Directions EMEA 2021 – Day 2

If you haven’t read relation from day one here you can find it. This post is a continuation of my key learnings from Directions EMEA 2021 which was in Milan (finally) in person.

Keynote

Cloud First

During the Microsoft keynote, all was about the cloud and faster implementation of Business Central. Mike Morton was talking about key points that can help in the cloud-ready strategy:

  • Use AppSource Apps when it is possible
  • Reduce consultants’ time by using onboarding capabilities
  • Use telemetry to support your customers
  • Use service to service authentication connecting Business Central
  • Move even big customers to the cloud

Microsoft announced that migration to the cloud does not have now upper GB limit (till now it was 80 GB).

Automated validation of Apps

Because there are more and more Apps on AppSource Microsoft is changing the rules of the validation. In October they moved to a more automated approach. It means that now validation of the apps takes for all countries less than 5 minutes. Only in October revalidated this way were over 1600 apps.

Note also that they are working to have full automation – now it is needed to publish the App in Partner Center manually but in the future, we can expect that Apps will be pushed to validation from the pipelines directly.

Onboarding

Dmitry Chadayev from Microsoft showed on stage how you can use onboarding features inside Business Central:

  • Teaching Tips – with new role center tips
  • Checklists – that can be used for new installations
  • Assisted Setup – developed from code using guided experience module from the System App.
  • Management APIs allows preparing tenant with all needed Apps for the customer without manual work

The nice approach was to use configuration packages that are downloaded on demand. However please be aware that this is not a standard solution – it was used as part of the assisted set up as a custom wizard. Nevertheless, I am using this in a product that I develop in our company and can recommend such an approach – it speeds time to prepare a database, and customers focus on the most important setup only.

Telemetry and Troubleshooting

In previous releases we got snapshot debugging that allows us to “debug” cloud production environments. This time Microsoft showed also AL Profiler that is a built-in VSCode. I would recommend you to take a look.

An additional thing that can help you to check which part of code is performing slow (for example on the loading page) is Page Inspector that shows the time of loading each extension.

Microsoft also showed that for finding the performance issues we can be proactive by setting properly telemetry, which shows us the long-running queries, and in such cases, we can change the code before a customer would notice it.

Sandbox for Partners

Microsoft announced that partners would be able to get the sandbox for the demos etc. However, the sandbox will not be free and will cost 6 USD per month with a minimum of 5 users. I also heard but not from the stage (please check it as this was not official) that now Silver and Gold partners can have free environments.

Together we win – success through open source

System App from Microsoft is published on GitHub and can be extended by anyone. The idea behind that is that we as developers know what is missing or which improvements need to be done and we could collaborate to focus on more important things.

An example that was pointed by Microsoft as a good open-source idea is a Drag&Drop feature. They have it under the radar and probably at some point (if time allows) would build it. But we see many such apps on AppSource – doing the same and which are expected by customers to be in the main product. Why instead offer it on AppSource (even for free) not help the whole community and try to work together to build it for all?

We could listen to the story from Simon Fischer from Cosmo Consult with his journey to contribute with a whole new module that everyone can use now. Instead of building something only for one customer with a low budget, he decided to spend time and create Azure Storage Connector.

I think Microsoft has many lessons learned from that project. Two of them:

  • Build small modules and extend them in future
  • Collaborate openly over GitHub and invite the community to comment on the idea and solution

This session was in my opinion very important I am sad that the room was not full. It was not for developers only but mainly for the managers to understand that when building something we could help each other to do implementations faster.

How to stay in AppSource

I missed the first session that Waldo did. But this one was for me important since I already have apps on AppSource. He focuses on the below topics:

  • DevOps
  • Development Guidelines
  • Testability
  • Troubleshooting

Being on AppSource have a few challenges. From Waldo’s observation those are:

  • Monthly updates
  • Minor and Major changes
  • Changes in CodeCops inside AL
  • AppSource Validation process
  • Hotfixes
  • Troubleshooting

One of the things that he shared is the simplified Git branching strategy. He said that this is so far working in his projects and he also mentions that of course it can change and it does not mean that will work in other projects. From my perspective I can say that we have a similar approach – do not complicate if not needed and that works. But I agree – everyone needs their way.

I heard that Waldo will share the slides so I think it is good to visit his blog to check for updates.

What if… a card game could help you to deliver the best BC project ever

This was a different session from others. We could first feel like in the movie and later like in theatre since the session was rather a play than a normal presentation. We also got the cards after the session that can be used to be more prepared to deliver better way the project.

Unfortunately, I needed to leave the session earlier so could not stay till the end. But I like the format of the session – it was entertaining and it is good to hear that others have sometimes the same issues as you.

More to come

The last day is always shorter than others but it is also very exciting. So stay tuned for more info soon.

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