April 2019 Release: What's New in the Microsoft Power Platform

Microsoft has published a preview guide for it's next major cloud update that will roll out during April across Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform.

This will be applied to all Online instances as Microsoft moves to having all users on a single supported version. The announced new features will be released in waves between April and September for general availability, or as an initial public preview.

In a series of posts we'll cover the main announcements across Dynamics 365 Sales and Service apps, Marketing, AI apps, Dynamics 365 Portal and Talent.

The logical place to start is the Power Platform (PowerApps, Microsoft Flow & Power BI) as this is pivotal to the evolution and extension of Dynamics 365. With most Dynamics apps now developed on this platform, it is increasingly driving the product's innovation by connecting apps and automating processes.

Where an expected month for release is shown, this indicates an anticipated release at some point during that month. In line with its release cadence, Microsoft will make a phased roll out of features across regions using telemetry and feedback as these are gradually extended.

In this post we've made several references to canvas apps and model-driven apps which are defined as:

Model-driven apps - these are built on Dynamics 365 where the user interface is derived from the data model. These include components that will be familar to Dynamics users including: dashboards, views, forms, charts, business processes and can be extended with custom fields / entities. Model-driven apps are typically deployed for role-based requirements so the first-party apps such as Dynamics 365 for Sales is one example of a model-driven app.

Canvas apps - are deployed for specific tasks, often with a focus on mobility. Canvas apps provide freedom of customisation, pixel-perfect design and increased connectivity with 200+ services. Business apps can be designed and built from a canvas in PowerApps using drag and drop controls without writing code. Apps can be run and shared on Windows, web browsers, iOS or Android devices, and with this upcoming release, Canvas apps can be embedded within model-driven forms.  

PowerApps 

Preview updates

Firstly, a reminder that the PowerApps admin center is where admins can opt-in to preview the April 2019 release. This will enable selective new features to be tested in a non-production environment before these are rolled out to a live instance.

Unified Interface is the default experience (General Availability - April)

The Unified Interface is now the mainline experience for all Common Data Service (CDS) for Apps including first party apps such as Dynamics 365 for Sales and Customer Service.  This can be set as the default web client to take advantage of its extended capabilities and features in comparison to the legacy UI.  

The April release notes announce a series of Unified Interface improvements across: updated sitemap, enhanced grid filtering, saving filters to views, reset dashboards, personal charts, customized timelines, improved form notifications.

Also, there will be a new option to hide the D365 tile on the home page of an app to create more customised and modular interface.

Enhanced Platform Capabilities (General Availability - April)

  • Access data from CDS for Apps offline in model-driven apps
  • View results of formulas and sub-formulas in canvas apps
  • Streamlined PowerApps experience -  move between form, entities, solution, and view designers in one shared web experience
  • Share entities using security groups in Azure Active Directory

Embed Apps in Teams (Public Preview - April)

Deeper integration with Teams will allow IT admins to seamlessly publish any app built on the Microsoft Business Application Platform to the Teams App.

New CDS for Apps form designer (General Availability - June)

This builds on the preview announced last year with further enhancements to form creation and customisation in PowerApps. The release guide highlights:

  • Drag-and-drop support to add fields and controls  
  • Authoring quick create, quick view and card forms  
  • Support for adding sub-grid and quick view controls to the form  
  • Controls pane to easily discover and add custom controls to forms

Embed canvas apps in model-driven forms (General Availability - June)

Following a preview release, this will enable additional new capabilities for deeper integrations between model-driven forms (on Unified Interface) and embedded canvas apps. New capabilities will include triggering methods on model-driven forms from an embedded canvas app.

New storage-consumption and trend reports (General Availability - April)

Gain greater visibility into how an organisation consumes storage capacity through new reports across Common Data Service for Apps environments within the PowerApps admin center.

New Control Functionality for Advanced Canvas Apps (General Availability - April)

New capabilities will enable advanced canvas apps to scan barcodes, QR codes, and data matrix codes with mobile devices, as well as display locations and routes on a map.

App usage reports in your inbox (General Availability - April)

Access new insights about how users are engaging with apps within the product or by email.

Sign in more easily to Dynamics 365 on a mobile device (General Availability - April)

Sign in on an Android or iOS device using email addresses instead of server URLs to see available apps across organisations and environments.

Create canvas apps with responsive layout (Public Preview - February)

Greater control in how apps adapt from small to large screens for a fully responsive experience.

Better support for many-to-many relationships in canvas apps (Public Preview - April)

However relationships are modelled, apps can now be designed to walk through these relationships in CDS for Apps by using a object-dot notations.

One Unified Control Framework for PowerApps (Public Preview - April)  

PowerApps Control Framework (PCF) is the core building block for all new PowerApps controls across canvas and model-driven apps. In this release, PCF will be available in preview for canvas apps.

