Microsoft Dynamics 365 Tenerife: new features

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Many of the new features coming in Microsoft Dynamics 365 Tenerife were showcased at this month’s Directions EMEA conference in Madrid. Our Head of ERP, Joerg Rau, shares some of the highlights.

Read Joerg's previous post about Dynamics 365 Tenerife announcements at Directions EMEA 2017

New features and functionality of Dynamics 365 Tenerife

Some further improvements to the Dynamics 365 web client will be very useful, helping the user to set up the system more quickly, and add more drill-down functionality. For example, when entering a vendor invoice number which had been previously posted, as well as the smart notification at the top of the screen the user now sees a link to view the vendor ledger entry for that invoice number.

Exporting a list to Excel has been possible for a long time, but Microsoft pushed it further with the ability to “Edit in Excel”. Open for example the General Journal, choose a batch and click the Edit in Excel action in the ribbon. Excel opens and downloads the existing records of the journal into the Excel worksheet. Make your changes, insert new lines and click Update NAV in the new Excel add-in which can be downloaded from the Microsoft add-in site. Return to NAV and post your journal!

The inline designer is probably the most impressive user feature. In design mode, a user can drag and drop new fields on their page, change the order of fields and tabs, and even determine the sort order of a list. The latter is a feature I have been often asked for, as every Entries list always shows the first entry, even though a user would likely be more interested in the last and therefore most recent entry than one posted six years ago.

It would take too long to list all the new features, but others I’m excited about include the Dimension Value filter option on the Chart of Accounts page and the option to have PowerBI charts showing on other pages than the RoleCentre.

Integration to Azure Cognitive Services

Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2017 already offered integration to Azure Machine Learning (ML) and the use of the time series model which analyses for example the sales history of an item and predicts the inventory level for this item for the months to come. Dynamics 365 Tenerife goes a bit further and gives us partners the choice to use multiple, different Azure ML models.

The use of Azure Cognitive Services is new. We can send an image to this service and ask to return tags, colours or face information. It has been implemented in the items list where the item picture is analysed and the item attributes are automatically maintained. I used the picture below and NAV automatically added the tags "furniture" and "chair" for this item and assigned the item attributes, drawing on the image recognition features of Cognitive Services.

blue chair

I gave it a go myself and developed a bit of code to analyse my picture from our web site. Just a few lines of code later I got all my results: “1 person, male, age 51, indoors, background white”. Well, the age is not quite right (I’m not that old yet!). Anyway, very impressive.

Joerg Rau

So where could this functionality be of use? I see an immediate use in the food manufacturing industry where quality grades could be documented and the system takes over the grading instead of a person. The Cognitive Service can be trained with sample pictures so that the desired result is more accurate.

Office 365

Since Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2017, a user could look up customer data or create a Sales Order in NAV within Outlook without even switching between the applications through an Outlook add-in. Microsoft has pushed this further so it now takes only the click of a button to generate, out of the unstructured text of an email, a structured Sales Quote in Microsoft Dynamics NAV. The way it works is that the email text is analysed for a pair of a number and text which is then compared to the item description. If multiple choices are possible then a page is shown to the user to select the item to be added to the quote. Once everything is checked, a Sales Quote is created and can be sent as a reply to the customer. If the customer replies again to confirm the order, then Outlook realises that this email is referring to a document in NAV and displays it in the email. But it doesn’t stop there. The Sales Quote can be converted into a Sales Order or directly into an invoice and with replying again, the customer receives the invoice and can click on the “pay” link in the email to use Outlook Pay to pay the invoice directly from Outlook. During this entire quote to cash process both companies, customer and supplier, stayed in Outlook. This complete process cycle will be very attractive, especially for smaller companies. This might be the reason why every Office 365 Premium user will get Dynamics 365 Tenerife – growing the number of NAV customers from a couple of hundred thousand to millions overnight!

Schema changes

Having so many new customers and tenants coming onboard comes with its own technical challenges in terms of hosting them. They all need to be initiated quickly and upgraded every month to the latest cumulated update (CU). Therefore, Microsoft introduced schema changes to the database structure. Up to now, a tenant had its own database and every company within the tenant its own tables. Now, multiple tenants can live within one database and all companies within the tenant share the same tables by the use of a new “Company ID” column. This way, a tenant can be initiated much faster. But it also comes with other benefits, as cross company functionality like inter-company postings, consolidation or reporting over several companies will be easier. Disadvantages of having all companies share the same tables - locking and fast growth of the tables – are addressed by partitioning tables. Partitioning has been a database feature of Microsoft SQL Server for a long time but couldn’t previously be used by Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Database administrators can now apply partitioning to tables, without losing the settings when compiling the table within the NAV development environment.

The Dynamics 365 ecosystem

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Tenerife will not be a standalone ERP system in the cloud. I showcased above the tight integration to Office 365 and mentioned PowerBI charts as part of the normal NAV pages. But wait, there’s more!

Booking and invoicing

The Office 365 Booking and Invoicing app now ties in with Dynamics 365 Tenerife as well. Let’s assume you offer your services to your customers via a booking website. The customer can select a free slot and choose the services they like, say trimming a hedge on Thursday at 9am. You assign a resource and it shows up in his or her calendar. The job is done and an invoice can be created via the new un-invoiced bookings page in Dynamics 365 Tenerife, either one invoice per booking or for multiple bookings. Job done!

Microsoft Apps and Microsoft Flow

Microsoft Apps and Microsoft Flow also join in now to create mobile applications and workflows which users can configure themselves without a single line of code. The current workflow engine in Microsoft Dynamics NAV still exists, but in parallel, Microsoft Flow enhances workflow requirements across applications. Imagine you want to visit a conference or a trade show and want an app to enter the name and topics of the people you met, including a picture of the business card. On submitting the data, a workflow should create a new contact in NAV, save the data as interaction entry and send an email to your sales manager. The initial data from the app needs to be stored somewhere and then be re-used by Microsoft Flow to create the contact. Common Data Services will fill in that gap.

Synamics 365 ecosystem

Common Data Services

As the name suggests, Common Data Services (CDS) will provide services around data to the different applications. The basis for storing the data is the common data model. The model already provides all table structures for most of the applications like CRM (Dynamics 365 for Sales). In our scenario above, a new table with new fields can be created in the model to store the required data from Microsoft Apps. An event is then raised by Common Data Services that a new record has been created. A Microsoft Flow workflow can subscribe to this event and then trigger the next workflow steps - in our case, creating a new contact in NAV via the new OData v4 web services. Version 4 of OData supports full read and write capabilities in NAV.

The accounting hub

Smaller companies that use a chartered accountant need to give access to their financial data. This is made easy through the ability to invite the chartered accountant (CA) via a click of a button. An email is sent to the provided email address and the CA can see and access the company via the Accountant Hub in Office 365. Every Dynamics 365 subscription comes with a free license for the CA so that he or she can access the data, prepare financial statements and store them in Microsoft One Drive.

Dynamics 365 – a complete solution

Together these new features offer the potential to do much more, with Dynamics 365 at the centre of your digital business. We already have expertise across the ecosystem - in Office 365, Power BI and Cognitive Services as well as core Dynamics 365 offerings – and can help you make the most of Dynamics 365 Tenerife’s new features – just as soon as they are available Down Under!

 

 

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Joerg Rau is Theta's Head of ERP.