2020 is not a year that will easily be forgotten. The COVID-19 global pandemic reshaped the way people and businesses function and interact. Technology was at the forefront of many changes and innovations that empowered businesses to stay up and running even as employees moved to remote work and physical office locations shut down.
Let’s count down the top 10 most impactful advances made in 2020 related to Microsoft Business Technology.
1. The Year of Teams
While Teams launched in 2017, the features were rather basic and many long-time Skype users were struggling to make the transition. Once the pandemic reached the US and many office employees transitioned to remote work, Microsoft ramped up development on Teams to meet the growing demands. Teams was effectively able to help thousands of businesses transition to a work-from-home model, keeping employees connected through video, phone, and capabilities.
The integration of Teams to other Microsoft platforms further accelerated the success of the Teams platform. Through a connection to Dynamics 365, users can access any number of data points including customer account information, sales records, scheduled projects, sales opportunities, custom apps, and much more – all in a single user interface.
2. Common Data Service/Dataverse Centralizes Information
We kicked off 2020 putting a lot of focus on the value of the Common Data Service. CDS is Microsoft’s platform that unifies all solutions and brings data into a centralized location that provides users the ability to analyze, compare, and make key business decisions based on real-time data compiled from all sources.
The naming strategy for the Common Data Service has changed in 2020 from CDS to Dataflex and has now landed on Dataverse. Name changes of this magnitude impact the ability of new users to understand exactly what the technology is and the functionality it provides.
Other than the ongoing name changes, the largest challenge we’ve seen with Dataverse is the increase in rates for data storage. Storage space requirements prior to 2020 were either free or very reasonably priced. They’re now charging for storage space, meaning that companies need to be mindful moving forward of the added financial implication of the storage rates.
However, the Dataverse is invaluable in its ability to centralize data and connect a variety of applications like Business Central, Field Service, Dual Write, Finance, and Supply Chain, Project Ops, Customer Engagement, etc. With the interconnected systems and data, users have the ability to access real-time information that can help drive business decisions and give an accurate and detailed assessment of the state of the business.
Taking advantage of the Dataverse is the right thing to do for all businesses in 2020 and beyond.
3. End of Life to On-Prem Software
We’ve been talking about Dynamics 365 for years now, but 2020 is really the turning point for all businesses to get serious about moving from on-premises solutions to the cloud. Microsoft is continuing to divest resources into on-premises solutions and shifting those resources to bulking up the features and functionality in Dynamics 365.
Mainstream support for Dynamics AX 2012 R3 ends October 2021 and extended support ends January 2023. After those dates, Microsoft will no longer support any AX environments and companies still on AX will need to rely on internal resources and their software partner for any break/fix support.
Dynamics NAV 2013 R2 is currently out of mainstream support and extended support ends January 2023. Dynamics GP does not have an announced support end date at this time.
4. Dynamics 365 Business Central Integration to Power BI
Power BI capabilities have always been robust but now with an updated connector the integration to Business Central is easier and means seamless. The simplified process connects information and enables Power BI reports for desktop viewing and can be integrated into views throughout the system. Using Power Automate, workflows can be set up to create alerts when certain thresholds are reached.
5. Easier Integrations across all Microsoft Products
Microsoft continues to beef up the integration capabilities between products. We’ve already mentioned the Teams and Power BI + BC examples, but there are many more scenarios where integration is helping businesses succeed. From the Office Suite to Dynamics 365, Teams, and more, integration is enhancing data quality and access.
6. Power Automate Ease of Use
Power Automate is becoming a commonly used tool for users to easily create workflows in business applications without any technical assistance. This is helping to put processes in place that reduce or eliminate manual work.
7. Value of Dynamics 365 Marketing
Microsoft doubled down on its investment into Dynamics 365 Marketing, adding new features and functionality that make the solution viable for professional marketers at businesses across the globe. Prior to 2020, the solution was missing key components integral for marketing success. Now D365 Marketing has become a valuable tool, allowing marketers to:
- Manage events
- Connect to LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms
- Connect to Portals
- Send mass emails
- Map customer journeys
- Track behaviors
- Score leads
- Generate marketing pages
- And more
8. Bots and Virtual Assistants Becoming Mainstream
2020 saw the emergence of embedded bots and virtual assistants becoming more mainstream. In the past, only large enterprise size companies were able to take advantage of this technology. Now thanks to advances from Microsoft, all companies can easily deploy bots or virtual assistants to help with customer service and sales.
Simple IoT devices can be used at a multitude of different points through any operation to gather data and immediately translate that information back into Dynamics 365. This real-time data empowers businesses to better understand productivity, predict maintenance issues, automate and pre-schedule actions, and much more. IoT devices are becoming a game-changer for many companies.
10. Power Apps Component Framework
Power Apps component framework allows developers and app administrators to create code for Power Apps to enhance the user experience. Power Apps in general are very easy to use and create, but this functionality adds a more complex level for those who want to enable advanced features that aren’t available out of the box.
As we close out 2020 and look to 2021, we encourage everyone to consider how modern technology solutions could help move your business forward faster in the new year. If you’re wondering what you should take advantage of reach out to our team and we can help!
This article was written by the pre-sales architect team at Stoneridge Software: Scott Frappier, Adam Hallbeck, and Marcus Haug.