It has been three years since Microsoft released the first version of the Dynamics 365 Business Central ERP business software platform. Although that first release included only limited functionality, it has since outgrown its Microsoft Dynamics NAV heritage in addition to becoming a solid cloud solution.
Microsoft has maintained a consistent twice per year update cadence for major changes with minor updates and fixes happening in between. Lately, the two updates a year seem to include a pattern of more functionality improvements in the April release and platform changes in October. This continues with the October 2020 update as Microsoft shifts focus toward product maturity by continuing to improve the reliability and usability of the current set of productivity features.
Business Central’s fall update improvements are inspired by user suggestions
In summary, the improvements include increased regional capability, better integration of Power Platform, enabled virtual entities, and improved cross-app productivity by using Microsoft Teams as a component of business processes. As part of its cloud push, it has improved the ability to migrate on-premises products to Business Central online. Where noted, some of the improvements listed will be released subsequent to October and before the next update due April 2021.
As with prior releases, Microsoft continues to rely heavily on user requests for enhancements as listed in the aka.ms/bcideas forum, where users suggest and vote for key improvements to the user experience. In the October 2019 release, Microsoft executed over one hundred improvements from this user forum.
Enhancements to look forward to in the latest Business Central update
There are a small number of important changes to simplify and improve the way partners administer tenants and how administrators manage certain aspects. Please note: the following list is not complete.
- The Dynamics NAV Help Server component is going away
- Improved automatic database and file capacity management
- Authentication of service-to-service automation API’s
- Support for an unlimited number of production and sandbox environments, which is a major plus
- Speeding up low-level code calculations
- Improvements to integration by disabling Integration Records and Integration Management
- Scheduling data update of application features enabled through Feature Management
The following implemented application improvements were suggested through the aka.ms/bcideas website.
- The use of a Business Central Company Hub
- VAT group reporting
- Default unit cost for non-inventory items
- Track packages from more types of sales documents
- Consolidation file format support for Dynamics 365 Finance, which is used in a “hub and spoke” arrangement utilizing Finance for the hub and Business Central for the operating groups
- Automatic resolution of Common Data Service conflicts
- Checking financial journals in the background
- Improved control for how and when WIP entries for jobs are posted to the general ledger
- Notification to users for high-risk changes in selected setup fields
- Longer item references
- Use to copy journal function on Posted General Journals and control date for reversing entries in Recurring General Journals
- More extended use of Word document layouts to customize outgoing customer documents
- Easier method for choosing Role Centers when changes are required
- The removal of record coupling when integrated with Common Data Service in bulk
- The restoration of synchronization defaults for Common Data Service integration for selected Integration Table Mapping
- The use of contract mobile phone number and email consistently across the Business Central application
- Adding conversion templates to convert contacts to vendors and employees
- Definition of retention policies
- Ability to allocate balances by dimension values in recurring journals (coming in November 2020)
- Enhancement of email capabilities (coming in December 2020)
- Improvements to the bank reconciliation function (coming in February 2021)
Improvements with Microsoft 365
In line with one of Microsoft’s latest branding changes, there are a couple of improvements to cross-app productivity using Microsoft Teams as a way to interact in business processes.
- There are now authentication changes for deploying the Outlook Add-in (coming in November 2020)
- Business Central will now be eligible to show up in Microsoft Teams (coming in December 2020)
Business Central’s Global availability
Microsoft continues to improve the global availability of Dynamics 365 Business Central with every wave and October is no exception. For example, on October 1, 2020, Microsoft is expanding Business Central Cloud offers into Brazil, Ireland, Lithuania, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland. Click here for the full list of country and regional availability.
Microsoft Power Platform continues to grow in importance
There are some key improvements here as Microsoft continues to draw its various products closer together.
- The integration between Business Central and Common Data Service is now improved with fewer synchronization conflicts
- The October release adds support for the latest Dynamics 365 SDK
- Common Data Service virtual entities are now available
New migrations to Business Central Online
Some of these are for on-premises customers wishing to move to Business Central Online, but Microsoft continues to provide a viable path for Dynamics GP customers wanting to, or having to, move to Business Central Online.
- Continued enhancements for migrating from Dynamics GP to Business Central
- Historical data migration from Dynamics GP to Azure Data Lake
- Migrate from Business Central 14.x on-premises to Business Central 16.x online
- Migrate from Business Central 15.x on-premises to Business Central 16.x online
Business Central enhancements to software clients
End users get a number of improvements in their interactions with the software clients.
- Updates to page styling
- Changes to the action bars in lookup dialog boxes
- Improved accessibility for low-vision users
- Temporary table support in Page Inspector
- FactBoxes are now more responsive
- A report request page can now handle multiple open previews
- The navigation experience terminology has been changed to improve usability
- Role centers will now open faster
- Mobile apps now allow access to multiple production or sandbox environments from the Business Central mobile apps
Treats for developers
Microsoft’s transition to Visual Studio code has not been without its challenges as developers were forced to move from a very efficient and optimized development environment to a somewhat raw interface, albeit one with more ultimate flexibility.
With each major release Microsoft has continued to improve the development toolkit and this is also true for the October 2020 version.
- AppSource apps can store secret detail in the Azure Key Vault
- Documentation comments for code
- Code region compiler directive
- Deletion of extension data
- Obsolete implicit and explicit use of ‘with’
- Suppress AL warnings
- Business Central Performance Toolkit
Improvements to the Business Central service and platform
Microsoft continues to improve the stability and dependability of the Business Central service and platform.
- Developers and end users can specify a maximum amount of time for a report to run
- Data audit system fields are added to every table
- Log of admin operations in the Business Central admin center
- On-demand joining of companion tables
- Attach to user session when debugging in a sandbox environment
- Debut extension installation and upgrade code
- Developers can emit telemetry to Application Insights from AL code
- Extension publishers can get telemetry in Azure Application Insights
- Available signal for long-running AL execution added to Application Insights telemetry for partners
- Signal from an outgoing web service request added to Application Insights telemetry for partners
- Signal from web service key authentication added to Application Insights telemetry for partners
- Support for additional Azure AD roles for customer admins to access the Business Central admin center
- Renaming of environments will be available in the Business Central admin center (coming in December 2020)
- The ability to restore to a point of time in the past (coming in January 2021)
Find more info about Business Central 2020 Wave 2 here.
As Microsoft continues to improve connectivity across its multiple product suites, customers and partners only continue to benefit. While the October 2020 release includes some interesting functionality improvements, its major benefit is to strengthen the foundation for reliability, performance, integration, and administration.
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