8 min read

20 Power Apps features and enhancements in April’s 2020 Wave 1 Update

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April has been a big month for Microsoft Dynamics and the Power Platform, with new apps and over 400 new features and enhancements released. Solutions Architect, Richard McAtamney shares his insights on the new capabilities.

As a Power Platform aficionado with nearly 17 years within the Financial Services sector, I’m really interested in the new Power Apps and Power Apps Portals capabilities.

Major announcements in the form of Mixed Reality in Power Apps, which tentatively present a number of new use cases and innovations in the bank branch network and the general availability of AI Builder have a huge positive impact on team productivity, improved user experiences and slickened customer journeys.

Additionally, Microsoft have worked hard to make improvements that:

  • make the build slicker for in-house and development teams
  • which integrate meaningfully with other technologies
  • translate to innovative customer experiences and improved operational workflows for in-house teams.

Here are updates and key features from the Power Apps and Power Apps Portals release:

  1. It’s now possible to create Apps directly from Microsoft Teams, using existing SharePoint Data.

This allows you to:

  • Drives deep integrations with productivity apps and advanced capabilities in azure
  • Makes it easy to create Apps in teams with existing business data
  • Create applications within your channels
  • Automatically generate first few screens from data already within the Teams SharePoint site.

With Teams now the virtual workplace of choice for over 75 million global users, teams of varying skill levels can now create applications that use the context of the space they’re embedded in, bring applications to Teams mobile and give users a context that enhances productivity.

  1. Additionally, later this month, personal Power Apps apps will be available on the Teams mobile client. This functionality allows users to:
  • Pin applications to the bottom their Teams navigation bar and open directly within the Teams setting.
  • Provide quick access to mobile apps.
  • Drive quick collaboration in crisis or rapid response situations, for example for frontline workers during the global health pandemic

This functionality can also have multiple uses within business and customer facing settings,

  1. Enhanced capabilities and experience in Model Driven Apps Offline mode

The need for enhanced offline functionality has never been more apparent than in the last few months. Systems have been overloaded with the business community shifting to remote working and frontline workers needing to communicate in the field or on the go.

Microsoft are continuously working on improving features in off-line mode. Enhancements to Model Driven Apps Offline include:

  • Model driven apps are faster & more reliable in offline mode
  • Entities such as currency will be available in offline mode
  • Better communication & more actionable error messages
  • Barcode Scanner control also now available in offline mode
  1. Power Apps mobile has all your apps on a single application

The preview of Power Apps mobile application allows user to launch canvas and model driven apps together from a single point, removing the user pain of two separate apps and creating a unified experience. Key highlights include:

  • Canvas and Model-driven apps now run on a single mobile application
  • All Model-Driven and Canvas Apps available in a single mobile App
  • Makers can deliver a targeted experience to users on a single application
  • Pixel perfect, task-based Canvas App or declarative metadata driven model-driven app.
  • Canvas & Model-driven apps will appear together in a single list of apps in the PowerApps Mobile App
  1. Canvas App Monitor Tool now generally available

This feature is now generally available, allowing users to diagnose and troubleshoot issues with applications quicker. Key highlights include the capability to:

  • Diagnose & troubleshoot applications quicker
  • Import and Export Log files
  • Share Diagnostic sessions, Inspect, Interpret and filter results
  • Visualise event timelines
  • Identify Problem areas and fix in App
  1. Modern Solution explorer gets a make over

For users who want to to spend less time searching and transitioning between designers and more time on making apps, this update will help create a more intuitive user journey. Key call outs are:

  • Secondary navigation added
  • Recent items 1 click away
  • Remember settings from previous session
  1. PowerApps Test Studio for Canvas Apps is now generally available

For users who have canvas apps within solutions or projects, how are they usually tested? Power Apps Test Studio for canvas apps builds on the preview release and is now generally available with support for all controls and integration into the build and release pipeline. The features:

  • Fully supports all Power Apps custom controls and components
  • Allow new capabilities to run tests automatically
  • Establish Quality Gates and efficient test automation

Some key improvements in Portals include:

