Microsoft recently changed the way they approach upgrades for the Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform and have moved to a continuous delivery cycle. This means the major updates (every April and October) cannot be avoided but must be scheduled or will automatically be applied – with any major changes being automatically disabled to minimise disruption. You can read more about this change and the impacts in our article “Best practices for the new Dynamics 365 upgrade approach”.
As part of the new release programme, Microsoft publish release notes approximately two or three months ahead of the updates’ general availability, giving companies and users a chance to review what’s coming. The release notes provide a comprehensive overview of what’s coming, but at 315 pages it can be off-putting! This article will highlight the key updates coming to Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement in April 2019. You can also review the full release notes here. Overall, there are not many major changes coming in April 2019 update and more of the updates are to the complementing Power Platforms (PowerApps, Flow, AI and Common Data Model) rather than 'core CRM'.
What is being updated?
The April 2019 release includes many new capabilities, which span the entire Dynamics platform. The Dynamics platform has rapidly grown in recent years and now combines CRM and ERP together with a lightweight and heavyweight option. All elements will be receiving updates in April, which include:
- Dynamics 365 for Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, Field Service, Project Service and Portals (aka ‘Customer Engagement’ plan; heavyweight CRM)
- Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, Retail and Talent (aka ‘Unified Operations’ plan; heavyweight ERP)
- Dynamics 365 for Business Central (separate licensing; smaller-scale CRM and ERP combined)
Plus, complementing solutions and areas that tie in closely with Dynamics 365:
- AI and Mixed Reality
- Power Platform (Power BI, PowerApps and Flow)
- Common Data Model (CDM) and Integration
This post is just looking at the updates to the Customer Engagement applications to summarise what’s new, so if any catch your eye you can read in more detail in the release notes or focus on these when the preview is available.
Dynamics 365 for Sales
The Sales application within Dynamics 365 is well-established, and this update doesn’t see many radical changes, simply enhancements and improvements to core functionality and building upon integrations and third-party tools.
Simple team forecasting (GA April 2019) – New dashboards and reports to help you view sales forecasting data and trends, as well as the ability to roll-up values based on accounts, products etc.
Playbooks (GA April 2019) – Capture sales knowledge and best practices and then receive content recommendations for sending to opportunities and leads based on past experiences and successes.
Work within Microsoft Teams (GA April 2019) – Recently Microsoft provided Teams and Dynamics 365 integration allowing individual records to be surfaced in Teams. This update allows teams to collaborate at scale on record views, such as open leads (rather than a specific lead for example), as well as getting enhanced AI insights through the Dynamics 365 bot for Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft Relationship Sales (MRS) (GA April 2019) – Anyone with a Sales app licence (or Customer Engagement plan) can view basic LinkedIn profile information within Dynamics 365.
More third-party tools (GA April 2019) – You will be able to integrate with more third-party sales tools to surface data within Dynamics 365 – currently you can integrate with InsideView and Versium and this update will allow more connections.
Integrate with partner quoting tools (GA April 2019) – Choose from third-party add-in quoting systems that integrate with Dynamics 365 (Note: additional costs likely to apply). This allows sales members to improve and streamline quoting and click to quote within Dynamics 365.
Quite a lot of the newer Sales features have been made in ‘AI for Sales’ which is an add-on for Sales licences and provides artificial intelligence capabilities.
Dynamics 365 for Customer Service
Customer Service has always been core to ‘CRM’ and this update brings some exciting new releases. The new releases coming cover ‘core’ Customer Service and the new Omni-channel Engagement Hub, which was released as a preview last October 2018 and will be generally available in the April update.
Core Customer Service
Customise case resolutions (GA June 2019) – Tailor case resolution processes based on your specific requirements.
Usability enhancements (Preview March 2019) – Improvements to the case form UI and timeline visuals, as well as SLA enhancements with better visuals and the option to view SLA’s based on Actual hours and Business hours.
Knowledge base enhancements (Preview April 2019) – New knowledge article templates will be made available and organisations will also be able to use knowledge management analytics. This will allow you to analyse knowledge base keyword search terms to gain a better understanding of any common gaps in agent/engineer knowledge or missing information in your knowledge base.
Use Chrome in Unified Service Desk (Preview March 2019) – The ability to use Google Chrome for web apps in Unified Service Desk.
Omni-channel Engagement Hub
This is a cloud service that allows organisations to resolve issues and cases with their customers through different channels – text (SMS) and live chat. It will be accessed via a web browser or through a Unified Service Desk interface (a dedicated window for call centre agents that connects to Dynamics 365 for Customer Service). Like the Unified Service desk, this keeps agents/engineers within the same window will all the core information that they need to work on multiple cases.
Omni-channel engagement hub came out as a Preview in October 2018 and the following features will be made generally available or come into preview between April and September 2019.
Multi-session agent experiences (Preview for Web in April 2019, GA for Unified Service Desk in July 2019)
- Agent dashboards – View work items, open tickets etc in a simple dashboard
- Multiple sessions – work on multiple cases and easily switch between them all across different channels
- See full customer information (i.e. recent interactions and history)
- Relevant tabs – add quick links and new tabs within the same window to avoid moving between programs (i.e. internal apps, external websites, etc)
- Pop-ups and notifications when new conversations are assigned
- Agent transfer to move the case to someone else
- Add other agents to the case if additional knowledge required
- Quick replies with pre-configured messages to save time
- Send and receive attachments
- Presence management
- Search and knowledge base
Supervisor features (GA July 2019) – The ability for supervisors to see different views to drill down into detail or view case overviews, track statistics/ team performance and step in or help consult with agents.
