A Quick Look at the 2021 Release Wave 1 Plans for Dynamics 365 & Power Platform

2021 Dynamics 365 and Power Platform Release Wave 1 Plans

Last month, Microsoft published a set of plans for its first release wave of year covering Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform.

These detail the new features that will be released between April and September 2021 for general availability, or initially available as a public preview. Combined, these documents total more than 400 pages so in this post we’ve summarised the main announcements across products including Power Apps, and Dynamics 365 Sales, Customer Service, Field Service and Marketing apps.

As with any pre-release information, these plans are subject to change. Check out the full release plans for Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform.

What is the 2021 Release Wave 1 Timeline?

The first edition of these two release plans was published on 27 January. Administrators can now evaluate a selection of the new features and updates in non-production environments before these are enabled by default.

Regional deployments for the Release Wave 1 will start on 2 April.

What’s New for Power Apps

New features and improvements announced for model-driven apps, including Dynamics 365, include:

  • In-App Notifications - use pop-up notification toast or the notification center to alert users. These can be sent from within the system, using Power Automate or via external systems.
  • Multi-line text controls auto-expand - in Quick View forms, multi-line text fields will automatically expand to show the full content by default.
  • Process flow detail shown in mobile - including the name and time active will now be displayed on mobile devices.
  • Improved navigation in model-driven apps - for easier editing, a new page side pane will allow another page to be opened while the current page remains open.
  • Global Relevance Search improvements - including a redesigned results page.
  • Duplicate Detection & Merge - the recently introduced new experiences for these processes will now be default.

For canvas apps, the headline announcement is a public preview that will enable documents to be exported to PDF.

Dynamics 365 Sales

MOBILE

The upcoming release wave will include a new mobile experience for sellers featuring:

  • Enriched information, per meeting participant, taken from LinkedIn and Dynamics 365 insights
  • Access to personal contacts and a quick way to integrate these with Dynamics
  • Activity management inbox and to-do experience
  • Single-click follow up action capability
  • Automatic transcription for each call and online meeting
  • Notes analysis and tasks extraction
  • Auto-assignment of each call to its relevant entity in Dynamics 365

NEW PIPELINE MANAGER WORKSPACE

For this release, a new personalised workspace will be introduced for pipeline management that will include:

  • Data filtering capabilities - quickly locate opportunities by either searching, quickly setting a column filter, or choosing a time-based slicer.
  • Record side panel form - a streamlined and customisable version of a form delivered in a side panel. As an alternative to the full opportunity form, this will enable sellers to quickly check the latest activity and actions, make quick edits and trigger key actions.
  • Deal manager workspace - helping sellers manage and interact with their opportunities. This will appear as a new sitemap entry in the Sales hub.
  • Interactive visual charts - within the deal manager workspace, out-of-the-box charts will provide additional visualisations of opportunities including bubble and funnel charts.
  • Advanced editable grid - instantly update deals in the deal manager workspace through an inline editable grid and personalise column displays.

    DIGITAL SELLING

    • New email template and email signature editor - as part of an enhanced personal settings area.
    • Automation and adaptive sequences - to help sellers reduce manual processes. In addition to sequence automation, this preview will include reactive sequence forks to pick the next step based on triggers and sequence listeners for email engagements as well as phone and meeting conversations.

    Dynamics 365 Customer Service

    AGENT EXPERIENCES

    • Schedule board updates - weekly and monthly view support will be added to the new service scheduling board to avoid switching between legacy and new boards.
    • Appointment data included in service scheduling - to avoid scheduling conflicts, Outlook data will now be included in service scheduling. This will provide a complete view of resource availability by showing appointments and bookings in a single schedule board.
    • Run Power Automate flows from macros - allowing service agents to trigger automated processes, for example, run a macro that will authenticate a customer.
    • Navigation & visual improvements to multi-session apps - including a series of improvements to help agents multi-task cases.

    CASE MANAGEMENT

    • Update resolved or cancelled cases - using Power Automate flows, API or a plug-in. For end-users the case form will remain read-only.
    • Updated Omnichannel embedded Analytics - with redesigned reports and insight cards.

    TIMELINE

    • Useability enhancements - timeline control updates in the next release wave will include '@mention' functionality in notes and filter records by status reason.
    • New Auto-Post Config - new experience will remove the need to use the legacy web client configuration.
    • Designer enhancements - including default timeline filters and set command buttons for each record type.

    KNOWLEDGE

    • Federated Knowledge Search - connect external search providers to Dynamics knowledge search. Microsoft says it will provide connectors for SharePoint search as well as search covering Microsoft 365 apps.
    • Knowledge Search Analytics - a new dashboard will provide insights across knowledge search. Analytics will include engagement rate, search count and list search terms without matching knowledge articles to identify content gaps.
    • Configure knowledge search filters - based on status, visibility, modified date and language.

    OMNICHANNEL VOICE

    Currently available in public preview, Omnichannel Voice channel powered by Azure Communication Services will be generally available during this release wave. This will include the ability to make, receive, distribute and record calls. Also supported will be real-time transcription, sentiment analysis and translation, as well as receiving / sending SMS.

