News in Dynamics 365 April ’19
Microsoft is well underway with their biannual updates on Microsoft Dynamics 365, which includes all business solutions, such as Business Central (formerly known as NAV), CRM, and several others.
The next update is April 5, 2019, and in this article, you can read about the news that Microsoft is offering.
Tools in the platform
Microsoft don’t build many of the new initiatives into the ERP or CRM applications at all. They build them as general tools that can be used by all applications and across them.
FLOW AND POWERAPPSMicrosoft Flow and PowerApps are quite unique tools because they are not part of ERP, CRM, BI or anything else. These are tools in the Dynamics 365 package that can be used across all applications.
This means that you can build processes and integrations across ERP, CRM, Office365, SharePoint, OneDrive and Teams with Microsoft Flow – and you can build apps that draw on data from all applications. This is a great development.
Flow- and PowerApps have undergone a great development lately and have become very useful tools.
COMMON DATA MODELSince the beginning of Dynamics 365, Microsoft has had as a strategy to apply a common data model for all applications. When all solutions use the same data structure, it will be much easier to integrate solutions, let data flow across, or trigger actions across solutions.
This includes all applications in Dynamics 365 – as well as Power BI, Office 365 and external systems that you are connected to.
This is no news as such because it has always been Microsoft’s plan to do so. However, with the April release we see a lot of the strategy realized. It truly brings together the entire Dynamics 365 platform.
Microsoft has also made it possible for us to develop new modules into the Common Data Model. Even if you use an IT solution from another technology company, it is possible to connect the IT solution to Common Data Model and create a common definition of data. This makes it much easier to integrate with other IT systems. Not only is this smart, but it is also possible with the April edition.
Dynamics 365 Business Central – technically
When we look at Business Central, there are several technical news that are great news for suppliers, but not necessarily news that stick out to the customers.
CLIENT/SERVERMicrosoft is starting to move the entire application from being a C/AL application to an AL application. Simply put, Microsoft wants to phase out the client application to be installed on your PC. The result will be that it becomes easier for suppliers to move the add-ons onto the Business Central platform.
APIOne of the most noteworthy technical news is that the API approach is released. So far, it has only been in beta. There are APIs for 48 entities in Business Central, and we’ve tried using the API on a customer issue, which is really neat.
The whole idea is that as a customer (or third party) you can create integration with Business Central – without having a Dynamics partner involved. It really is a paradigm shift in the way you integrate with the solution.
This way, you are no longer dependent on your ERP supplier. You can easily get your web shop supplier to perform the integration between ERP and your web shop. It’s openness to a degree we haven’t seen from Microsoft before.
CRM INTEGRATIONAt the same time, there are also improvements to the integration between Business Central and CRM (for Sales), which up until now have been highly criticized. Now, Business Central Sales Centers can get notified about sync errors – and choose how to solve them because they own data.
CLOUD-SYNCMicrosoft also enhances the engine they introduced in the last release, so that those On-premise can sync all standard tables into a cloud solution. Then you have a mirror of all the data in the cloud (read-only). This way, integration to e.g. Power BI is given because all the data is in the cloud. And those users who only need to read data can easily access the cloud version.
DEBUGGINGSWe are also pleased that it will now be possible to do debugging on the cloud edition. This allows us to provide much better support to the customers on the cloud solution.
Dynamics 365 Business Central – Features
Furthermore, there are many productivity enhancements in the April issue of Business Central. Here, a lot of small things are improved.
We think it’s worth noting that many improvements come from the feedback that Microsoft has received from customers and partners. This is satisfactory, because it means that Microsoft has addressed many of the small things that many customers have wanted.
We could point out many small improvements, but we’ll name just a few:
FIELD LENGTHOne example is that Microsoft has changed the length of all description fields, such as item description or sales order line description, from 50 to 100 characters. Yes, it’s a small thing – but it’s been annoying for many years, and many customers have added a customization just to extend the length of a field. However, Microsoft has now changed that over a wide range.
BULK UPLOADAnother example is that you can now upload bulk uploads of your products. You can collect all the pictures you want to update, name them with the item number, upload as a zip file, and then the system will place the images on each item number. Again, a little productivity enhancement, but imagine having to update pictures on 1,000 item numbers – manually – one at a time.
THE RECORD IS SAVEDAnother example is that you can now see if the record you are currently editing has been saved. Before, one could have doubts about that.
It’s a small thing, but it is all the little things that improve the user experience.
