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Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform: Announcements from Microsoft Inspire

A lot of important topics were covered during the Microsoft Inspire 2020 conference, so in this blog I will recap on my picks of the information, announcements and conversations that relate to Microsoft Dynamics 365 and the Microsoft Power Platform. There were several new, important announcements and discussions on key customer wins and some product highlights.

Renaming the Common Data Service

My colleague, Matt Collins-Jones, explained the Common Data Service on our blog in February - in short, it’s the business database that underpins Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement applications, which Microsoft has now renamed to ‘Dataflex Pro’. This in itself is just a change in name, no functionality has been altered but it is important that we are clear what product we are discussing so name changes are important.

Of course, if there is a Dataflex Pro, that must mean there is a Dataflex (not Pro) as well. There is or will be soon; due to preview in August is Dataflex, it will be available inside Microsoft Teams and included in licences for Teams. This will provide a version of the Common Data Service built into and configured within Teams to allow you to organise and store business data. Dataflex will follow closely behind the introduction of Microsoft Lists, which will give us ad-hoc lists inside Teams (using SharePoint lists). So, to share and collaborate on data in Teams we’ll have choices including:

  • Store an Excel sheet and put it on a tab
  • Add a List and put it on a tab
  • Create tables in Dataflex and put it on a tab

In one of the sessions we quizzed Charles Lamanna on the difference between Dataflex and Dataflex Pro, the key points were:

  • “some restrictions around capacity”
  • “some capabilities”
  • “some control in terms of security and governance”

The only properly defined difference that I heard was there will be no access to Solution Explorer. Solution Explorer is the old configuration tool that we used to create entities and fields in the Common Data Service before we moved to the new Maker experience and is still needed for around 20% of every build that we do. I’m sure that we will find out what the “some”s mean in detail to help us guide solution selection.

EDIT 04/08/2020 – A few days after this article was published Microsoft released documentation describing the differences between Dataflex and Dataflex Pro

EDIT 11/08/2020 - Pages on Microsoft.com that referred to the Dataflex brand appear to have been removed, suggesting that Microsoft are in the process of changing the product name in light of an ongoing legal case realting to a possible trademark infringement.

As well as a name change, we also get new tools included within the same licenses that help transition Teams from “we work” to “all work”.

Dynamics 365 Customer Voice

This is another name change, from the confusingly named Forms Pro to Dynamics 365 Customer Voice.  Microsoft had deprecated a previous product: Voice of the Customer that allowed us the build surveys in Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement and collect the results. This was replaced by Forms Pro that has now been renamed to Dynamics 365 Customer Voice.  If you can keep up with the circular naming of Customer Voice, it does provide new features for customer solutions on a new user experience including:

  • Survey templates with prebuilt questions
  • Reference data to compare your survey results with benchmarks
  • New Customer Voice console for turning feedback into actions
  • Existing Forms Pro surveys will automatically convert to Customer Voice projects (we previously had to recreate Voice of the Customer surveys into Forms Pro)

Dynamics 365 Customer Insights

On previous CRM projects we have achieved a 360-degree view of the customer by bringing in data from several external sources, transforming that data, finding a way to match the records from different sources and processing it all in CRM. Customer Insights provides a cloud based, Power Query based way of unifying disparate data, segmenting customers, and producing the insights that deliver value.  The screenshot below shows this process:

 

The Customer Insights Process

Customer Insights is now the fastest growing Dynamics 365 application and Microsoft talked about recent successes with Chipotle and UNICEF - both commercial and charity customers looking for insights in their customers and volunteers. In the screenshot above, their 'Enrich' circle under 'Unification' was initially limited but there were hints of more enrichment options becoming available where external data is added to your own to aid insights.

Continued growth in the Power Platform

The Power Platform has been growing rapidly across all industries. There are now more than 3.7 million monthly active citizen developers and 2.7X year-on-year grown of active users. One reason behind the platform growth is because it enables all developers (low code through to code first) to deliver return on investment and provide business benefits.

Power Platform enables all developers

Enterprise customer wins

Microsoft talked about two of the enterprise customers wins onto Dynamics 365: Coca-Cola, that moved from Salesforce, and Walgreens Boots Alliance. Coca-Cola moved to Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform to provide their employees the integrated experience that they were not able to achieve on the previous platform. Walgreens Boots Alliance is an implementation of Dynamics 365 Customer Insights with the Adobe Experience Cloud.

Global events such as Inspire talk about enterprise level customers that take advantage of the platform.  The UK events and UK User Groups tend to discuss regional and smaller success stories. The platform scales to the enterprise but benefits businesses of all sizes.

Round-up

Inspire gave us new names for some Dynamics 365 apps and some Power Platform components. With the new names also comes new user experience and new features; the continued benefits of the platform aid its continued growth. The platform also underpins new features being added to Teams enabling more business scenarios.

About the author

Andrew Wolfe - Dynamics 365 Solutions Architect

“I am a Solution Architect for our Microsoft Solutions teams; my work spans our Productivity (SharePoint Online, Canvas Power Apps, Teams, Power Automate), BC/NAV and Power Platform/CE teams. I have over 25 years of experience delivering software and hardware solutions in SharePointCRM, SQL, Windows Server systems and now Microsoft Cloud solutions. I split my time between delivery projects work, envisioning solutions, designing architectures, defining and governing our understanding of best practice and helping to develop our talented teams.”

 Find out more about the key insights Andrew and the rest of our expert panel took from Microsoft Inspire in our day 1 and day 2 review sessions.