Microsoft Dynamics 365 Predictions for 2018

As we covered in our 2017 review post, last year was a busy one for Dynamics 365 so what will 2018 bring?

The Dynamics 365 roadmap site offers a snapshot of what Microsoft is currently working and in this post we've shared 10 predictions for the themes and developments that we're expecting to be significant in 2018.

#1 Upgrading to Dynamics 365 - Version 9.0

v9 was announced back in July 2017 but as the year ended this had only been deployed for new instances of Dynamics 365.

Early in 2018, cloud administrators will be invited to schedule their v9.0 upgrade date at which point the following will be some of the frequent topics:

  • How can the new multi-select field option set be configured?
  • Should we deploy the new Unified Interface, or refreshed web UI?
  • Are users aware of the new advanced find 'not include' rule for sub-entities?
  • How can the new virtual entities can be used? 
  • Are any deprecated features still being used?

We've previously commented that for v9.0, an existing Dynamics 365 customer might want to defer rolling out the new unified interface on their production environment in the event that some gaps exist with the existing and refreshed web UI.

However, the unified interface reflects the direction that Microsoft is taking to deliver a consistent experience across all devices and platforms so we expect to see plenty more UUI enhancements in v9.x, we've highlighted an expected change in its theming capabilities below...

The new Virtual Entity capability creates new possibilities to simplify some integration solutions and we're looking forward to bringing this to the table in our discussions with new and existing Dynamics customers.

Longstanding customers who previously deployed Dynamics CRM 2011 and earlier versions might still be relying on dialogs and contracts which are among the deprecated features while more will still be using the legacy Outlook client connector for CRM. 

Whilst these don't disappear in v9.0, administrators will need to make plans to migrating these processes to the new D365 functions.

FEB 18 UPDATE - Microsoft has subsequently announced that it is reversing its deprecation of the Outlook Add-In.

#2 Spring 2018 Updates

The next major Dynamics 365 product announcement is expected in the Spring.

D365 customers and partners will be looking for an update about the long awaited Marketing app and updated Sales app, as well as upcoming changes to the unified user interface.

A big part of these announcements will be how Microsoft's 'Tenerife' code-named update will enter production. 

This will be crucial as 'Tenerife' reflects both the next version of Dynamics NAV, as well as the next iteration of Dynamics 365.

As such, 'Tenerife' is billed as being an 'end to end business management cloud solution' that features an expansion of the Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations app as well as Marketing, Sales and Customer Service and other apps.

In 2017, Microsoft stepped back from its plan to introduce Business (SMB) and Enterprise editions and said its Spring 2018 announcement will include a licensing shake-up. For each role-based app, multiple price points are expected to be introduced that reflect varying levels of functionality enabling individual users to be licensed for only the capabilities they need.

On that basis, the new model will need to be flexible and competitively priced to give SMB customers the essential capabilities they need while scaling up to support the needs of enterprise teams.

Existing Dynamics 365 customers will want to understand if this will have any implications for how their users are currently licensed so we'll be sure to post details when Microsoft unveils these licensing changes. 

#3 Connected Apps

The underlying theme of the v9.0 update is Microsoft delivering on its promise of a connected app-centric structure for Dynamics 365.

Improvements were seen throughout 2017 to Azure based apps such as Power BI, Microsoft Flow and Power Apps to combine data across multiple business apps.

This is set to continue as more businesses explore Power Apps to extend existing services with pre-built add-on solutions, and use Flow to automate workflows between diverse apps that deliver notifications, sync files and collect data. 

Last year, a series of new LinkedIn integrations announced and 2018 will see more LinkedIn integrated solutions such as the Sales Navigator and Lead Gen Forms increasingly adopted by Dynamics 365 customers.

#4 GDPR

Many teams will be working hard to make sure their customer data and business processes are in order by the time that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force in May.

Microsoft has committed to ensuring that Dynamics 365 and its services are GDPR compliant by this time. In November 2016, it previewed a new Compliance Manager Tool for GDPR and Standards Assessments. This initial preview only showed Office 365 information but the full Compliance Manager will enter general availability in 2018 and extend to support Dynamics 365 and Azure. 

#5 HR Integration

The release of a new app for Talent in 2017 underlined the fact that Dynamics 365 is not merely a CRM system but an entire business management solution of connected applications.

Additional updates for Talent will be released in 2018 and we are also anticipating growing interest in the established Dynamics HR Management solution which embeds human resourcing capabilities directly in the Dynamics 365 interface.

#6 AI

We can be sure that more AI capabilities will be showcased during presentations for Dynamics 365 and other Microsoft Cloud Services in 2018 but the test will be in how useful and easy to deploy these are for end users.

Previously announced relationship insights features for Dynamics 365 should enter general production during 2018 using action cards to alert, remind and inform users about suggested actions.

Further advancement is expected with a step up in Microsoft's Cortana integration that will embed accounts, sales activities and opportunities into Cortana. This will promote contextual information for sales people with displays promised for an enriched account overview, deal overview, meeting prep view and a sales digest that will highlight the update of items and their impact on the sales pipeline.

Early adopters of these and other AI apps and bots for Dynamics 365 will want to see how these stand up, and what value they demonstrate.

Within the Dynamics 365 community, AI will grow in importance but this will take time and 2018 gains may well prove marginal as many organisations take a 'watch and see' approach.

#7 Process Flows With Action Steps

One of the items on the D365 roadmap that we are especially looking forward to seeing in 2018 is the arrival of a new type of stage step for business process flows.

Rather than simply collecting or showing data, action steps can be configured within a process flow to trigger an on-demand action when a user clicks a button in the interface.

As highlighted on the roadmap site, this would provide a good solution in instances where an approval needs to be built into a process flow. For example, this could be to apply a discount, authorize a field service visit, or issue a refund.

In these scenarios, the process flow will include a stage when an end user must request management approval for the appropriate action. To notify a manager about a pending approval, the end user will click a button which triggers a workflow to schedule them a follow up task or send an email alert.

This is also expected to include input parameters whereby users are able to enter more detail to justify their request. Potentially, this could also utilize automation logic to filter initial requests and ensure that only qualifying items are routed to managers.

As with any item on the Dynamics roadmap we can't be sure if this will arrive during 2018, or if this will initially appear in private or public preview prior to roll-out in general production!

#8 Customer Back-up & Restore

Another item on the roadmap, is new service whereby Dynamics 365 administrators will be able to carry out their own D365 backups and restores.

Hopefully we'll see this enter production soon to enable customers to back-up their database to Azure storage via a secure data transfer which will create the possibility of downloading and connecting a back-up to an on-premise environment.

#9 IFRAME Support for Phones

While it has been possible to add IFRAMES and web resources to Dynamics tablet apps, Microsoft is working on a new solution to extend this capability to mobile phone apps for greater consistency in the user experience across all devices.

#10 Theming

One of the significant changes we are eager to see in the development of the Unified User Interface is a new approach for theming.

While colours for some properties within the user interface can already be adjusted by admins to fit preferences and branding, an evolution of this is expected whereby an algorithm will automatically calculate and adjust text colours and constrast settings to. This will enable broader colour swatches to be configured which are applied dynamically to ensure readability for end users. 

We hope you find these useful pointers for the year ahead and when we review them in December they don't prove to be too wide of the mark!

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