Application Platform Glossary of Terms

With the recent announcements from Microsoft regarding the Business Application Platform, there are a number of blogs, presentations, white papers, tweets, videos and other media reviewing, previewing and going into detail of the power of this platform.

Of course, all this information comes with a lot of acronyms and technical jargon, some of which is new and invented by either Microsoft marketing or other industry analysts.  Some of this jargon is official, other is non-official.  A lot of it can get confusing if you are new to the platform.


I have begun to put together an incomplete/unofficial list of “Business Application Platform” terms that you may hear or read about with a description of what they mean (or at least how I interpreted them).

If something is wrong, missing or incorrect, please reach out to me and I will update!

Last Updated: April 16, 2018


App is short form for Application, or software program designed to automate or work with data to satisfy a business requirement.


AppSource is an online catalog of First and Third Party Apps for the Business Application Platform that are available for customers either with free or paid license agreements.



An Attribute is a component of an entity that represents a particular piece of information. E.g. First Name is an attribute of the Contact entity. Attributes can be represented by different data types (text, number, date, etc).


AX (Dynamics AX)

Dynamics AX is the legacy name for Microsoft upper-market Enterprise Resource Planning application that was originally an acquisition of a software program called Axapta. Dynamics AX has evolved into Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations.


Azure refers to Microsoft’s Cloud infrastructure that is a platform for Microsoft software, services and business applications.


Canvas App

A Canvas App is a specific type of PowerApp where the user interface is highly configurable in terms of pixel level placement of end user controls, data views and actions.  These types of Apps are geared toward addressing unique user interface requirements.


Common Data Service is essentially a cloud based layer on a Azure SQL database that has been optimized specifically for building and running Business Applications. The Common Data Service provides predefined business entities, easy to use management, security and productivity tools. One could argue that SQL Management Tools provides the same features. However, the CDS interface and tool set is geared towards specifically for Business Applications and the Citizen Developer where SQL Management is geared toward Database Administrators, Data Scientists and Pro Developers.


CDU is the acronym for Customer Driven Update and is the process where a customer can schedule an update of their Business Application Platform (Dynamics 365 and corresponding First Party Apps) to a newer release version.

Citizen Developer

A Citizen Developer is a professional that can build unique line of business applications using the various tools provided by the Common Data Service and PowerApps. A Citizen Developer would not typically use tools like Visual Studio but should follow pro development best practices wherever possible.

Dynamics 365

Dynamics 365 is the brand name for the suite of Customer Engagement, Finance, Talent and Enterprise Resource Planning applications. Many of these applications now are based or at least integrate with the Common Data Service. https://dynamics.microsoft.com

Dynamics 365 Business Central

Dynamics 365 Business Central is the small to mid market cloud based financial and transnational management Business Application that integrates with the Common Data Service. Dynamics 365 Business Central evolved from Dynamics NAV. https://dynamics.microsoft.com/en-us/business-central/overview/

Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement

Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement is a collection of First Party Apps for managing Sales, Service and Marking with addition modules for Field and Project Service. This application evolved from Dynamics CRM and has deep extensibility features that have been used around the world to build unique line of business applications. The extensibility tools are the basis for building Model Driven Apps.

Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations

Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations is the upper market cloud based financial and operational management Business Application that integrates with the Common Data Service. Dynamics 365 for F&O evolved from Dynamics AX. https://dynamics.microsoft.com/en-us/finance-and-operations/overview/

Dynamics 365 for Talent

Dynamics 365 for Talent is a the first First Party business application built from ground up on the Common Data Service. Dynamics 365 for Talent is a business application to assist enterprises with the recruitment and retention of human resource talent. https://dynamics.microsoft.com/en-us/talent/overview/

Dynamics CRM

Dynamics CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is the legacy name for the Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement application.

Dynamics NAV

Dynamics NAV is the legacy name for Microsoft mid-market Enterprise Resource Planning application that was originally an acquisition of a software program called Navision. Dynamics NAV has evolved into Business Central.


An Entity is a Common Data Service component that provides the framework to data for a specific object (e.g. a Contact entity represents data about a person, an Account entity represents data about a company). An entity is made up of a collection of attributes. Entities can have a Relationship to other entities (A Contact can be related to an Account entity based the fact that the person is an employee of a company). https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/powerapps/maker/common-data-service/data-platform-create-entity


A specific instance of a Common Data Service for a particular company or department. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/powerapps/administrator/environments-overview


ERP is the acronym for Enterprise Resource Planning which describes business applications that typically manage financial, operational and transnational based scenarios in an enterprise organization. Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations and Dynamics 365 Business Central could be considered to be ERP applications.

