ClickDimensions’ Senior Director of Pre-Sales Consulting and 12-time Microsoft MVP Matt Wittemann shares his latest Dynamics 365 news and insights.
If you have been following the recent news, browsing social media, or perhaps attended a recent industry conference like eXtreme365 or the CRMUG/D365UG Summit EMEA, you have no doubt heard a lot of talk about CDS 2.0, Flow, and “Power” everything (PowerApps, PowerBI, Power-lifting – oh no, wait, scratch that last one).
Other folks in the community have done a great job of expounding on the CDS 2.0 news and helping to make sense of what we are hearing from Microsoft. But how does this connect back to you, and what does the future look like for an end user, an administrator, an implementation partner or an ISV like ClickDimensions?
First, let’s take a look at what end users can expect in the short term. In a word, not very much. CDS 2.0 and PowerApps are emerging technologies, and as such, the Dynamics apps and solutions and UIs that you use today are going to change only slowly as these new technologies are adopted. Longer term, you can expect to see more apps that are better aligned with your particular role or industry. Behind the scenes, these apps will take advantage of CDS and may well be built on the PowerApps framework, delivering tailor-made experiences across devices that enable the automation of tasks, visibility into data patterns, and collaboration with other teams and companies. But again, these are things that will emerge in time, and for now, you can expect to continue to use the readily available applications like Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales or Field Service. There is still a lot of work to do to get the full functionality of the “old school” default interface – what we used to call CRM – into these more targeted apps that leverage the new unified UI and underlying platform.
If you are an administrator, you’ve got some work to do. You will want to start becoming familiar with the user interfaces, tools like Flow, and licensing models that are being introduced around CDS and PowerApps. In many ways this might be similar to the experience you may have had in introducing the Sales app interface to your users. If they are accustomed to accessing the traditional “CRM” address, it can be a challenge to get users to adopt the new URLs for the specific apps that have been tailored to their combination of role, license and access privileges. Microsoft is really trying to drive users to adopt https://home.dynamics.com as their starting point, from where they can select which app to dive into based on what the user needs to do next. As new apps are built out on CDS and PowerApps, there will be new entry points for users based on their role. This can become challenging if the user wears a lot of different hats – they may take the path of least resistance and just stick to logging directly into the old school, default CRM UI and going from there. At this point, that is probably just fine, but soon they might miss out on some of the powerful solutions that can push specific tasks or insights directly to them regardless of the device. Think of the Flow approval scenario where the user gets a Yes/No button directly in their Outlook app on their phone. Just another way to enter into this new experience, and there will no doubt be more like it.
Systems Integrator Partners
For Microsoft’s large network of partners who do implementation, consulting, customization and provide other services around the Dynamics platform, CDS 2.0 and PowerApps represent both challenges and opportunities. First, the challenges: Not too many years ago, Dynamics CRM was an application that a single technologist could wrap their arms around. You could pop a golden disc into a server, run an installer and see all the bits that made it up, from the SQL database to the IIS web front end. In the intervening years, Dynamics has exploded into a family of products, with the old school CRM at the heart of a constellation of line-of-business applications like Social Engagement, Field Service, PSA and more. With the rebranding of Dynamics 365 incorporating Microsoft’s ERP applications, the Dynamics 365 ecosystem now requires individuals to specialize. For partners, CDS 2.0 and PowerApps is both a new star in this constellation, as well as a way to tie them all together with a neat bow. But as with all new technologies, there will be a learning curve: how to implement them, and figuring out how to sell them and where they fit in your customers’ businesses.
The opportunity for partners is thankfully tremendous and outweighs the challenges. I foresee partners incorporating PowerApps in their standard “CRM” implementations as a way to address unique project requirements that previously would have required extensive custom development. There will also be partners who have a vertical specialty in a particular industry, and PowerApps and CDS can help them get to market faster with resellable IP.
Lastly, for ISVs, CDS 2.0 and PowerApps present an interesting conundrum. ISVs’ bread and butter is developing proprietary software that extends core Microsoft technologies. Certainly, like the vertically-focused partners, there may be opportunities for ISVs to build packageable IP that addresses more horizontal business needs. There may be some partners whose SI practices start to look more like ISVs and vice versa. But I see a big opportunity for smart ISVs to work strategically with both other partners and customers to use PowerApps and CDS 2.0 to plug their own product holes. It’s not uncommon for a customer who implements an ISV solution to have a very specific requirement for which no off-the-shelf software exists. Instead of this being an obstacle in the ISV purchasing decision, adept ISVs who can demonstrate how a PowerApp fits that requirement will be able to show the end customer greater value and attain greater stickiness. A lot of these types of solutions may fly under the radar, but Microsoft has put another tool in ISVs’ toolbox to deliver long-term value to customers, all while leveraging parts of the platform that Microsoft manages, limiting the technical debt that one-off solutions might have persuaded ISVs to shy away from in the past.
CDS 2.0 and PowerApps are going to represent the beginning of a new world for Dynamics professionals. As these technologies mature, and as more partners dive in, businesses will find increasing value in what Microsoft has delivered to the marketplace.
To learn more about PowerApps or sign up for a free trial, visit https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/powerapps/maker/index. (Provisioning a new database instance in PowerApps will provision an instance of CDS 2.0.) For more on Microsoft Flow, see here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/flow/getting-started.