Microsoft's 2021 release wave 1 plan is packed full of tools that IT leaders and system administrators will need to have on their radars. Across the family of Microsoft D365 applications, these tools promise to improve performance and scalability while optimizing development times.
Learn more about:
- Inventory Visibility Add-In
- Scale Units: Manufacturing and Warehouse Execution
- Independent Commerce Deployment and Installation Packages Plus Simplified Commerce SDK Update and Developer Experience
- Business Central Partners: Adding Keys/Indexes to Base & Extension Tables + Report Extensibility
- Batch Size Configuration in Excel for Finance and Operations
- Integrate to Telephony Providers
Inventory Visibility Add-In
Real-time inventory is a critical component of supply chain management, helping mitigate the bullwhip effect. It is also a challenge for systems integrating to Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management, such as e-commerce platforms, retail point of sale units, and 3PL providers. Large SKU counts and multiple inventory dimensions create a significant amount of data to share with other systems (such as e-commerce) for visibility. Real-time calls into Dynamics can dramatically decrease performance at the volumes required.
The Inventory Visibility Add-in for Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management leverages the Power Platform to provide a scalable API for getting on-hand count information. This tool scales out APIs allowing for high throughput. It reduces the load against the transactional system – allowing other systems to get a real-time view of available inventory without impacting the production system.
The API is configurable – allowing us to establish different hierarchies returned by an API request and set-up other querying criteria as input.
The Inventory Visibility Add-in is currently in Public Preview and requires a connected Dataverse environment to use.
Scale Units: Manufacturing and Warehouse Execution
Unplanned system downtime causes businesses to lose money at an alarming rate. With manufacturing and distribution centers placed across the globe, potentially in locations with limited infrastructure, administrative teams require always-on connectivity.
Microsoft is adding new capabilities in D365 Supply Chain Management with scale units to help mitigate this risk. The new functionality allows you to execute workloads locally. In addition to providing continuity during outages, these scale units benefit from decreased latency, achieved by reducing network round-trip time.
It's important to note that this feature supports only some warehousing and manufacturing functionality.
Supported warehousing flows are:
- Executing replenishment work
- Registering and performing putaway for purchase orders critical for temperature-sensitive goods)
- Performing inventory movements
- Inquiring against on-hand inventory
- Printing license plates
Note one significant limitation: outbound order processing isn't supported in this release, so look for that in the future.
On the manufacturing side, all production order execution activities are supported, and employee time clock features. Planning and finalization are executed on the hub (the main Dynamics 365 instance).
In both cases, the scale units are either deployed in the cloud (to support performance improvements) or local hardware (to support operational resiliency).
Read more about scale units here:
- Manufacturing execution with scale units in the cloud
- Manufacturing execution with edge scale units on your custom hardware
- Warehouse execution with scale units in the cloud
Independent Commerce Deployment and Installation Packages Plus Simplified Commerce SDK Update and Developer Experience
Dynamics 365 for Commerce has several components to manage as a part of its deployment lifecycle. System administrators need to patch all of these pieces to maintain stable systems. Unlike back-office Dynamics, you must patch everything together instead of upgrading the customizations model or core code independently. This makes applying a critical hotfix time-consuming.
With the advent of the updated APPX extensions model, you can now patch core code and customizations for MPOS, CPOS, Cloud Scale Unit, and the Hardware Station separately. This extension model lets you reduce the effort to keep your application secure and up to date.
Similarly, updating the dev environment with new code (not just binaries) for every update involved copying folders and files from Lifecycle Services down to every local environment. With the now-separated core code available as Nuget packages, updating development environment resources meets modern development standards.
In addition to reduced copy times, it's easy to set up workflows to update your binaries through your regular deployment/provisioning pipelines, such as through the Azure CLI for VMs or Azure Dev Ops. You'll save developer time as well as ensure better consistency across your environments. Notably, the extension model's adjustments should reduce manual deployment effort in building customization packages.
Both of these new tools support a modern DevOps mindset of being able to quickly provision, test, and deploy code and ensure a stable application. Keep in mind that this release's updated patching experience applies only to development environments (Lifecycle Services-driven maintenance IS on the roadmap). You will still want to plan carefully for patching Prod. You'll also want to regression test your customizations against new versions of the Retail SDK. This means packaging everything to Prod being a manual step is not a significant extra investment.
Business Central Partners: Adding Keys/Indexes to Base & Extension Tables + Report Extensibility
While Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations was Microsoft's focus for the last several years, Dynamics 365 Business Central (the successor to Dynamics Navision) capabilities are picking up steam.
Two new features of particular interest to IT leaders in the wave 1 release include the ability to add keys/indexes to base tables (a feature previously available in X++ customizations but not in AL) and a base-report extending experience.
Performance optimization for SaaS applications is a tricky business. Most of the time, it's best to let Microsoft manage this, but with extendable base tables in the application, it's essential to add indexes when you add additional fields to existing data objects. Now, administrators and developers can create these optimizations without depending on Microsoft.
Similarly, you can extend base reports with additive changes. Instead of creating a copy of the report object and maintaining that through the entire software lifecycle, modifications can be made to existing reports to support your requirements. This minimizes both implementation effort and operational support costs.
With these two new Business Central features, IT teams have the flexibility to continue to customize your environment with ease and support it moving forward.
Batch Size Configuration in Excel for Finance and Operations
Long-time administrators of Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations know that the Excel Add-In (and Open-in-Excel functionality) is a key feature, especially for their finance department users. Extracting data from the system into Excel, modifying that data, and publishing it back to Dynamics means higher comfort levels for users with Excel experience. However, because that experience is based in the OData protocol, some performance considerations are necessary.
Large volumes of changes posted back at once use the OData $batch protocol to minimize chattiness between the local Excel app and the Dynamics database by gathering those changes into a single http message.
The new Batch Size configuration feature allows you to fine-tune the size of those batches. Allowing too many records at once can cause slowness for the user as we process all of the records – but too few in a single message creates blocking in the system (potentially resulting in a worse performance problem).
With the flexibility to configure this setting at the template and system levels, administrators can optimize the workloads for their specific user experiences. The default setting is 100 rows. The OData $batch calls to Dynamics, can support up to 1000. In most cases, you can slightly increase this number and see better performance when publishing to Dynamics from Excel.
Integrate to Telephony Providers
Dynamics 365 for Sales has a rich library of out-of-the-box APIs (known as the Channel Integration Framework or CIF) that you can easily integrate to telephony providers. In the Wave 1 2021 release, Microsoft is adding new capabilities to this library to enhance the call recording experience.
Telephony integrations that use the CIF will record calls and use the recordings in the Sales Insights add-on. This provides direct access to record and store those calls in an Azure repository. Sales Insights can then leverage that repository to feed AI models to output metrics from the call, such as customer emotion, topic detection, and seller performance. These metrics can drive additional investment by targeting your customers to quickly identify and remediate problems with specific engagements and reward your high performers.
Microsoft continues to grow and invest in this recording and playback feature by extending partnerships in the call recording and telephony space.
IT professionals necessarily spend a large portion of their time ensuring the system is reliable. With the D365 2021 release, you will improve performance and scalability while optimizing development times.
Learn more about the important features in the D365 2021 Wave 1 Release: