Your first reaction is probably – duh, I know! Well – I’m late, that’s true. At Directions North America, Microsoft announced the availability of the new version of Business Central – and I didn’t spend one single post on it. Until now. Reason is simple – I was quite busy at the conference, and I didn’t want to lose too much time on writing. I need to spend 14 hours in a plane anyway – which I’m doing at this point. Greetings from the sky!
Directions North America
This was by far the best Directions NA to date. Not only thanks to the content, but the organization and the location was magnificent. Not too far from the airport, nor the city. Great hotel, great venue, great food. On top of that, great speakers, great content in an abundance of interesting sessions.
I am so much looking forward to the next conference, which will this time be in May next year (Las Vegas) – when the next release of Business Central will be release (oh yes – we will have a 6-months cadence going forward – read on if you want to know more…). This means that from now on, Directions NA will be in spring, while Directions EMEA will be in fall. We will not be able to speak about “conference season” anymore – as that’s going to be all year :-).
I was honored to do some sessions and workshops this year, as I already mentioned in a previous post. Usually, that means I spend a lot of time in the hotel room or speaker room to prepare.
This year, I wanted to catch as much content as at all possible. During most of them, just listening with one ear to the content, and the other was mostly unavailable, because I was preparing for my own sessions as well. This means: no notes whatsoever. So I’ll have to draft this blogpost from memory. Now – my family say that my memory doesn’t go further than 24 hours, so I can’t promise any valuable or truthful information going forward ….. how is that for a disclaimer ;-).
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central Released: On Premise and in the Cloud
Starting October 1st, we have the official release of the new version of Microsoft Dynamics NAV, which is now called Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. Both On Premise as in the Cloud. So, yes, now we can download DVDs ;-). The pillars that Microsoft has been working on are
Let me go over the stuff that I have found very interesting during these days. Again: I didn’t catch it all, that was simply not possible, but I might write a follow-up post with resources on where you can catch it all! I might – but don’t wait for me – there always is google ;-).
One of the most noticeable new features it the new UI for the Web Client: you can basically now work with the Web Client as if it was a newspaper. I personally very much like the web client as it is now. It is much more efficient and certainly has a very modern taste to it.
This Modern UI is now all over: Phone, Web, Tablet and the Universal client. Not the Windows Client, though… But you all know what that means (later more about that…).
New features were introduced, like:
- Headlines – a way to have rotating text on the role center, with interesting information, and links to details to this interesting information.
- More intuitive buttons on the different page-types, like the “back” button, Next/Previous record, Toggle Read/Write, … .
- They used even telemetry to introduce a better order of the actions.
Lots of keyboarding shortcuts have been introduced. Just to name a few:
- F8 – oh yes, it’s back! (and there was even an applause when they showed it :-))
- Shift+Down/Up to selects records
- CTRL+C to copy rows
- ALT+Q to end up in the heavily enhanced “search” feature
- ALT+F3 – Filter
And quite a lot more. Here is a complete overview: https://aka.ms/bckeys
- Ability to paste content as records. As said, you can copy rows, and you can paste them as new rows, you can even paste records from excel.
Filter Records: As you might remember, we were not able to decently filter records. Now we can! The full Monty! Filter on many fields, and even with a shortcut ALT+F3, which
- Opens the filter pane
- And already filters the field and value of the active field. Love it!
And of course – yes – now we can use flowfilters again!
A heavily enhanced search. You all know the “search page”. Well, this now finds so much more, and it is going to show the results somewhat more intelligent. It’s called now “Tell me“.. and I love it!
- You can open de search with ALT+Q, and when performed a search, you can simply press “Down” and execute the requested action.
- First of all, they introduced a “fuzzy search”: if it sounds “kind of” the same, it might still find what you are looking for.
- Second, it is also going to look for any interesting documentation on Microsoft Docs
- It is also going to search Actions on a page. You know some pages have quite some actions. Starting to keyboard through them might take time. I’m using this myself from the minute I know it exists now – love it! Just ALT+Q, keyboard the action, down, enter: done! No mouse needed!
- Also somewhat related to “Modern UI” is the new PowerBI reports that are being made available. For Business Central in the cloud, Microsoft even auto-deploys PowerBI. We all have been struggling with it – so I appreciate this very much ;-).
Microsoft made it very clear: the power of the future is going to be in the data.
