Highlights of Upcoming Dynamics 365 October 2019 Updates

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Aaron Back, MCSE

Setting the Stage

During the recent Microsoft Business Applications Summit, Microsoft announced the availability of the "2019 Release Wave 2 Plan". The Release Plan covers all of the upcoming updates for Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform (PowerApps, Microsoft Flow, and Power BI).

For many CRM users the breadth of areas to keep up with can be overwhelming at times. So, here is a high-level overview to help set the stage.

The Power Platform

According to Microsoft, the Power Platform is comprised of 3 main areas of PowerApps, Microsoft Flow and Power BI. The Power Platform is in Azure and utilizes the framework of the Common Data Service.

Microsoft Power Platform Overview (with Dynamics 365)
From Microsoft's "PowerApps Platform Overview" page: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-platform/admin/wp-powerapps-platform-overview

Therefore, Dynamics 365 is now a app (model-driven app) within the PowerApps area of the Power Platform.

And Now the Highlights...

Now that you have a better understanding of the Power Platform, the following highlights can be better understood; and, keep in mind, this is not the full list of updates. So, you should review the Microsoft Documentation site to see all the updates.

Some of the features have been requested many times from the community, other items are new, some will be resurrected functionality, and some will be new features.

Dynamics 365 Items

I will first cover items that are focused specifically on Dynamics 365. Next, we will cover the PowerApps items.

Customization of Opportunity Close Dialog Box

Reference: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365-release-plan/2019wave2/dynamics365-sales/customization-opportunity-close-dialog-box

This feature has been a request for a long time. There are countless forum posts asking how they can customize the Opportunity Close window to fit their specific business needs.

According to the feature post, administrators can leverage a customized Quick Create form. But, it's unknown if there are any limitations, or if this can be customized like any other Quick Create form.

Dynamics 365 Custom Opportunity Close

Simplified Lead Management Experience

Reference: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365-release-plan/2019wave2/dynamics365-sales/simplified-lead-management-experience

This feature is actually a resurrection of the old Qualify Lead dialog window. Here's a throwback screen shot.
Dynamics CRM old-school Qualify Lead dialog window

The new experience has some elements of the old, but will probably take advantage of the Business Process Flows.
New Dynamics 365 Qualify Lead experience

However, it's unknown how this will impact existing records in the system after the updates are applied. Hopefully the functionality will be seamless and provide a good user experience.

Improve or Simplify Most Common Sales Workflows

Reference: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365-release-plan/2019wave2/dynamics365-sales/improve--simplify-most-common-sales-workflows

The information provided here is lacking in details. However, there is one nugget of information that I found intriguing: "Make the Documents tab visible in the main form for Contact, Opportunity, Lead, and Account entities."

This sounds like the Documents area can viewed as a sub-grid on the record's main form. This has been a request by many for a while. Hopefully, this will be a reality and give admins an easy experience in setting this up. Ideally, it would be great if the sub-grid properties in the Form Editor are similar to the sub-grid options today.

Business Card Scan

Reference: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365-release-plan/2019wave2/dynamics365-sales/business-card-scan

This feature sounds amazing! How many times have you traded business cards with someone at an event or meeting? How many times has the business card ended up in a drawer or the bottom of your laptop bag?

The Business Card Scan feature is part of the Quick Create Contacts form. It will leverage the mobile device camera to capture the business card image. However, it's unknown if this will be released for iOS and Android at the same time.

Dynamics 365 - Business Card Scan

Microsoft Teams Integration Enhancements

The integration of Dynamics 365 in Microsoft Teams was introduced in 2018.
Reference: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365/customer-engagement/basics/teams-integration

As part of the Wave 2 updates, the integration will be enhanced.
Reference: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365-release-plan/2019wave2/dynamics365-sales/teams-integration-enhancements

Microsoft Teams will be enhanced with Relationship Assistant to provide better interaction.

What is the bottom line? These enhanced features are good, but will it drive greater adoption of Dynamics 365 when coupled with Teams? Some users have experienced app overload or confusion of which app to use at which time.

Don't get me wrong, I love using Teams. But, to be honest, after setting up the Dynamics 365 integration, I only used it only a couple of times.

Power Platform Updates

Since Dynamics 365 is part of the Power Platform, the following items will highlight some features coming.

AI Builder

Reference: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-platform-release-plan/2019wave2/microsoft-powerapps/add-intelligence-ai-builder

AI Builder was announced during the Microsoft Business Applications Summit. AI Builder will allow you to automate predictive outcomes using a low-code approach of configuration.

Currently AI Builder is available in Public Preview. If you would like to try it out, just sign into your Power Apps site at https://make.powerapps.com.

Dynamics 365 Mobile App Update

Reference: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-platform-release-plan/2019wave2/microsoft-powerapps/sign-using-email-address-dynamics-365-mobile-app-android-device

The Dynamics 365 Mobile App for Android is getting updated. So you will be able to sign in using just your email address and password. The current experience requires you to enter the URL and then your credentials. However, on-premise users will still have the current experience.

Dynamics 365 Mobile Experience - sign-in

Entity Designer

Reference: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-platform-release-plan/2019wave2/microsoft-powerapps/improvements-entity-designer

Since Microsoft is shifting the administrative experience to the Power Platform, the future enhancements will be in this area. As such, the Entity Designer is no exception. The "classic" method of creating and updating an entity is through the Settings/Customizations area of the system. This method has been in place for several versions.

But now you will have an improved experience in the Power Platform. There are a few details mentioned in the reference link above. This may or may not be the full list of enhancements. I do know that the current Power Platform administrative experience is lacking many features and functionality. This is understandable as the shift is still happening, but has been a frustrating experience when trying it out.

Power Platform Entity Designer

The Public Preview will available in August 2019 with General Availability in October 2019. So, I would suggest you try the experience in August to see how it stacks up against the classic experience.

One Admin Center to Rule Them All

Reference: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-platform-release-plan/2019wave2/microsoft-powerapps/one-admin-center-rule-them-all

FINALLY!!! How many of you can raise your hand to the frustrating experience of hopping from one admin center to another? However, with the strong reference to "Lord of the Rings", one can hope that a centralize Admin Center will not provide an "evil" experience. But, on a more positive note, I truly hope the Power Platform Admin Center will be easy to use and navigate.

On a side note, I hope the embedded links within Dynamics 365 for accessing the administrative areas will take you to the new admin center. Currently, if you are in the new Unified Interface, if you click on "Advanced Settings" from the gear icon, you will be taken to the classic interface.

PowerApps Portals

Reference: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-platform-release-plan/2019wave2/microsoft-powerapps/portal

Microsoft is really extending the creative experience in the Power Platform, and has now introduced a Portal app. So, you will now have Canvas Apps, Model-Driven Apps, and Portal Apps.

PowerApps Portal maker experience

PowerApps Portal getting started

This new Portal app looks like what Dynamics 365 Portals should have been. I hope these will allow you

  • To easily connect to multiple entities
  • Utilize Microsoft Flow to automate steps and gather data
  • Embed Business Rules for field interaction
  • Surface Power BI within pages
  • and much more

The Public Preview is July 2019 and General Availability in October 2019. I know I will be jumping on this in July and trying it out. I would be interested to hear your feedback.

Business Process Flow Immersive Experience

Reference: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-platform-release-plan/2019wave2/microsoft-flow/business-process-immersive-experiences

I'm excited about this update. I have had mixed response from customers on the interaction with the Business Process Flow (BPF) in the new UI, and even with the classic UI. However, with the upcoming Vertical Layout, this may provide a better interactive experience with the BPFs.

Business Process Flow vertical layout

In the reference link, the article indicates you can "dock on the side of existing content". However, does "dock" mean fixed in place for all records? What I mean is that, with the current BPF, you can "dock" the BPF to the side, but it's not fixed there. If you navigate to another record, you have to "dock" the BPF again. Hopefully, the Vertical Layout would be an optional replacement to the current Horizontal Layout. By having the setting as optional, this will allow administrators to provide an experience that works best for their users.

On a side note: There is a simple line in the referenced article that states: "We're deprecating task flows (which offered a similar vertical experience)". So, if you are utilizing Task Flows today, I would suggest you review your current usage and plan for an alternative approach.

In Closing

There are many more updates to explore in the Microsoft Documents site. So, take the time to review areas that could potentially impact your business.

Also, many of these updates will be only for Online environments. If you have and on-premise environment, you will need to evaluate if you should shift to online or stay on-premise. The tools and features being made available to online-only environments makes it tougher to justify staying on-premise.

If you have questions on any of these items or other items in the documents site, reach out to me. If you are looking at implementing Dynamics 365 or Power Apps, reach out to ACE Microtechnology and let's get the conversation started.

If you are interested in a Dynamics 365 Assessment, check out our ACEMicroApps site to start the process.

Aaron Back is Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) with many years' experience with Microsoft Dynamics 365 (CRM). He is actively involved with the Microsoft Dynamics 365 UG (D365UG) (User Group) Community. His involvement includes: Serving as Chapter Leader for his local D365UG Chapter, serving on the D365UG Board of Advisors, and speaking at the annual D365UG Summit conference.

ACE Microtechnology, Inc. is a professional services firm committed to delivering Dynamics 365 (CRM) business solutions to small and medium sized organizations. Our focus is on delivering products and services that improve our clients’ business operations. ACE has developed specialties in serving the lite manufacturing, distribution and the hospitality industry.

Rather than just building technology or implementing software, we deliver real business value through industry knowledge and understanding each client’s business. We make it our business to know your business.

For more information or assistance with Dynamics 365 (CRM) contact ACE!

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    1. David - You can "pin" the BPF to the right-hand side. When you click on a stage within the BPF, you will see a small icon in the upper-right corner of the stage pop-out. When you click this, the BPF will be "pinned" to the right-hand side.

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