CRM business summit.

Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement and Power Platform.

Latest from the Dynamics 365 CE and Power Platform world, coming in the October 2019 update and also highlighted at the recent Microsoft Business Applications summit in Atlanta:

Better Interface, more Automation

Several features look to improve overall usability both passively (i.e. nicer interface to use) and proactively (more use of artificial intelligence and automation). These include:


  • Improved Timeline: Understand the customer relationship
    The activity timeline is a critical part of the interface. It shows us the rolling history of all the interactions we've had with a person or organisation. Improvements are being made to the overall look and feel, the searching of interaction history, and the ability to create activities in-context without being navigated off to another page.

  • Contextual Email: Interact with the customer without losing context
    At the moment authoring and sending an email from Dynamics 365 means navigating away from the records you've been working with (including the person you're sending to) to an email creation screen. With this change, you'll be able to work on the email you're sending to a person without leaving their record…meaning you can have a view of all the key data relating to that person while you're writing the email.

    Even better, you'll be able to navigate back and forth between other records as needed, without losing your email authoring screen.

  • Documents in the Customer Form
    Up to this point documents (using the standard SharePoint integration) sit under a related tab you have to navigate to in order to view. Why not on the main customer form? From the October release documents that form part of the customer relationship can be presented up front on the customer form.
  • Auto-capture: Not just customer emails, now customer meetings
    Deep fusion of Dynamics 365 with Office 365 continues to grow. This improvement will recognise when your calendar contains meetings with customers and allow these to be automatically tracked to Dynamics 365. This feature should be a boon for governments keen on transparency! Suggestions will also be provided to automatically create new contacts in Dynamics 365 if they're not already there.  
  • AI Assistant in Microsoft Teams
    AI's permeation through Dynamics 365 and Teams continues to expand. The October release expands the ways in which the Teams chatbot can interact with you based on information in Dynamics 365 and Office 365, including:
    • Planning and preparation
      Features that help you in planning your day and preparing for upcoming meetings, e.g. day digest, key information for upcoming meetings.
    • Business card capture and meeting note capture
      Using AI-driven optical character recognition, these will make it easier to get information from physical business cards and hand-written meeting notes into Dynamics 365. You can also play with the AI that powers these capabilities through the new AI Builder that's available in preview in PowerApps. 

Speaking of Chatbots

Dynamics 365's new Virtual Assistant for Customer Service will be introduced for general availability starting from October 2019.

Conversational AI is a massive growth area around the world, though perhaps still underappreciated in New Zealand is its potential for genuinely improving business. The problem to date has been that building conversational AI (aka chatbots) from the ground up using tool kits has cost a lot and taken a long time, and companies have been bogged down in attempts. New generation AI platforms are abstracting this complexity away from tool kits and into platforms that allow more of the conversation to be built with less and less development required.

 The Dynamics 365 Virtual Assistant looks to be a great upcoming option for organisations to significantly reduce the volume first-tier support questions, freeing up human time for more complex queries. 

AI Builder

As described above, one of the traditional problems facing companies wishing to adopt and use AI tools has been that they’ve been very much tools in tool kits. You still needed some technical skill base to take them and apply them to business problems, usually involving a bit of code to do so.
The new AI Builder in PowerApps (currently in preview, slated for release to general availability) abstracts away this complexity and provides initially four AI services with which you can create and train models, then use these models inside your own apps you build in PowerApps.

Examples include:

  • Object detection. to detect the difference between different products, the number of shelf frontage spaces a product has, or the presence of an object.
  • Forms processing. take PDF scans of invoices, read data from these and write the data into the appropriate fields in the Common Data Service.

Initially you can use these models you build inside canvas apps you build in PowerApps. However, the lines between canvas apps and model-driven apps are set to blur in future, massively increasing flexibility…see our blog item below. 

Other highlights in brief:

  • PowerApps is the platform on which Dynamics 365 apps are built. The future is looking pretty purple
  • A massive amount of focus at the recent Microsoft Business Apps Summit was placed on the Power Platform.

Learn more about this and what it means in our blog article here. Pretty big stuff.

  • Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights, Sales Insights and Customer Service Insights
    Microsoft's insights solutions combine AI, BI and data in the Common Data Service (including Dynamics 365 business data) to produce insights from the proliferation of business data. This includes taking AI services around textual analysis (e.g. sentiment, intent) to measure propensity to buy or overall customer satisfaction during interactions.

    As with the AI Builder above, these are Microsoft abstracting out the complexity of applying AI - in this case to data sets and statistical analysis - to make it easier for organisations to get started with these capabilities. Sales Insights gives you a good starter package of sales analyses, Customer Service Insights across customer service operations, while Customer Insights provides you a studio in which you can build your own analysis models.


Dynamics 365 October release notes

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