In Part 1 of “Future Proofing your Implementation and Configuration – The Licensing Question” I covered off a couple things to take into account as far as licensing goes. The next question is around the Microsoft roadmap and a few things both customers and partners need to consider when planning for and implementing Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement.
Let me start with an example It’s 2011 and Partner X has developed a FANTASTIC business process management solution that enables businesses to create and manage sales processes, which in turn effectively promotes governance and sales performance within their sales team. After joining the CRM 2013 preview program, it was realised that out-of-the-box Business Process Flows did a similar job. The functionality created and implemented by partner X was still VERY relevant and provided a brilliant solution to their customers, but would the Business Process Flows replace this? The answer is yes and no.
We see similar scenarios in loads of implementations where partners and customers have implemented functionality utilising ISVs, as well as custom code, and this functionality is matched by something being released by Microsoft in a “Next Version / Release”. So, what do we do? We only know what we know right?
There are a load of resources out there that will give you a certain amount of visibility into future releases to make sure you are not “Double Dev’ing” or buying an ISV product that may be deemed unnecessary in the future…Caveat: If your customer needs the functionality now, it will be up to you to be open and suggest the right solution.
My first go-to resource is the Microsoft Dynamics 365 roadmap site. There is a LOAD of information about what is going to be released in the future releases of Dynamics 365 (the ‘In Development’ tab). It’s a really user friendly site that allows for filtering by application.
Back in the day (up to last year) D365 participants were able to register on the MS Connect website to participate in the D365 preview programmes. Connect has been RETIRED… Many of the services offered by Connect are moving to new tools and services. Check out this post for more information.
A lot of the Connect functionality seems to have moved off to the Dynamics 365 Ideas site where one can present ideas which can be voted on. This is a very smart method of keeping an eye out for functionality that may be expected in the roadmap site, based on input from the D365 community.
I would suggest joining the Dynamics 365 Insider programme and applying to be one of the “Insiders” who will join the previews for the selected applications and feedback based on your findings. The application can be filled out here.
A very reliable source of information can also be some of the direct Microsoft resources available to you. Don’t forget the DynamicsLearning Portal (DLP) and the ‘Blitz’ recordings which highlight upcoming functionality and capability. It’s often also worth your time to reach out to your Partner Development Manager or Partner Technology Strategist if you have these available.
The other method of finding out what may be in the pipeline is to watch the forums and groups on all of the social sites. The Dynamics 365 community is larger than you think and many of the members are active participants in sharing knowledge, enthusiasm, and war stories. Multiple blogs out there (Including this one) really do try to share the Dynamics 365 love. The MVP community also do a fantastic job of sharing what they can with all of us, which really helps.
Honestly, the frequency at which functionality is released is completely dependent on Microsoft, but according to a Mr. James Phillips this release cycle should be more consistent and reliable starting from 1 April 2018. It is best to be open and upfront with your customers about what is coming in the future, as you may want to stagger the delivery cycle to cater for this. If we know we have a delivery roadmap of 1 year with our customer and we know that functionality X is coming in 6 months, we may not want to build anything in the interim and then have to deprecate that functionality… OR you may… The most important thing is to be aware that the functionality will be released and that your customer may want the opportunity to select what is available out the box rather than a custom solution.
In summary, try your best to keep your ear to the ground regarding what is coming in the Microsoft Dynamics 365 roadmap and utilise the tools and services out there to educate yourselves. You may be saving yourself time and your customers’ money!
Part 3 of this article will focus on some of the functional elements in future proofing your implementation and configuration.