    UNIFIED ROUTING

    • Improved authoring experience - simplifying the process to configure routing rules for classification and work assignment.
    • Rule-based classification - to capture all the required detail on each work item before these are assigned based on multiple entity attributes. Classification rules can update work item attributes and attach skills manually or automatically through machine learning.
    • Intelligent skill finder - machine learning-based classification rules can also be used to attach skills to work items using the AI Builder text classification. Once trained and the rule is executed, inputs are sent to the model and the returned tags are attached as skills on the work order.
    • New assignment strategies - determine how incoming work items will be assigned to available agents without having to create custom rules. Out-of-the-box strategies will include 'highest capacity' and 'round-robin' incoming chat rules.
    • Email configurability - improvements will enable the email editor, email template builder, and email signature builder to accept the full configuration capability of the Rich Text Editor control. This will enable customisation of available fonts, default font, toolbar buttons and option to access HTML.

    Dynamics 365 Field Service

    Updates in the 2021 Release Wave 1 include:

    • New view support in schedule board - map view and weekly / monthly views will now be supported in the newer schedule board.
    • Outlook appointments included in resource scheduling - as referenced above in the Customer Service section.
    • Knowledge management - enabling articles to be linked to work orders, and access them online or offline through the new Field Service mobile app.
    • Bing Maps features enabled by default - including inline maps with driving directions and auto-geocoding addresses.
    • Capture work order resolution details - to track how issues are resolved at work order and work order incident level.
    • Simplify worker setup - an updated process to better provision new technicians featuring streamlined set-up for individual or bulk technicians into D365 Field Service and the mobile app.
    • Self-service scheduling - enabling self-service schedule from devices with a responsive interface and suggested available time slots based on resource availability.
    • Improved customer communication – with automated reminders and time changes sent to customers by email and SMS. Other enhancements will include estimated arrival time notifications and arrival tracking.

    Dynamics 365 Customer Voice

    New capabilities for Customer Voice surveys will be available from April including:

    • Cascading question type - create questions that automatically filter answer options based on a previous answer.
    • Survey personalisation - upload a .csv file with contact information and use contact attributes to personalise survey questions and invitations.
    • Custom survey header - adapt the look and feel of each survey to match each organisation branding.
    • Auto prefill answer - prefill survey answer based on a respondent's information from Azure Active Directory or Dynamics 365.
    • Partial response - choose if partial responses should be accepted where unsubmitted answers can be collected and reported.
    • Pause and resume surveys - for greater flexibility in completing long surveys.
    • Power Automate survey response trigger - enabling custom follow-up actions when survey responses are received.
    • Over-survey management - by specifying the time between sending surveys to ensure customers don’t receive too many survey invites.

    Dynamics 365 Marketing

    The Dynamics 365 release plan details a series of new features for the Marketing app that will initially be introduced in public preview during Release Wave 1. These include:

    • New email editor featuring updated layout options, advanced image manipulation and real-time error information.
    • New dynamic content editor to quickly create personalised messages without writing custom code.
    • Use customer journeys to target leads or opportunities without a parent contact.
    • SMS messaging using Dynamics 365 Marketing Mobile channel.
    • Deliver push notifications to Android and iOS apps to include custom images, links and videos.
    • Greater flexibility to use any data for email personalisation beyond contact records.
    • Centralised asset library to create, tag, search and update images and videos.
    • Customer journey goals and real-time monitoring of journey KPIs.
    • New dashboards featuring cross-journey insights measured against engagement goals.

    Dynamics 365 Project Operations

    Including features such as Gantt chart views for project tasks, Microsoft Project planning tools and end-to-end integration with Dynamics 365 Finance, Microsoft is delivering the next generation Dynamics 365 project module. Dynamics 365 Project Service Automation customers will be upgraded to D365 Project Operations in due course and in September, Microsoft indicates it will provide a preview of this upgrade process.

    Power BI

    • Quick Create - guided experience to help new users get started by pasting some data to instantly get an autogenerated report which can be sliced and diced.
    • Sharing links for Power BI reports - updated process consistent with Office apps.
    • Smart narratives - general availability to quickly summarise visuals and reports with out-of-the-box insights.
    • Anomaly detection - general availability to enrich charts with automatic anomaly detection for time series charts.

    Power Automate

    Updates announced for Release Wave 1 include:

    • Trigger flows when a Microsoft Dataverse action is complete - create flows that trigger when an action is performed in Microsoft Dataverse (formerly called Common Data Service).
    • Search records in Microsoft Dataverse using relevance search - create cloud flows to search records using AI-based relevance search for extended capabilities including Boolean operators, wildcards, fuzzy search and regex matching.
    • Record repetitive, manual processes with Power Automate Desktop – use process advisor to record a process on desktop and analyse this using a process map and associated analytics.

    Power Virtual Agents

    • Insert Adaptive Cards - use Microsoft Adaptive Cards within the authoring experience to deliver platform-agnostic snippets of UI.
    • Portal Connectivity - Power Virtual Agents can now include templates to create bots within Portals and simplify processes when transitioning to Power Virtual Agents for editing.
    • Enhanced Natural Language Capabilities - including intent triggering improvements from live traffic and the ability to extract multi-turn topic suggestions for more elaborate dialogs.

    Previewing Microsoft 2021 Release Wave 1 for Model-Driven Apps & Dynamics 365 Field Service

    Watch a demonstration video walking through some of the updates for model-driven apps and Dynamics 365 Field Service, that Microsoft announced as available for public preview. These are new capabilities or previously optional features that will be applied as default in April.

    Next steps...

    These are just some of the new features to get you excited for what will be rolled out during Release Wave 1! Read more and download the full release plans here and how to opt in for the early access updates.

    We will update this post as Microsoft shares more detail. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this upcoming update please contact us.

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