Planning for Dynamics 365 Feature Deprecation

Deprecation

In several fields, deprecation is the discouragement of use of some terminology, feature, design, or practice; typically because it has been superseded or is no longer considered efficient or safe – but without completely removing it or prohibiting its use.

-From Wikipedia

As Dynamics 365 continues to evolve, undoubtedly there will come to newer and better ways of doing things.  If there wasn’t, we would still managing Leads and Opportunities using huge rooms full of vacuum tubes, magnetic tape and punch cards.

importingleads
John importing Leads into an early version of CRM

The current list of “Deprecated” features is listed on Microsoft Docs.

One of the deprecated features was the Dynamics CRM Outlook Client add-in.   Of all the things that are awesome about of Dynamics 365/CRM, the Outlook client was not one of them.  Not so much from a functionality point of view but rather stability, speed and reliability.  In my experience, the add-in constantly either crashed or slowed down a lot of my client’s Outlook installs.  It was constantly battling with the other add-ins and if your server was 5 minutes off from your workstation, it just wouldn’t work at all (without so much as a descriptive error message).  I don’t think it was so much the fault of the developers of the add-in but rather the fact that Microsoft Outlook was never designed to be a “platform” for add-ins.

The replacement for the full Outlook client was the “App for Outlook”.  This gets installed via Exchange and will appear in your Outlook on your desktop, phone, web or wherever you use Outlook.  The problem was that not everyone is on the latest version of Exchange and not all of the features available in the Outlook client are available via the App.

Your-Child-Brat
I NEED the CRM for Outlook Client!

A while back, James Phillips, the Microsoft VP in charge of Dynamics 365, announced that the deprecation of the Outlook Client was reversed.

Essentially many Dynamics 365 customers and the community provided feedback to Microsoft which was heard.  This didn’t mean that the “Outlook App” was going away, in fact that is still the preferred direction Microsoft would like its customers to pursue.  What it means is that the traditional Outlook client will still be supported and developed for the foreseeable future with no timeline of it not being part of Dynamics 365.

Regardless of when the CRM for Outlook client will eventually get deprecated, it highlights the fact that one needs to plan accordingly for these deprecated features.

Don’t Not Panic, Deprecated does not mean Deleted 

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When it is announced that a feature is going to be deprecated, that does not mean that when you login to Dynamics 365 next week the feature will be gone.  It doesn’t necessarily even mean that it will be gone after the upcoming upgrade, or even the next one.  It essentially means that Microsoft has stopped enhancing the particular feature, but will continue to support its currently functionality to a particular point in the future.

From docs

“Deprecated” means we intend to remove the feature or capability from a future major release of Dynamics 365. The feature or capability will continue to work and is fully supported until it is officially removed. This deprecation notification can span a few years. After removal, the feature or capability will no longer work. We are notifying you now so you have sufficient time to plan and update your code before the feature or capability is removed.

That being said, it is good to be aware of what will eventually go away, what the replacement will be and when it will go away.  Unfortunately not all of this information is readily available.

Incomplete List of Deprecations

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Here is a list of some of the features of Dynamics 365 CE that have been deprecated, and some high level guidance/ideas of how to plan for it.  In some cases, there is little information so the only option is to wait.

Service Scheduling

The Unified Resource Scheduling solution that is part of Field Service for Dynamics 365 has more features and has more flexibility.  There does not seem to be an established timeline of when this feature will be removed.  The docs side hints at a migration process.  “Existing service scheduling users will be provided advance notice for a timebound migration to the new service-scheduling capabilities”

What is also unclear how licensing would be handled.

Dialogs

This is one deprecation where there seems to be no feasible replacement.  While perhaps a bit clunky, Dialogs do serve a purpose and I have satisfied a number of business requirements using them.  The docs site suggests Task Flows and Business Process flows as replacements.  In their current state, these cannot achieve the same functionality as Dialogs.  With the xRM platform becoming part of the Common Data Service, many of the “Dialog” processes as we know them could be replaced with building specific canvas based apps (Power Apps).

Contracts

In my CRM career I have only implemented contracts twice.  Both times I found the configuration clunky and cumbersome and the entities have various “locked in” features that made it difficult to customize.  Thankfully we now have entitlements which are a much more elegant way to manage support allocations to customer service clients.

Relationship Roles

Back in the CRM 3.0 and CRM 4.0 days one way to “link” unrelated accounts and contacts was via relationship roles.  The functionality was limited and is easily replicated using Connection Roles (which I still find awkward but they so serve a purpose).

Announcements

annoucements
Announcements in CRM

This was a neat idea in CRM 1.0 where your home screen could show details about a company picnic or other info.  If CRM was your only app, this feature could make sense.  However, with modern intranets and other tools, this was a very little unused feature.  If for some reason your implementation does use announcements, it can be easily replicated with a custom entity, dashboard and a web resource.

Mail Merge

The new server side document generation tools introduced in CRM 2016 are a much more powerful and elegant solution to the older, clunky mail merge.

Client APIs

Part of the move towards the new unified client interface requires evolution of the client API.  Thankfully the docs site provides equivalent replacements so code can be fairly easily refactored.

Silverlight Web Resources

If you still are developing in Silverlight instead of HTML5 then I also have some Cold Fusion and Cobol books that you might be interested in…

Summary

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Most of the above list will continue to work in Dynamics 365 CE v9, so that provides time to plan and begin to shift to more modern methods.  In most cases, Microsoft has provided (or will…) a better way to do the same tasks.

Nick Doelman is a Microsoft Business Solutions MVP, Microbrewery enthusiast, competitive Powerlifter and hopes his MVP status will not get deprecated.

 

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