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(If you can, play this audio clip while you read the first sentence)
The new release of Business Central is here! However, I’m not quite sure how to reference it; I believe the formal name is Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central 2020 Wave 2, but quite a few folks are referring to it as BC 17. Then there is BC October 2020.
Whatever you want to call it, it seems like Microsoft is comfortable now with this new stride of more significant releases every 6 months and monthly updates in between. I’ve watched this new lifecycle unfold over the past couple years, and I thought it a good time to share my reflections:
If you’ve followed the transformation of Microsoft’s development cycle over the past few years, you may be wondering 1) why the release notes issued in advance of the spring and fall releases are never final, and 2) why some features are not finalized until just before the release (or in some cases, require another update to tweak). Microsoft’s agile development structure is not a new thing; I’ve had several conversations over the years with the R&D teams in Lyngby, Denmark and Fargo, North Dakota about this transition. It’s truly fascinating, especially if you’re a developer or project manager, to hear about their development cycle and how they approach planning forward, from the broader roadmap that looks out a year or two, to the 2-week sprints they pursue and the speed to change. The release notes, which come out some 3-4 months before each Wave, started about two or three years ago, and are a terrific opportunity to see a preview into what Microsoft is working on. Of course they’re not a perfect list of what will finally be included in the release, and that’s OK. Better that then to not have any preview, you just have to understand that there are many shifting parts that change over the months remaining until the general release. In the “old” days (before the advanced release notes) it might be months after a new release before new features were discovered! The second point is to address the seemingly illogical situation that, even two weeks before the general release, functionality is still not locked in. There is an unavoidable trade-off between speed of development and stability of the application, and I believe Microsoft is finding the right compromise. I don’t think any customer wants to go back to waiting a new release every 1-2 years to see new functionality. Receiving an almost constant flow of new functionality means that one has to be a bit flexible and know that features are not done months in advance. In addition, with a new release there may be a few functions that aren’t perfect. But, and that’s a big but – this is planned: Microsoft will get on top of needed fixes and has the ability to make them very quickly. What used to take months of testing and feedback loops now is accomplished in days and weeks. Which leads me to my second reflection...
This is also not a new thing. In fact, I’ve known some of the Microsoft R&D team members for over 10 years now, and it has always been so clear to me that they care deeply about how well the applications support a customer’s business. It’s a fact of life: it’s impossible for an out-of-the-box solution to meet the needs of every business of every size in every industry, but the R&D team sure would like to as much as they can. How Microsoft obtains and works on feedback has changed over time, but the passion for it remains. I believe it was about three years ago they introduced their Ideas Portal, where anyone can submit ideas and requests for improvement, as well as vote on others’ submissions. From my talks with the R&D team, they are laser focused on leveraging this tool; they track and proudly report on the percentage of ideas that are included in subsequent releases. Do yourself a favor and take advantage.
Did you know anyone can play with the new release before it’s released? I’m not sure when this started but I love the fact that it’s available to everyone. Now, if you read my first point above, you know that this advanced version is not the version that will be released as the official one. You can imagine also that some functionality won’t work in the preview version. But that’s OK – it’s a great thing to have your hands on it early, to identify new features that will get your team excited and identify potential issues that you’ll want to address. So, how do you access the preview version? You can read about the general program here, then see the announcement for this version and instructions here.
Each of my colleagues at New View Strategies are sharing their favorite new enhancement with 2020 Wave 2 (and in most cases more than one) via the New View Strategies blog and our YouTube channel (check back regularly as we continue to post). I have several as well, but thought I’d share something “outside” the functions and features of Business Central: integration with Teams.
There has been chatter for some time about integrating BC with Teams – it seems a logical addition to the other apps that can be used inside Teams – but Microsoft has been fairly mum about it. And then… this one line in the Wave 2 release notes:
“Bring Business Central data into Microsoft Teams conversations to make decisions faster as a team.”
Quite the tease, eh?
After I’ve had the chance to check out what’s actually happened, I’ll update this blog post. In the meantime, I’ll share two workarounds to connect BC with Teams:
It’s always comforting to see continue improvements in the software we love, and with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central 2020 Wave 2, there is plenty to absorb and get excited about.
Note the features cited here are planned by Microsoft. These features may or may not be included in the final General Acceptance release of Business Central version 17.