It’s that time of the year when Microsoft gets us warmed up for what’s to come in their Dynamics 365 & Power Platform Spring Release with features expected to be rolled out from April. As usual, they do not disappoint with a myriad of enhancements announced across the ecosystem.
To save you from trawling through the 450-page long release plan (yes, you did hear correctly), we’ve summarised the key enhancements across the different modules – jump to the relevant section with the links below:
There are three overarching themes in this release; ‘unlocking the power of data through AI’, ‘doing more out of the box with channels’ and ‘delivering deeper personalisation’.
With so much data at marketers fingertips, it is often hard to know where to start in terms of analysis. To help marketers better target customers, Microsoft is releasing AI-generated segments based upon attributes such as recency, frequency and monetisation to easily target high-churn risk or high-value customers. Furthermore, new analytics dashboards, real-time cross-journey insights and channel KPIs are being introduced to help marketers optimise for results.
Microsoft Dynamics Marketing’s personalisation capabilities have been supercharged by allowing marketers to not just use Dynamics data but leverage any data source that can be connected to via Microsoft’s Dataverse (and the list is pretty exhaustive!).
The most exciting update for us though is the introduction of new mobile channels to effectively reach your audience at the right place at the right time:
- Mobile channel enables fast transactional communication and marketing messaging as part of campaigns and customer service communication.
- Mobile push channel enables you to send push notification in or outside the app with rich features such as images, videos and sound.
This year’s sales themes are ‘saving you time’, ‘intelligence at your fingertips’ and ‘helping you on the go’.
In recognition of changing customer behaviours, more sequences and automation are being introduced to identify the right customers and the next actions to take. A new ‘deal manager workspace’ is also being introduced to help sellers quickly view the right deals, get the right context and take action in no more than one click.
Meanwhile, a new record side panel allows salespeople to tailor their workspace to their unique requirements and trigger key actions, all in the same place.
The most exciting update for us though that is enough to make any salesperson finally toss aside their pen and paper and embrace Dynamics 365 Sales is the ‘new pipeline manager workspace’:
- Deal manager workspace – helping sellers manage and interact with their opportunities.
- Interactive visual charts enabled within the deal manager workspace, out-of-the-box charts will provide additional visualisations of opportunities including bubble and funnel charts.
- Advanced editable grid enables you to instantly update deals in the deal manager workspace through an inline editable grid and personalise column displays.
There are three overarching themes in this release to help ‘enable customers to get up and running quickly’, ‘deliver the all-in-one contact center’, and ‘transform contact centre routing’.
To help businesses achieve highly rated customer service and satisfaction, Microsoft is introducing the following features to Dynamics 365 Service.
New features include:
- The Omnichannel Voice channel powered by Azure Communication Services will be generally available during this release. This feature will allow you to make, receive, distribute and record calls. You will also get real-time transcription, sentiment analysis and translation, as well as receiving/sending SMS.
- Appointment data in service scheduling – to avoid scheduling conflicts, Outlook data will now be included in service scheduling. This will provide you with a complete view of resource availability by showing appointments and bookings all on a single schedule board.
Finance & Operations
Dynamics 365 Finance
This release sees more intelligence and automation capabilities being introduced to Dynamics 365 Finance, as follow;
- Intelligent cash flow forecasting is being introduced to provide automation based upon predictive results.
- Out-of-the-box machine learning for your financial operations, including; seeing when your customers are likely to pay, anticipating what the budget should be, and examining forecasted cash positions based on actual accounts payable, accounts receivable, etc.
What’s more, D365 Finance will preview an intelligent cash flow offering as the Electronic Invoicing Add-on reaches General Availability. It is the first of what could be a collection of “globalisation microservices” for regulatory needs. We are excited about this feature as it will provide better scalability and agility for customers to adapt to changing regulatory requirements.
Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management
Some notable features for this release for D356 Supply Chain Management are in the areas of rebates, inbound landed cost and global inventory accounting. The most exciting update for us though is the introduction of a fresh, user-friendly mobile application that will reduce training time/costs and increase the productivity of warehouse workers.
