During the first week of March 2021, Microsoft Ignite was held as a fully virtual event uniting more than 100.000 IT professionals across the globe. Engage Group attended the event and will be hosting a webinar on the 18th of March to share our in-dept insights, see registration link HERE. Although Ignite covers the entire Microsoft Cloud offering, this article will focus on key takeaways from a Business Applications perspective. For a complete overview of all announcements, see: MS Ignite – Book of News 2021.
More insights related to Dynamics 365- and Power Platform was certainly expected. However, as the Microsoft Business Application Launch event being just 1 month away, it might be a thoughtful move by Microsoft to save the highlights for this event. With that said, there were still a few really exciting announcements.
A number of new- and updated capabilities were announced during the event which could be summarized into the following three pillars:
- Dynamics 365 Intelligent Order Management – A completely new Dynamics 365 app that caught many by surprise. The app is designed to realize omnichannel scenarios such as “buy anywhere, fulfill anywhere”. To simplify, the idea is to connect sales channels with fulfillment options and then apply AI to surface exceptions and then provide recommended solutions.
- Customer journey orchestration – An improved capability included in the Dynamics 365 Marketing app with the intention to create real-time personalized customer experiences for each individual. Also here, AI is utilized to drive personalization across digital and physical touchpoints.
- New integrations between Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Teams – Enhanced workflow capabilities as well as communication enhancements tailored for Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Human Resource and Commerce. Examples being shared Teams chat windows embedded into Dynamics 365 Sales and Tasks created in Teams which could be surfaced within the Dynamics POS client.
Summary: Microsoft continues to invest in enhancing collaboration across various Dynamics 365 apps and related services allowing customers to leverage new innovation in a faster pace than ever. Infusing AI capabilities across the Dynamics 365 ecosystem is the new normal. We have only seen the beginning here but make no mistake, AI will be a natural part of all CRM and ERP capabilities in the near future. Dataverse, the cloud storage solution which originated from the customer engagement apps is getting an increasingly dominant role within the Dynamics 365 and Power Platform landscape. A major driver is the new AI capabilities, which typically leverage Dataverse as a key component.
A new programming language together with a number of IT governance improvements summarizes the key announcements related to Power Platform.
- Microsoft Power Fx – The first open-source, low-code programming language applicable across the entire Power Platform. This is not a new concept within Power Platform but has now received an official name. It still leverages Excel formulas to reduce barriers for citizen developers.
IT Governance and Security features – New features added in Power Platform admin center to efficiently monitor and secure data across large instances of Power Platform environments.
Summary: As low-code-/no-code adoption surges due to an increasing demand of digitizing manual processes, the need for robust governance will be increasingly important. Balancing user innovation but at the same time providing guardrails to secure sensitive data will be crucial. Customers has raised this as a concern within Power Platform throughout the years and Microsoft is now heavily investing in this area. Another interesting topic that was debated extensively was the idea of viewing low-code development as a “team sport” where business users and professional developers work together as “fusion teams”. The idea that the professional developer is no longer needed in a low-code environment is a common misunderstanding. Rather, the professional developer will continue to play a key role in terms of providing “building blocks” to business users which then could be utilized to solve complex scenarios.
For an indepth discussion on key takeaways from Microsoft Ignite 2021, make sure to register for our webinar the 18th of March.