24 December 2019

Report back from Directions EMEA 2019: Technical

The first-day keynote was packed with stats and exciting announcements from Microsoft. As for the Microsoft general manager Toby Bowers,
  • 1400+ partners selling Business Central worldwide.
  • 4000+ customers actively using Business Central.
  • 450+ business central solutions are available on AppSource.
  • The number of users doubled compared to last year.    
This clearly indicates that Business Central is picking up the momentum and moving in the right direction.

The wind direction has changed!
Two years ago, most of the partners were a bit skeptical about the business decision Microsoft made to take Microsoft Dynamics NAV into the cloud. A lot of NAV (back then) partners were still doubting and considering to-go (or not go) with Business Central SaaS. However, statistics from Toby Bowser clearly indicate that the decision took by Microsoft is paying off and more and more partners and customers want to go into cloud offering as it opens a totally new world of opportunities.
Many partners were very curious about the transformation journey and to share their experience with the other partners.  There were multiple sessions where world-leading partners (ISV) together with Microsoft share their success stories with the other partners. I attend a few of those sessions and must mention that I am very impressed with the technologies and processes we use and follow during our Business Central implementations.

New Improvements
During the technical keynote, Microsoft presenters talked about the key improvements they have implemented with the Wave 2 release. This was one of the most awaited sections of the daily keynotes
-  Reduction of noisiness.
-  Intelligent load balancing.
-  Better and fewer error messages.

-  Non-blocking number series.
-  Page background tasks.
-  General Journal background posting.
-  Improved lookup speed in the client.
-  Automatic index tuning in Azure SQL.
-  Supportability
-  Supportability
-  Partner telemetry available to the partner.
-  Create a support ticket directly from the admin center.
-  Better experience for maintaining support details for customers and partners
-  Security
-  ISO27001
-  ISO27017
-  ISO27018
-  SOC 1 & Type 2
Other key points
-  Easy and quick creation of new user roles: Users can easily customize actions on the Role Centre home page by simply doing drag-and-drop.
-  Seamless experience even when working on multiple windows.
-  New keyboard shortcuts.
-  Cloud migration wizard which enable the business to move not just the data, but also templates, setups, and users to the cloud.
-  Ability to create multiple production environments.
-  Ability to select the localization at the time of creating the environment.
New Logo

Jennik Bausager and Mike Cardona from Microsoft did a great demo on the Business Central Wave 2 release. Most of the functionalities they demonstrate are from the requests that came from Partners and customers. This clearly shows that Microsoft listens to the community.

Goodbye old friend, we had a good run!
The era of C/SIDE, C/AL came to an end with the release of Wave 2. During the past 2 years, Microsoft was always advising the partners to move into the AL and use only extensions to build solutions. It seems that now Microsoft feels the community is ready to move on from C/AL and start a new journey with AL.
Not only the C/AL and C/SIDE, but Windows clients also retiring from work. During the conference, Microsoft speakers explained how much effort they put in to develop the web client and universal client to have the like to like capabilities as Windows clients. Even after such an effort, there are few gaps, but with the use of Azure technologies, these gaps can be easily overcome.
There were many sessions on how to use Azure services with Business Central to provide a seamless experience to users. Wagner and I were conducting 3 of them and we were on this path for the past a couple of years as we realize Azure services are the best way to enhance the product capabilities with a minimum effort.
  • Development Environment: Visual Studio Code
  • Programming Language: AL
  • Client: Web and Universal.

Investment from Microsoft
I had few discussions with the Microsoft product team during the conference and as per them product team’s focus for the next financial year would be to work on application enhancements. There will be new/improved migration tools, more support to Power Platform, adding more supported countries.
One of the questions I raised was the CDM/CDS and product team feedback was they are going to work on that after the next financial year because the current focus is to enhance the product before building support into CDM.

This announcement was part of the keynotes and Microsoft is currently working on the certifications for consultants and will be ready by 2020. This will be a piece of good news for the consultants who are eagerly waiting to get themselves certified for Business Central. Microsoft didn’t mention if the certifications will play a role in deciding the partner competency level as it used to be.

Architectural Changes
All this time the Business Central code base was on C/AL. However, this time Microsoft lead it with the example by converting the entire base application into AL. They did not stop from there, to make it easy to manage, they split the AL codebase into 2 different extensions.
With this new change partners only be able to use AL for the development. This rule applies for the on-premise installations as well which means any rule that applies to SaaS will apply to On-Premise as well.

