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Had a question today that got me thinking for a moment. Haven’t done any SiteMap tweaking in a long time.

Someone added a new Area to their CRM, using the SiteMap Editor in XrmToolBox. Yet, while all looked somewhat ok, the navigation was not reflecting the changes.

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I am presenting a session at the Power BI User Group in Toronto on leveraging Power BI in the context of Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement.

The sign-up page is available at:

https://www.meetup.com/Toronto-Power-BI-Meetup/events/248779906/

The session takes place on Wednesday, March 28th. There’s still time to register.

Join us for a night of fun and learning!

One common question when embracing Cloud is the ability to have a hybrid scenario. And with Dynamics 365, the question translates into “Is there a hybrid deployment model?”

The short and dry answer is NO. But, there are some aspects to consider that can make it an overall hybrid solution.

Let’s first look at the supported deployment models for Customer Engagement. Read the rest of this entry »

We’ve all done it in the past, where we started tinkering with the navigation, filtering entities based on permissions, removing entire areas from the navigation, and tinkering with user roles and hiding aspects of the platform.

Well, welcome to a new world of apps. What started with mobile, where “there’s an app for that”, now find it’s home in Dynamics 365 CE also. Microsoft gave us the tone, with the Sales and Customer Service apps, and gave us the tools to roam free.

We can now use the very visual App Designer to create our own very specialized apps. And the beauty, it follows the same configurable model as any other configuration on the platform.

NOTE that, while you have the ability to configure new apps in both a solution file or directly in the core solution, you should really try to stick with using solutions.

Read the rest of this entry »

With all the focus on the Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement naming, the split into Dynamics 365 for Sales and Dynamics 365 for Customer Service, with or without Marketing, and all the licensing implications and additional functional packages, this is a question that came out of the blue and caught me a little off-guard. While I’m still working on a few on-premise instances, all the licensing discussions lately have been around the online model. As such, maybe I haven’t paid enough attention to versioning for on premise, my bad.

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As we’ve seen in the previous post, getting content from Dynamics 365 for Sales or Service into Power BI is a relatively easy task when leveraging the Content Packs created by the great guys at the Power BI team.

Now, with the content packs in place, let’s go back to our Dynamics 365 instance and bring the data with a nice lipstick on.

First off, you must enable Power BI visualizations.

Go to Settings > Administration. Here open System Settings and on the Reporting tab, enable Power BI visuals.

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With the obvious impact that Power BI brings to data analysis and visualization, Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement stands to benefit from a few pre-packaged features available.

Not only we can bring CRM information onto Power BI, but we can also easily present Power BI elements inside Dynamics 365. So, it’s a win-win situation.

To make things easier for us all, the great guys at Power BI sat down and created two specific Content Packs for Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement. They are the Sales Analytics for Dynamics 365 and the Customer Service Analytics for Dynamics 365.

Sweet, this these content packs in place, a Dynamics power user can start creating their own personal dashboards in CRM and share them with the team. This is where the beauty is, as you don’t need a developer or administrator involved once the content packs are made available.

Of course, you will want to leverage the support of your Power BI specialist to configure and extend the content packs to better fit your business, but once that’s done, Bob’s your Uncle. Read the rest of this entry »

Gone are the days when you had to write scripts to generate a multi-select on a form in CRM. The platform now offers out of the box the MultiSelect Option Set.

You add it just like any other form field, and you define it just like any Option Set.

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What you get for that is a nicely blended in control that allows selecting multiple values.

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You can have a virtually unlimited number of options, with up to 150 options selected. That is quite an unreasonable long list of choices, but it’s good to know that there is a maximum cap on selection. Don’t ever try to use that many though, for obvious usability reasons.

And you can use this control on not only forms, including the main form, and the quick create and quick view forms, but you can also include this control on grids. So, if you add it to an editable grid you get the option to perform a multi-select right in the grid.

Read the rest of this entry »

As it stands right now, the CRM and former AX functionality has been wrapped under the Dynamics 365 umbrella. All nice, but with the changes made to the former Dynamics AX to bring it to a modern state, and a cloud model, the old style integrations have to be “adjusted”.

As announced by Microsoft, there is an integration planned, but few month into the new platform, we’re not seeing it just yet.

The roadmap site, at roadmap.dynamics.com is now publishing some details on the expected functionality. The integration is described under the heading “Prospect to cash integration of Dynamics 365 for Sales and Dynamics 365 for Operations”. As you can see, it now all follows the business functionality model familiar to the platforms.

The proposed integration leverages the somewhat recently released Common Data Service. If you still don’t know what that is, see the description HERE.

