Directions EMEA 2020 – Day 1

Directions EMEA and Asia has just started today. This is the first-time virtual Directions ever and I can just imagine how challenged it was to prepare everything in very short time. But based on what I saw today, everything is well organized. OK, this is not the same as live event and I would like to have an opportunity to meet all of you in person, but it is still the great option with not only sessions but with a lot of networking opportunities. And just to mention, this is the biggest Directions ever with 2775+ attendees. Great achievement!

Today we had the first day Keynote and after that I had my first session. Now I want to share my experience from these two parts of today’s event.

Christian Sega started with good news about numbers (2775+ attendees, 60+ countries, 147 sessions, 101 speaker…) and future of this event and finally we had an opportunity to see Mike Morton as a new GM on the Directions stage… unfortunately not in live, but again this is the first time on Directions stage.

Mike presented roughly the most important directions from this BC release and they are:

  • Deliver seamless service and performance
  • Design for compliance and security
  • Develop ISVs and globalization
  • Delight customers by exceeding expectations
  • Drive better together Microsoft experiences

Let’s talk about these directions in the next days. Now I want to talk more about numbers. First time we had an opportunity to see official numbers about BC SaaS customers – there are 10.000 BC online customers and by my opinion this is an amazing result. And only this, there are other impressive results…

I don’t want to forget great rest of the keynote with Claus, Jannik and other PM’s where they showed some new and really good features.

And finally, Mike announced roadmap and some new features ready for the next release. First let’s make a look at new roadmap:

Now make a look at some of the next release’s features:

  • Finally, we will get Report Extensibility as this is one of the highest voted idea from users and partners… this is something we are really missing.
  • We will get enhancement printing features in BC, improving complex hybrid setup, taking care about user access to printers, eliminating admin of print servers or printer drivers, printing from anywhere…
  • Easily onboard of new clients to BC using step-by-step guide how to configure and prepare your solution, and it will be possible to use for partner’s addons as well.
  • Better integration of BC with Teams as using BC directly from Teams.

What I wanted to emphasize… completely experience with the Directions4Partners platform was/is great (if I forget some minor technical issues… who knows, maybe only at my place😊 because of my connection). You could have a feeling you are really on a site. This is briefly my experience from my first session. After 30 minutes prerecorded session, we had additional 15 minutes for live Q&A. I have a lot of questions and I had an opportunity to have a live answering session and it was good experience. As we probably had more question, we needed to continue our chat somewhere. For this purpose, we could go out to the Q&A session room and continue with discussions about all specific topics. Really great experience. I had an opportunity to meet some of friends and big thanks to Arend JK who attended my session and who continue chat with me and few other attendees in the Q&A session room. He also helped me answering on some questions. Big thanks for you Arend as well as to Christian Sega who joined us in after session time.

I’m looking forward to see more sessions today and next two days and I really hope it will be great experience.

Dynamics 365 Ecosystem Map October 2020

Recently I published a blog post about Dynamics 365 Ecosystem for April 2020 release. As I see many of you downloaded these images, but I also got a comments that this was outdated as a few days ago Microsoft announced October 2020 release (2020 Wave 2 release). Because of that I started with updating these graphics and I’ve just finished with all news.

Again, I want to mention and to say ‘thanks’ to Vadim Korepin who made this initial graphics. I used his initial slides and added all news from the last release. But even more, I found that one important part of Dynamics 365 ecosystem was not there – Industry Accelerators. They are very important parts of ecosystem and it can be very useful for some specific industries. This time I added them, and I hope we will have more and more partners using them.

If you want to collect images in the best resolution, download them (right click on the image) and you will get 3840×2180 images.

And let’s start with the first image where we have completely list of all Dynamics 365 solutions and other related solutions:

Then we can continue wit ERP ecosystem where we have some added features in each of them:

The same situation is with CRM ecosystem where we got some new features:

With modular solutions we have some differences as now we have Dynamics 365 Customer Voice as new solution:

Dynamics 365 AI solutions have some new features as well as Mixed Reality solutions:

List of Dynamics 365 services is extended for new service – Electronic invoicing Add-on:

And now new part – Industry Accelerators for specific vertical solutions. This is completely new page with accelerators details. Based on official documents, industry accelerators are foundational components within Microsoft Power Platform and Dynamics 365 that enable ISVs and other solution providers to quickly build industry vertical solutions. The accelerators extend Common Data Model to include new entities to support a data schema for concepts within specific industries.