  1. Web API’s for CRUD Operations on CDS entities
  • Adds Web API’s allowing users to create, read, update and delete operations across all CDS entities (Based on User & Community Feedback)
  1. Portal Checker enhancements (First added in Oct 18’ Wave)
  • Additional Scenarios added to help resolve common portal issues
  1. Power BI Embedded component in Portal Designer.
  • First party integration with PowerBI, using liquid tags
  • Simplify Integration
  • First class component in Portal designer experience, similar to forms and list
  • Remove complexity of liquid tags
  • Add PowerBI report or dashboard in Portal as a component using Portal designer property panel, without having to worry about liquid code.

Sophisticated Apps on a Unified Platform

  1. Build responsive, reflowing Canvas App pages

App developers and makers can now build pages that are carefully tailored to needs of end users and responsive on various screen sizes.

  • Build pages fully responsive to changes in screen size and orientation
  • Automatic re-flow as the available real estate on the screen changes.
  • Supports all existing canvas concepts and custom components
  • Can be built in Power Apps Studio or Power Apps Component framework
  • Build fully custom and responsive experiences into Apps

This functionality was requested by the PowerApps Community and is a huge step towards unifying App types

  1. Enabling Printable pages in Canvas Apps

A huge plus for field service type scenarios, this feature allows

  • makers to configure a printable page within the canvas app and create a PDF.
  • End users to print, email or file docs in a whole range of use cases, for example loss adjusters and claims inspectors in insurance.
  • Using existing concepts to create, capture and print a page.

This functionality was a top request by the PowerApps Community.

  1. Enable creating and editing data in forms displayed as modal dialogue without navigating away

Users no longer need to navigate away from a form to create or edit a related record.

  • Create or edit a related record within a form
  • Open a main form in a dialogue directly from another main form
  • Will also be available in the navigateTo Api
  • Can be used in the command bar, event or plug-in to open a main record in dialogue experience

This new functionality hugely increases productivity, reduces clicks and removes unnecessary navigation across forms.

  1. Improvements to model-driven apps

These improvements are designed to enable end user productivity and reduce time to get started on a session. Highlights include:

  • Remember last used app, reducing need to choose from an App list
  • Last App will be used if an App isn’t specified within a URL
  • Reduces click and increases productivity
  • Visuals for existing App message bar to align with Form message bar experience.
  • Model Driven Apps now have API’s to show App level messages, which remain visible while navigating
  • API allows for flexibility in message Type – Eg: User Dismissible or not dismissible for permanent messages
  • API support removing specific messages if they don’t apply
  1. Save is always visible in the command bar on edit forms
  • Save and Save and Close options in command bar are now visible when editing a record.
  • Previously both were hidden if autosave was on. Save was only visible in the footer
  1. View selector usability enhancements
  • Drop down is wider and longer
  • Personal views are separated from system views, shown higher on the list
  • Header and Label Highlighting styles applies
  • Pinning made easier and icon alignment
  1. Improved Data Source experience and Common Data Service view are generally available
  • Speed of access to Common Data Service now greater than 50%
  • The feature & speed now make this the preferred way of connecting to the CDS over the Dynamics 365 Integrator
  • New Data Sources pane
  • Entity View Selection
  • Change CDS Environment
  • Improved Data defaulting

Microsoft continue to focus investment and attention on the Common Data Service as a robust platform for apps of any scale.

  1. Auto generate web apps on top of your existing data
  • Makers can now create Canvas Apps in landscape rather than just phone layout
    • Easier to make Canva Apps for web and tablet Scenarios
    • Use existing SharePoint, Excel, SQL and CDS Data without having to build it from scratch.
  • App from Data Templates will now be responsive
    • Generate App Once for both Phone & Tablet
  1. Large File & Image Support in Model-Driven Apps
  • File & Image entity attribute can be added to any part of the form
  • Files can be uploaded up to 128Mb
  • Images can be uploaded up to 30Mb
  • Attachments in forms ssed to be limited to 5MB – Limiting ability to add large files eg: PDF, Images & Videos

Now users can easily work with large images and files from CDS in any Power App.

