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AI-driven Progress: Navigating the Business Central 2024 Release Wave 1 Enhancements.

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The Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central 2024 Release Wave 1 is a significant update for small and mid-sized organizations.

It enhances business processes with new functionalities from April to September 2024. The release boosts efficiency, improves project and service management, and expands global availability. It also enhances developer productivity and provides more granular access to environments. The official launch event was held from April 4-10, 2024.

In this release wave, we are excited to share a list of major updates that will significantly enhance your experience with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central.

Here’s the list of major updates in the Release Wave 1:

Adapt faster with Power Platform

  1. Field Service Integrations: Ivan Katic introduced Dynamics 365 Field Service integration with Business Central, streamlining service operations and financial management. This ready-to-use integration provides visual scheduling, automation, and inventory and transaction alignment for service-based companies. It includes seamless data synchronization for resources, items, and work orders, and facilitates efficient work order management and invoicing. Katic underscores Microsoft’s commitment to product enhancement based on customer feedback.
  2. BC Integration with Dataverse: The event highlighted updates to integrating Business Central with Dataverse and Power Platform apps. Enhancements to Data Sync, Virtual Tables, and Business Events were presented to showcase better synchronization, data access without duplication, and real-time notifications between systems. These improvements aim to increase the value of combined applications, simplify integration, and provide detailed insights through partner telemetry. The demonstrations emphasized ease of use and operational efficiency within the ecosystem.
  3. Improve approval processes via Power Automate: In modern companies, streamlining document and data approval processes is vital. Recent enhancements include an updated Approval User Setup page integrated with Power Automate, eliminating manual approver setup. More templates now support Power Automate integration, aiming to meet business users’ expectations. Feedback on these improvements is encouraged for ongoing innovation.

Application

  1. Archive projects: Project archiving in Business Central facilitates control over project data with audit trails and version control. Automatic archiving generates new versions when document status changes, or actions like printing, emailing, or invoicing occur. Users manage archiving options, while archived projects are listed under Retention policy tables to manage database size. Limitations include an unavailable Statistics page and an inability to restore dimensions.
  2. Usability improves for service and projects: Enhanced usability in project and service management, streamlining processes like automatic source document release. Customer feedback prompted improvements in service management and accounting processes. PowerBI and Project Details FactBoxes are now accessible from the Project List page. Additionally, more columns have been added to service documents for better customer service insights.
  3. Use deferral codes in purchase and sales journals: Entering sales and purchase journals streamlines data entry for transactions requiring deferrals by specifying a deferral code directly, avoiding the need for general journals. This feature permits setting deferral codes on journal lines, akin to general journals, with validations to ensure distinct source codes for sales and purchase journals.
  4. Define a service invoice posting policy for various users: Companies employ diverse invoice and shipment procedures, ranging from single individuals handling all tasks to multiple staff members with individual responsibilities. A User Setup feature allows customization of each user’s service invoice processing permissions. Posting policies can restrict or mandate simultaneous posting of invoices and shipments, impacting service orders, warehouse shipments, invoices, and credit memos.
  5. Shopify Connector: Business Central has updated its Shopify connector to enhance B2B operations and introduce an order editing feature. These improvements streamline the eCommerce experience, offering automatic URL configuration and detailed inventory management directly within the platform. The integration supports D2C and B2B transactions, optimizing online sales management and embodying the evolution of Business Central’s e-commerce functionalities. Community feedback and early testing are encouraged to refine these advancements further.
  6. Excel Layout for Finance and Sales: Microsoft Business Central has updated Excel reporting functionalities, benefiting finance and sales teams with new, interactive reports that are easy to access and use. Features include a range of reports like trial balances and top customer analyses designed to handle large datasets efficiently in Excel. The introduced Excel copilot preview feature aids data analysis by identifying trends and outliers. Users are guided to further resources for learning and community engagement, with future updates promising broader analytical capabilities across various functions.
  7. Consolidation Financial Management: Updates in the financial consolidation features introduce a Consolidation Status List, Enhanced Currency Management, mistake recovery options, and validation checks to prevent errors. These enhancements improve efficiency and accuracy in financial reporting, allowing users to easily correct and rerun consolidations. Users are encouraged to provide feedback for future developments.
  8. New Timesheet Features: Ivan Katic presented new features for Business Central’s time sheet functionality aimed at simplifying employee entry and manager approval. Updates include Role Center tiles for quick access, conditional actions, highlighting required data, responsive interface changes, copying previous entries, informative Fact Boxes, policy setups for submission, enhanced approval views, and a focused approval workflow. These enhancements improve efficiency, reduce errors, and improve overall Business Central time tracking quality.
  9. Assemble to project: Assemble to Project streamlines inventory management by generating assembly orders only when necessary, facilitating project customization. It automates assembly order creation based on project planning, synchronizes item tracking, and integrates with warehouse management for smooth assembly and delivery workflows. Various warehouse configurations are supported, though some limitations exist regarding closed projects and billable parts.
  10. Invoice a customer for multiple projects: Effortlessly streamline invoicing by consolidating multiple project charges into a single invoice, minimizing manual input, and enhancing precision. The process involves selecting project planning lines across various projects and seamlessly appending them to a sales invoice. However, limitations include unavailable actions on sales orders or quotes and a lack of filtering options for certain fields.
  11. Use standard terminology for project management: To enhance project accounting usability, Microsoft has rebranded the terminology from “jobs” to “projects” in their product and documentation. This clarifies features like tasks and planning lines, aligning with industry expectations. Renaming maintains compatibility without altering underlying structures, aiming to improve user experience, documentation clarity, and application consistency.
  12. Use currencies when posting employee transactions: In Business Central, general journals facilitate tracking employee expenses and reimbursements in foreign currencies. Currency Code field allows specifying transaction currencies, enabling features akin to customer/vendor ledgers. Exchange rates are automatically adjusted, with options to update balances via currency exchange rate batch job, ensuring accuracy and flexibility in currency management.