Dynamics 365 Project Operations
We’ve received the long-awaited news regarding the route to upgrade from Dynamics 365 Project Service Automation to Dynamics 365 Project Operations, which will start rolling out across 2021.
This year’s business central themes are ‘seamless service’, ‘improvements on banking and payments’, ‘collaborative business processes in Microsoft Teams’, ‘release in more countries’, ‘improved integration with Microsoft Dataverse & Power Platform’, and ‘improvements to performance, usability, and productivity’.
Developments in Business Central include updated functionalities, brand-new aspects added for administration and more streamlined integration processes for better user experience for both the end-users and developers. As an end-user, you can benefit from many application improvements with this release, including more control of settings with default dimensions that will reduce posting errors and improve reporting reliability.
A handful of features that we are incredibly excited about are:
- The ability to access contact data in Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, from Teams, to make phone calls directly.
- Assisted setups to speed up the process of getting up and running with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central.
- The enablement of Word merge in Business Central. You can use Word’s mail merge capability to personalise each document by pulling data about the recipients from Business Central.
This year’s Human resources focus on three key areas ‘continue broadening the human capital management (HCM) ecosystem’, ‘reimagining the employee experience’, and ‘delivering app unification’.
To help HR experts better manage benefits of the employees, Microsoft is bringing enhancements to its benefits management capabilities with ‘benefits notifications’ that will notify employees about open enrollment and new hires when they’re able to select their benefits.
The most exciting update for us though is the ability to enable employees to be marked as ready to pay. Gathering and validating employee information can be time-consuming and error-prone. By providing a way for human resources professionals to review and easily update employee information, Dynamics 365 Human Resources helps to cut down on the time spent getting ready to process payroll. This feature will allow human resources professionals to:
- Review information that’s required for an employee to be paid.
- Mark an employee as ready to be paid.
Likewise, another feature that’s exciting in HR is the introduction of leave and absence integration with payroll providers. Leave and absence information is a key component for employees to understand their pay. By providing balance and status information as part of an integration, payroll partners can ensure their customer’s employees understand how leave and absence impacted their pay.
This release will empower you to better understand, serve, and connect with your customers while efficiently running operations across the value chain.
This year Dynamics 365 Commerce will release new capabilities in the following areas:
- Integrated B2B and B2C e-commerce offering in a single Commerce solution.
- Target digital commerce content by device, language, geography, and audience.
- Intelligent product search through native integration with Bing.
- More robust lifecycle management to unify business processes across prepurchase and post-purchase scenarios.
- Ease of system monitoring with rich diagnostics, in-store components and e-commerce services.
- Improved SEO management features for digital commerce pages, and more
One such exciting feature is unlocking AI-powered intelligent shopping features like shop similar looks and shop similar descriptions which enable customers to view product recommendations based on visual cues or rich descriptions, all to drive greater ROI! For retailers, this functionality helps drive conversion opportunities resulting in more up sales revenue and customer satisfaction.
Another feature that’s of great value is the introduction of ‘customer segmentation and targeting’ in D365 Commerce – this enhancement will give retailers the ability to target specific customer segments with relevant experiences that promote engagement and increase conversion rates. Segmentation will be enabled for page layouts and content within site builder, leveraging system rules to target content by device type, geolocation, market, or language.
In the 2021 Spring release, Microsoft has focused on enabling customers to be up and running quickly, delivering the all-in-one contact centre, and transforming contact centre routing. There are two overarching themes in this release ‘Audience insights’ and ‘Engagement insights’.
This year’s Audience insight’s themes are eliminating data silos, enriching customer profiles, enabling powerful AI and insights, extending business processes, and personalising customer experiences.
New enhancements in Audience Insights include:
- Customisation and extension of the customer view – where you get a variety of options to customise the customer view.
- New Power Query connector that provides additional options for ingesting data in a variety of formats.
- Additional integrations into Microsoft and third-party services – Customer Insights provides additional integration into Microsoft products and third-party services, enabling you to export segments and use them in other applications to manage and run campaigns or ads.