First Party App

A First Party App is a business application that is built and licensed directly by Microsoft for a specific purpose on the Common Data Service. E.g. Dynamics 365 for Sales, Dynamics 365 for Marketing are examples of First Party applications.

GP (Dynamics GP)

Dynamics GP is a Microsoft mid-market Enterprise Resource Planning application that was originally an acquisition of a software company called Great Plains. “Dynamics” was the product name for Great Plain’s ERP software. Dynamics GP continues to be a very popular business application with a large user base.


ISV is the acronym for Independent Software Vendor that builds and licenses Third Party Apps for the Business Application Platform. Many ISV provide their Apps on AppSource. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independent_software_vendor

Logic App

A Logic App is an Azure based application that co-ordinates the communication between applications. Microsoft Flow is essentially a Citizen Developer interface to Logic Apps. A pro developer can work with Logic Apps for more advanced and complex data conversations between applications.

Microsoft Flow

Microsoft Flow is tool that can be configured to allow communications between different software applications. For example, an action in a Dynamics 365 app can trigger a Flow to copy information from Dynamics 365 to send an email via Outlook. https://flow.microsoft.com/en-us/

Model Driven App

A Model Driven App is more aligned to showing data in a high level list with the ability to drill down and show that particular data record in a form of aligned organized sections and fields. This type of App is driven more higher level data viewing and transacting business data. This is the same interface that has been used for Dynamics CRM/365 for years.


An MVP is the acronym for Most Valuable Professional, a Microsoft program that awards active (non-Microsoft employee) professionals in the Microsoft community.  MVPs work at helping out anyone with the usage and understanding of Microsoft products and services.


Online refers to the concept of Business Applications that run “in the cloud” using Microsoft or other 3rd party environments.


Onpremise is the concept of running Business Applications on infrastructure (servers, etc) owned and operated by the customer.


The Dynamics 365 Portal is an application that can surface and transact information from a business application to external stakeholders on a web site. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365/customer-engagement/portals/administer-manage-portal-dynamics-365


A PowerApp is an application (software program) that is created and run on the PowerApp platform or as a Dynamics 365 App. A PowerApp can be built from forms, controls and fields that are linked to a data source, such as the Common Data Service. There are 2 types of PowerApps, a Canvas Based app and a Model Driven App. https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/

Pro Developer

A Pro Developer will extend the functionality of Business Applications using development technologies and tools such as Visual Studio, C#, JavaScript, etc. and will build customized plug-ins, user interfaces and Azure services to satisfy complex and deep business requirements.


A record represents an instance of an Entity (e.g. Information about “Bob Roberts” can stored in a record of the Contact entity).


A Relationship represents the link between Entities (e.g. Contact entity related to an Account entity)


A solution is mechanism to package and contain apps and customizations and move them between environments.


SQL is the acronym for “Structure Query Language” but also refers to the underlying database technology used by Microsoft Business Applications.

Third Party App

A Third Party App is a business application built using the Common Data Service platform but has not been built or licensed by Microsoft. Third Party Apps can be built by Citizen Developers, ISVs or Partners.


UCI is the acronym for Unified Client Interface and describes a more modern user interface experience specifically for Model Driven Apps that are optimized for web, tablet and phone based experiences. https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/crm/2018/04/11/unified-interface-overview/


Unified Service Desk is a client based application that provides a consolidate and integrated user experience for modern and legacy business applications. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365/customer-engagement/unified-service-desk/unified-service-desk


xRM is an unofficial acronym for “Anything Relationship Management” that describes the concept of building unique line of business applications (that don’t fit into the “Sales-Service-Marketing” categories) using Dynamics CRM/Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement customization capabilities. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yru5CkANOKA


XrmToolBox is a platform to collect various tools and utilities for administration, development and configuration of Dynamics 365 CE Applications. https://www.xrmtoolbox.com/


I hope you find this resource helpful and you may want to keep it as a reference when you are attending parties and other social situations to keep up with the conversations.  (Isn’t  everyone is talking about CDS these days?)

Nick Doelman is a Microsoft Business Applications MVP and will be presenting at the first D365 Saturday to be held in Canada on May 5th.  

Toronto 365 Invitation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s