Dynamics Developers – Time to Get your Head out of your Ass


As I was writing my last post on Re-Thinking, I got an email from some off-shore developer, offering to assist us with any “Dynamics CRM Online” projects we may have. Based on this pretty big clue, I put on my pompous know-it-all hat, and blasted him for offering his ancient skills to a cutting edge partner. His apologetic reply included, “there is just so much to get up-to-speed on, I don’t even know where to start”. Then I felt like an asshole. But he did give me the idea for this post.

Skills Deprecation

In many of my recent posts I have been preaching that you need to get current to stay relevant. What has served you for years, is in jeopardy. Your past ability to keep up with the conveyor belt of changes, and still get work done, is failing now that the belt is moving 50 times faster. It seems that this “concept” might be resonating with a lot of people. But work will always take priority, and today, the more you focus on work, the faster and father behind you get. It is a viscous cycle with a bad ending.

The Conveyor Belt

Changes are coming way too fast for even the most ardent watchers to keep up with, much less while trying to keep food on your table. But among that non-stop stream are a few things that will be key to your longevity as Dynamics Business Applications Developer. I am fortunate to have a greater than average amount of time to digest these things. I try and pick up each piece as it goes by and study it. Many of them are like “Huh, that’s interesting”, and some are like “Huh, that changes everything”. But you continue to… Wait… back up… “changes everything”? So I thought I would create a cheat sheet for those that can’t possibly review everything, of the things they must make time for.

Unified Interface

This one has a laser lock on you that you cannot evade. The honeymoon is over. Unified Interface is now the default UI for new deployments. Your trusty ole Web Client (Classic UI) is still available in the background for a limited time. You need to get on this one. I have written about this one here.

PowerApps

PowerApps is the crabgrass in the Dynamics 365 lawn… and it is taking over. Its seeds have already taken root, leading to more seeds. You might have first noticed it in the Solution Designer, but that was just a visible manifestation on the surface. Underneath, it has already taken over the entire platform you work on every day. PowerApps is not a name change, it is a philosophical change to how Microsoft is moving forward in Business Applications. Bit by bit, PowerApps is gradually replacing everything you always knew. The way you design views for example is changing with a brand new view designer, forms are next, and it will continue. Should you freak out? If you have designed views the old way, you will be able to pick up on the new way in about five minutes… once you make the time.

Common Data Service

Under the hood, Dynamics 365 has very little in common with Dynamics CRM Online. The separation of the Apps from the platform may not be obviously apparent, but the changes are profound. Any developer who plans to continue their career, will need to get their arms around this concept. I have already written about this at length, so I’ll just refer you to this postthis post or this post.

Microsoft Flow

You may have thought about Microsoft Flow as some kind of “If this then that” competitor that you can safely ignore. But the crabgrass seeds have spread. Once all the wiring is in place, Microsoft Flow will actually replace the workflow designer you currently use in Dynamics 365. Do you think you might want to bone up on that one?

Power BI

One of Microsoft’s key differentiators in Business Applications is Power BI. Really analytics in general, but Power BI is your door in. While there will still be a place for native charts in Dynamics 365, they do not set Microsoft apart, like Power BI can. To be honest, this is one of the areas that I acknowledge that even I am behind on, but I also know I can’t be.

Power Platform

Thankfully, the “Power Platform” is not a separate thing, but rather a concept of using PowerApps, Microsoft Flow and Power BI together. So if you understand those three, you understand the Power Platform.

Extra Credit

The items above, are really what I consider table-stakes, for having a future in this business as a developer. Consider those as getting your head out of your ass and wiping your face off, but if you really want to get the crap out of your teeth, then here are some items that will allow you to further stand out in the crowd.

PowerApps Control Framework

PCF is like crabgrass in the crabgrass. It has already taken over many things without your even knowing it. For example, the out of the box charts have all been converted to “Controls”. The Editable Grid is a “control”. Many of the things you are looking at right now, have been quietly converted to controls, and it is the way forward. To be fair, this is still in private preview, so you may not be able to get to it yet, but once you can, you will want to understand how this works.

Dynamics 365 for Marketing

Some of you may know that I have written a few posts on Microsoft’s new marketing application, Dynamics 365 for Marketing. Some of you may have even stayed away as a result of those posts. But, as I recently wrote about here, the water is fine now, and you can feel free to jump in

Connectors

Connectors are going to be a bigger part of the picture as we move forward. As the name implies, these are bits of code that connect to some other application’s API. Using the Dynamics 365 connector and any other connector, you can link the applications together. They are the cornerstone of Microsoft Flow and Canvas PowerApps. They are also not difficult to build. If you are a third-party application wondering how you might “connect” with the Microsoft ecosystem, “Connectors” could be the ticket.

Summary

This was just the tip of the iceberg, and while it might be awesome to stand on the peak of the iceberg, you at least need to be clinging onto the side of it, or you will drown under it.

My posts tend to be about things you should be thinking about, but for the next level of how to actually get there, I highly recommend a fellow MVP, Jukka Niiranen’s excellent blog http://survivingcrm.com/

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