What's New in Microsoft Dynamics 365 - Version 9.0

** UPDATE ** Microsoft has since rolled out v9.1 from October 2018 and announced an April 2019 major update

Microsoft Dynamics 365 (v9) was announced in July 2017 and in this post we've picked some highlights from what has been described as the biggest update in the product's history that will roll out in the coming months.

Before we dive in, it's worth noting the importance of Microsoft's 'Ideas' site to collect Dynamics 365 product suggestions and feedback from users as many of these upcoming changes have resulted from user requests. 

If you are already using Dynamics 365 / CRM, share your ideas with the Dynamics community, and have a voice in the product's development.

As with any pre-release, these items are subject to change and many of the new features described will initially be launched in preview mode for the cloud version before they go into general release. As a result, it may be several months before these items appear in your Microsoft Dynamics 365 cloud instance so this post is an early signpost of what is coming soon.

While there are many new functionality arrivals, several legacy features will be deprecated by Microsoft with this release, these are listed at the foot of this post.

Since this post was written, Microsoft has announced its Spring 2018 Update for Dynamics 365.

Demonstrating Version 9

In November, Preact presented a live demonstration of D365 Version 9, a recording of this event is available here.

Join our mailing list to keep up to date with Dynamics 365 release news.

Platform Separation

When Dynamics 365 launched, Microsoft signaled a move towards an app-centric platform to escape a bloated, monolithic model.

This will be increasingly evident with the v9 release which sees Dynamics 365 break into modular apps that shift away from one platform with multiple modules hardwired in such as sales, marketing and service.    

By redefining the platform layer and breaking modules into role-based solutions for sales, finance & operations, customer service, talent, field service, to name just a few, it will remove the need to test all at once and upgrade everything in one big bang project.

This will quicken release cycles and enable more rapid changes by allowing these to work independently of each other, but crucially these are connected with a common data service.  

With apps frequently changing and able to upgrade independently of each other, several insiders have predicted that Dynamics 365 users will see a continuous flow of improvements in a similar way that apps on a tablet or mobile device are updated.

Multi-Select Option Set

The next update addresses one of the most requested features with the long awaited arrival of multi-select option set fields.

Using the form designer, users can apply a multi-select control enabling to choose multiple field values from a predefined drop-down list...READ MORE

Refreshed Web Client User Interface

As outlined below, Microsoft has previewed its new Unified User Interface (UUI) that adapts to the device or screen in use to provide a consistent experience across web, Outlook, mobile and tablet.

Existing Dynamics 365 users on what is currently called 'Enterprise Edition' will have a choice to either use an updated version of the traditional web user interface or apply the new UUI. Using the Dynamics 365 app designer, admins can give Enterprise users an app with the UUI experience or the regular web UI. At this point some functionality such as campaigns and goals won't be available for UUI will not be available from the app so in instances the regular UI will be the way to go:

This revamped interface is designed to address a series of customer feedback requests to:

Unified User Interface (UUI)

As noted above, this release sees Microsoft’s launch its new Unified User Interface to enhance the consistency and accessibility of Dynamics 365.

Over time, Dynamics CRM / 365 has been rendered through various interfaces, the regular web browser, mobile app (MoCA), Interactive Service Hub as well as Outlook.

This provided wide coverage but it ultimately created in inconsistent experiences due to gaps in functionality across these interfaces. This also meant additional work for admins in customising forms to juggle the needs of web and mobile users.

The Unified Interface promises to end design conflicts between web and mobile by introducing a responsive UI that adapts to browsers, screen-sizes and devices.

The design principles of the UUI (text wrapping, uniformity, styling, white space reduction and theming) sees content presented in a way that will flow into different states as the available space changes.

With the same code for both web and mobile, UUI customisations need only to be deployed once.

From numerous grids that previously existed in Dynamics CRM, Microsoft has distilled these into to a single control that can be used across multiple applications that contains all of the same features.  

Further enhancements as part of the UUI include:

  • Skype for Business presence indicator across all supported web browsers
  • OneNote create functionality will be available in mobile
  • Improved dashboard chart filtering and drill-down – similar to controls previously only seen in the Interactive Service Hub

New Activity Timeline

An important component within the rollout of the Unified User Interface is a new timeline control that will replace the social pane in the legacy web client.

Currently, this control requires users to click between tabs for Activities, Notes and Posts and it lacks a chronological view.

Similar to the display previously seen in the Interactive Service Hub, Microsoft is combining these items into a single Activity Timeline that tracks the complete record history.