AI & Co-pilot

  1. AI-powered Analysis: Microsoft’s Co-Pilot in Dynamics 365 Business Central is not just an AI-driven assistant but your trusted partner in data analysis. It transforms the way you work by enabling natural language commands and streamlining tasks. With its user-centric design, you maintain control and privacy over your data. The 2024 release extends Co-Pilot’s analytical capabilities, empowering you to focus on what’s important and derive insights easily. Access is available through the latest version of Dynamics 365 Business Central online, putting you in the driver’s seat of your data analysis journey.
  2. Sales Line Suggestions with Copilot: Microsoft Copilot, integrated into Business Central, is an AI assistant designed to facilitate the creation and management of sales documents. It simplifies tasks using natural language inputs to suggest sales line items and can replicate deals or find products efficiently. Initially available in English for the US region, the tool promises improved productivity, with broader language support planned for future updates. Copilot will launch with the 2024 Wave 1 cycle and adhere to Microsoft’s responsible AI use.
  3. E-invoice Matching: The release features the public preview of E-Invoice Matching with Co-Pilot, designed to streamline electronic invoice processing in compliance with Microsoft’s Responsible AI standards. This tool, which aids in automating the matching of electronic invoices to purchase orders, will be globally available except for Canada; it supports English language interfaces and offers user control over data privacy. The feature significantly reduces manual matching time and adapts to price discrepancies. Users can test the feature through Microsoft Collaborate, and feedback is encouraged for ongoing development.
  4. Create product information faster with Copilot: In a dynamic business environment, adapting product portfolios swiftly is essential. Copilot, an AI-driven assistant for Business Central users, streamlines product information management, expediting new product launches and enhancing focus on core business activities. By automating tasks like creating variants and units of measure, Copilot accelerates time-to-market and boosts productivity.
  5. Chat with Copilot: Microsoft has integrated Co-Pilot chat into Dynamics 365 Business Central, revolutionizing user data interaction and emphasizing user-friendly access. Co-Pilot uses natural language processing for efficient record retrieval and process guidance. Currently in preview, focusing on trust and compliance, this AI-powered chat aims to simplify business tasks and improve productivity within Microsoft’s ecosystem.
  6. Power Automate Flows with Copilot: Microsoft introduced an AI-powered feature in Power Automate to simplify creating workflows in Business Central using natural language, demonstrating a significant leap in low-code application development. The tool’s new capability caters to non-technical users, allowing easy custom flow creation and connection to various systems. Initially, in preview for English (US-based environments), expansion to other regions is planned, with further Power Platform integrations and community engagement avenues highlighted.
  7. Extending Copilot using AL Code: The Business Central team, led by Derek Jew and others, discussed new AI features and developer tools for Copilot. Key points included updates to the prompt dialogue, token counting for cost estimation, function calling for enhanced user query interpretation, and model currency maintenance. Managed AI resources aim to simplify integration while respecting data privacy. The session emphasized responsible AI practices and efficient AI integration within the platform.

Country and regional

  1. Automate IRS 1099 Form submission in the US: The 1099 form, mandated by the IRS, undergoes streamlined automation in Business Central’s update, integrating with the IRS for automated delivery. Generated documents feature headers and lines, archived for reference. Users can adjust statuses manually or based on actions, with customizable setup tables and flexible email or print delivery options. Integration with the IRIS system facilitates form submission and tracking, enhancing user experience and workflow efficiency.
  2. Enable additional countries and regions: Business Central’s cloud-based management software is extended to more countries via partner-led localizations, enabling access to over 170 countries. New regions include Belize, Burkina Faso, French Polynesia, and others. Partner-developed localization apps will be available on AppSource, enhancing accessibility and functionality globally.