For this release, Microsoft already added some more features in getting more out of the data, by introducing machine learning in different areas. From what I remember: a prediction in overdue invoices, with actions for you to be able to block the customer, or ask for a prepayment. The functionality takes all your payment information and puts it in an AI model, where it predicts future payments.. .
This was an example of what Microsoft is doing, and will continue doing going forward. In the upcoming release, you may expect more “intelligence” on your data.
Now, does this mean that all these services are only going to be available for the cloud-version? No! Microsoft is working towards something that is called “The intelligent cloud for On Premise (Intelligent Edge)”
Here is an intro video:
And the description on Microsoft Docs:
In the demo, they showed GP, which had this connector set up, and which was actually going to fill a Business Central (read only) tenant with the data from GP, resulting with all the goodies Business Central has:
- The role center
- The different clients (like the phone client)
- PowerBI reports
It actually used Business Central as a kind of data warehouse. I unfortunately didn’t have time to attend a breakout session on that, but I will sure do that during Directions EMEA to get more information about this.
Microsoft is improving the world of (CSP) partners as well, by building an “Admin Center” for them: a portal (which is already available) to control certain things about their customers, like:
- Setting up an upgrade-window that Microsoft will respect when pushing upgrades
Providing telemetry for a lot of things
- Which extension are they using
- Which objects within the extension are used
- Failure messages
And yes – all this is available through an API!
- The ability to set up a sandbox environment WITH production data, to be able to debug with relevant data.
The question I have on this is how the partners of apps are going to get this telemetry – I think it would be very useful for them as well! From what I’ve seen – very interesting!
One of the biggest things that was shown for me as a developer, was the very fact that Microsoft was able to completely convert their C/AL code to AL. In fact, the night before the second keynote, after two years of hard labor, the developers at Microsoft were able to do a successful conversion – and they were able to run a service with only AL objects, no C/AL whatsoever.
Make no mistake: This.Is.Huge!
But – don’t over-think it either, please. One might think that the move to extensions is not necessary anymore. Wrong!
Yes, in theory, we would be able to do the same in AL as in C/AL: totally f.. up the database by customizing existing objects. Let’s not do that.
Extensions solve your upgrade-problem. Move to extension, and make sure you are able to catch up with all these releases going forward.
The general feeling that many people have regarding the evolution of Business Central is: it’s moving FAST. Well, that’s all the reason you need to make your product, and your customers as upgradable as at all possible. It’s more than time to move away from the old development and customization model. The ability to migrate C/AL to AL isn’t changing that paradigm at all!
The only thing you need to get out of the “AL Only” model is the good news that in the very near future, we will actually be working with the awesome development environment we have been craving for years!
And – if you would wonder how long it took to compile 5800 objects – 2 minutes :-). Are you still afraid of having so many objects in your app? 😉
I’d like to end the “real” content with a few miscellaneous topics:
- Microsoft is going to heavily work on testability. They request testability for all our apps, and now they promised decent tools for us to execute it. Finally ;-).
On top of that, Freddy is also very much working on improving the Docker experience, like:
- set up scripts for an easy CI/CD implementation
- Making the images smaller so they can be used on ACI (also to facilitate CI/CD scenarios)
- The version of the AL Language VSIX was always very dependable on the version you were developing for. Not anymore. The version online (on the marketplace) will be very regularly updated with the newest features, while it’s backwards compatible to the old versions.
There was more to it – but this is what I remember 😉
The Ready To Go program
Don’t worry, I’m not going too deep into the “Ready To Go Program”, because I already did. But do know that this program is still very active, and a great way for you to get going on all the new stuff.
One thing that has changed recently is that the learning material has been made publicly available on youtube!
Yes, you read the title well: from now on, it’s not going to be a yearly-release, but every 6 months, Microsoft will work towards a new (major) release. This is also the reason why Directions US has be moved to the Spring, so we will have Directions US around the spring release of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, and we will have Directions EMEA for the fall release.
Wow, you made it to the end ;-). Well, at least after this:
As already said, Microsoft will invest in getting as much as possible out of the data that you have, so you can run your business as “intelligent” as possible.
Going forward, in 12 to 24 months, we will only work with the Web Client as Microsoft will continue work on making the Web Client as efficient as at all possible. Last but not least, as already mentioned, Microsoft is already able to convert their app to AL, well – in 12 to 24 months, they will only ship AL (and do know, there is no conversion-tool planned from AL to C/AL ;-)). I can hardly wait ;-).