Community Summit North America, taking place this week in Orlando, Fla., was highlighted Wednesday by an inspirational keynote on overcoming obstacles in order to drive results, as well as Microsoft product updates from community leaders and Microsoft itself.
Keynoter Ryan Holiday, a bestselling author, presented a set of ideas to help attendees work through and deliver in the face of obstacles. His philosophy draws heavily on Stoic principles, or the practice of stoicism, which can be summarized as keeping an even keel – not getting too high or too low, especially when it comes to events we can’t control.
Holiday presented three “disciplines” from stoic teachings that support his recommendations:
Perception – We don’t control what happens but we do control how we respond. For example, 2020 was a massive test that is destined to make all of us better or worse people – we need to decide how we react. In every situation, we have an opportunity to practice a virtue. That’s not a recommendation to be emotionless, but rather to try to not be driven or torn apart by negative emotions such as ego, pride, or despair. He cited a Canadian astronaut who observed that astronauts aren’t braver than other people, they’re just meticulously prepared, which includes thinking proactively about things that can go wrong.
Action – We can’t solve a problem without taking action, and it helps to work on the problems or work that are hardest first. If you need to swallow a toad, do it first thing and get it over with, he said. Otherwise, you spend the whole time thinking about it and you don’t get anything else done in the meantime.
Using a real-world example, Holiday said that writing is difficult for him, so he typically starts his day doing that. Having a discipline around action means adopting a mindset that a crisis can present opportunities to do things that didn’t seem possible before – just as companies revamped business models in weeks (as opposed to typical years-long cycles) during Covid “because all the old constraints went away.” Holiday noted that Thomas Edison tried thousands of different light bulb filaments until he identified the one that met his requirements; but that process is critical, and if it’s viewed as a process of elimination on the road to success, then the process feels more manageable.
Will – This discipline is embodied in willpower and determination, even when progress isn’t obvious or situations may seem hopeless. “The ultimate act of will is to not throw in the towel, to not quit,” Holiday said. By way of example, he cited the professor, Katalin Kariko, who toiled in anonymity for years – without resentment, despair, or anger – but continued her work; she invented with a collaborator the mRNA technology used in the two most common Covid vaccines. When Thomas Edison’s factory burned down, he told his son: “Get your mother and all her friends, they’ll never see a fire like this again.” Edison’s third act? Throwing himself into the project to rebuild his factory.
Dynamics 365 CE/CRM General Session
Another highlight included this general session, wherein community leaders gave their perspectives on the best upcoming enhancements to the CE/CRM platform.
Heidi Neuhauser, a Microsoft MVP, highlighted updates to customer journeys in Dynamics 365 Sales and Marketing; specifically, the ability to edit live journeys through an easy editing interface, without impacting customers in mid-flight. The new release features upgraded marketing channel support without requiring custom integrations, as well as real-time tips and suggestions from Teams in the course of a sales call. She also highlighted Viva for Sales, including features that were previously delivered through separate tools. This includes AI-driven follow-through, suggestions and reminders.
William McLendon highlighted field service and customer service enhancements that include mobile usability enhancements. Users can now shift to a tab at the bottom of a given page, rather than having to scroll from top to bottom. A schedule board for front-line workers, which previously required an admin to enable for an entire organization, is now active by default. An auto-booking feature has been upgraded so that overlapping bookings no longer happen. There are also improvements in customer support “swarming” for complex cases – so that a customer can get to the right person at the right time to solve their issue.
Kylie Kiser previewed Dataverse and AI Builder. One important enhancement is the inclusion of PowerFX, the Excel-like formula language for Power Apps, in Dataverse. The release also includes Collaboration for Makers – which includes co-presence, co-authoring, and the ability to collaborate on AI models. AI Builder now supports the ability to update prebuilt models with industry-specific fields.
BC/NAV General Session
Microsoft’s SMB vice president, Mike Morton, made the case for customers moving to the online or cloud version of Business Central (BC) and discussed the platform’s overall momentum, namely: 3,900-plus partners selling Business Central and 2,700-plus solutions on App Source — the most of any Microsoft product — exceeding Sharepoint, Office, and Exchange.
“The questions you may have had whether it would scale to your needs…cloud is not just ready but also proven by great customers,” Morton said.
The October release of Business Central is built around three themes or enhancement categories:
- Adapt faster: Relevant enhancements include cloud optimizations, streamlined apps onboarding, and security/privacy upgrades.
- Perform better: Enhancements include the ability to personalize automation actions.
- Work smarter: Enhancements include the ability to select Excel report layouts
Enhancements also include the addition of “financial reports” as a replacement for the “account schedules” naming for the same function.
The next release, in early 2023, will include enhancements in onboarding, navigation, reporting, Teams, developer tools, geographic expansion, and more, Morton said.