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My Dynamics 365 Business Central priorities for Microsoft in 2020

by James Crowter
Managing Director, Clever Dynamics

At the start of any new year, most of us set targets for what we want to achieve by the end of it. This year more than most though, I've been struck by how, as a predominantly Dynamics 365 Business Central partner now heavily SaaS-focused, we are dependent on Microsoft more than ever if we are to achieve our potential.

That has led me to compose a list of 'must-haves' for Microsoft that I thought I'd share. These are not specific wishes (I would put those on the BCIdeas site for voting on) but more big-picture-strategic approaches. It would be great if it starts a discussion. Am I way off beam? What's evident to you that I've missed?

1. Give us control of application updates

Users don't know or care about the platform if it runs. What they do notice is when the application changes, especially when it doesn't do what they expected. Microsoft made a significant advance last October by moving the application into an extension. What we need now is for partners or end-users to be in control of when to upgrade that base application extension rather than Microsoft.

That Microsoft automatically applies its cumulative updates to the platform every month is fine, provided of course that they don't break the application. It's then fact that they also automatically apply the application updates as well, and you have no idea it's going to happen until you get the email saying it failed or it’s done.

What we need is for the client or partner to be able to choose when to apply the application cumulative updates. That will mean we can do what we did in the on-premises era: ensure that it was going to fix more than it broke and that any disruption to the client's business is planned, minimised, and managed.

It also gives us the chance to co-ordinate with the multiple ISVs that are normal in the SaaS world and get per-tenant extensions ready, as well. Then we can test the entire application stack.

What I'd like is to be able to start a new sandbox with the new application version and my data, test it to make sure it's OK, and then promote it to production, demoting my existing production tenant to a sandbox at the same time. That gives a default option of going back on the previous production instance if anything doesn't go to plan.

I think Microsoft would be surprised how often upgrade issues happen and how much comfort it provides when that rollback option is there. Preparing for the worst is a core mentality for partners and user regarding their ERP platform provider.  

I'm not advocating for people to be a year behind; I think if the platform could run any CU from the current and previous major release that would be fine. That means that clients would have to do an application upgrade at least once a year, but once customers systems are only customised with extensions it’s a simple scripted process, right? 

2. Scale up the Support Process

The number of support cases we raise with Microsoft has gone up by a factor of thirty since SaaS came in. There is just so much that we cannot do without contacting them. That process is not always going smoothly; Microsoft has to scale up to cope.

Adding to the frustration for our support team, who have decades of experience, they usually know what will fix the client’s issue but are not allowed to do it. Even worse, they have to waste time going through Microsoft support's checklist triage process, often knowing that customer is in growing crisis. It doesn’t seem to change if it's raised as Business Critical. Don’t get me wrong, there are some good people trying hard at MS, just not enough of them and and not enough who can resolve a case without escalation.

We need the new Business Central certifications immediately. And then we need Microsoft to enforce the Business Central gold and silver criteria. The partners who have fifteen certified people, which is what it will take to get gold, should have direct access to second- or even third-line support at Microsoft. Ultimately this will create more space in first-line for those that need the 101 help. The important part is that everyone will get their issue resolved faster.

I know it is a symptom of success to have so much demand, but we want to perpetuate and multiply that success, don't we?

3. More Telemetry

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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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