Today I dropped into the Dynamics 365 Insider program for day one of a series of reveals we have all been waiting on for some time now. With the NDA lifted on what Dynamics CRM 9.0 will be, it was an interesting set of changes. To quote some of the technical leads, this is the biggest release Microsoft have made to Dynamics 365 so lets understand what is involved to make it a smooth transition.
Because of other commitments, I only dipped in and out of the sessions so I don’t have all the detail, but here’s a quick summary of the major features I took in and some of my musings around them. As I find out more, I will update this post accordingly.
New Unified UI
There is a new interface – a Unified Interface which takes a mobile first approach. This is a huge facelift to the application and is more accessibile than before. We first got wind of this at SummitEMEA in April and now have a little bit more detail which will whet our appetite until we get private preview access. If the PowerPoint slides can be believed, the interface is shared across phone, tablet, web and the App for Outlook and it looks a lot slicker and, some would say, a lot more Salesforcey. The 6 main UI benefits it provides are shown below.
What I noticed from the screenshot above is that tabs on forms actually look a bit like tabs again, at the top of the form, for the first time since CRM 4.0!
The user interface is part of a wider Unified Interface refresh, where phone, tablet and web all look much more consistent. However, the Unified Interface will initially be applied to Business Edition only. Enterprise edition will still be on the older UI but will be getting a ‘Web Refresh’. I’m not exactly sure what this means but I believe (and hope) it means that enterprise customers will have the option to use the new style web interface, or a watered down version if it if they so wish. It sounds like a rollout plan to test it with the new business edition users before rolling out to existing enterprise customers, but let’s wait and see how it pans out.
The current social / activity pane on the contact record is normally the first thing I demo for a prospective customer looking at a traditional CRM use case, and most CRM consultants will know of its limitations. It’s not very configurable and sortable, only includes a fixed list of activities and filtering isn’t great. The good news is that if you have the new Unified Interface, you can get a new control to replace this. This now is called the timeline control. Instead of having multiple sections for posts, activities and notes, it is a display of combined activities in a single view. Best of all, it’s really configurable – you can display what fields display for each activity type. Good work Microsoft.
A few limitations here you should know of : Yammer is not yet supported on this control on the Unified Interface so will not show up. Knowledge Base search will not show up but will be available as a separate control you can put where you like.
Multi-Select Option Sets
A simple one. Everybody needs these and anyone who models data will appreciate the simplicity of this control over modelling 42 boolean fields in a single section or hacking around with client side solutions. Well done Microsoft for not forgetting about the basics!
Not much detail on this yet, but this promises to be my favourite, I hope I am not disappointed tomorrow! Watch this space and I will update. Virtual entities look to be integrated to Grids, Find, Forms, Lookups and Subgrids and appear to support being pulled in from ODATA and DOCDB.
Interactive Service Hub is Dead
This has been replaced by a new ‘Customer Service Hub’. This is a good thing – the Interactive Service hub wouldn’t load in a private browsing window and always seemed to be a bit of a basket case. There will be no more wait time after you publish a solution while waiting for the Interactive Service Hub to reload. The new Customer Service Hub is optimised for Tier One agents and will still sit alongside the web client. It looks like Interactive Service hub is to be completely removed as opposed to deprecated.
Best of the Rest
– A better editor for HTML emails and Knowledge Base articles with Designer, HTML and Preview tabs so you can check to see how it previews across different form factors. It won’t have auto-correct/dictionary functionality but that is on the backlog. I would guess the need for this ties into some of the enhanced Marketing functionality to be provided in Business edition.
– Some changes to the App Designer and app architecture. App Url suffixes can now be specified in the designer itself and apps can be enabled for offline usage in the Dynamics 365 mobile app.
– The existing Activity Wall web resource will not work in the web refreshed UI, it is replaced with a Timeline control. Likewise, the new timeline control will not work with the old UI.
– Provisioning enhancements for Mobile devices.
– No changes to workflow designer (boo).
– Integration of Microsoft Flows directly into the Dynamics 365 UI – you can configure flows to start from directly within Dynamics 365 – not sure how this will work in practice yet.
– Much more robust offline mobile and quicker load times. Resco have a massive head start here with Woodford, wide device support usability and so let’s see if Microsoft can catch up with this release.
– Lots of LiveAssist improvements including Bring your own Bot.
When will it ship?
Next step is private preview to Dynamics 365 insiders, so no firm date just yet. Private preview should be available in the next week or so. After that, some features will go to public preview. When it is sufficiently mature, the features will be rolled out to the public.
So no firm date, but bearing in mind it is being called the July update, I am going to go down to Paddy Power and put a bet on August for the majority of these features make it to the field for cloud customers. Based on past experience, I would expect a subset of these features to make it to on-premise before the end of the year.