Breaking Changes
As mentioned earlier Microsoft completely converted the C/AL code to AL and split the codebase into 2 separate extensions call System and Application. While doing this Microsoft made some significant changes to the functions and schema. These changes result in “breaking changes” which forced most of the partners to do some rework on their extensions.
During the conference, Microsoft promised they will release more breaking changes but this time they will provide notice one year prior to the removal. Which gives more than enough time for the partners to adapt their code to the new structure of standard apps till the next release.
Before going to the conference, I worked on changing the Theta extensions and I must admit I was impressed with the changes Microsoft has added with the Wave 2. Visual Studio Code AL extension was intelligent enough to suggest performance improvements and providing compilation warnings.
As Microsoft mentioned repeatedly throughout the conference, Business Central is all about providing a seamless experience to end-users.

AppSource allows partners to focus on what they excel over the years. This means implementation partners get access over 450+ different solutions (as of October 2019) to select and then build their solution on top of that. Which helps partners to minimize the implementation time and focus on their implementation steps.

Please provide your feedback with a comment. 
Thank you and Regards,
Tharanga Chandrasekara
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19 December 2019

Report back from Directions EMEA 2019

Starting from the second week of July to today, I had a completely packed schedule. It is a simple explanation about me blogging about the Directions EMEA after two months. August month started with 4 different Dynamics 365 Saturday community events every weekend and then came the Directions EMEA, after a few weeks time NAV TechDays. After all the travelings around the world and sleepless nights and weekends preparing for each session,  I finally manage to book some time to write a blog post about all the conferences I have attended during the past few weeks.

What is Directions EMEA?
Directions EMEA is where Microsoft Dynamics 365 Partners go to learn first-hand from Microsoft about the Roadmap of the Dynamics 365 Business Central and the best practices for migrating existing NAV customers to Business Central. It is an independent conference organized by the partners for partners and from next year onwards Directions will be known as “Directions 4 Partners”. Around 60-70% of the content delivered in the conference is directly coming from Microsoft and rest is by Microsoft MVPs or well-known experts on the technology.

How I got involved?
Wagner Silveira (Microsoft MVP for Azure) from our Theta Integration team and I was sharing the stage for the past few years delivering sessions on the possibilities of extending Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central with the use of Azure services. I always felt like this is more of two worlds coming together to deliver one perfect solution. Wagner is bringing his expertise on Azure technologies and integrations while I bring my expertise on Microsoft Dynamics NAV, and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. Together we manage to come up with very exciting session topics and demos to deliver the content.
Wagner and I were part of the last two Directions ASIA conferences and this time we got the opportunity to attend and conduct 3 different sessions at Directions EMEA, which is the largest Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central Partner conference.

Our sessions were around the topic of “Unlocking new integration potential for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central with Azure Integration Services”. The audience was very interactive, and we felt the audience enjoyed our sessions. Session feedback on the conference app from the attendees also agreed with our feeling.

Even though it was my first time at the Directions EMEA, I did not feel new about it as most of the speakers I knew personally or have already worked or engaged with them through e-mails or via twitter. However, it was an exciting conference for me as I was presenting at the “Directions EMEA” and this was kind of on my bucket list for the past 6 years.

A dream came true!
I still can remember when I was back in Sri Lanka a few years ago working for ZILLIONe, I was closely following the conference and going through all the tweets coming out from other MVPs, and dreaming about attending the conference as an attendee. After a few years later down the line, I was conducting 3 sessions at the conference that I was dreamed to attend as an attendee. Special heart whelmed thanks should go to Theta for assisting all the ways possible and Joerg Rau and Craig Barberini for encouraging me to present at community events. It was Joerg Rau who introduced me to Wagner and put the idea of we two deliver joint sessions. It was the starting point of this great journey with Wagner.

Theta Team
It is not just Wagner and me, this time we had 2 other participants from Theta team. Joerg Rau is a regular attendee for the Directions EMEA conference and this year Carl Head also joins with him to the conference. Even though it took over 27 hours to get to Vienna from New Zealand, attending Directions EMEA makes a huge impact on how we engage with new technologies. In Directions EMEA, Theta team has access to the latest tech news related to Microsoft Dynamics 365 directly coming from Microsoft itself. Attending workshops and deep-dive sessions keep us at the cutting edge technology, which makes perfect for us to deliver a perfect solution for our customers when we return back to New Zealand.

Directions EMEA Party

After session packed 3 days at Directions EMEA came to an end. Personally, I enjoyed every minute of the conference. Manage to put a face to the names for some of the Business Central giants. Picked up many new concepts and technologies and tasted the Schnitzel. Loved it!

MVP group photo | Photo credit: Directions EMEA

Please provide your feedback with a comment. 
Thank you and Regards,
Tharanga Chandrasekara
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