And finally, platform again with some updates:

I hope you will use these images in daily business and especially when you need to explain connections between our ecosystem.

Dynamics 365 Ecosystem Map April 2020

Last months I see a lot of interests for completely Dynamics 365 ecosystem map. Even if we now what is part of Dynamics 365 ecosystem, visualization is much better. Because of that I want to share with you one global ecosystem map and more detailed maps per each solution. This is the last one made for April 2020 release and thanks to Vadim Korepin who made it. Keep in mind that resolution in my blog is not the best, but if you want to get in the best resolution, download image (right click on the image) and you will get 3242×1843 picture.

First start with completely Dynamics 365 ecosystem with all solutions.

Now let’s continue with more details. First let’s make a look in ERP ecosystem (Finance, SCM, project Operations and Business Central):

Logically we will continue with CRM portfolio:

Now to add ecosystem of our modular solutions to complete ERP and CRM solutions:

AI Solutions in D365 ecosystem looks like that (keep in mind that we have some additional embedded AI features in other solutions):

Mixed Reality is also part of Dynamics 365 ecosystem:

This is the list of Dynamics 365 services:

And the last but not the least, Microsoft platform ecosystem (Power Platform and other Microsoft platforms):

When you look at all these maps, it is obviously that we have a great ecosystem in Dynamics 365 family. I hope you will use these charts in daily business.

Extensibility and Collaboration in Business Central

Recently I published an article about the functional areas covered with standard clean implementation of Business Central. But this is not the end as you can add much more features using built-in extend and integration features in Business Central. This picture is not a part of some official presentation, but this is my view on visualization and conceptual architecture of Business Central collaboration features (I’m suggesting to download this picture to see details in better resolution 2526×1370).

Extensibility

First when we start with only Business Central, we can say that this is completely solution with built-in security model, business processes and data validation. Even then, we can need more features and it is important to understand that you can easily extend its functionalities. You can do it using ISV solutions from AppSource, where you can find a lot of different solutions: Retail, Real Estate, Quality Management, Transportation, Payrolls… even different languages or localizations… Some of them are for free and for some of them you need to pay. But if you know AL language and if you have VS Code, you can easily build your own extensions and extend standard features with your customizations. My personal opinion is that every time you need industry specific solution, first try to find some ISV solution because it is probably already well proved in this industry. But if you cannot find it or this is not fit with your requirements you can build it with AL. If you don’t know how to do it, you can start with learning from here.

Collaboration

The most of experienced NAV people will be well prepared for customizations, but often they don’t know all integration and collaboration features. Because of that, very often I could see customizations in areas already covered with standard integration features. That is why I wanted to write about this topic. It is important to know that almost all integrations are done through API’s in Business Central. There are a lot of built-in API’s, but if you miss the for some of entities, it is not so complicated to create custom API. Let’s start with one of integration parts.

Office 365

Starting with the 2020 Wave 2, we can use Business Central inside the Microsoft Teams, where you just need to install an app from the Teams Store and this app will allow you to paste a link to any Business Central record into chat, and it will expand that into a compact card to share with your coworkers as well as to view card details, edit data, and take action without ever leaving Microsoft Teams… and soon you can expect even more.

Business Central Outlook add-in is well known for a while. With this add-in, you can see financial data related to customers and vendors, as well as create and send quotes and invoices from email or from meeting appointments. When you create document, you can even use AI for automatically recognition of text in your email body.

Business Central Excel add-in allows you to open any Business Central list in Excel respecting any filters on the page that limit the records shown or to edit in excel, where system will allow you to make changes to records in Excel and then publish the changes back to Business Central.

With Word you can be master of your outgoing documents, easily modifying documents layouts in Word and importing them back in Business Central where you don’t need to be a developer to change document layouts.

If your company uses the Bookings app, you can do bulk invoicing for appointments and it can be very useful. Unfortunately, based on my experience this integration is not used as it deserves.

