Microsoft Dynamics 365 & Preact Highlights of 2021
As we near the end of the year, we wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on 2021 and our team's achievements. Below you can find a recap of highlights across Dynamics 365 apps and the Power Platform, how we have evolved our product and service offerings, and a summary of what the Preact team have been up to this year.
Dynamics 365 & Power Platform News
Consistent with recent years, 2021 saw two major cloud release waves for the Microsoft Power Platform and Dynamics 365. In our blog posts, we highlighted a selection of the features and updates that excited us most about the 2021 Release Wave 1 and Release Wave 2.
Tighter integration between Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Teams was a consistent theme across both release waves, as Microsoft demonstrated how these new capabilities increase collaboration and reduce time spent switching between apps. This included the release of embedded Teams chat enabling users to access active chats within the Dynamics interface and start new chats which are linked to the current record. Microsoft also announced that paid Teams users would gain Dynamics 365 “Team Member” level access, allowing access to Dynamics data from within Teams.
Other prominent updates across these 2021 releases included an updated mobile experience for Dynamics 365 Sales, a new Deals Manager Workspace, the release of Omnichannel voice channel using Azure Communication Services, self-service scheduling and additional schedule board views for Field Service, and a new Field Service Mobile app to replace the Resco version that will no longer be supported from June 2022.
For Dynamics, and all model-driven apps, recent updates have included; Dataverse search replacing relevance search, new advanced lookup capability from record forms, a new record sharing experience and support for multiple side panels including custom help.
At the time of writing, we are midway through the current release wave, so more updates will be released in the New Year before the 2022 Release Wave 1 commences in March.
In 2021 we have had the privilege of welcoming 34 new team members, enabling us to increase our capacity, knowledge and expertise.
During the last 12 months, the majority of our team have continued to work remotely, and we are once again thankful for their dedication in driving innovation so we can best serve our customers.
To support our team, we introduced a series of new initiatives during the year including a wellness allowance. Each month, this can be used for products, memberships or any activities that matter most to each person which supports their physical and emotional wellbeing. In addition to an unlimited holiday entitlement, this underlines the value that Preact places on the wellbeing of our people and our commitment to creating a supportive working culture which is crucial to our continued success.
We are always looking to make improvements that will strengthen our culture and make Preact a great place to work, so we can continue to attract and retain the best talent. If you are considering a new role, check out our current vacancies!
In December, we completed a refit of our Maidenhead office to provide a more collaborative workspace. Sadly, due to the latest work from home guidance, we were unable to complete a formal launch in 2021, but we are eagerly looking forward to taking the wraps off and welcoming team members soon who choose to work from the office.
Awards & Achievements
We were thrilled that Preact was once again named in Microsoft's prestigious Inner Circle for Business Applications for the fourth consecutive year. We also added new Microsoft Gold certifications for Small & Mid Market Cloud Solutions and Data Analytics to add to our seven Gold competencies, and we also received Cyber Essentials certification, underlining our commitment to data security.
These achievements reflect the expertise and passion of our team in helping our clients achieve more with Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform. Their tireless work in keeping up with the latest technologies and gaining accreditations are a great demonstration of one of our values as we 'Challenge Ourselves to be the Best' by continually seeking opportunities to learn and expand our knowledge.
During the year, Microsoft announced changes to its Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) licensing program to create a consistent set of policies, agreements and procedures across all Microsoft cloud products (including Dynamics 365, Microsoft 365 and Office 365 products), and purchase channels. The move to its New Commerce Experience (NCE), means there will be a standardised cancellation policy with a choice of three subscription terms and the opportunity to pre-schedule subscription changes prior to renewal dates.
Microsoft also lowered its Power App Plan pricing to make these more accessible than ever. From October, Power App licence plans were reduced by 50% to £3.80 per month for a Per App Plan, and £15.10 per month for a Per User Plan.