Unified routing (GA July 2019) – Automate processes for case routing and availability so the right task is given to the right agent.
Live chat (GA July 2019) – The new live chat customer service channel will bring a whole range of features to allow companies to deliver service via live chat. These features include: provision chat widgets, create pre- and post-chat questionnaires, apply custom themes, sensitive data masking, chat transcripts, attachments and business hour rules.
SMS (Preview March 2019) – As well as the live chat channels, companies will be able to use SMS text messaging with capabilities including: setup SMS channels (phone numbers and short codes), two-way texting, automated SMS notifications (i.e. reminders, welcome etc) and conversational views of text messages. Note: two-way texting requires Telesign subscription.
Portal messaging (GA July 2019) – Ability to receive and communicate on cases through Dynamics 365 Portals, coming into the omni-channel hub alongside SMS, live chat etc.
Bring your own Bot (Preview April 2019) – Companies can connect their Bots (if built on Microsoft Bot framework) to the Omni-Channel Engagement Hub.
Dynamics 365 for Marketing
Dynamics 365 for Marketing is still relatively new having been released April 2018, so this update sees a whole host of updates to provide a more robust marketing offering; building upon its foundations and improving integrations.
Smart scheduling (Preview April 2019) – This AI feature will build up preferred email times for each recipient based on insights and analytics, such as typical open time of day to increase your chance of email engagement success.
Email spam score (Preview April 2019) – Automated email spam scoring to help predict your email deliverability.
API extensions (GA April 2019) – Microsoft will release APIs for customer journeys and segments to allow companies to integrate these with external services or Microsoft tools, such as Flow.
CMS integration (GA April 2019) – Dynamics 365 for Marketing will be able to integrate with your website CMS, allowing forms or surveys etc to be hosted on your website rather than a Dynamics 365 Portal, which allows better marketing analytics.
Twitter Social posting (GA April 2019) – Create and schedule social posts to synchronise your campaign messaging. For now, social posting will only be available for Twitter, but more channels will be added over time.
Better trials and onboarding (GA April 2019) – New customers or trial users will receive guided instructions and tasks to help simplify trial sign-ups and new user onboarding.
Campaign lifecycle improvements (GA April 2019) – Enjoy consistent campaign lifecycle management with clear and unified stages.
Personalised webpages (Preview April 2019) – Personalise your landing pages based on prospects i.e. show different content, branding or layouts based on who is interacting (i.e. Member vs Non-Member, B2B vs B2C etc).
Mixed reality (Preview June 2019) – Marketers can now embed mixed/augmented reality content into emails and marketing pages allowing customers to view their products and interact with them.
Improved event registration (GA April 2019) – Event registration has been improved to allow session registrations to be separate from full event registration for better capacity management, organisation and insights into popular sessions.
Improved marketing list segmentation (GA April 2019) – Enhancements to the segmentation experience without any need for IT knowledge, plus performance enhancements.
Dynamics 365 for Field Service
Dynamics 365 for Field Service helps organisations to manage customer services out in the field i.e. home visits. This update sees some scheduling improvements and mainly additional IoT enhancements.
Embedded IoT (GA June & July 2019) – IoT integrations were introduced in Oct 2018 update and this update sees further improvements with the next level of integration with IoT Central to be fully embedded within the Field Service application.
Scheduling improvements (GA Sept 2019) – At the core of Field Service is scheduling and these updates enhance its current capabilities with: location optimisation (setting start and end locations for technicians), self-service scheduling via a portal, ‘ASAP’ scheduling, and optimisation insights to high better insights into scheduling objectives and results.
Dynamics 365 Portal
Portals allow you to surface information within Dynamics 365 to external audiences, such as clients, members or partners. This allows you to keep your information secure but give access to useful data to external audiences.
Portal diagnostic tool improvements (GA April 2019) - Easily self-diagnose your portal configuration and setup with this tool, which flags issues and shows suggested resolutions.
Maintenance mode (GA April 2019) – Ability to quickly display a ‘website under maintenance’ message during upgrades or maintenance.
External Data display (GA April 2019) – Connect to external APIs to securely to surface external data.
Power BI embedding (Preview April 2019) - Display Power BI dashboards and reports to users without a Power BI account.
Connect to CDS for Apps (Preview April 2019) – Connect a portal to a Common Data Service (CDS) for Apps environments.
Overall, there are some great additions coming to Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement to help companies continue to use Dynamics 365 for customer relationship management, or ‘anything’ relationship management (xRM). As many of the Customer Engagement applications are already well established there are not too many major updates and instead many of the updates coming in April 2019 focus on the complementing solutions such as the Power Platform products, AI capabilities and general integration thanks to the Common Data Service (CDS).
Over the next few months and years, it will likely be these areas that bring the added value to Dynamics 365 – empowering organisations to integrate and unify systems, simplify business processes across applications and give staff tools to get more from their data without specialist knowledge.
April 2019 update key milestones & dates:
|Preview available||1st Feb 2019||Try the new updates in preview in a sandbox environment. Find out more here.|
|Updated release notes||21st Feb 2019||Download the updated release notes from here.|
|Virtual launch event||2nd April 2019||Join Microsoft for a launch event online - register here.|
|General availability||5th April 2019||See how the updates will be released to all customers here.|