Development

  1. Handle multiple file uploads and file drop zones: Developers in Business Central can now handle multiple file uploads and designate various page parts as file drop zones, enhancing flexibility and usability. This update streamlines multifile uploads, empowering developers to create more efficient interfaces. Particularly beneficial for applications needing simultaneous file uploads, it simplifies data entry and boosts productivity.
  2. Debug the system application: The recent inclusion of the SecureText data type allows debugging within the System application, aiding in application development, troubleshooting, and contributing to the System application on platforms like GitHub. It enhances code understanding and variable inspection, except for those protected by SecureText.
  3. Remove friction when working with external app dependencies: Resellers and publishers often rely on third-party applications, facing manual hurdles to access them for development and testing. This process is prone to errors, consumes time, and proves tedious. The new version aims to facilitate accessing external apps for development in containers and testing in online sandboxes, offering symbol downloads and GitHub actions for seamless integration.

Governance and administration

  1. Use linked environment in Dataverse integration: Businesses prioritize data security, particularly in integrating management applications. Linking Business Central and Dataverse ensures secure integration with other Dynamics 365 apps. This connection streamlines setup, offering administrators easier access and maintenance, enhancing confidence and workflow efficiency within the Business Central admin center.
  2. Audit Business Central operations in Microsoft Purview: In the 2024 release wave 1, Microsoft introduced a feature enabling administrators to monitor and audit events across Dynamics 365 Business Central and other Microsoft services through Microsoft Purview. This integration offers a unified view for efficient oversight and auditing of organizational operations.
  3. Encrypt data at-rest with customer-managed encryption key: With Dynamics 365 Business Central 2024 release wave 1, customers can encrypt their database using their own key (CMK), adhering to privacy guidelines. This enhances data protection, allowing the use of Azure Key Vault for key management, granting flexibility to manage, rotate, and control access to keys. The administration is centralized in the Power Platform admin center.
  4. Allow customers to consent to Microsoft Support accessing their data: Customers can ensure data privacy with Microsoft’s supportgranting explicit consent. The Power Platform admin center allows the creation of lockbox policies for Power Platform, Dynamics 365, and now Business Central. This enhances security, control over data access, and compliance with regulations or organizational needs.
  5. BC Integration with Power Platform: Recent enhancements focus on Power Automate, Power Pages, and connectors. Automation and workflow capabilities have improved, such as simpler approval workflows and GPT logic for summarizing sales orders in Power Automate. New connector actions, sample apps, linking with Data Verse, and a preview of Co-pilot in Power Automate for natural language automation creation are also discussed, underscoring Microsoft’s commitment to a robust business automation ecosystem.

Legislation

  1. See VAT date in posting previews: The new VAT feature in Business Central allows for pre-posting visibility of VAT Dates, ensuring compliance and enhancing productivity through improved reporting and accounting overviews.
  2. Automate country of origin listed for item tracking code in Intrastat reporting: Users can now include item country of origin in tracking, enhancing productivity by automating data inheritance from purchase to sales documents in Dynamics 365 Business Central. This update streamlines Intrastat reporting, eliminating manual errors by linking origin data to item tracking codes, improving accuracy and efficiency.
  3. Sustainability in BC: The Business Central 2024 Release Wave 1 introduces Sustainability Insights for SMEs, a response to growing regulatory and social demands for sustainable practices. This feature allows users to track environmental metrics, including emissions, through a sustainability chart of accounts. It offers journals and templates, calculation tools for emission factors, and customizable reporting options. A demo showcased the user-friendly interface and built-in report tools. Continuous feature development will be guided by community feedback.

Reporting and Data Analysis

  1. Discover report and data analysis content easily: Business Central’s update enhances data analysis accessibility, integrating a new report explorer and improved search to swiftly guide users to the necessary BI tools and reports.

User Experiences

  1. Use drag and drop to attach multiple files: The drag and drop function in Business Central simplifies file attachment, aiding users in managing multiple files. It improves data organization and accessibility, offering convenience by permitting simultaneous attachment of multiple files to records, obviating manual uploads, thus enhancing efficiency and user experience.
  2. Go to pages that contain a field that’s causing a platform error: Business Central has streamlined error resolution, guiding users directly to issues for swift correction. This enhancement boosts efficiency and workflow continuity by simplifying error navigation and comprehension, minus the technical jargon, while preserving in-depth details for those who need them.
  3. Share error details to get help from another user: Business Central’s new feature promotes teamwork by simplifying the sharing of error insights. This fosters a collaborative environment where expertise is easily accessible, streamlining problem resolution and reducing work interruptions.

Final Thoughts

Business Central’s Release Wave 1 for 2024 brings a suite of powerful enhancements for sustainability, service management, user testing, and web services. Each of these has been strategically crafted to streamline processes and elevate user experience.

Biplab Banerjee, Sr. Project Manager at Intwo, sums this up perfectly: “BC Release Wave 1 2024 not only enhances Copilot’s capabilities but also enriches application metadata, leading to a superior Copilot experience. By aligning our business objectives with community values, we’re not just boosting efficiency and engagement, but crafting a strategic advantage.”

As the platform continues to evolve, it’s crucial to connect with MSP experts to ensure a smooth transition and to fully leverage the spectrum of these new capabilities.

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