  1. Improved themes in Power Apps

Introducing improved themes for both canvas and model-driven apps that reflect modern Microsoft Fluent themes. Canvas apps also have new control sizing introduced to allow makers to build apps with controls sized for web-based and mobile scenarios.

New themes made available for model-driven app as a preview.

Our technical teams love talking all things Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform. If you’d like to discuss any element of the Wave 1 2020 enhancements in more detail, please get in touch on 0845 226 8170 or email us at info@redspire.co.uk.

Keep an eye on our blog and LinkedIn page for our follow up article on the Power Platform.

7 min read

2020 Release Wave 1 launches with new apps and over 400 features

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If you’re not a hardcore techy, you’ll be forgiven for the 2020 wave 1 Dynamics 365 and Power Platform release flying under your radar. This year’s release lands during an unprecedented time for global society, whilst businesses navigate new remote working practices and strive to achieve uninterrupted business continuity.

We, along with our partners at Microsoft are providing support and resources for businesses on the frontlines of the global health pandemic and are making seamless business continuity a key priority for our customers using Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform.

The new wave 1 enhancements however are really worth exploring in some detail. The new features and capabilities further unify B2B and B2C customer journeys and user experiences across sales, service and marketing. The automations and virtual enhancements are as slick as they are time-saving, allowing c-suite teams to rethink how departments and teams are set up for operational efficiency.

Considerations for Wave 1 adoption during COVID-19

Microsoft have delayed the mandatory uptake of Dynamics for Customer Engagement and includes other allowances for uptake of the new release, including the ability to defer certain features once before uptake.

Wave 1 release for 2020 however, includes brand new apps and over 400 new features and capabilities across both platforms, many of which by design, can help organisations adapt to immediate challenges posed by the pandemic and ensure you’re well placed thereafter to adapt to operational changes.

Watch Microsoft’s BizApps Virtual Launch

If you have 90 minutes free, it would be a good time investment to deep dive into the detailed demos and use cases on the Business Applications Virtual Launch on demand. If you’re time shy, you can view a summary of the new features on the Dynamics 365 and Power Platform 2020 release wave 1 plans.

The Redspire technical team have immersed themselves in the new enhancements, test driven and summarised their highlights. Have a read and please do reach out on info@redspire.co.uk or connect with the team on their LinkedIn to chat further.

Dynamics 365 for Marketing

If you aren’t using Dynamics 365 Marketing, Analyst Ross McGhee recommends that this is the time to get on-board. The solution has really come of age and can help both B2B and B2C businesses manage customer outreach and engagement through rich personalisation and deep automation. See Ross’s highlights below.

  1. Meet compliance and brand standards by test-sending dynamic marketing emails

Wave 1 enhancements enable users to test-send marketing emails containing dynamic content, highly beneficial to new users as they familiarise themselves with the syntax from which to implement dynamic content.

Now, users can test-send their marketing emails using a sample contact record or seed to ensure dynamic content displays correctly in the marketing email preview. This makes quality checking, compliance and maintaining brand standards fool-proof, in advance of sending to their target audience.

  1. Reach your audience where they are with automated scheduler

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been called to action to help analyse trends based on previous interaction with marketing emails.

Dynamics 365 for Marketing can now automatically send marketing emails to recipients during times at which each contact is most likely to be actively reading their emails, instead of on a timed mass release schedule. This increases engagement and interaction with content, helping produce more volume and higher quality leads.

Like other areas where machine learning is being used, the AI will only get smarter over time with each added interaction, creating more meaningful customer interactions and better understanding of their unique needs.

  1. Increase visibility and credibility with spam checker

The new spam checker feature makes smart recommendations to the avoid marketing emails being flagged as spam, and can confidently assess your content as Low, Medium or High risk.

Utilising this functionality will assure marketers that emails will land directly in customer inboxes and along with automated scheduler consequently produce a higher number of leads.

