How the Dynamics CRM technology foundations have come the beating heart of the Microsoft Business Application Platform.
NB: I’ve changed the initial title to avoid confusion: xRM is not dead, it just got reincarnated into a new product and has a new official name. The new PowerApps & CDS for Apps platform is now the platform that the Dynamics 365 for Sales, Service, Marketing, etc. applications are natively built on.
A little history…
A long time ago, there was Dynamics CRM. A solution that integrated sales, service and marketing automation features.
People quickly started talking about xRM because of the great extensibility of the platform. It became possible (and easy!) to manage new business processes and objects. Customizers could create new entities to meet business requirements that were not supported of the box, and customize them with their own fields, relationships, business rules, workflows forms, charts, dashboards…
Dynamics CRM then became Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement. A platform that was able to integrate various business application packages that could be activated (and licensed) independently: Sales, Customer Service, Field Service, Project Service Automation, Marketing… But Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement remained an “xRM” platform that allowed to create your own business applications or integrate prebuilt industry verticals or more advanced modules (such as ClickDimensions, for marketing automation).
In parallel, Microsoft developed PowerApps. A solution that allowed to easily create new business applications with a WYSIWYG approach, mainly to create mobile / tablet applications in a PowerPoint-like editor. One could mix various sources of data (Dynamics, SharePoint, Office, but also from non-Microsoft editors such as Salesforce.com). PowerApps leveraged the Common Data Service, a kind of transverse database for applications.
It might not be obvious to the eyes, but the July Update of Dynamics 365 (9.0) was a big architecture update of the Dynamics CRM / 365 platform (watch this video if you haven’t, to better understand what happened). Under the hood, Microsoft worked very hard to separate the “core” features and entities of the platform from the various business modules (sales, service, marketing) that were historically embedded in the core. One of the goals was to remove dependencies between the different business applications packages lifecycles: for example you could update the Sales app without touching the Service app. To me, this big architecture makeover is one of the reasons that v9.0 is still not available On-Premise.
With the Spring 2018 Release, PowerApps and the Common Data Service for Apps become the beating heart of the Microsoft Business Application Platform.
With the migration of more an more Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement components to Azure (since v9.0, the database runs on Azure SQL), Microsoft transformed the old-fashioned xRM platform and made it the foundation to the various lines of business business applications running on PowerApps.
Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement was the ideal choice for this new foundation, as it already offered many out-of-the-box no-code extensibility features. Any customizer can quickly create new entities and fields (including roll-up and calculated fields), business process flows, workflows, business rules, forms, views, dashboards, etc. that would seat within dedicated application packages. These applications can be associated with target user groups and integrate a powerful and robust security model.
What was yesterday the Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement platform has become the Common Data Service for Apps. Applications created within the Common Data Service for Apps (so the Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement core, if you follow me) are now called PowerApps Model-Driven Apps. These apps leverage the new Unified Interface (UI). CRM instances have become CDS instances / environments.
Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement app modules (for Sales, for Customer Service, for Marketing, for Field Service, for Project Service Automation…) are based on the Common Data Service for Apps.
In front of the Common Data Service for Apps, the Common Data Service for Analytics. What ties them together: the Common Data Model.
Intimately related to Power BI, the Common Data Service for Analytics brings intelligence and insights to the business data coming from Common Data Service for Apps (or from external sources) and stored in the Common Data Model.
The evolution of PowerApps
Existing PowerApps applications (now called “Canvas Apps”) will continue to work, and the legacy CDS environments will be migrated to the new CDS for Apps architecture.
Canvas and Model-Driven types of apps will both appear on home.dynamics.com. On the mobile side, those types of apps will remain separated, but that should change later this year.
What subscription for some pure xRM application design?
For customers who need to create their own applications (if their functional requirements are not covered by existing Dynamics 365 modules) they can use this SKU: “Microsoft PowerApps P2” (catalog price: 33,70 € / user / month). ISV will certainly also offer prebuilt applications to extend the existing Microsoft Business Application Platform offering.
Where to start to better understand all changes brought by the Spring 2018 Release?
For a global vision:
- Read this blog post from James Phillips (Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Business Applications Group) on the Spring 2018 Release.
- Watch the replay of the Microsoft Business Forward conference.
- What the replay of the Business Applications virtual launch event.
- Download and read the 200+ pages (!) of the Spring 2018 Release Notes.
- Watch the replay of the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Blitz Readiness New Release (you will need an access to the DLP).
On PowerApps and the CDS for Apps:
- New features in the Common Data Service for Apps! (Spring Update).
- Create a database with the latest version of the Common Data Service.
- PowerApps Spring Update.
- Introducing model-driven apps – a new way to create.
- Lear more about Common Data Service for Apps.
On instance management:
- What’s new in the Dynamics 365 admin center.
- What’s new for instance management.
- Common Data Service instances.
On the Common Data Service for Analytics: