Thursday, October 4, 2018

I'm a kid in the Microsoft Candy Store

It's a fantastic time to be working with Microsoft products.

(Thanks to David Gersten for the idea for this blog post!)

Let's start with Microsoft Azure.  Open this web page and read the list.

Just look at that list.  It's pretty long, so you'll need to scroll down.  And scroll some more.  Keep scrolling.  And scrolling.

It's really, really, long

It's a crazy long list.  It's geek heaven.  It's consultant heaven.  So many amazing services to play with and learn and offer to customers.

Next, there is the Power Platform.

PowerApps: An entire universe of opportunities for Citizen Developers to create applications that run in a browser and on mobile devices.

Power BI: An amazing reporting, analysis, and data visualization tool.

Microsoft Flow: A no-code solution to automate tasks and workflows that connects to dozens of systems and data sources.

A trio of tools for the Citizen Developer

Is that enough for you?  No?  Oh, you want more?

For those of us in the ERP world, there is an entire universe of functionality and learning available in the relatively new Dynamics 365 Business Central.  The "D365 BC" SaaS ERP offering has most of the functionality from the Dynamics NAV product, but has been designed to work with the AL programming language, which is fully supported by the VS Code IDE tool.

SaaS ERP with native browser and mobile support

So in addition to having an opportunity to learn a new ERP system with rich, advanced functionality, anyone who is technically inclined can learn the AL programming language and quickly develop basic Extensions for Business Central.  At the recent Directions NA conference, several sessions had attendees creating custom pages in Business Central in just 1 hour.  I was amazed at how easy it was to add custom pages to Business Central.

And then there are APIs!  The Business Central APIs are currently based on the Microsoft REST API guidelines, which offer a powerful combination of REST with OData query syntax.  But Microsoft is also working on adding support for the Open API Specification 3.0, which will include Swagger support.  If you haven't used a Swagger web API yet, you should definitely check it out--even if you aren't a developer.  It lets you view and test the API directly from a web browser, making the API completely accessible to both developers and non-technical users alike.

Swagger provides a web page to interact with an API
Sorry for the blurry photo, it was a quick photo taken during a presentation.

As if fantastic APIs weren't good enough, they are also working on adding Webhooks to Business Central.  Webhooks are HTTP "callbacks", that enable an application to make outbound calls when certain events occur.  Perhaps your ecommerce platform needs to know when a Business Central customer address is updated.  Just register a webhook event with Business Central, and it will notify your ecommerce system.

This solves a common problem in the ERP world which is difficult to solve with some ERP systems, such as Dynamics GP.

And if that weren't enough for you, Microsoft Dynamics GP 2018 R2 was released this week, adding several new features, and support for the new "Intelligent Edge" service that will allow GP customers to upload their ERP data to Business Central to take advantage of the dashboards and analytical capabilities.

There are massive learning opportunities from these Microsoft products and services, and no shortage of learning tools.  From online documentation and tutorials, to YouTube videos, to the Dynamics Learning Portal, you can learn about these technologies any time, anywhere.  And if you want to learn in person, you can attend conferences like Directions NA, Directions EMEA, Dynamics Communities Summit conference, Microsoft Business Applications Summit, Microsoft Ignite conference, and others.

Tons of new tools and technologies to learn.  Tons of opportunities and resources to help you learn.

I'm very excited to be part of these new generation of Microsoft technologies, and can't wait to learn them!

Steve Endow is a Microsoft MVP in Los Angeles.  He is the owner of Precipio Services, which provides Dynamics GP integrations, customizations, and automation solutions.

You can also find him on TwitterYouTube, and Google+

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