  1. Close the feedback loop with Microsoft Forms Pro

Forms Pro now integrates with Dynamics 365 for Marketing, allowing marketers to create branded surveys within the platform, automate interactions at various stages of the customer journey and return rich insights. With Voice of the Customer being retired in summer, Forms Pro’s enhanced integrations help marketers create valuable feedback that drives future decision making for campaign delivery, improve audience targeting and build valuable user experiences, whilst aligning neatly with other KPIs served within the platform.

  1. Export rich data to Excel, analyse and act with marketing insights

Marketers asked and Microsoft responded. Rich marketing insights can be exported direct to Excel from Dynamics 365 for Marketing at the click of a button, without having to depend on Power BI. Marketers can monitor campaign success, analyse and report on trends and behaviours and make informed decisions on future activity.

  1. Deliver visually impactful campaigns with the improved email content designer

Content is still King in Marketing. Microsoft have revamped the Design Editor to help users of varying skills level create quality designs faster and more efficiently. Enhanced drag and drop, drag to resize, an improved colour picker as well as more customisation options and email-wide property controls to help marketers create brand consistent output.

  1. Improved Customer Journey Experience

This is our marketing teams hands-down favourite enhancement. Within the customer journey, marketers now have the capability to set static expiration dates for marketing email tiles. This means that time sensitive promotions or activity isn’t being promoted outwith the campaign in-market dates and a big win for compliance in highly regulated industries.

  1. In-Place Editing of Email and Forms

Another favourite, allowing marketers to create and edit core marketing records from one place.

The enhancements make it possible to create customer journeys, marketing emails, marketing pages, marketing forms and more, directly from your Customer Journey record. Greatly reducing the amount of clicks back and forth between various entities throughout the application and improving time to campaign go live.

From a technical point of view, this is a great tool to showcase to clients looking to invest in Dynamics for Marketing. This functionality really highlights:

  • the capabilities of the solution for users of all skill levels and
  • the ease of user adoption with the bulk of the marketer’s usage carried out primarily in one single location.

Dynamics for Customer Service

We’ve been talking lots about Dynamics for Customer Service in the past few months. The solution’s automations and integrations with the Power Platform have proven invaluable for managing the spike in customer interactions in frontline services during the global health crisis. Industries like Banking, Travel, Health Service and Education have been able to meet increased demand thanks to the ease of implementing new Virtual Agent managed journeys, connected to knowledge bases and existing content at pace.

The enhancements launched this month focus on three key areas:

  • Agent productivity: Delivering improvements that help agents be more productive such as improved knowledge article search, email authoring, and timeline enhancements.
  • Omnichannel for Customer Service: Expanding the range of supported channels and agent productivity tooling.
  • Connected Customer Service: Linking IoT diagnostics, IoT device updates, and case management to help organizations evolve a proactive and predictive service model.

Top pick new features, directly from the Analyst team

Analyst Colette Rogers shares an overview of her favourite new tools.

  1. The Copy and paste feature in Power Automate is now generally available. This has been incredibly handy in Power Automate, allowing capability to copy actions and paste into the flow as a further action or another branch of your condition. This feature has been available in preview and has been extremely useful when using create or update a record action, with numerous entries of Dynamics content. It saves time when recreating the same step and reduces error in selecting the content for input. It can also be used across flows in the same environment.
  2. Another key feature is instant flow steps in business process flows, now generally available too. In Dynamics 365 and PowerApps, a business process flow provides the user with steps to follow to in each stage of the process. Instant flows can now be used as a step within a business process flow to automate tasks, create approval requests or connect to one of the supported power automate connectors.
  3. Finally, the solution support for User Interface (UI) flows. UI flows allow step-by-step actions such as mouse clicks, keyboard use, and data entry to be turned into intelligent workflows. These automations can now be imported and exported as part of a solution to be used across different environments. This supports the application lifecycle of the UI flows.

This summary is barely touching the surface of the new capabilities. Our technical teams love talking all things Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform. If you’d like to discuss any element of the Wave 1 2020 enhancements in more detail, please get in touch on 0845 226 8170 or email us at info@redspire.co.uk.

Keep an eye on our blog and LinkedIn page for our follow up article on the Power Platform.