Our Top 10 Features of 2021 – Microsoft Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform

As 2021 draws to a close, we wanted to highlight our top additions to Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform. With two major wave releases this year and plenty of incremental updates being announced in between, we have been once again impressed by the features and functionality Microsoft continues to develop, to ensure the technology is always the best it can be.

Take a look below to see our top 10 picks from the year…

1. Microsoft Teams embedded chat in Dynamics 365

Our first top pick is the Microsoft Teams embedded chat in Dynamics 365. This allows users to link Teams chats with internal or external contacts to a Dynamics 365 record, without the need to dig through loads of chat sessions in order to find the relevant information.

Embedded chat provides the same chat functionality you would expect if working directly in Teams and means that users no longer need to switch between applications, saving them time and providing a better user experience.

2. Custom Pages for Model-Driven Apps

This exciting feature was announced earlier in the year, at the Business Applications Summit in May. This was a big leap forward for Power Apps and came as part of the modern App Designer experience for creating and editing model-driven apps.

Previously, model-driven app design was very structured, with set layouts for dashboards, views, and forms. However, by introducing canvas-like pages, users have more freedom to create bespoke layouts and interfaces, without the need for costly development.

This feature enables the creation of landing pages with data pulled from across the business, data-driven pages that use a record’s data to change the experience, dialog designed to optimise business actions, and productivity tools that support the main tasks for the app.

3. Hosting events with Teams and Dynamics 365 Marketing

This year has seen several new additions to the capabilities from the Teams and Dynamics 365 Marketing integration. For our Marketing Manager, Jess, the stand-out thing has been the improved ability for hosting Teams events.

Leveraging this integration, users can:

  • Create events within D365 or Teams
  • Leverage marketing forms to collect registrations and store the data within D365
  • Use customer journeys to promote the event
  • Improve audience engagement using features such as PowerPoint Live, Presenter Mode, real-time polls and surveys
  • Follow-up after the event using email marketing capabilities in D365 Marketing
  • Use the in-built dashboard to see registrant analytics, such as attendee status, duration, join time, leave time, etc

4. Pay-as-you-go Power Apps Licensing

This long-awaited announcement was made at the Ignite conference in November, providing a new level of flexibility to Power Apps users and ensuring customers are only paying for what they use, as opposed to every user.

This option is particularly useful for organisations that have an app, but the usage is perhaps unpredictable or occasional. Or, for businesses who want to get started but don’t want the upfront commitment to buy a number of licenses.

5. Real-time marketing capabilities

Our Technical Delivery Lead, Nick, has chosen real-time marketing capabilities as his top feature from 2021. By leveraging AI and natural language, users can build up event-based journeys that reach customers across touchpoints and engage in real-time, helping to strengthen those all-important relationships.

Features such as event-based journeys, custom event triggers, SMS, and push notifications, allow businesses to take their marketing to new heights, remain front of mind and react to actions in the moments that matter.

6. Co-presence in Power Automate

In September, Microsoft announced the availability of co-presence in Power Automate, providing more collaborative maker experiences across the platform. For one of our Technical Consultants, Jake, this is an impressive feature that has made his top picks of the year.

When it comes to developing complex workflows, there is often a need to collaborate with colleagues to gain their input and experience. The introduction of co-presence in Power Automate enables multiple users to work on flows at the same time and shows users who else is editing the flow in real-time. If multiple users make changes to the flow simultaneously, the technology detects conflicts during the flow save operation and presents appropriate options to minimise conflicts.

At PragmatiQ, our projects often require multiple technical consultants to work in collaboration at various points. This feature has been a game-changer for the team when working on flows together and we look forward to seeing what else is in store for Power Automate in 2022.

7. In-app notifications for model-driven apps

Another feature announced this year was the in-app notifications for model-driven apps, something that was anticipated for a while beforehand.

Notifications can be accessed by clicking the bell icon in the header, which displays the new notification count (see the image below). This will open the notification centre and show the latest notifications first.

This feature enables users to stay on top of important tasks whilst they work, without navigating out of the system. These notifications provide timely messages with relevant information, such as alerting you to an account that has been updated, an upcoming service reminder, a missed SLA, and more.

8. Power Fx

Back in March this year, at the Ignite 2021 Conference, Microsoft announced the launch of Power Fx; an open source formula language for low code, based on Microsoft Excel.

As it is based on Excel, the language is immediately more familiar for a lot of users, flattening the learning curve and allowing more people to get involved with development. It also follows the same low-code nature as the rest of the Power Platform enhancing the speed of development, and due to the simple and concise syntax, encourages users of all abilities.

9. New experience for Dynamics 365 & Microsoft Teams

Our Technical Director, Jamie, has selected the new Dynamics 365 & Teams experience as his top feature of 2021.

Within Microsoft Teams, users can view and collaborate on Dynamics 365 records, at no additional cost. This kind of integration and accessibility across an organisation is not offered by other technology vendors, without the need to pay for multiple underlying software licenses.

Dynamics 365 users can invite anyone in the business to view and collaborate on customer records, from within a Teams chat or channel. As a result, the right individuals can take the required action, without the need to switch applications.

Examples of how departments could use this:

  • Sales Teams – Share detailed information on sales opportunities, customer history, health of customer relationships, key contacts and more
  • Customer Service Representatives – Share customer case records, sourcing troubleshooting steps and tracking follow-up tasks
  • Service Engineer – Enable an agent to fix a customer’s issue by adding notes with troubleshooting steps to the customer service case record
  • Field Technician – Notify notify sales teams about products nearing end-of-life, so the sales team can proactively reach out with replacement options

10. Deal manager in Dynamics 365 Sales

Generally, the dashboards within Dynamics 365 are only able to offer users a high-level overview of their data. The Deal Manager in D365 Sales that was announced earlier this year, is a dedicated workspace for sellers to effectively manage their sales pipeline. It is fully customisable, allowing users to personalise the workspace for their needs.

Users can interact with the dashboard and click on the charts, then use the panel on the side to edit opportunity data, add tasks or notes, add contacts, etc, item by item. For a user working through their pipeline in this experience, there is no need to search and move between records, which can be a poor user experience. Instead, you can work through the whole thing within this single view with the inline editing experience.

What’s next?

Throughout the year, we have seen some brilliant new features roll out across Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform. We can only expect this to continue next year and are excited to see what Microsoft has in store for 2022. In January, we will have more details about the 2022 Release Wave 1, which will be rolling out from March, so watch this space for blog posts around that.

If you would like more information about how PragmatiQ Solutions can support your business, please get in touch by emailing us at [email protected] or calling us on 01908 038110. Alternatively, fill out the form below and a member of our team will be in touch shortly.