INTELLIGENCEMicrosoft has a great focus on artificial intelligence. They are only in the beginning of the journey because they do have great ambitions, so it is only the first steps we see in this release.
Keep an eye on what Microsoft calls Cloud Intelligence. It is a feature that monitors data (both Cloud and On-premise) and analyzes and detects trends. It’s not classic Business Intelligence – it’s a model for predictions.
It combines Microsoft with several new features, such as a liquidity budget where the system, based on the history, predicts the drop-out space for the future development in liquidity.
So far, it’s only been possible with a transaction-based model in which to record future expected items, but now Microsoft comes with a “predictive” model that doesn’t require registrations. There is real potential in this.
Similarly, in the last release there was a model where the system could predict which customers would not pay on time.
This is really neat, and we will see much more of that in the future.
Our Power BI people think that the April issue of Power BI is quote, insane, endquote. It contains a lot of improvements, and just like we mentioned above, it’s not huge improvements, but rather many small improvements which make a big difference.
Let’s dive into some of them:
DRILL-DOWNOne exciting feature is “Drill between PBIX reports”. This means that if you have several reports, not just more tabs in one report – but several different reports, then you can jump between them.
So far, drill-down has only been possible within the same report, but now you can right-click on a graph from an aggregate report and directly jump to the underlying report with the details.
THE FORMATTINGThe April-edition gives a new opportunity with “Expression-based formatting”. You may know it from Excel, but now we can also set up richer visualization in Power BI, e.g. rules for color codes based on the values: “if the turnover is above budget, then it must be red”. From now on, you can do that by coding.
HOME & SEARCHPower BI Home and Global Search – unfortunately, customers don’t know the two features that well. However, now the features are released in an upgraded version. With Power BI Home, everything you work with can be put together in a home screen and you can search across everything.
WORKSPACEWe also want to mention that with the April release you can work with an online workspace in Power BI. This means that you can centralize your development in Power BI.
When you have built a data flow, you can save it in a workspace in Power BI so that the data model is online. Then, when you must build a new report, you point to the data model in Power BI online. This means that the data model is located in one central place. This is really structured and effective.
CRM – Dynamics 365 for Sales
We still call it CRM, but in the Dynamics 365 package, the classic CRM has been named Dynamics 365 for Sales – and it’s been supplemented by several other applications for relationship management, such as “Customer Service”, “Field Service”, “Project Service Automation” and others.
There are many innovations in all these applications, and common to all of them is that it’s more like a version 2 of the features rather than brand new features. So, it may not contain that many new features, but in return the quality is lifted tremendously in many areas. Many of them have now been 100% ready for use.
INTEGRATIONThe CRM area benefits from the fact that services such as Microsoft Flow, PowerApps and Common Data Model have come a long way, which gives us much better opportunity to integrate CRM with Business Central, Teams, SharePoint, OneDrive, etc.
CONFIGURE PRICE QUOTEThe CRM configurator is big news. In CRM we have always been able to make offers in which we have registered item lines on a quote. This was quite static.
With the April issue you can now configure your items in the offer. E.g. if you offer a bike, then you can choose a bicycle frame and then get information on which wheels fit the frame. You can configure items based on business rules and dependencies.
Previously, this required an additional solution in ERP, but now you can set it up in CRM and make it a sales tool. This is really exciting news.
MARKETINGMicrosoft Marketing is a relatively new module in Dynamics 365. Here, Microsoft has updated the opportunities within Social Insight and Customer Behavior so that you can act on customer behavior to a greater extent than you have been able to up until now.
This means that you can now not only act on click rates, but also conversion rates, customer travel, and you can get the interaction between Sales and Marketing to run at a whole new level. The solution’s functional level begins to be a serious competitor to the larger established Marketing Automation solutions in the market.
CUSTOMER SERVICEThe customer service application has also undergone improvements. Now, we can begin to talk about real omnichannel. This means that Microsoft now supports everything from chat, SMS, web, to e-mails – but with a comprehensive interface for the support staff. This looks really exciting.
FIELD SERVICEWe have been hearing about the Internet of Things (IoT) for a long time, and Microsoft now comes with an “IoT Data Layer” that works with Field Service.
For example, if you have parking machines on the street, the vending machines themselves can notify if they break or need service. Then, Field Service can automatically send out a service technician. The applications for IoT are incredibly numerous.
Do You Want to Know More?
These were some tastes on the news in the April issue of Dynamics 365. To delve further into the details, Microsoft has an extensive material available here.