Runtime functions within this control include:

  • Visual and text filters to drill down lengthy timelines and quickly find information – and hopefully avoid the need to revert to the activities screen
  • Inline actions for activity records in the timeline - aside from ‘Mark Complete’ this will be expanded to include other controls e.g. ‘Add to Queue’, ‘Assign Activity’ without needing to open these records 
  • View attachments and download these inline without opening the email record
  • ‘What You Missed’ display to see what events have happened on the record since the user last looked at the record

  • Attach camera images, audio and videos, using the mobile app - this activity timeline will include also activity feeds which now work in mobile (previously only available in the web client).

Does every action need to appear in the timeline? Probably not, so admins will be able to configure what activity types will be presented in the timeline.

Further controls will include:

  • Configuring which fields display for each activity type using a new Card Form entity
  • What fields will determine sorting - this should prove handy if you want to set sorting by last updated, last modified etc

A version of the timeline control can also be applied to a Dynamics 365 dashboard that will replace the legacy activity wall component that won’t be available in the UUI. When placed in a dashboard the timeline control won’t include notes.

Improved Business Process Flows

With the Unified User Interface, the stages in a business process flow can now be displayed in floating, or docked mode.

Stages can now be aligned in a vertical layout, instead of horizontal, which makes it easier to see which steps are required to be completed before moving forward.

Mobile Experiences

With the arrival of the Unified User Interface, Microsoft has highlighted a further series of new functions and other improvements for greater mobile app accessibility.

In addition to the activity timeline and new docked / floating process flows featured above this will include:

  • Right to left language support on mobile across all clients
  • Pinch and zoom charts in mobile dashboards
  • Enable chart and list views in one screen
  • A raft new chart types to visualise data in a mobile app

  • Consistent form capabilities on mobile as other experiences, e.g. form switching
  • Navigate between tabbed elements and sections, or get a birds eye view of a form layout to quickly jump a tab / section
  • Interactive dashboards and filters (another piece of IP taken from the Interactive Service Hub)
  • Enhanced custom controls for all form factors
  • Relevance search and advanced filtering on mobile

Mobile Offline

Administrators will be able to select which Dynamics 365 apps are available for which users in offline and online operations. 

Offline enabled and online only apps can co-exist and an individual app can be enabled for some users to work offline while other user will only have online permissions. The data available in offline mode can be controlled on per user and per app basis.

Security Enhancements

Dynamics 365 system settings will now include a configurable maximum session length and an option to enable session timeout due to a predefined period of inactivity.

In both instances, a warning prompt can be configured that will alert users enabling them to re-authenticate and make sure their work is saved. When a session expires the screen contents are blanked out.

Improved Advanced Find Rules

D365 v9 features more flexible rules to query related entities that do not contain data. For example, find lead records that do not have any activities scheduled, or account records that do not have any opportunities scheduled...READ MORE

Virtual Entities

There are many instances when data will need to reside in external system rather than Dynamics 365.  Various solutions currently exist to plug this in to Dynamics, but often these prove somewhat cumbersome.

The Dynamics 365 v9 update introduces new Virtual Entities that use web services to read and display external data at runtime in the Dynamics 365 clients and SDK.

Virtual Entities are stored like any other entity in Dynamics 365. This virtual data is an alternative approach to replicating data and can be included in Dynamics 365 work streams such as business process automation...READ MORE

Customer Engagement Portals

Microsoft has shared its road-map for the development of its integrated web portals. A slew of upcoming improvements have been announced that will include:

  • Tracking extended to include forum, knowledge base and search click actions
  • Knowledge posts will include notes and attachments, and search will include attachment detail
  • New portal admin wizard to make it easier to add Dynamics 365 content to portals
  • Single sign-on as portal log-in moves to Azure Active Directory

Finally, Portal source code will be released to enable on-premise portal deployment for increased customisation than offered by the SaaS model. Code changes will be self-supported. Longer term, Microsoft will have a new extensibility model that won’t require the same code access.

Portals will now be subject to a minimum of 5 x Dynamics 365 full user licences.

LinkedIn Updates

Following Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn, more integration capabilities are being released.

  • A new connector for LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms automatically syncs campaigns and leads with Dynamics 365, with configurable matching rules
  • To aid social selling, new LinkedIn Sales Navigator embedded widgets for Dynamics 365 include account connections promoting the best contacts to connect with, recommended potential leads, account news, mutual connections to facilitate new introductions and summary detail from LinkedIn

  • Selectively sync inMail and regular messages to Dynamics as specialised LinkedIn activities.

  • Automatically sync Dynamics 365 account and contacts, as well as Dynamics leads that are synchronised as suggested leads

Customer Insights

Customer Insights is a preview feature that will help teams and individuals better understand and engage with customers using insights from intelligent analytics.

This includes visualisations to illustrate a customer’s engagement and journey in a single dashboard which avoids the need to sort through multiple data sources. For example, it will enable users to assess the health of a customer relationship and check their retention scores.