New Power BI features are released each month and some highlights from 2021 include the general availability of: smart narratives, anomaly detection, Power BI app for Teams and a new report sharing experience. In December, Microsoft released an eagerly anticipated preview feature to automatically generate Power BI dashboards from list views in Dynamics 365 and model-driven apps, so we are looking forward to demonstrating this soon.
Many of our clients use DocuSign to capture electronic signatures, so we’ve been busy improving our connector for Dynamics 365 to add more capabilities and flexibility. Our latest build was completed in December with further updates planned during 2022.
In the past 12 months, we’ve seen a growing shift in organisations choosing to deploy a custom web portal in preference to a Power Apps web portal template. For portals which attract high traffic volumes, custom Azure portals have an added advantage as they aren’t directly metered by user logins or page views in contrast to the Power Apps licensing model.
As a result, these offer a lower ongoing cost to provide a more cost-effective solution in some scenarios, despite a higher upfront investment due to the custom nature of these projects. We recently shared more detail about custom portals, including examples of their greater flexibility and scalability.
Another trend during 2021 has been an increase in AI-based solutions which are being identified to address frequent business challenges. Many of our clients are continually focused on making efficiencies in how they process and analyse data to uncover insights so they can provide increasingly personalised service experiences. In these and many other instances, AI is now a key component for boosting productivity and increasing scale.
In addition to the AI capabilities which Microsoft continues to build into Dynamics 365 apps, Preact also uses the Power Platform and Azure to augment business processes with artificial intelligence. If you are considering potential solutions to a recurring challenge within your organisation, speak to us to discover how your processes could be modernised with AI.
We were delighted to recently complete the initial build of Course Manager, our management app for training organisations. Best of all, early adopters have reported early successes and time savings by using the software to streamline processes for scheduling courses and handling bookings. Built in Power Apps, Course Manager is designed specifically for training providers and provides native integration with Dynamics 365, Outlook and other Microsoft business applications.
To simplify the deployment of Dynamics 365 Marketing and Field Service, we released new accelerators during the year.
For Dynamics 365 Field Service, our solution adds frequently requested capabilities which aren’t currently available in the default product for; skills and certifications expiry, default price lists, site instructions and the ability to create sales orders from work orders. Our Dynamics 365 Marketing Accelerator is a rapid onboarding programme to implement and configure the application, deliver core training and provide hands-on assistance to support marketing teams in completing their first campaign using the product.
Elevate 365 Managed Service
The relaunch of our managed services as Elevate 365 reflected our enduring aim to support clients in driving continuous improvements using Dynamics with the Microsoft Power Platform.
During the year, we’ve developed programs as we look to increase Preact’s contribution within the community.
In October, we implemented a new initiative where Preact makes a charitable donation for each feedback survey completed by our clients. The more surveys are received, the bigger the donation! We are supporting a different charity each month based on the nominations received. So far our supported charities including Mind and Oxford Hospitals Charity, with over £750 raised to date.
Preact have also gathered a team of volunteers to participate in TutorMate, a reading scheme for disadvantaged children who require 1-to-1 support to build up their literacy confidence. During these weekly reading sessions, our volunteers play word games with their reading buddy, and listen to them read short stories. The scheme runs throughout the academic year, and all participants have quickly found this a highly rewarding experience.
Finally, Preact joined the United Nations Global Compact as part of our mission to being a responsible company and represent another of our values to 'Do the Right Thing'. This is a commitment to operate responsibly in accordance with universal sustainability principles, as well as participating in Target Gender Equality, an accelerator programme to help us achieve a better gender balance by building teams that reflect the communities we serve.
We are grateful to have continued working with our existing clients during the year as well as so many new organisations across a diverse range of industries. We are especially grateful to everyone who volunteered their time to help us share their success stories. It’s always inspiring for us to hear about the outcomes our clients have achieved and how Dynamics 365, the wider Power Platform, and Preact, have made a positive impact to boost business performance.
While 2021 has presented challenges, so many great things have come out of the year, and we are very grateful once again to our wonderful clients, partners and team for their continued support. We are excited for 2022, but in the meantime we wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy and successful New Year!
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