You can use Microsoft Graph to access and manage your financials, work with your business contacts, and gain insights from your financial reports, all based on entities in the Business Central data platform. By integrating your apps with Business Central in Microsoft Graph, you can create experiences that span your business needs.

Power Platform

You can make your Business Central data available as a data source in Power Apps or Power Automate through available Business Central Connectors (online and onprem) based on exposed APIs in Business Central. If you need more, you can create your custom APIs and custom connectors based on them. Power Automate allows more using embedded flows in Business Central for approval process in many of documents and other entities.

With Power BI you can get insight your Business Central data. Power BI retrieves Business Central data through OData allowing you to build dashboards and reports based on that data. And even more, you can embed all those Power BI reports in Business Central and looking all those data visualizations without leaving your system.

Azure

Using Business Central you will find some Azure built-in features such as AI (Cash Flow Forecast, Inventory Forecast, Late Payment Prediction) and Cognitive Service (Items and Contacts recognitions).

But with Business Central you can also use some advance Azure features such as Azure Logic Apps or Azure Functions connecting them through available or custom connectors. And you are not limited only to these tools as you can use many of them with not so complicated integrations. My recommendation for all Business Central experts is to pass Azure Fundamental exams to learn more about available tools and services in Azure.

Common Data Service

We already had an integration between Business Central and Dynamics 365 Sales, but from the previous release it is significantly improved and extended to full Common Data Service integration. As Dynamics 365 Sales is based on Common Data Service, that means now we can customize our integration and use it for many different CDS applications or build our own CDS apps and connect them with Business Central.

SharePoint

And on the end, you can connect SharePoint with Business Central using Microsoft SharePoint Connection Setup page in BC. This integration is not so complicated, and you just need to fill in a few fields, but unfortunately there is no official online documentation about this integration.

Business Central Localizations

As I’m from area where official Business Central localizations (made by Microsoft) don’t exist (CEE), it is not so strange that this topic is very important for me personally as well as for all partners I cooperate with and their existing and potential clients. Of course we have some partner based localizations as we had for NAV earlier, but this topic is important… no localization – no clients :). And yes, I wanted to make it today as we just got new release where we announced a few new localizations.

Based on available sources from official Microsoft site and information from AppSource, I created the following map (keep in mind I’m not geographer and maybe map is not 100% accurate :)) and table with details.

This map is good as an overview where Business Central is available. If you asking me if I’m satisfy, answer is yes and no. I’m happy we got so many partner based localizations developed as extensions, even the most of people suspected it will be possible. But when we talk about numbers, it is enough to remind that we had 196 Dynamics NAV localizations (info from one of previous Directions). Compared with that, we need more localizations. One of the reasons NAV was so popular was that we had localization in almost all countries and if we want to have Business Central SaaS with the same popularity, we need to have more localizations. In a meantime, if you are from country where we don’t have localization and you want to move BC to the cloud, I can recommend to read this article.

OK, now in more details. There is a table with all available localizations and who made them as well as together with available languages. You will see, this table is interesting (download table to get full resolution picture). You can find the most of these details on the official Microsoft site, but I tried to make it easier for understanding making combination of localizations and languages from different sources.

Just to avoid some misunderstanding, these information are based on official data from October 3rd 2020 and of course, it is subject of changing.

Business Central Functional Areas

Usually when I talk with people with a small (or without) experience in NAV or Business Central but with ERP knowledge, they don’t know what functional areas are covered with Business Central. Mostly, they find something on internet that it is for SMB and they assume it cannot be used for complex business processes. Yes, Business Central is on the first place for SMB, but it can be found in very complex business as well and it covers the big number of business processes. And yes, Business Central is full ERP system.

Because of that, I wanted to show simplified map what business process are covered with standard Business Central. But just to clarify, this map represents only an overview of business processes… and if you want to see all of them, I can suggest to discuss with someone who is experienced and who can show everything what is possible.

As this picture cannot be viewed good here on blog post (small resolution), I’m suggesting to download it and to open as a picture on your desktop.

And what is important on the end… Business Central is easily extended solution. You can extend it adding new functional areas from AppSource or developing them from your partners.

