Our top picks from 2020 Release Wave 2

Microsoft Business Applications products follows a predictable release schedule whereby every year there are two waves of new feature announcements made. 2020 Release Wave 2 plans for Power Platform and Dynamics 365 have been made public on July 8th and cover the planned features for October 2020 through March 2021.

Team Forward Forever is following the product roadmaps closely, since one of our core services offerings is keeping customers up to date with where the Power Platform technology is heading. Our three recently renewed Microsoft MVPs have analyzed the 2020 Wave 2 materials in advance and picked out their own Top 3 new features from the long list of release items. If you don’t have the time to read through the complete set of release plan PDFs (108 + 362 = 470 pages!) then why not start from these 9 highlights picked by our team:

Antti Pajunen: Top 3 from 2020 Wave 2

1. New Dynamics 365 Sales mobile experience and improvements to Dynamics 365 Field Service mobile app

Microsoft is taking a new approach with mobility for field sellers. The promise is a quick and easy access to a field seller’s most common on-the-go tasks. The new mobile app will also have an enhanced search experience so that field sellers can quickly access relevant information. Having worked in sales, I understand the frustration and struggle of accessing relevant information and of being able to quickly interact with customer data, without needing to make double entries to several applications like Outlook, OneNote, To-Do and D365 Sales.

On the Field Service side, Microsoft’s new Dynamics 365 Field Service mobile app is seeing more love though citical new features that drive technician success. Push notifications and real-time technician location sharing via geofencing support as well as offline improvements are some of the new features that the next generation Field Service mobile app will get.

2. Dynamics 365 Project Operations

Microsoft’s next generation professional services solution for prospect to delivery to cash processes is generally available in October. Project Operations combines rich features from Project for the web, Dynamics 365 Project Service Automaton and Dynamics 365 Finance’s Project Management and Accounting module and forms a next-generation application for project based organizations.

Existing Dynamics 365 Project Service Automation customers can upgrade to Project Operations in 03/2021. In addition to an announched upgrade path, the Public Preview of Project Operations is steadily getting new features as the Public Preview progresses towards October’s General Availability.

3. Enabling a Power BI report or dashboard to be a model-driven app system dashboard

While this sounds like a simple thing, Power BI has never played along with model-driven apps on a level many would expect. Power BI is finally moving closer to model-driven apps and with this release, customizers can define a system dashboard referencing a Power BI report or dashboard. The make.powerapps.com includes a new type of dashboard that prompts for the workspace and either a report or dashboard. The workspace and report/dashboard can either be stored statically which works for a single environment or using and environment variable, which allows configuration per environment.

Timo Pertilä: Top 3 from 2020 Wave 2

1. Organize business logic in your app with components

Canvas Power Apps hasn’t had any concept like functions. Therefore it is very common that app makers just copy-paste the same code all over the app. Easy, but very bad from a maintenance and readability point of view.

Clever app makers have used hidden buttons as functions, but there are limitations to this approach. And yes, it is a hack. In the future makers can capsulate business logic inside the new reusable components.

2. Smoother on-ramps for Power Automate and Power Apps

Triggering Power Automate from Power Apps is a common use case. Unfortunately, these two tools are not working very well together from the maker point of view. Power Automate is easy to attach to Power Apps. But if you’d like to make changes to the flow afterwards… Add new actions or change parameters coming from Power Apps? You usually end up having to remove the flow from Power Apps and attaching it again.

Power Apps and flows

Now this will change: “Users will never need to delete and re-add the flow from their app to make it work after changes in the flow.” Finally!

3. Everything about Power Virtual Agents

My first two picks are from canvas Power Apps space and they are more like improvements than amazing new features. If you are looking for exciting new features in Wave 2 then you should look at what’s happening in the Power Virtual Agents space. There will be basic theming, adaptive cards, list variables, images and videos on topics, welcome messages, deploying Power Virtual Agent as Alexa skill, and so on.

Jukka Niiranen: Top 3 from 2020 Wave 2

1. Custom pages for Model-driven Power Apps

It’s been a year now since Microsoft made the announcement that eventually the Canvas and Model-driven apps would become a single app type (“Run One UI”). This was still a high level roadmap item back in MBAS 2019, but now in 2020 Wave 2 there will be some very concrete steps made in fusing these things into “just an app”, by introducing the concept of a Page:

By adding these pages into the app’s navigation, we can gain the best of both worlds: pixel perfect UI for those parts of the application where a customized presentation of data adds value & the metadata driven structure for browsing through relational data in lists and forms á la XRM.

2. CDS errors, performance & and diagnostics data in customer’s own Azure Application Insights

The governance side of Power Platform is a hot topic in many of our customer dialogs these days. It’s not uncommon that we’re pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved with the new Power Platform Admin Center (PPAC) and its built-in reports. Microsoft does collect a lot more granular data on the usage of their low-code application platform and now they want enable also the customers to gain access to this telemetry information.

Azure Application Insights has already been made available as a logging mechanism for Power Apps Canvas apps and now also the telemetry for Model-driven apps on the Unified Interface is going to get coverage. API calls, form loads and plugin are among the elements that will get exposed via App Insights, so that both app makers and IT admins can gain deeper… well, insights, into where the possible bottlenecks are in their in-house apps as well as extended Dynamics 365 solutions.

3. CDS Export to Azure Data Lake enhancements

It’s of course not just the app telemetry data that you want to capture for analysis purposes, but the real business entities managed in Common Data Service. There’s a long list of enhancements in 2020 Wave 2 that demonstrate how MS wants to make sure that A) the barrier for Dynamics 365 and Power Apps customers to leverate Azure Data Lake is as low as possible, and B) that the Data Lake offers tangible value-add on top of what the more transactional CDS app databases offer today.

As an example, the new support for time series data will offer the full history of changes to entity records. Unlike the Dynamics 365 audit logs that have been nearly “unreportable”, the Data Lake is built exactly for these analysis purposes where identifying business trends requires access to not just the current values but the evolution of the business records. The support for soft delete, on the other hand, ensures that organizations are now forced to store the complete history of all transactions inside CDS but can rather offload the older records to the Data Lake and delete them from the source system. In addition to relational data, also binary data types like attachments from Dynamics 365 will now be enabled for analytics scenarios.

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