This year’s Engagement Insight’s themes are unifying customer data, enabling interactive analytics, connect analysis to systems of action, advanced analytics and customer journey analytics.
The feature we are most excited about is multi-channel analytics over data from other channels that enables organisations to interactively understand how your customers are using your products and services—both individually and holistically— over web, mobile, and connected products customer journey touchpoints.
This year’s customer voice theme are ‘collect feedback’, ‘insight and follow-up’, ‘simplified survey authoring’, and ‘survey administration.’
Dynamics 365 Customer Voice provides easy experience from creating surveys to generating actionable insights and helps you to keep a pulse on what customers value, and how they view your products and services.
Quite a lot of things are happening with this tool so, if you are into surveys, do check it out. But our top pick here is the ability to ‘Pause and resume a survey’. With this new enhancement, survey respondents can partially fill in a long survey, pause it and then resume later to complete it. This functionality allows respondents to take their own time and complete the survey at their own pace.
New capabilities for Customer Voice surveys will be available from April including:
- Cascading question types – create questions that automatically filter answer options based on a previous answer.
- Survey personalisation – upload a .csv file with contact information and use contact attributes to personalise survey questions and invitations.
- Auto prefill answer – prefill survey answer based on a respondent’s information from Azure Active Directory or Dynamics 365.
The Power Platform 2021 update contains new features and capabilities that will roll out from April 2021 until September 2021.
Here we provide an overview of the key capabilities across Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate and Microsoft Dataverse.
Microsoft Power BI continues to invest in three key areas that drive a data culture: amazing data experiences, integrations where teams work, and modern enterprise BI.
The most interesting update for us though is the New Quick Create Experience that allows new users to get started with Power BI by providing a guided experience. Since many new users don’t have access to an analyst or experienced Power BI user, the ‘new quick create’ feature will allow new users to connect data, author content, or create reports, dashboards, or apps without being a Power BI expert! This feature is currently in preview and will be released for general availability in June 2021.
- Power BI Pro delivers AI-infused insights to help you discover insights. Power BI will further expand the integration with Teams with new experiences in Teams channels, meetings, and chat.
- Power BI Premium continues to deliver features that help organisations accelerate the delivery of insights at scale to meet your needs. This release adds flexible licensing models for you to choose between per user and per capacity licensing options.
- Power BI Embedded delivers a new generation of products that will help you increase ROI, scale rapidly, and get up to 16x quicker performance.
The most compelling update for us in Power Apps is the introduction of ‘In-app notifications’ for Model-driven apps. You can now be notified when something has changed with the new in-app notification feature. With this enhancement, your users will be alerted to key items to address, which makes them more likely to be successful.
- Moreover, these notifications are directed at a specific user and can be sent through external systems, power automate, or from within the system.
- Your app maker simply needs to opt-in to this feature to make the notifications appear for users within the model-driven app.
Microsoft Power Automate
The updates that we are most anticipatingus in Power Automate are:
- New triggers when an actions are performed in Microsoft Dataverse – this feature improves working with the common events model and provides better integration with Dynamics 365 Finance + Operations.
- Enhanced experiences in Process advisor – a process mining capability in Power Automate that reveals insights into how people work, presents rich visualisations where you can recognise repetitive, time-consuming processes best suited for automation.
Microsoft Power Virtual Agents
- Power Virtual Agent brings enhancements in the authoring experience with topic suggestions from bot sessions, image, video support, and new topic trigger management to enhance your bot’s triggering capabilities.
- For Power Virtual Agents (PVA) bots authored in Teams, Microsoft is also adding the “@mention” capability, and the ability to share your bot with a security group.
Lots of people have the desire for the bot to improve and learn, and now that’s going to be a thing! Every time a bot can’t determine the intent from the user utterance, it can ask the user which topic it meant to trigger. As users repeat this process, the bot automatically learns from the answers and improves its triggering performance.
We have highlighted some interesting and anticipated features of the Spring 2021 Release Plan in this blog post, but there are a lot more. Stay tuned as we bring you the detail in upcoming posts.
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Author: Barsha Shrestha, Senior Marketing Executive at Dogma Group