15 Microsoft Ignite not-to-miss non-Dynamics Session

A few years ago, and earlier, every time when I attended some conference I’ve chose the topic I’m familiar with. For example, probably in 95% of my time I attended Dynamics NAV sessions or something very close with it.

But in the last few years I changed my attention to very different sessions. In these times, everything is different, and everything is changed. Now if you want to survive in your ERP or CRM world, you need to learn a lot of different topics outside of your primarily interest. Solutions are more and more connected and now nobody want to buy i.e. ERP, but they want to buy completely solution… and if you want to provide it, you have to me familiar not only with ERP, but with IoT, AI, ML…

Because of that, I want to write a small recommendation not-to-miss sessions for all Dynamics ERP or CRM experts on this Microsoft Ignite. As Microsoft Ignite will start in a few days (September 22-24, 2020) and registration is free of charge, be sure you registered and try to attend the following sessions:

Of course, there are a lot of other Dynamics topics and I can suggest watching sessions about solutions you don’t implement. You will expand your knowledge and in this era it is very important to know how to choose what to and when to implement; when to customize and when to integrate… Of course, this is just my opinion and prediction… if you think differently, do as you think. Definitely, try to enjoy this virtual event.

All Dynamics events in 2020 are going virtually

All Dynamics events until the end of 2020 will go virtually… or they are cancelled. I don’t know what to say… if it is a good or bad. Definitely virtual event cannot replace live one and I’ll try to explain why. But with given circumstances, I think that going virtual is the best possible option… on the first place because of our health and not losing community work.

Right now, we have the following situation with all our Dynamics events:

  • First, we will start with D365 Community Summit. It will go virtual instead in Nashville and it will be held in period October 7-9, 2020. Agenda is already ready and if you didn’t register, you can see details and register here.
  • Directions EMEA and Directions Asia, instead of Prague and Bangkok will be organized as a common virtual event in period November 3-5, 2020. More information here.
  • Directions NA, Orlando is unfortunately canceled for this year. But as Directions EMEA and Asia will go virtually, it means there is not any limitations for colleagues from North America to join this even.
  • NAV TechDays is canceled somewhere on the beginning of Corona crisis and we will not have opportunity to meet before next year.

OK, I wanted to explain why I’m not a fan of virtual events… but to be honest it is probably better to have them in comparison with cancelation all these events. With virtual event you can still have an opportunity to listen prepared content and this is good. But… attending conferences is not all about content… content is important of course, but more important is an opportunity to openly ask what you need and not to get an answer only from presenter. You have an opportunity for discussion on sessions, but probably more important during the pauses. All these networking is not possible to be created in a virtual world… minimum it is not possible in this moment. And communication between presenter and attendees actually doesn’t exist in the virtual event. And when I’m talking about all of these, this is not problem only for attendees, it is not inspiring for lecturers as well (it is not the same when you have people in the front of you and when you have camera and laptop).

But again, with these circumstances, this is much better to have virtual events than not having them at all. And I must admit in a few digital events I’ve already participated, organization was really the best possible what somebody can make in a virtual world… and probably beyond my expectations. But again, this is not the same ☹.

And on the end, our hopes for the next year are that we can see each other in a live. I hope we will have much better health situation and we will attend minimum these already scheduled events:

  • Directions Asia, April 15-16, 2021 – Bangkok, Thailand
  • Directions NA, April 25-28, 2021 – San Diego, CA, US
  • Directions EMEA, October 7-9, 2021 – Milan, Italy,
  • NAV TechDays, November 16-19, 2021 – Antwerp, Belgium
  • …and hope others will schedule events soon.

How to Build Power Portal connected with Business Central

Introduction

When I think about new Dynamics 365 Business Central (in the future, I’ll use only ‘Business Central’ or just ‘BC’) features, the first things in my mind are openness and integrations. Then one of the most common limits in Business Central (and in Dynamics NAV before) was lack of portal connected with the database. Of course, you could develop portal from the scratch or use one of existing solutions and develop integration… But what is common in both of these cases? You need to pay in the first case for development (not so cheap) and in the other case for IP or license (again not so cheap).

