Top Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Power Platform articles of 2021
As 2021 draws to a close, let's look back at MSDynamicsWorld's most read articles of in the past twelve months.
With Business Apps now serving a more recognizable role at Microsoft, it should perhaps be no surprise that some of the most well-read stories this year focused on the company's broadest announcements: robust financial performance and a maturing industry cloud strategy.
Microsoft also seems to have found more ways to explain the roles of Dynamics 365 applications and Power Platform services in the context of the company's higher profile offerings like Azure cloud services, Teams, and Microsoft 365. That improved visibility alongside data on product growth and new product portfolio updates all fed our readers' interests this year.
Microsoft by the numbers
MSDW's coverage of Microsoft quarterly earnings reached new readership highs in 2021. The rise in earnings interest by our readers could serve as one indicator of shifting perspective in 2021 as the company reported steadily impressive cloud revenue growth, with Dynamics 365 and Power Platform growth holding steady or even accelerating. Microsoft's FY2021 Q4 and full year earnings reported in late July outperformed analyst estimates with Azure growth of 51% and Dynamics 365 revenue growth of 49%. The company ended the fiscal year with net income of $61.3 billion and earnings per share of $8.05.
The company's FY21 Q3 results also beat estimates. “The Microsoft Cloud, with its end-to-end solutions, continues to provide compelling value to our customers generating $17.7 billion in commercial cloud revenue, up 33% year over year," executive vice president and chief financial officer Amy Hood told investors. Azure revenue was up 49% and Dynamics 365 revenue grew 45%.
Microsoft also chose to re-frame Business Applications slightly thanks to the launch of a new Digital Transformation Platform Group in March. Led by James Phillips, who had previously been president of Business Solutions, the new organization covers Phillips' existing portfolio and incorporates Azure AI, Azure Data Platform, Azure IoT Platform, and industry cloud solutions. This new organization had 15,000 Microsoft employees at the time of the announcement, and Phillips continued to report to EVP Scott Guthrie.
Microsoft also revealed that Dynamics 365 Business Central, their SMB ERP offering, cruised past 15,000 cloud customers in April and is seeing 200 percent annual growth in users. The rate of growth in users was higher than the growth in new customers, according to Business Central GM Mike Morton.
Business Central channel veteran James Crowter took the product's successes in stride as in his well-received May article outlining the priorities on which he would ask Microsoft to focus to further strengthen their ERP lineup in the face of stiff global competition. For example:
Despite the lack of backing by Microsoft Corp., the product succeeds thanks to end users loving it and partners filling the gaps. That growth in Business Central wins has led to a chronic shortage of skilled people. The pandemic reduced demand for three months in 2020 but it’s back now and more extreme than ever, with every candidate having multiple offers, some without interview.
I know some at Microsoft have seen the ‘templated implementation methodology’ as a way to sign up more subscriptions without solving this issue and I have no doubt that it has a place in the ecosystem. I believe, though, that it’s starting to make the demand for expertise higher. That is because a lot of the organisations that used this approach to get started now want to go further having reached the limits of the templates.
Pricing and packaging
Products and licensing schemes never stagnate at Microsoft, and as cloud apps and services evolve, so do the parameters of their sales and subscriptions.
Microsoft announced better storage pricing and allowances for Business Central in April, a change aimed to address a major hurdle in the previous model that limited storage to 80GB plus 2 to 3 GB per user.
We also learned in August that the latest iteration of Dynamics 365 HR will make a clean break from the legacy HR capabilities in Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations apps. That decision to proceed with separating the products once and for all seems sound, but it will require some untangling of product features and licensing, Microsoft explained. Overlapping HR features in the other Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations apps will eventually fade away, as late as 2025, but D365 HR will begin to take precedence much sooner, with Lifecycle Services compatibility, functional advances, new integration options, and new licensing.
Power Platform licensing continued to evolve in 2021, too. In July, Microsoft announced plans to lower Power Apps pricing while also simplifying per-app plans. The change was a response to a "significantly accelerating" volume of apps being built atop the platform, Microsoft's Ryan Cunningham stated at the time. The update lowered per-user plans from $40 to $20 per user per month, and per-app plans decreased from $10 to $5 per app per month. Power Apps Portals also received licensing updates. Readers took an interest in June's announcement of new pricing tiers for high volume portals, a move that was designed to bring published costs for hundreds of thousands or millions of logins per month into a realistic range. Looking ahead to 2022, Microsoft has introduced more options like pay-as-you-go pricing, new entitlements for AI Builder, and higher usage volumes.
The Business Apps ecosystem seems to have adapted to Microsoft's twice-yearly release waves for Dynamics 365 and Power Platform. The planning documents get lots of attention from bloggers and partners, while the community also awaits some inevitable surprises that don't make it into the printed version. Perhaps predictably, our coverage of the 2021 release wave 1 plans rose to become one of the most popular items of the year. For more feature-level insights, see articles highlighted in 2021's "best of" article highlighting MSDW contributors.
Microsoft revealed plans for new B2B e-commerce features for Dynamics 365 Commerce in January that add account relations, partner management, account-based promotions, distributed order management, and more. Those enhancements helped Microsoft launch the Microsoft Cloud for Retail, which consolidates the company's retail industry offerings from Dynamics 365, Power Platform, Microsoft Advertising, Azure, and Microsoft 365. The company pursued similar goals across a range of industry cloud solutions in 2021.
Dynamics 365 Sales got a new mobile app in 2021. It provides a better experience on mobile interfaces than the model-driven interface with optimized views, better information capture using device controls, and better access to information via search.
Microsoft also revealed its plans to bring user group support in-house in March. After keeping user groups at arm's length for years, the new plans involved a dedicated internal team that wants to support individual user groups with technology infrastructure and organizational tools. Microsoft estimated at the time of the announcement that that there were approximately 700 local user groups globally. Not all of those groups have lined up with Microsoft's approach yet, but the team seems poised to offer more enticements to local leaders in 2022 like better access to Microsoft personnel and some technology updates.
Other popular reporting from 2021:
- Microsoft reveals plans for Dynamics 365 and industry cloud 2021 release wave 2 (July 2021)
- Microsoft Power Platform pros react to Power Fx announcement (March 2021)
- Azure Synapse Link for Dataverse expands Dynamics 365, Power Platform data analytics options: Build 2021 (May 2021)
- Warehouse execution scale unit reaches GA for Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management (May 2021)
- Ecolab expands use of Microsoft Dynamics 365 mixed reality, HoloLens 2 with virtual visits in life sciences (June 2021)
- Microsoft Power BI 2021 Release Wave 2: What it means for users and enterprises (Nov 2021)
- Ignite 2021: Microsoft reveals at least six new Teams integration points coming to Dynamics 365 (March 2021)
- Microsoft promises partners new commerce options, a maturing industry strategy in 2021 (Feb 2021)
- Microsoft Dynamics 365 Field Service closing in on $200 million in annual revenue: Analyst report (Oct 2021)
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