Day 1 of the inaugural Amplify 2016 conference started with a general session at 8:30am. The general session followed the familiar format of introductions and general administrative things, followed by Dynamics GP product strategy, roadmap and GP 2016 product demos. I won’t get into details on “breakfast”. The organizers got an earful of feedback on the disappointing breakfast each day so I won’t add on with more on that. Let’s just say thank goodness for the Starbucks beside the meeting rooms! On the bright side, there was a wide selection of tea for me each day! 🙂

Opening Session

Bob McAdam, from Dynamics Communities, kicked things off on the right foot, sharing the success of the sponsorships they managed to get signed up for the event, handing the organization of it all within only a few months. There were 10 Platinum Sponsors, 22 Gold Sponsors, 7 Silver Sponsors, 2 sponsors for the luncheons and a “connection” sponsor (WiFi & networking hangout near the conference rooms). Kudos to all of the sponsors for stepping up and backing the event in its first year, when not much would have been known about what they may get in return. I believe Bob said they were more successful with the sponsors than they thought they might be, which is fantastic news.

Next up was Pam Misialek starting us off with some product strategy and she showed us a couple of interesting videos. The first video was about Cortana, and how it is trying to make computing more personal. Ultimately, the aim is to learn more about you and your habits to get to the point of being able to tell you about things like what the traffic might be like for your commute before you even ask for assistance. Personally it sounds equally part cool technology but also scary lack of privacy! I haven’t tried Cortana yet, mostly because I find Siri useless on my iPhone, and I’ve always assumed it’s the same type of thing. Even writing that out makes me realize how stupid that backwards logic is, so I may have to try Cortana out soon just to sample the Kool-Aid!

The second video was more impressive to me, and it appears to have been from part of the Build 2015 Keynote video. I googled some of the things we watched to track down this video and found it, with the part we watched starting around the 2 hour 31 minute mark. The segment just prior, around the 2:28 mark with Alex Kipman gives a bit more background to what you are about to watch that filled in a couple of gaps for me, so I’m glad I searched out the video to re-watch it. Essentially this video was about the Windows Holographic Platform and reinventing productivity. Darren, the person in the video, was wearing a HoloLens and wandering around the stage, with us viewing what he “sees” in his world. His world was modelled after his apartment and there were some pretty cool things. He had different universal Windows apps placed as holograms in different parts of the room, like a weather app, depicting what the weather is like in Hawaii because he’s about to go on a trip, and a calendar in one room, because he’s always late for appointments. He opened his video player and “placed” it on the wall like a TV and started to play a movie on it. At one point he was going to do some things around the house and told the video player to “follow me”, and it followed him room to room while he wandered and did things – while it continued to play. I’d totally love to do that with a baseball or football game while I’m prepping for dinner or something! Cool stuff. It’s about 5 to 8 minutes altogether, depending if you start with the pre-amble or just the demo that we saw in our part of the presentation.

Errol Schoenfish was next and he started off with a graphic that showed computers/prices in 1982 and 2012, and asked the audience what the significance of those two years was. It turns out that 1982 was the year Errol started college and 2012 was the year this year’s graduates started college. He talked about how much this generation is influenced by innovation and that millennials choose to work for SMBs, more than any prior generation has, yet they are expecting innovative workplaces.

The next group on-stage were Chad Sogge, Jeff Trosen, Jen Ranz and Jodi Christiansen, all from Microsoft of course, with various demos of GP 2016. One thing that particularly caught my eye was during Jodi’s BI demo, Jeff and Chad were both keenly paying attention to the demo as if it was new to them, which I assume it wasn’t at all. That showed me the passion that this team has for the GP product, that sometimes we forget is there. They see this stuff all the time and they are still fascinated by it, I love that!

One interested thing mentioned at some point during the session was the focus isn’t 2 years down the road, but the focus is on the next 10 things, and then when those are done, the focus will be on the next 10 things. Every two weeks, the product management team reviews Microsoft Connect to see what customers and partners are asking for and changing plans as needed to focus on the right 10 things at any one point. If you still don’t think that Microsoft sees and takes those suggestions into consideration, this was an eye-opener for you.

There was a screen shot of features under consideration and it’s bound to change, and my pictures of the slides weren’t great so I decided not to post them. With the release cadence so tight, every 6-9 months you’re seeing new features that previously took 24-30 months to get to you. The downside of this in my opinion is, at some point in the new future, Microsoft will have potentially 4 or more active, supported versions of GP – yet the upgrade paths are still (historically) only direct upgrades from 2 versions back. At some point I would think that has to be addressed as clients may not be willing to pay the high prices they pay to upgrade (they aren’t cheap!), to upgrade more frequently than in the past, to keep within the typical 2 version window that historically many clients followed in the past. Some will, my guess is most won’t, and then you’re going to be into situations with 3-4 version leaps, which make upgrades potentially more costly and complex. That’s just my opinion though, time will tell what the upgrade future looks like.

Back to the demos. Most of you reading this have likely already followed the “what’s new” blogs leading up to the release of Microsoft Dynamics GP 2016 so I’m just listing off some of the highlights, not every single thing they demonstrated. That link, by the way, shows there are many topics yet to come around new features, so by no means is the series over now that the product is already released!

In no particular order, here are the things that caught my eye:

System

  • HTML5 web client is the big one. It uses an banner similar to Office applications and works on any device (Jen Ranz’ demo was on an iPad). Most of the improvements are positive, but in some notes from my web client session, I will note the odd couple of things that were a potential step backwards for some users.
  • Window search, available in the Web Client only
  • Batch workflow edit lists now available in Word Templates
  • Improvements to the condition management in Workflow

Distribution

  • Requisition Entry now has Project Accounting fields
  • Purchase Order prepayments can now include the entire PO, taxes etc. included.
  • Two new all-in-one document viewers – one for sales, one for inventory. One thing I liked was the ability to hide some document types you don’t use, on the sales AIO viewer.

Business Intelligence

  • Smartlists exported to excel now numbers are formatted as numbers, not string with a currency symbol
  • Smartlist Designer now has import and export capabilities
  • Smartlist Designer now has the ability to create a smartlist from an existing favourite
  • Smartlists created in Smartlist Designer now are visible in the Smartlist Options window to set defaults on.

Financials

  • Excel Budget Wizard import now has a report to show exceptions like missing GL accounts
  • For us Canucks, Scotiabank is now a default format available in EFT
  • New functionality for paying by credit card, like a cheque run.

Services

  • OData service can be deployed now from the Additional Products menu of the install and uses GP security to control access
  • Power BI reports can be deployed to the home page.

 

That’s it for the General Session. In my next post, I’ll cover the remainder of Day 1 at Amplify! This post was too long to try to include all of the content.