But with Power Platform we got something more. Now we have Power Portal and as you have Power Platform included in your user’s subscriptions, you don’t need to pay something more (minimum, not such a big amount of money). Only what you need to pay is using portal, but this is really not so costly (100USD per month for 100,000 page views for unauthenticated users or 200USD per month for 100 daily login sessions for authenticated users. More details here: https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/). And yes… we have an issue here… Power Portal is based on Dataflex Pro (formerly known as Common Data Service). But this is an opportunity, not a limitation. And this is the topic of this whitepaper.

Start with building entities in Power Platform

First as I already mentioned, this is necessary to build solution in Dataflex Pro and that means you need to create entity(ies) you want to connect with Business Central. That means you need to run Power Apps: https://powerapps.microsoft.com/. After that, I’ll continue with task. In this example, I’ll use Employee entity as we already have Employee table in BC.

To do this, you need to start from Entities (Data > Entities in the left navigation pane) or you can start with Solutions and create new entity from there. In the new entity, enter Display name and enter primary name.

Click Done when you enter that. After that, you need to add new fields using Add fields command. When you finish with all fields, click Save Entity to save all changes.

When you finish with all details in creation of entity you can start with building connection with Business Central. But keep in the mind that you need to make something more here and we will come back later. Right now, only one thing you can add is Key just to avoid having duplicates and my recommendation is to copy keys from BC table.

Connecting Business Central with portal

OK, connection with the Business Central can be done on a few different ways and I’ll try to explain all of them here.

Business Central customizing an integration with Common Data Service

From the Wave 1 2020, Business Central supports an integration by default with a set of entities in the Dataflex Pro default database, but you can make customization through extension and add more. For developing extensions that integrate Business Central with Dataflex Pro, system uses extensibility capabilities where proxies to Dataflex Pro tables can be created in Business Central, and these will be made extensible. This allows for custom attributes to be synchronized and for additional tables to be added to the default synchronization process.

When you create this extension, only what you need to do is mapping tables with entities as well as mapping fields in Business Central and Dataflex Pro.

I don’t want to write in details how you can do it as Microsoft already published completely documentation how to build this kind of extension and how to configure it. For more details, open this page: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365/business-central/dev-itpro/administration/administration-custom-cds-integration.

When you finish with developing an extension, you can find here how to map tables and fields: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365/business-central/admin-how-to-modify-table-mappings-for-synchronization.

When you connect entities in Dataflex Pro and Business Central, you can continue with building Power Portal.

Integration using webservices and Power Automate

Previous way of integration is native, but it requires some development knowledge. But what if you are not developer and still want to build portal based on Business Central? Do you think it is possible? Yes… this is an answer.

From the Entity page in Power Apps, just click Get Data and in the Power Query window choose OData tile. Go next and then you need to stop yourself there. You should move to the Business Central. Open Web services page and add page you want to use in synchronization. In our case, this is page 5200… just click New, as Object type choose Page and add this page number; enter Service name you want to use and click on Publish field. Copy OData V4 URL value.

Move back to the Power Apps and in the Connection setting paste this value to the URL field. Choose Organizational account as an Authentication kind. Confirm your credentials and go to the next page. Click Next until you open the following page.

Now you need to choose Load to existing entity option and in the Destination entity choose entity you created (in my example BCEmployees).

In the Field mapping part of window (right side), you need to map fields from web service in Business Central as a Source column with Destination fields (fields in our entity). When you finish it, just click Next and you will find a page where you can configure refresh settings. That means you need to choose how often system will synchronize data from Business Central web service to the entity. Click Create and you have been finished with integration.

But something will miss here. As you are using just refresh model, that means you will get records from Business Central, but you cannot insert there. Actually, you can insert to entity, but system will not insert them to BC. To solve this, you can create very simply flow in Power Automate. Actually… you will need as many flows as you want actions.

You can see on previous picture that I chose When a record is created and it will be OK if you want to have only Insert from portal. But if you want more action, you need to use the following triggers:

  • For ModifyWhen a record is updated,
  • For DeleteWhen a record is deleted.

In this example you will see flow for inserting, but I think you can easily understand how to create two additional flows based on well-known parameters.

