This time last year I wrote my Top 3 themes of 2017 article on what were the major events and directions from the year for the Dynamics 365 ecosystem. The start of a brand new year always feels like the logical moment to reflect back on the past 365 days, so this sounds like a worthy tradition to keep going. Here are my Top 3 picks from 2018 and some thoughts on how they might influence the direction of the year 2019 ahead.
The biggest single announcement of 2018 came in March when the Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement and PowerApps platforms were merged into one. It wasn’t until July that we began to see the Power Platform term used in describing this new suite of tools that now is the way to extend both Dynamics 365 and Office 365 apps, as well as building brand new apps for customer specific scenarios.All of a sudden the technology that had been bubbling under in the Dynamics CRM corner room is now brought onto the main stage of MS business software show.
The immediate impact was that XRM became CDS 2.0 (Common Data Service for Apps),which probably hasn’t been all that easy for non-Dynamics professionals to understand if they only paid attention to official MS information sources covering the topic. For the Dynamics partners a nice upside in this merger was PowerApps P2 becoming the “naked XRM” platform license they had been asking for many years (compared to the earlier Dynamics 365 Plan license for bundling CRM + ERP, which I don’t think was in as high demand).
A more subtle but equally important change was the birth of model-driven app and canvas app concepts. No, not the marketing terms nor the division into two app types, rather the fact that these different client technologies now had a clear need to start approaching one another in terms of how they behave, what data sources they support and how they are administered. Examples of these have become visible through recent announcements like:
- New Form Editor for model-driven apps that resembles the canvas app studio experience.
- Growing support for relational CDS data source in canvas apps, with support for 1:N, N:N, option sets.
- Unified admin center from where both canvas and model-driven apps are configured.
- XRM solution model became the ALM story for both PowerApps canvas apps and Microsoft Flow.
It would be perfectly justified to call 2018 “the year of the platform”, considering how significantly the investments from MS side seem to have shifted from Dynamics 365 to the Power Platform. During 2019 we’ll see if the partner channel can follow along, to transform their offering into something more in line with the PowerApps story than the traditional CRM business models that have mostly been just revised for the cloud based environments during recent years.
A similar challenge awaits the professionals who’ve been working in this business and now need to figure out how to put their existing skills into use in projects that may not even mention the Dynamics product name anywhere. Plenty of new skills will also need to be acquired for leveraging the broader toolkit. The recent announcement of Dynamics 365 exams certifications to be retired gives an indication of the looming new requirements that await the MCP’s wanting to remain current with their certification record.
My Nr. 2 theme from 2017 was the App/Plat separation that largely took place as part of version 9 release. Now that Dynamics 365 CE is running purely on Azure after all orgs get to v9, the next logical step is to start delivering new releases on it the same way a modern cloud native product would. PowerApps, Flow and Power BI have already been operating as a service with a single version for all customers and now the platform underneath Dynamics 365 as well as the Apps on top of it are set to transition into this model. The July announcement of how Microsoft plans to deliver predictable updates with continuous deployment for both Customer Engagement and Finance & Operations is another major event of 2018 that will shape the future of these product lines and introduce a new reality for customers who build their digital business processes on top of them. The old CDU process for version update scheduling is no more and everyone will get the April 2019 update bases on the public release schedule.[Read more…]