One year later: Rating my 2020 Dynamics 365 Business Central priorities for Microsoft

April 28 2021

Back in January last year, MSDynamicsWorld were good enough to publish what I thought should be the ten priorities for Dynamics 365 Business Central. Just a couple of weeks later, leaving an in-person meeting in Seattle (remember those?), Mike Ehrenburg, Microsoft Technical Fellow and BC team leader at that time, thanked me for "giving us our work-to list".

After the recent wave 21/1 announcements, I got to wondering just how many had been resolved and what others should go on my list now. What would my score out of ten be for their performance?

1. Control of Application Updates (done or coming)

With the news that with 18.1 (at least for North America) you will have three weeks in each cycle to choose the date and time you want updates applied, I have what I asked for. With the admin centre allowing you to see what updates were available for AppSource extensions and choose to apply them was a good first step. Combined these two changes give us what we asked for. 10/10

2. Scale up the Support Process

I’m aware this is subjective and for some it's never going to be enough. My experience though has been good. Speed and quality of response seem to have improved and I’ve seen much more proactive messaging. When combined with better partner and admin tools to cancel user sessions for instance and the improvements in performance and reliability, I have no concerns about support right now. 10/10

3. More Telemetry

Wow, OK, you have aced this one, Microsoft, and Kennie in particular. There is way more potential than is being exploited, but the signals are there. Despite numerous examples of extracts and dashboards I still think the majority of partners and ISVs aren’t using much yet. It’s certainly on my ‘must do’ list, but thanks to the mass of other changes never seems to get to the top. 10/10

4. Introduce Solution Design Reviews

The first fail. As an MVP I often get asked about Microsoft future plans because the impression is out there that we have sight of those early. That’s almost completely disappeared with no MVP group activities for a while now. Maybe I’ve just been left out? Some of us have one-on-one calls with individual people at Microsoft, but there seems a comlete reliance on the Ideas site for suggestions. My trouble with that approach is that votes don’t always indicate value and there is no consultation or debate about how the issues highlighted on Ideas could best be tackled. 2/10

5. Early Adopter Programme

Progress here, but it could still be improved. That Microsoft has facilitated the adoption of true DevOps pipelines and improved the accessibility of automated testing has massively improved the ISV and developer’s world. Giving the ability to create sandboxes with the major new version a month ahead of release is also a great win. It would be even better if we could copy a production tenant when the new version is ready for preview so we could try it with ‘real world’ data and processes. 6/10

6. Lean Extensions Strategy

There are now more extensions installed in a new tenant than when I wrote the article. I did get a couple of messages from Microsoft saying why they couldn’t just remove Yodlee, and it has now gone from GB tenants. But there are now less than 26 Microsoft extension over and above the System Base Application in a new tenant. Despite the API recently introduced I think a function that lets me conditionally install from a setup wizard would be even better. In additional I’d like to see extensions by date installed or updated so I can quickly see what’s changed. And let me write some notes on the extensions page please. Managing extensions is now a major part of looking after a Business Central implementation. 4/10

7. Admin & Automation APIs

Much better, in fact getting to the point where they are everything I need. I can now automate Business Central’s deployment into an existing or new tenant, installing the extensions I want (including from AppSource after w21/1) and removing those I do not. I can also push as many configuration packages for prebuilt data into a tenant. I can set notification recipients and, post 18.1, to control updates. It is down to the partners now to raise their game and be proper managed service providers. The ball is in our court. 10/10

8. Fix the licencing

Partial win. I still have to have an flf license, but the EP to CSP SKU that Microsoft introduced last June combined with them (eventually) getting the CSP Dual Use licence fit for use has reduced the pain considerably. And with the majority of new projects now SaaS-based and more on-premises clients now migrating to the cloud, we now see a reduced need for traditional flf licences.  If Microsoft can replace the CFMD programme with an add-on licensing model that lines up with AppSource, that will complete what they need to do for me. After that I’d rather their resources went elsewhere. Oh, one final point, the EP to CSP SKU is set to die in June. It needs to be continued for the next couple of years at least. One chance of renewal is not enough, especially for those who had that chance last June to August when it was completely new and not totally understood. 8/10

