Previewing Dynamics 365 & Power Platform 2019 Release Wave 2

On 10 June, Microsoft published release plans for its next major update across Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform from October 2019.

With a focus on the Platform and Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement applications, we've shared some notes across a selection of the main feature announcements for the 2019 Release Wave 2.

As with any pre-release information this content is subject to change so we'll aim to keep this post updated if subsequent changes are announced. 

Release Dates

With all commercial cloud customers for Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement applications now on the latest version this update will again be automatically delivered. On 2 August, administrators will be able to gain early access to test and evaluate impactful new features that will be enabled by default. 2019 Release Wave 2 general availability will see new features being released from 1 October through to March 2020.

Unified Admin Center 

Released in 2018 as a preview, Microsoft says the Power Platform Admin Center will enter general availability during the 2019 Release Wave 2. This will be the single point for administrators to manage apps and flows, manage environments, apply governence controls and review analytics / telemetry.

Unified Interface Improvements

The interface enhancements outlined in the release plan will be almost exclusively for the Unified experience. This is no surprise as Microsoft is no longer investing in developing new features for the legacy web interface and will eventually deprectate this. Some of the upcoming updates announced for the Unified Interface include:

  • New vertical layout to dock any type of process flow on the side of existing content - this contrasts with the current Unified Interface capability to dock / pin a single process stage
  • General availability to apply custom controls to guided process flow steps including dials and switches
  • Anchoring error notifications enabling users to quickly navigate to a form field with an error by clicking on the error banner
  • Connection role will be enabled in the Unified Interface to add or delete connection roles
  • Form header improvements to increase data density and usability
  • Inline image support for read-only emails
  • Timeline improvements include keyword search, view / create timeline detail without leaving the form and simple icons to identify key activities

Dynamics 365 for Sales

Business Card scan: Using the Dynamics mobile app, a configurable scanner will analyse cards and identify relevant detail to quickly create new contacts and populate fields.

Customise Opportunity Close Dialog Box: Previously, Microsoft indicated new capabilities would be released to configure case close dialog boxes to capture more detail. This has yet to materialise but the 2019 Release Wave 2 Plan outlines the release of a similar customisable dialog box for the closure of opportunities. In enabling additional fields to collect more detail about each opportunity win and loss this is deisgned to provide more insights about these outcomes. (Unified Interface only)

Email Overlay: Another new capability for the Unified Interface (initially in preview) will be a non-blocking overlay window on top of forms that will avoid the need to navigate away from pages to compose emails. This will allow users to write emails using a rich editor with flexibility to navigate between records while having draft emails open.

Handling Multiple Products: Creating multiple product line items in Dynamics 365 quotes, opportunities and orders is a repetitive task but the upcoming release promises a new 'Create & Add' capability. In the meantime, check out our opportunity grid accelerator for handling multi-line items. (Unified Interface only)

Lead Qualification Experience: A new admin setting will determine the experience upon qualifying leads. By default this will automatically create Account / Contact / Opportunity records, or if set to 'no' users will be able to select which combination of entities will be created for each qualified lead.

Dynamics 365 Sales Insights

New preview capabilities announced in the Release Wave 2 Plan for the recently introduced AI-based Sales Insights app include:

  • Optical character recognition to analyse and convert hand written meeting notes
  • Adding custom entities / fields to predictive lead / opportunity scoring model
  • Sales assistant in Microsoft Teams to help sellers be more productive including a feed that will show important customer engagements with personalised insights and suggested next best actions

Currently available in preview, Assistant Studio will enter general availability in the next release wave. In combination with Microsoft Flow, this will enable custom 'next best action' insight cards to be displayed that are based on events triggered from 200+ services registered with Microsoft Flow.

PowerApps Portals

PowerApps Portals will arrive soon in preview before general availability during Release Wave 2 enabling low-code websites to be created which allow external users to access data stored in the Common Data Service without a requirement for Dynamics 365. 

In enabling a new 'Portal' app type to be created from PowerApps, portals will be more accessible through simplified provisioning and a redesigned editor that uses components such as forms, views and dashboards to surface CDS data within a website. The release plan references further content enrichment will be available through portals integration with Microsoft services including Power BI embed, Flow and SharePoint.

Microsoft says PowerApps Portals will merge with the capabilities offered today so that Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement portals will also benefit from the simplified low code offering. More news, including licensing detail, is awaited...

Project Service Automation

In the next release wave, Microsoft says it will complete the move of Project Online to the Common Data Service and create a combined offering that brings together Project Online and Project Service Automation capabilities into a singular experience on the CDS.

The new project service user interface will include capabilities for work breakdown structure, Gantt chart and task scheduling. For Release Wave 2, PSA capabilities will be included for bookings, sales, pricing, time and expenses capture and these will be packaged as Dynamics Sales Extensions for Project. Upon general availability, an upgrade strategy for existing Dynamics PSA customers will be released enabling migration to the combined Office (new Project Service) and Dynamics (Dynamics Sales Extensions for Projects).