Keep in the mind that you need to use the following parameters in the trigger:

  • Environment – choose an environment you used for building solution in Power Apps
  • Entity name – entity you created
  • ScopeOrganization

Now when you save it, your solution is finished. I would just like o mention that instead of web service integration you could choose API integration as well:

Configuration in both of cases is very similar and there is not a reason to repeat completely process.

Building a portal

Power Portal

Now when we made an integration using one of the models, we can continue with building our portal.

To finish with this process, we need to open Power Apps again and to start with creation new Power App. You can start from Home or from Create and you need to choose Portal from blank option.

Enter the name of your portal and carefully choose Address for your portal. This is place where you can also choose a language.

When you select Create, you need to be ready to wait some time until system create portal. It usually takes a few minutes, sometimes more, sometimes less… but be a patient. When an app is created, open it in the edit mode. You will see we have prebuilt portal, but we want to add new page with our data. To do this, select New page and choose Blank.

System will create new blank page and we need to add necessary components. Select Components icon in the left-side menu and locate List. This is logical if you want to start with a list view.

Now you need to configure some details. As we will create new component, choose Create new display and as Entity choose your entity (BC Employee in my example). The next important step is to choose a view as each entity has more views. I think that Active {items} are logical choice here.

OK, this is how we can create a list. But if you want to have possibilities to create new entry or to edit or delete it from here, you have an opportunity to do it immediately here. In the right-sided pane you will see a few options appear.

You can choose if you want to add the following features here: creating, viewing, editing and deleting. If you switch-on any of these options, you will get an opportunity to choose which form will be run to make this action. This is very easy for configuration, but what is important is that you need to have these forms already built.

OK, now you need to select Sync Configuration command to see result. But you can see that you have only two columns here in your list and this is not what you want. This is because, when system creates entity, views are created automatically but only with the main field plus Created On. But this is not problem as you just need to customize your view.

View customization

To customize view, you should go back to Power Apps and entity you previously created. There you need to select View tab and from the list of all view to select one you want to customize. In our case it is Active BC Employees.

When you open this view in edit mode, you need to add fields you want to see on your view. I’ll add Name, Surname, Address and City and resize it as I would like to see on the screen.

When you finish with adding and/or moving fields, you need to click first Save and after that Publish commands. Keep in mind that if you didn’t publish it you cannot use it.

Test

Now we can say we finished with everything. Go back to the Power Apps and choose Apps on the left-side pane. You will see completely list of your apps. Just choose app (portal) you just created. When you run it, choose the page we created and that’s it. You can see the window in portal with our data from Business Central.

Cloud Partner Competencies and Business Central

You are involved only in Business Central business and now you have Enterprise Resource Planning competency. But this competency is not in the cloud and if you want to get Cloud Business Application competency you can choose one of the options as a two different paths in achieving competencies:

  • Customer Engagements options
  • Unified Operations option

The first one is for CRM partners and the second one is in ERP. But when you read details, this is for Finance, Supply Chain Management, Retail and Talent (F&O) and all required exams are from F&O. If you want to continue only in Business Central and want cloud competency as Business Central is cloud product, you probably don’t know how you can fit with these requirements.

OK before I continue, I need to mention that this is my private text and it doesn’t represent Microsoft official statement, and this is not an announcement. Everything I’m writing here is based on Cecilia Flombaum presentation on the Microsoft Inspire a few days ago. If you want to see whole presentation, session is still available here (first part of presentation is mostly about Partner Contribution Indicator, but you can find BC details from cca 13:30).

She mentioned that we can expect a Business Central differentiation as well as Power Platform differentiation if you are focused only on one of these solutions. That will allow Business Central partner to achieve their silver and/or gold statuses in Cloud Business Application competency.

Currently we don’t know what will be required to achieve competency and statuses and if it will be connected with recently announced BC exam (probably yes).

But Business Central implementers will have one more opportunity – to achieve Small and Midsize Cloud Solutions competency through a Business Central differentiation opportunity. Probably there will be some differences i.e. slightly different threshold.

OK, this is everything we know for now. As sook as we have more information, you can find it on the Microsoft Partner Network.