Contributor: Stuart Allen, Applications Enterprise Architect
I’m writing this blog on the plane on the way back from Vienna, where I’ve been attending the annual Directions EMEA conference with Lee Ganly our CTO and Nikky Stunt our Applications Operations Manager.
Directions is a partner hosted event with Microsoft being the platinum sponsor. There were 2300+ attendees from Dynamics partners around Europe and the event is hosted to coincide with the October wave 2 release of Business Central and Customer Engagement.
There were several highlights I wanted to share with you covering my passion for the Dynamics products and Marvel movies.
The biggest change is in the product itself, this release sees the end of the Windows client, and the C/Side development environment. The only way to access Business Central now is through the Web Client, or via the app from the Windows store, iTunes or Google Play. The app will work on Windows 10 devices or Apple/Android tablets or Apple/Android phones.
There have been lots of tweaks to make it even easier to use, with the ability to bookmark favourite pages on your role centre, create saved views, open multiple windows within the browser for multitasking, and many more features. These make the web client even more familiar to users when moving from older versions.
For the SaaS (Software as a Service) version of Business Central, Microsoft have made improvements to the admin console allowing users to create multiple production environments where you can specify which localisation you want to run. This is ideal for multinational customers running Business Central in different regions.
The other big change is the removal of the C/Side development environment. All customisations must now be written as “Extensions” using AL. This is a big change, bigger than the step from NAV 2009 to the Role Tailored Clients (NAV 2013-2018). It is important as it means the customisation is no longer part of the core application, so that upgrades can be undertaken very quickly. In fact, with the SaaS versions Microsoft will automatically roll out the upgrades as the major releases and monthly cumulative updates are made available.
By moving to AL and extensions, Microsoft will be able to incorporate even more advanced technology. In line with the rest of the Microsoft stack such as Windows 10 and office, they are recommending that on-premise customers upgrade every 12-18 months to stay current.
The other major area of interest for me are the Power Platform tools, you should already be familiar with Power BI, but Flow and Power App are also powerful tools that allow users to create “apps” easily, so they can optimise or automate business processes. I will be showing you how to create these at our customer sessions later in the year, as they work natively with the Dynamics suite.
Machine Learning and AI are also big talking points and put simply, they are ways of spotting patterns quickly in large datasets. The patterns are then used to make predictions about the data. Business Central has been utilising this functionality for years through predictive Cashflow forecasts, or inventory forecasts – last year Microsoft added an app to Business Central that could predict if a sales order would be paid on time.
It wasn’t just new functionality from Microsoft though, many of the Independent Software Vendors (ISV’s) have new products that are available for Business Central through AppSource. AppSource is where partners can add their unique solution and we will be looking to add to our portfolio onto it in the coming months.
It looks like we’re just starting to descend into Heathrow, so I will finish off here… but my non-Dynamics highlight from Vienna is that the conference centre and surrounding buildings formed the backdrop to the UN location from the Captain America: Civil War film!
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. We’re happy to help.