In addition to Dynamics 365, Customer Insights uses data inflows from Azure Storage, Exchange Online and Microsoft Social Engagement to create a unified view of each customer.

In its Dynamics v9 preview, these capabilities will include:

  • Predictive Match using contextual information to associate activities or records across channels with known customers
  • Predictive Scoring enables users to predict business outcomes, by automatically generating Machine Learning models
  • Segmentation  to identify the right audience based on historical customer data and related entities

Organisation Insights

Organisation Insights is now available as a free app on the Appstore to help admins and management teams monitor the usage and performance of their Dynamics 365 cloud instance and drive user adoption.

These analytics include insights for:

  • Who are the most active users, what business units do they belong to, and what devices / clients are being used.
  • Which entities are most used, and by which users
  • Storage optimisation to visualise how this is being consumed
  • System performance e.g. what plug-ins are failing and what is the average  operation time

This includes a new preview feature for proactive notifications around operational issues to troubleshoot problems that include for failing plugins and workflows.

Microsoft Social Engagement Updates

Social Selling Assistant – a digest of promoted posts that sales individuals can use to increase awareness and enlarge their network by sharing posts. Users can provide feedback if posts are not of interest that enable machine learning to increase the relevancy of these personalised recommendations. 

Highly customisable across social profiles and search terms, the Social Selling Assistant is available as a free solution on the Microsoft AppStore.

There is also new Power BI Integration for detailed reporting insights across social activity and new Social Engagement Update includes capability to listen and engage on LinkedIn pages.

Customer Service Hub

Interactive Service Hub will be replaced by Customer Service Hub (CSH) to provide an optimised user experience for service teams to manage cases and knowledge posts. 

CSH is built on the new Unified User Interface and as a result it will be accessible by mobile devices. Its performance promises to be significantly improved compared to the ISH which previously required a metadata download. 

The new solution will enable new interactive dashboards to be created that were a feature of the legacy product while classic style dashboards can also be created.

Update Notes...

The Relationship Insights features previously released as a preview feature will be applied to the Unified User Interface in the v9 release as Embedded Intelligence. Read more

Activities enhancements include a new email activity for rich editing capabilities

Rich editing also comes to knowledge records, across all devices

The Dynamics 365 App for Outlook sees further enhancements bringing in more capabilities for search and reflecting the Relationship Insights features.

Auditing enhancements will see this become a near real-time process that covers all entities to include read data as well as admin operations. Audit logging will also have integration with Office 365 and Azure.

Business process entities will now be available on site maps, charts, dashboards and views

Initiate Microsoft Flow automation processes directly within the Dynamics interface that will push this data to external cloud services

Customer can bring their existing Azure resources for connected field services to improve resource management

Use a new App Module and Sitemap Designer to create a new apps module with dashboards, forms, views, charts and business process flows, and use drag and drop controls to build a site map for the new app. Keep track of all Dynamics 365 apps through a My Apps screen which includes search and filter controls.

Leverage the full reporting power of Azure including Power BI using a new Dynamics 365 data export service. This enables data to be extracted to Azure data stores which replicates the metadata, entities and data types without the need to create tables in these destinations.

New Live Assist capabilities will enable web chat bots to handle the most common type of enquiries and free up agents for more complex tasks.

Deprecated Features

Microsoft has announced that several entities and functions will be deprecated in v9 (that is to say they will still be available for the moment, but these will be removed in a future major release).

  • Outlook Client - replaced by the Dynamics 365 App for OutlookFEB 18 UPDATE: Microsoft Reverses Deprecation Of Dynamics 365 Add-In For Outlook
  • Service scheduling in Dynamics 365 for Customer Service - now included with Dynamics 365 Field Service that works with Customer Service
  • Dialogs - replaced by business process flows and mobile task flows
  • Parature knowledge base as the Dynamics 365 knowledge solution - replaced by Knowledge Management features in Dynamics 365
  • Contracts, Contract Line Items, and Contract Templates - replaced by Entitlements in Dynamics 365 for Customer Service.
  • Standard SLA Type - Standard SLA's are replaced by Enhanced SLA's
  • Relationship Roles - replaced by Connection Roles
  • Mail Merge - replaced by server-side document generation using Word and Excel templates

Refer to Microsoft's post detailing the full list of deprecated features and client API's.

What Next?

We've posted separately about how Microsoft Dynamics 365 can schedule their upgrade to v9.

Based on our own testing and feedback from early adopters of this version we recommend contacting Preact or your CRM partner well in advance of your scheduled sandbox update. 

This will enable any code fixes to be applied to your Dynamics instance that might be needed and help you prepare for this update to minimise any subsequent issues.

Contact us to discuss your Dynamics 365 v9 update and find more about this release.

APR 18 UPDATE: Dynamics 365 Spring 18 Update including 9.0.2

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