Compose and Reuse Components and Controls in Canvas Apps (Public Preview - April)

Build reusable components and controls in PowerApps Studio for multiple apps, or multiple screen in the same app.

Microsoft Flow

Automated flow parity with classic asynchronous / CRM workflows (General Availability - June)

In this guide, Microsoft states that automated flows will, over time, replace Classic Common Data Service (CDS) for Apps workflows better known as the legacy CRM / XRM workflows. With the April update, it will be possible to accomplish all scenarios that asynchronous these classic workflows supported with automated flows.

Call any CRM action from automated flows (General Availability - April) 

As a part of reaching parity with the traditional CDS for Apps workflows, automated flows can now perform actions by calling these processes and custom actions, as well as custom workflow activities.

Create Flows in PowerApps (General Availability - June)

Building business process flows and instant flows will now be possible within the context of model and canvas based apps.  Microsoft Flow can be selected for the full authoring experience within the PowerApps studio, or pop this out to an additional tab.

Action Items for Business Process Flows (General Availability - April)

A new unified landing page for managing approvals and business process flows. This will enable users to view approval requests that are pending their action as well as active business processes they own. From this view, users will be able to take individual and bulk actions.

Extract structured data from emails, HTML & PDFs (Public Preview - April)

This will enable structured content to be extracted from: tables contained in the body of emails, specific entities from an HTML / txt document and all instances of a repeating pattern where these feature in an email. 

Playbooks to Leverage Flow (General Availability - April)

D365 for Sales recently introduced a Playbook activty template feature to handle automated sales steps that should be followed when a potential scenario occurs, such as a senior contact leaving an account. With the April update, Playbooks will now leverage Microsoft Flow for richer conditional logic.

SLAs to Leverage Flow (General Availability - April) 

D365 service apps track Service Level Agreements which were built using the legacy / classic / traditional CDS for Apps workflows but these offered limited connectivity. As part of an increasing trend in app features now being built on top of Flow, SLA actions will be configurable across the 230+ services that Flow connects to.

Contextual flows for Microsoft Teams automation (General Availability - June)

Microsoft Flow will drive automated behaviours in Microsoft Teams including: notifications about updates from external services, interact with services via controls and actions directly built into the Teams UI and automated workflows triggered by events in Teams.

Integrated Power BI alerts (General Availability - June)

Expanded integration with Power BI will provide data alerts through email, mobile and web notifications. As part of this broader integration, alerts will also trigger actions in Microsoft Teams, the Flow mobile app, SharePoint mobile app, and send text messages enabling greater collaboration and automation.

Batch operations for CDS records (General Availability - June)

Add a Batch scope to flows that will group multiple operations into a single call to CDS for Apps to improve performance.

More Microsoft Flow enhancements included in this release wave are:

  • Improved Flow checker and remediation steps
  • Automated flows support change sets in CDS for Apps
  • Support for guest users in flows and approvals
  • Analytics enhancements
  • Data Loss Prevention enhancements
  • Microsoft Learn integration

Power BI

From the huge list of updates announced for Power BI we've picked a small selection that caught our attention. Click here to browse the full list:

Connector for LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Import your organisation's usage data from LinkedIn Sales Navigator into Power BI.

General availability of Power BI dataflows

Ingest data from a growing set of supported on-premises and cloud-based data sources, then map data to known Common Data Model entities, modify and extend existing entities, and create custom entities. Once dataflows are created, Power BI can be used to build datasets, reports, dashboards, and apps that leverage the Common Data Model to drive greater insights across business activities.

New filter experience

Further improvements to the November 2018 preview release.

Expression-based formatting

Advanced controls for report authors to dynamically change formatting (e.g. colour) based on model data.

App navigation

Flexibility to customise navigation to help end users quickly find content.

Shared and certified datasets 

Highlight certified datasets as the authoritative source for critical information within in the discovery experience.  

Insights – Key influencers

Surface what increases or decreases the likelihood of a business event occurring, or what influences the rise or fall of a KPI. Machine learning will rank influencers, from most to least impactful, calculate a likelihood score and provide a natural language description to explain the impact. Users can also drill into a factor to see the distribution of their data for that variable/category.

Themes API 

Apply a theme to an entire report using Power BI Embedded Themes API. All visuals in a report, or tiles in a dashboard, will use the colours from the selected theme.

What Next?

The next major cloud update for Dynamics 365 is expected to be released in October 2019. Release notes for this update should be available around July.

READ MORE ABOUT THE APRIL 2019 UPDATE

RELATED:

Previewing Dynamics 365 & Power Platform (October) 2019 Release Wave 2


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