With the new Dynamics 365 Spring 2018 release there have been some huge changes around PowerApps and the Common Data Service, and Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement which I am really excited about. Non-tech people, Citizen Developers, now have a means to configure feature rich business applications using the Dynamics 365 framework, without actually having Dynamics 365.
Microsoft has essentially merged the two platforms. There is a lot of excellent content out there on this topic but it has taken me a while to understand exactly what is going on. As a Dynamics 365 Practice Manager I needed a way to educate myself and my team on these changes. This blog aims to describe the changes in a simplistic way which consultants, Dynamics 365 customisers and end users can understand.
To get to this point I have read the Dynamics 365 Spring 2018 release notes, Microsoft PowerApps documentation and community blog articles but it wasn’t until I spun up a trial of PowerApps and a Common Data Service that it all clicked.
The Common Data Service is now the data base for Dynamics 365 and all of the modules of Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement (Sales, Service, Fields Service, Project Service) and the Talent apps are all essentially Model Driven PowerApps.
From the release notes, a lot of enhancements to the Common Data Service and the new Model Driven Apps have come from adopting Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement features. The release notes mention server-side logic for validation and calculated roll-up fields features being added to the Common Data Service. Sound familiar? To Dynamics 365 configurators it should be, because the features are Business Rules and Rollup and Calculated fields from Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement.
Here is a list of the features that a Model Driven PowerApp and Common Data Service come with that have been inherited from Dynamics 365.
|Model Driven PowerApps||Common Data Service|
|Dynamics 365 App Designer||Business Rules|
· Rich Controls
· Timeline Control
|Calculated and Rollup Fields|
|Business Process Flows||Application Lifecycle Management (ALM)|
|Dashboards||Plugins and workflow extensions (custom code extensions)|
|Server-Side Sync (Exchange Integration)|
|Word, Excel and Email Templates|
|Application Lifecycle Management (ALM)|
|Mobile (Phones and Tablets)|
So what is the significance of this?
True XRM is now available without having to have a full-blown Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system with features that you do not use but pay for. The data model is still customer centric (accounts and contacts) but it’s not CRM. Citizen developers can now configure a data model in the Common Data Service, create a Dynamics 365 looking app with the App Designer, configure Forms, Views and Dashboards and you have a new app within a few hours. This app will likely be a bit clunky but with Business Process Flows, Business Rules and Workflow to provide business logic and automation you can enhance it into something end users will love. And this app will come with all the rich features listed above, access to multiple data sources all without writing a single line of code and without the price tag of a Dynamics 365 license.
“Without a Dynamics 365 license?” you say, that’s right you will only need a PowerApps licence to access apps with all of this Dynamics 365 functionality. This license does not give you access to the Dynamics 356 apps suite, I will talk about the differences in another post.
What about Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations?
According to the Dynamics 365 Spring 2018 release notes, Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations is not yet embedded into PowerApps and the Common Data Service as Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement is. However, a new Data Integrator using Power Query will integrate data from Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations with the Common Data Service.
This Data Integrator also looks to integrate with the following online and on-premises sources, among others:
- SQL Server
- IBM DB2
- Web APIs
- OData feeds
- Text files
My head is buzzing at the moment with PowerApp ideas for all of the productivity and efficiency gains that could be made through the use of PowerApps for myself, my team and our customers. These ideas are for another blog, but the possibilities are huge. From what I have seen so far, I’m impressed and excited to see where this goes.
So get excited Dynamics 365 configurators and citizen developers, a whole new world of opportunity to quickly and easily create feature rich line of buisiness apps to boost efficiency, productivity and accuracy is here.