Dynamics 365 for Marketing

Split A/B Testing: Dynamics 365 for Marketing will include new capability for automated split A / B testing to optimise email engagement rates.

Quick Send: greater flexibility and ease of use enabling marketers to send a quick email blast to a target audience in a few clicks that does not involve follow-up automation.

Surveys Supporting using Microsoft Forms Pro: the release plan references D365 for Marketing support for surveys based on Forms Pro entering GA during this release wave. This timeline suggests general availability for Form Pro, currently available in preview, by October 2019.

Marketing approvals supported through Microsoft Flow: the Marketing app will also enable customisable workflows to handle approval processes for campaign materials and creative content before these enter production.

Power BI Embedded Support for Portals

Previously announced as a preview, as part of the next release wave Power BI dashboard and report sharing with non-Power BI users as an embedded service will be generally available to portal users. 

Power BI + Microsoft Flow

From October 2019, Power BI is set to support new actions in Flow that enable automations involving data in Power BI. The release plan says this will include querying Power BI data and triggering a BI dataset refresh.

Power BI UI Improvements

The immediate enhancement for Power BI is new user interface, released this month, which makes Power BI look and work similar to an Office 365 app which includes an Office-style menu ribbon. Looking ahead to Release Wave 2, the plan references a series of improvements to Home in Power BI. These will include customization of pinned tiles and allowing administrators to personalise this space with organisational branding.

Enhanced Offline Capabilities on Dynamics 365 Mobile App

Offline metadata will be synchronised automatically in the background to provide a better user experience and a further enhancement will see Notes available in offline mode.

AI Builder

Recent release waves have seen the introduction of multiple AI apps for Dynamics 365. In the 2019 Release Wave 2 Plan a new AI Builder is announced so that businesses can create their own AI apps.

The release plan details how this Power Platform capability will provide a new way for organisations to apply artificial intelligence and machine learning models within the context of their business processes through Flow and PowerApps. This will be delivered through a point-and-click UI so AI services can be built without the need for programming or data science expertise. 

In its initial announcement, Microsoft highlighted how this will have the capability to undertake functions such as object recognition and form processing to detect form fields and values. 

Once business data is selected from the Common Data Service an AI model can be tailored and customised by filtering data to fit a specific problem. In the opening keynote presentation of the Business Applications Summit, Microsoft demonstrated how an AI app had been developed and trained so that Pepsi is able undertake product audits more efficiently by recognising its products on shelves without the need for a manual count.

Virtual Agent

Recently released in Preview, the AI-based Dynamics 365 Virtual Agent for Customer Service simplifes the process to configure powerful chat bots to help organisations quickly deploy virtual agents that raise service quality.

The plan suggests Virtual Agent will enter general availability in Release Wave 2 that will include a series of additional features:

  • Entity extraction - to recognise, extract and act on common and custom entities in a user responses
  • Hand off to chat - Virtual Agent will be integrated out of the box with Chat to hand off to human agents, or to a generic live chat provider
  • Extended Customer Service Insights Integration - select topics to automate within Customer Service Insights and click through to the Virtual Agent conversation editor
  • Customise canvas theme - personalize canvas elements including avatar, background colours and chat bubble

Model-Driven App for Outlook

Following a planned summer preview, this new release will enable PowerApps Plan 2 users to interact with data via a model-driven app embedded in Outlook. Microsoft says this will help users keep relevant information accessible next to email and appointment detail in Outlook for desktop / web / mobile. 

PowerApps Component Framework for canvas and model-driven apps

Currently available in preview for model-driven apps, PCF enables custom components to be created across all PowerApps capabilities enabling reusable compontents to be applied to any model-driven app. The plan confirms that PCF for model-driven apps will be generally available during Release Wave 2 and announces PCF for canvas apps should be launched in preview during the upcoming wave release to enable app makers to import custom components.

Teams + Dynamics 365 Integration

When creating a Teams channel from a Dynamics 365 record in the Unified Interface, this will now automatically connect the record to the channel. The release plan also details that when connecting a Dynamics record to a Teams channel, relevant members will be suggested based on users associated with the record.

Unified Routing & Queues

Customer Service Hub and Chat currently each have separate sets of routing queues. Through an enhancement in the next release wave, a single unified routing capability will be delivered across both apps.

Common Data Service Form Designer Support for Event Handlers

Improved handling of form events is promised with a new authoring experience to apply advanced customisations on form displays and better manage these elements to include show / hide field behaviours.

Office 365 Header Coming to PowerApps

Power Platform will align with the new Office 365 header for easy access all Microsoft apps, notifications, and messages from a consistent header.

What Next?

We'll share more detail about these new features as these are released in the coming months. Follow Preact on LinkedIn, Twitter or our blog to receive updates about what's new in Dynamics 365 and the Microsoft Power Platform.

Meantime, the April release wave continues to roll out with the release of new features and services. Contact Preact if you want to learn more about what's new in Dynamics and the Microsoft Platform and how your organisation to effectively leverage the latest features. 

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