Thoughts from Microsoft Business Applications Summit 2020

Microsoft Business Applications Summit

With much of the world in lockdown, the 2020 Microsoft Business Applications Summit (MBAS) was held as a virtual event. 

Delivered on May 6th and 7th, this provided an opportunity to learn more about the latest updates and the roadmap for Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform.   

With Microsoft executives and product managers presenting from home, audio quality was understandably mixed. Nonetheless, this was a superb event, packed with great content and  insights across more than 70 sessions. 

Recorded presentations are now available on-demand and in this post we've picked some highlights... 

Arguably the biggest platform announcement was a new T-SQL endpoint for the Common Data Service (CDS). In enabling SQL to query the CDS it will allow Direct Query support for Power BI enabling real-time updates in dashboards. Microsoft also says this will also make it possible to connect data using SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS).

CDS Query for Power BI

Another standout Power BI announcement was Smart Narratives. This is a new design option which can be added to dashboards to interpret and summarise visualisations. This will automatically scan data to provide a text summary which highlights the important items in the current dashboard.

Report designers will be able to customise narratives to include specific items with dynamic values. This will ensure these are always shown in the narrative alongside auto-generated insights.

Smart Narratives for Power BI

Power Virtual Agent features prominently in Microsoft events as organisations increasingly look to introduce more offerings that combine self-service capabilities and AI. These demonstrations typically follow traditional customer support scenarios so it was great to see an example of how these bots can also be used by field service agents from a Dynamics record. 

Field Service Bot

By embedding the bot within a Work Order form, it showed how engineers and technicians can quickly find answers and get contextual guidance. 

For example, this could reduce the need for phone calls to contact centres as agents are directed to the appropriate resources and answers that will help them complete Work Order tasks.

The above screenshot reflects a desktop view but a consistent bot experience would be available via tablet and mobile devices.

This presentation also featured a demonstration of how Field Service Inspections can be managed from Work Orders.

Field Service Inspections

Dynamics 365 Customer Service Insights was introduced in 2019 to provide AI-driven insights from Cases. As these insights haven't been readily accessible in the Customer Service Hub, service managers have needed to jump between apps. In one of the new enhancements demonstrated, we saw examples of how pre-configured analytics from Customer Service Insights can now be enabled directly within the D365 Customer Service Hub.

Customer Service Insights for D365 Customer Service Hub

Entitlement to the capabilities of the Custom Service Insights add-on is included with a D365 Customer Service Enterprise licence.

Omnichannel for Customer Service is a further add-on for Dynamics 365 Customer Service featuring live chat capabilities to help agents resolve issues online. This includes contextual customer identification, real-time alerts and knowledge integration. Additional channels have been added in the April 2020 release wave including WhatsApp which was demonstrated during MBAS.

WhatsApp integration for Omnichannel Engagement Hub

Sales Accelerator was unveiled as a new set of capabilities for the D365 Sales Insights add-on.

Now in preview, this includes an 'intelligent' work queue that provides a new experience to help sellers progress their leads and opportunities.

Its demonstration showed how an aggregated work list within the D365 Sales Hub prioritises actions based on scheduled activities and AI insights (this looked similar to an email inbox!). Clicking the next item in the list will open the associated lead or opportunity enabling users to address the next inline action.

This can be supported with sequences of consecutive activities that will apply for each action to provide added guidance, or to enforce processing rules.

Sales Accelerator Intelligent Work Queue

Ahead of the public preview for Dynamics 365 Project Operations, there was a dedicated presentation covering the new product. This is an evolution of Dynamics 365 Project Service Automation (PSA) app and the Service Industries module from Dynamics 365 Finance.

Project Operations Dashboard

The combined capabilities on the CDS will include project sales, project planning, resource utilisation and project accounting.

This session included examples of how the new solution will report utilisation, track time + expenses, and demonstrated a set of embedded Power BI visualisations.

Withdrawal of the Dynamics 365 web client has been pushed back until December but if your organisation hasn't moved over to the new Unified Interface there was a strong presentation on why this should be a priority. In particular, this highlighted the performance improvements and additional features now available in the new experience.

The Power Platform Admin Centre is now presented as the single unified portal for managing all admin operations including Dynamics 365, Power Automate and Power Apps. 

The session below provided an update on the five inbuilt security layers for the Power Platform and covered examples of how to manage environments and security roles. 

Also announced, was a new capability for enhanced data loss prevention policies to manage access across external data sources. This will enable usage of 3rd party connectors (standard or premium) to be fully blocked, as well as any Microsoft owned premium connectors.  

Power Apps Admin Center Security Roles

For Power Apps Portals, new capabilities are currently in preview enabling user log-ins to be configured with Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and more 

These are just a few of the MBAS announcements and presentations that caught our attention. Visit the event portal to browse the full set of online sessions.

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