9. Monetization for AppSource.

Nothing to say except fail. Not good enough. Poor. 0/10

10. Fix the Functionality Gaps

Like all the NAV veterans reading this I still, have a long list of gaps, but I am quietly surprised by the progress for the last couple of releases. I spend most of my time in warehousing and manufacturing and even those have seen some improvements. That they have finally solved my issues with variants on production orders. A route and BOM per SKU is amazing, I’ve had to customise these for twenty years until now. Dimension restrictions in finance, the list is longer than you think and definitely accelerating from what we saw. I want more, but progress is there for me. 7/10 

Then there are the requests I did not list:

11. Performance

Odd I didn’t list performance, it’s another area where my perception is that very significant progress has been and continues to be made. Maybe it is not solved, but every instance I’ve come across recently has been as the result of customisation design and with reconfiguration been resolved. For me, performance is now in the control of ISVs and partners. I hope Microsoft continue the work because it can never be too fast, but it is more than good enough.  8/10

12. Space Quotas

What should have been on my list was the storage quota and additional costs which just were not realistic. That the w21/1 announcements indicated this is solved which is a massive win. I’m happy that the new per-user allocations are fair, especially when combined with the reduced additional storage fees. Nice one, Microsoft. 10/10

13. Localisations

Lots more of them, and accessibility wherever you are. I have my global company with four production tenants for the UK, US, Australia, and Hong Kong all in one AD organisation with easy cross reporting. It costs extra for those production tenants, but it should do. The value is there. Yes, there are a few localisation still to come but every release sees progress. 9/10

So that’s 107 out of 130, a good score by anyone’s expectation. The sections that let Microsoft down were monetisation and consultation. Given that COVID hit two months after the original article was published, they have a legitimate excuse on why consultation may have suffered as events such as Directions and NAVUG that typically facilitated those discussions haven’t been in person. They should get better in the future, post-pandemic. The monetisation is not down to the Business Central team but a higher pay grade in Microsoft. Satya, if you still read MSDynamicsWorld, give your people a hurry up, please!

Getting the level of progress we’ve seen in the last fifteen months was certainly beyond my expectations for this timescale when I wrote the article so well-done Microsoft. It is an especially strong performance given that Mike Morton came in as the new GM in early to mid 2020 and hit the ground running, but lots of thanks should go to Christian, Claus, Dimitry, Andrei, Mike, Jens, Kennie, Freddy, Kurt, and many more in the team who have delivered despite lockdown.

Next week I’ll publish my new list -- well, you didn’t think I was satisfied, did you? You must know me better than that?  

PS. Last year's top ten article came back to me via our old friend Paul White with a NetSuite logo on it. I’m guessing they won’t be some keen to pay MsDynamicsWorld reprint fees for this one! 

Image Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_flynt'>Brian Jackson</a>

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About James Crowter

I'm passionate about how businesses can improve their efficiency by getting process optimal more of the time. For the last twenty five years I've worked to help organisations of all sizes and types implement the ERP & CRM software that typically they decide they need when things are going wrong. I've seen that work unbelievably well and enabled those organisations to rapidly grow but I've also had some hard projects over that time where it's felt more like warfare at times.

Since 1996 (and version 1.01) I've been working with a small Danish product called Navision that's now become Microsoft's Dynamics NAV and I've also been using and consulting around Microsoft CRM since 2005. As managing Director of one of the longest established first Navision and now Microsoft Dynamics partners I've been involved in the complete history including numerous product councils and system design reviews. It's my privilege to know many of the key Microsoft executives and product designers and have insight into both where the products are now and their future direction.

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Comments

David_Singleton's picture

James this is a great summary, you have captured this well.

I would only disagree on two points.
1/ Updates I would give 7/10. They lost points because we can't schedule recurring updated, for example "Set updates to 1.00am on the 3rd Saturday of the month"

2/ Telemetry I would give 11/10 :)

10/ I first request Variants on Production orders around 1998. So yeah that was a long wait.

Can't wait to read your next list.