Top articles of 2020: Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations

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While identifying Microsoft’s enterprise ERP by name remained a mouthful in 2020, Dynamics 365 Finance and Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management advanced in a variety of ways. We saw the emergence of a promising hybrid cloud strategy, new uses of Azure services, a shakeout in project management capabilities, and new leadership in the Microsoft Business Applications team.

Looking back on the year’s top articles, subject matter experts kept their focus on areas that could have a big impact in the future – machine learning, project service, sustainability, cloud migration, and more. And Microsoft continued to both add features to the product organically and to acquire IP through licensing and purchase deals as well as by forging strategic partnerships.

Readers were drawn to Rahul Mohta and Yogesh Kasat’s guidance on how to deploy and use Azure Machine Learning (AML) and R scripts to provide sales forecasting in Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations. Their approach is not without its challenges, like finding an optimal algorithm and unifying warehouse data. But as more people gain the right skills and understanding, ML-based forecasting can become a part of many organizations’ operational modernization.

Written off by some, Microsoft’s vision for hybrid cloud ERP appears to be alive and well thans to new hybrid architecture models for warehouse management and manufacturing. Since the announcement in October, the team has been providing more details on how the various scale units and offline workloads will be deployed and what they can offer. As we reported at the time, the hybrid model allows customer locations to keep some activities and processes running even when connectivity is lost to the cloud.

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Project Operations officially replaced Project Service Automation this year. The change appears to have come from the product team’s desire to rationalize project-related applications to bring all the strengths together, from project finances to project management tools to project resources, into one offering. The result is a new offering that Microsoft promises will be richer in capabilities than its predecessors. So far, however, it also seems to be a more confusing product for existing customers to understand and prepare for. Microsoft explained that there will be transition licensing that should prevent most customers from seeing their costs explode as a result of the change. But as a supposedly unified offering, Project Operations now faces a more formidable challenge: bringing together disparate capabilities (some updates are not planned until mid-2021 at the earliest), filling in some notable gaps, and rationalizing the whole thing atop Dataverse.

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The departure of the previous head of sales for Microsoft Business Applications, Hayden Stafford, appeared to leave a void in the leadership team for Dynamics and Power Platform. But Microsoft appears found their new leader for the role in Vahé Torossian, a veteran executive who had been leading Microsoft’s Western Europe business for three years. 

2020 release wave 2 for Dynamics 365 impacted Finance and Supply Chain Management along with the rest of the suite. Among notable changes, D365 Finance is adding asset leasing and expanding its “global coverage.” But one product not arriving this cycle is Finance Insights.

Microsoft MVP and financial management expert Dr. Ludwig Reinhard is spending more of his time on the emerging field of sustainability accounting, which attempts to reconcile traditional accounting methods with the externalities arising from and alongside the world’s economic activity. He examines the evolution of two of the sustainability accounting standards and how businesses can begin to align with them. A range of forces may compel a business to begin to comply, from regulation to industry pressures, stakeholder interests, and even simple ethics. Currently there are no tools that give Dynamics 365 F&O users strong control over a sustainability accounting view of the world, but Reinhard plans to dive into the needs and implementation standards in 2021.

Following the reveal of the release wave 2 plans, we learned that Microsoft would be adding lease accounting as a result of a licensing deal for IP from Crowe LLP. The Crowe Lease Accounting Optimizer helps companies manage their lease accounting processes while promoting compliance with lease accounting standards under FASB ASC 842 and IFRS 16.

Reaching the goal of one platform across Dynamics 365 applications remains a “scary, challenging, intimidating thing to go do”, Microsoft CVP Charles Lamanna told users in July.

Microsoft’s  dual-write strategy for Operations continues to evolve for ERP to CRM integration, even as the product teams add support for virtual entities, reporting via ADLS Gen2, and other tactics that bring Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management data into the fold with Power Platform.

because of the commitment Microsoft has to delivering such a platform while supporting backward compatibility and avoiding the need to rewriting of existing products.

Lamanna confirmed that Microsoft is actively working on a plan to bring Dynamics 365 Operations applications together with the Common Data Service (CDS) to “look like one offering.”

Vamsi Pranith Donepudi examines three out of the box tools for D365 Finance and Supply Chain Management that can be used in combination with the cross-application capabilities of Azure DevOps, Lifecycle Services (LCS) and Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT). He explores configuration migration, data templates, and exporting a data project, with recommendations of how and why each of these approaches improves a project team’s ability to deploy successfully.

Pattern Energy, a company that develops and operates wind and solar energy generation projects around the world, had many years invested into a Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 ERP solution that was on-premises and highly customized. But by 2018 they knew that their aging system needed to be replaced. On this episode of the MSDW Podcast, ERP systems analyst Nick Tavenier, discussed the company’s migration experience and how they did it successfully.  

Microsoft continued to add targeted capabilities to Dynamics 365 F&O through partnerships in 2020. While Microsoft first revealed the Kyriba partnership, albeit vaguely, in May 2020, D365 GM Georg Glantschnig explained that the integration will tap into the Kyriba Payment Network for vendor and third-party transfers, provide bank connectivity at over 1,000 banks with support for thousands of format variations, and payment status visibility via D365.