Dynamics 365 CE Key Features & Changes 2021

Microsoft Release Wave 1 Changes to D365 Customer Engagement

Authors: Thomas Cunningham | Principal Developer | Formus Professional Software | April 2021

We are now a couple of weeks into April, which might mean you have noticed some changes to your Dynamics Customer Engagement environment.

Every year Microsoft release two major waves of updates to the PowerPlatform (which includes D365, Power BI, Power Automate, and PowerApps).

April 2021 is when the features of Wave 1 are marked for general availability.

Microsoft put a lot of effort into ensuring their products stay at the cutting edge of the market, which means that there is a lot of changes to read through in their report.

Woman sharing her PC screen with colleagues to show D65 Customer Engagement

You can find this extensive Microsoft report on the Dynamics 365 2021 release wave 1 plan page of the Microsoft Docs website.

However, to make your life a little easier we have focused on Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement (D365 CE) as one of the most popular Microsoft D365 products at present. Within it sits D365 for Sales, D365 for Customer Service and D365 for Field Service.

Below you will find a breakdown of the key features and changes we think you should know.

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New capabilities go live at different times throughout the year and there will be more to find out about in the second release Wave 2.

You can sign up to receive these MS Wave updates automatically to your email account. Alternatively, keep checking back here within our resources pages.

Key Features and Changes

General Improvements and Features

Covered in this section:

  • In-App Notifications
  • Global Relevance Search Upgrades
  • Better Multi-Line Text Input Experience
  • Dupe-Detection and Record Merging UI's
  • Dynamics 365 for Phones – Multiple Enhancements

In-App Notifications

For a long time, Dynamics has offered the ability to provide notifications to users with a yellow banner, which whilst functional, was perhaps not the most attractive way of communicating important information.

With the introduction of the Unified Interface, this functionality was replaced with ‘Toast Notifications’, more closely aligned to modern design language and the sort of notifications people expect to find on their phone.

In this wave release, Microsoft has built on this functionality further, allowing apps to provide information-rich notifications to users in an attractive and easy to understand way.

Additionally, these notifications fully support tools like Power-Automate, allowing for them to be sent between platforms!

Global Relevance Search in Model-Driven-Apps UI

The ‘global’ relevance search was introduced in the previous wave release. Once enabled this adds a search box to the centre of the top navigation bar of Model-Driven-Apps. Allowing you to easily search the whole of your system from one place.

Microsoft has now decided that this should be a first-class feature that is present by default. Providing you have relevance search enabled, the global search box will be visible.

Additionally, Microsoft has added a number of small improvements to how this search behaves. This includes a refined results page, and the ability to perform ‘quick actions’ on the results without having to navigate anywhere further.

Improved Multi-line Text Input Experience

Multi-line text fields are one of the core field types in Dynamics and have been around since the earliest versions.

Whilst it’s often not a problem fitting these on a standard form, it can be a bit of a squeeze to find a suitable way to include them on a Quick Create Form.

This wave update will make the experience of typing into these fields with limited room a lot better, as they can now temporarily expand outside of their bounds so that more of the text inside is visible.

Dupe-Detection and Record Merging UI's

Previous updates added a new user interface for the important task of highlighting duplicates and merging.

These interfaces were aligned with the new Unified Interface (UI) and provide a much clearer way to perform these operations. In these previous updates, however, the functionality had to be enabled by an admin, now it is enabled by default.

Dynamics 365 for Phones – Multiple Enhancements

The Dynamics 365 app for Android and iOS devices has been around for quite some time. With each wave Microsoft building upon its previous capabilities.

Typically, these enhancements focus on giving the app greater parity with the Dynamics web client. This wave is no different, with multiple experience improvements including:

  • Scrollable tabs on forms.
  • A greater amount of detail on Business Process Flows.
  • A search bar added to views.

As well as many more!

Three mobile phones showing Dynamics 365 in action

Coming soon...

Contextual Teams Functionality

A feature that is not being made generally available in this release but hopefully will be later this year, is the contextual Teams functionality within Dynamics. This will allow users to chat about system records within Dynamics itself.

This has a number of benefits, including a reduced need for switching between applications, but more importantly, a centralised location to communicate about important records, such as a high-value opportunity or business-critical support ticket.

Dynamics 365 for Sales

Covered in this section:

  • Enhanced Personal Settings
  • Automation and Adaptive Sequences

Enhanced Personal Settings

Currently, users of the Sales app have access to an area named ‘Personal Settings’, which provides the ability to configure things like their email personalisation settings (signatures, templates) and sales insights.

This wave release will bring a number of small enhancements to this area, giving users greater control over things such as the appearance of their emails.

Automation and Adaptive Sequences

This functionality gives sales users the ability to significantly improve their productivity by allowing them to automate away certain tasks that do not require manual intervention.

This can include things such as emails that are automatically sent in response to customer related events.

Dynamics 365 for Customer Service

Covered in this section:

  • Core Service Scheduling Board Enhancements
  • Visual Improvements for Multisession Apps
  • Custom Filters for Knowledge Article Search
  • Federated Knowledge Search

Core Service Scheduling Board Enhancements

The 2020 Wave 2 update introduced the new schedule board with a much-improved look and user experience. However, as is often the case with User Interface overhauls, some of the functionality available in the previous (now legacy) UI was not reimplemented.

In this wave update, Microsoft has continued to improve the new board and have readded some of the missing functionality from the legacy one. This includes the ability to view the map once again on the schedule board, and the ability to view schedules by week and by month.

Visual Improvements for Multisession Apps

The Dynamics 365 Customer Service app contains the Customer Service Workspace and Omnichannel, which are both multisession apps.

Multisession apps are a powerful feature recently added to Dynamics which allows users to have multiple instances open as tabs within a Dynamics window.

With this wave, the appearance of this functionality has been improved. Tabs now show icons and the name of the app, with the height they take up reduced.

Custom Filters for Knowledge Article Search

This is a relatively small change, but one that could have significant benefits for customer service agents that regularly use the knowledge base articles.

Previously, when searching using the knowledge base search users could filter results with a number of Out Of the Box fields (such as status and visibility).

Whilst that can be useful to narrow down results, custom fields could also contain information pertinent to finding what they need.

Administrators can now add these custom fields to the filter options.

Federated Knowledge Search

This is one of the more exciting changes in this wave. It greatly expands the usefulness of the search function within the Knowledge Base (KB).

With this update, it is now possible to plug into other platforms and even third-party providers to extend your search.

This means that when a customer service agent is looking for information on resolving an issue, this single search from within the KB, can now utilise SharePoint, OneDrive, Microsoft 365 apps or external search providers through the use of connectors.

Microsoft has stated their intention to expand connectable searches further in the future depending on customer feedback.

Dynamics 365 Field Service

Covered in this section:

  • Work Order Resolutions
  • Enhanced Inspections
  • Account Address Experience Changes

Work Order Resolutions

This is a brand-new extension for Dynamics 365 Field Service, which allows for organisations to capture how a work order is resolved, expanding a core piece of Field Service functionality.

When a work order is completed, users can complete a new Quick Create Form where the work order resolution details are recorded.

This allows organisations to have improved insight into how their work orders are being resolved, which is essential for maintaining customer relations and understanding trends.

Enhanced Inspections

Two key improvements to inspections are being added. First, is the ability to perform ‘ad-hoc’ inspections. It is sometimes necessary to perform an inspection on an asset outside of it being used within a work order, this functionality now makes it possible.

Second, is the built-in functionality for exporting inspections as PDFs.

It is sometimes necessary to be able to store inspection details in a format useable outside of Dynamics. With the ability to export to PDFs it is now easy to quickly transform those details into a format that is accessible across almost all modern software, as well as being suitable for producing hard copies.

Account Address Experience Changes

A small change has been made to the address field on Account records within the Field Service app. When clicking into the address field, all lines of the address are now displayed in a pop-up dialogue.

As well as showing all of the relevant fields for the address, this dialogue has built-in Bing maps functionality that provides auto-completion and error checking functionality for addresses.

Screen grab showing D365 field service screen

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We keep a close eye on Microsoft Release Waves as there can be significant updates to software. Most good, some bad and a few ugly. While we cannot change or influence Microsoft’s actions, we do actively seek out and review these release documents.

Our Microsoft Wave updates give you a summary of the original Microsoft documents

  • Inform you of new or improved features
  • A heads-up on any tricky bits you may have to navigate
  • Include advice on how to mitigate any hidden nasties (where possible).

You can sign up to receive these MS Wave updates automatically to your email account. Alternatively, keep checking back here within our resources pages.