The 2017 Dynamics 365 Tech Conference started off with a bang as Sri Srinivasan, General Manager for Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations in the Cloud and Enterprise Group, announced a bunch of features and functionalities that are on the radar coming out through this year.
Some well-knowns over the last year that Microsoft has been focusing on have been complete mobility (cloud and mobile usage), analytical (BI) reporting, the ability for customers to self-scale (functionality, systemic resources), and engaged productivity.
With that in mind, here are some of the particularly interesting topics for the Dynamics 365 for Operations release roadmap through 2017 – deployment options, analytics and mobile capabilities.
Dynamics 365 for Operations Deployment Options
Starting in the fall, Microsoft will support three different types of deployment options:
Cloud-based: This is the current offering supported by Dynamics 365 for Operations, where a powerful, fully integrated cloud solution delivers business functionalities and capabilities in one seamless suite – Office, ERP (formerly Dynamics AX), SharePoint.
Cloud + Edge: The cloud + edge deployment offering is a new deployment option which will soon be possible. Here there will be a “cloud Instance” and an “edge instance”. The cloud instance is one globally controlled instance, where one or more companies can be deployed, on the Azure cloud. Users (with appropriate access) will be able to transact directly on the cloud.
An “edge instance”, however, is a locally managed instance. All transactions on this instance will be local first and then synched periodically into the cloud instance. This can be typically used where there are network latency issues, like a remote manufacturing site. The data however will synch to the cloud instance, and then all reporting is available to everyone on the cloud. Once an edge instance is deployed, the same legal entity belonging to it, will have limited access to the same entity on the cloud.
Local Business Data (On-Premise): The news that numerous customers and VARs have been waiting for – the release date for the on-premise solution is now out and on plan for release by June of 2017.
The on-premise solution will have the same rich web-based look and feel as the cloud offering, and can be deployed at a local data center. Clients looking to use this model are looking at local data residency, or for hardware write-off. The deployment of a single instance in this model also must be done via LCS, and will need at a minimum of Windows server 2016, SQL Server 2016.
The functionality that customers might end up losing with this option, however, is the entire gamut of embedded analytics, such as workspaces with drill-down capabilities, product graphs, and use of Power BI. Unfortunately, limited information has been shared at this time. More to come.
Embedded Analytics and Workspaces
One of the key functionalities that Microsoft has launched in Dynamics 365 for Operations is rich workspaces. With this functionality, users/roles can get a high level view of metrics and then drill down on the same metrics, and further on into transactions.
There will be multiple workspaces available for different user roles depending on the scope of the role. Each workspace pulls views – count tiles, KPI’s, graphs, charts – that are fed from transactional data using the Power BI engine. Ten workspaces will be launched with Power BI interactive reports. Each workspace will have multiple KPIs, and can get more KPIs that feed on transaction information – what is called infographics.
- Drill down tiles, charts, graphs – Any data query can be set-up as a tile, chart or graph on the workspace. These can be count tiles, KPIs – which specifically keep track of things the user needs to see. A click into the tile can take you to a summary report and then a drill-down transaction listing.
- Map view of the current focus – Any workspace is aligned to a specific filter criterion at a point in time. The default map view can be made to calculate metrics at a global level. The user can drill into the map to make the same metrics show an updated value for the geographical area on the map (e.g. number of customers with past due balances will by default show global, and can then be drilled down by just zooming in on the map).
- Power BI reports – All users can access Power BI reports based on the entity store, the operational data warehouse that is included with Dynamics 365 for Operations. Unlike the current version of Dynamics 365 for Operations, Power BI dashboards will be available on the AX/ERP interface, not needing to navigate to Power BI. These ready-made, tweakable reports are now available, and more can be created by any power user. No Power BI licenses are required to access these reports, which are embedded within the Dynamics 365 application.
Microsoft, as part of their mobility stack, has made excellent inroads into their mobile app availability. Some of the demonstrated cell phone applications that were shown at sessions on Day 1 were primarily iPhone and Android apps, with of course plans to be on the Windows 10 app. One View, the app that is currently being developed by Microsoft, is a Power App, powered via Common Data Service.
Some of the great functionalities that can be done on the mobile app are:
- Ability to approve vendor invoices that get directed through a workflow
- Ability to enter an expense claim
- Ability to get a cross-organizational inventory on-hand view
- See and drill down into a customer/vendor aging report
- Approve purchase orders
- Scan, Pick and Ship
- All customer, sales, status information
All in all, some exciting shifts coming up this year that are taking Dynamics 365 for Operations to a whole new level. Microsoft intends to make two substantial releases each year, and hotfixes in addition to them. The Azure cloud still stays very central to the overall architecture and capability. Since customers are moving in the direction of “Cloud First, Mobile First”, Microsoft has made tremendous effort listening and delivering to the market need.
As implementation consultants, Hitachi Solutions’ focus is on doing our best to execute projects via an agile cycle, so as to ensure available functionality is deployed properly, and keeping builds confined to extensions rather than over-layer development. We look forward to working closely with our customers on deploying these exciting new Dynamics 365 for Operations functionalities, and to seeing what new features Microsoft has in store for this innovative, next-generation solution.
This article is part of our Dynamics 365 Roadmap series that helps companies stay up to date on the latest Dynamics 365 releases. To see our previous posts, click here to view our roadmap.
For questions on how Hitachi Solutions can help your Dynamics 365 for Operations implementation, please contact us today.