The idea of this proposed integration is to allow users to start the sales process in Dynamics 365 for Sales, and complete the order fulfillment on Dynamics 365 for Operations. This leverages both platform functionalities for their strengths. Or does it? Let’s look at the details available so far.

Accounts and Contact

For both Accounts and Contact, the plan is to sync these records from Sales to Operations.

Nagging question here being what happens if these records get updated on the Operations side, or simultaneously on both sides? No details yet.

Workaround is to have editable access only on the Sales side, and read-only on the Operations side. As such, financial or operations users must have a Plan 2 license most likely, or possibly get away with a Team Member license for light usage. For additional licensing implications see the licensing guides, as linked to in THIS earlier post.

Product Catalog

This is to be maintained in Operations, and synchronized back into Sales.

Question here is how bundles and packaged offerings for up-sell are going to be handled. An assumption is that these groupings will be created and maintained on the Sales side, which means that a user managing products must use both Sales and Operations for maintaining the product catalog. Or maybe have a team/user maintaining the products in Operations, and another team/user managing bundles and sales artifacts on the Sales side.

Again, licensing implications, as well as additional coordination between the platforms and/or users/teams.

Possibly 3rd party products might actually help here a little? There’s an opportunity.

Quotes

These are actually following the same model as in the previous versions with the integration. Quotes are fully created and managed on the Sales side.

One could argue why even synchronize them into Operations, but this is in line with the old model where you could jump to the former AX either at the Quote or the Order level. See the next paragraph on Orders.

Orders

Now it looks like the recommendation is to proceed all the way to the order generation in the Sales module, and then sync to Operations at the Order level. This should be ok for most situations.

Invoices

Invoices are to be generated and processed, as expected, on the Operation side. No issues here. They are to be synchronized back to Sales for visibility, so I would see the Invoice records as a complete read-only on the Sales side. The financials implications of changing an invoice can not really be handled on the Sales side to begin with, so there is no real reason to have these records editable on the Sales side.

Conclusion

While this puts us on the right path, somewhat, it is far from ideal for the following reasons:

Licensing implications could possibly require users to hold a more expensive license to be able to handle a complete business flow along with related needs.

This only covers a standard sales process. As soon as you step outside of this model, the amount of work involved could easily become similar to simply starting from scratch. This is just an assumption right now, we’ll see.

While leveraging the Common Data Service has it’s advantages, including the use of Flow and Power Apps, you now have data in flow in 3 places that must stay in sync. This brings up the next point.

Real-time or near-real-time possible issues. As discussed in Accounts and Contact, if you don’t lock the data on one side to be read-only, simultaneous updates to the same record, in Sales, Operations, etc. applications, could potentially result in unexpected results and overwrites. A robust solution with proper record locking on one side when edited on the other side becomes essential. The roadmap description does not hint to any of this. This is potentially the biggest problem here.

In the “Fast implementation” heading of the article, one work sticks out: templates. This begs the question: is this really going to be a production ready option? Or are we back to the “template” integration options available with the old versions, which almost all the times needed to be extended? Or maybe 3rd party solutions fill-in the gap? There’s an opportunity for 3rd party vendors here too.

Until additional details become clear, let’s look at this as what it’s described to be. A possible scenario, that is. A “template”.

Enjoy!

I’ve just done recently an install on-premise where I’ve encountered a number of issues. One of them is the following error message:

Action.Microsoft.Crm.Setup.Common.InstallWindowsSearchAction failed.

The service cannot be started, either because it is disabled or because it has no enabled devices associated with it. (Exception from HRESULT: 0x80070422)

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The message is pretty explicit, in that a service is not started. Turns out, after a little investigation, that for some reason the SQL Server Service as well as the SQL Server Agent Service are off. This could be the result of a failed SQL update I just got previously, or some other issue. Simply setting these services to Automatic and starting them allows the installation to proceed further with no issue.

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No, you do not have to restart the installation, just make sure the services are running properly.

Smooth sailing afterward.

Enjoy!

I recently reviewed an ideation platform, and looking at the new features added to Dynamics CRM 2016 Update, the Feedback features caught my attention.

Starting with the latest update, we now have a built-in entity called Feedback. Here’s the official documentation:

https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/mt728949.aspx

So, now we can not only collect feedback, but also rate records. And this applies to all records in the system, both system and custom, where enabled.

Enable entity for Feedback

First step is to enable an entity for feedback. The easy way (you can do it programmatically too) is to navigate to the solution storing your entity definition, and on the entity property tab to find the Communication & Collaboration section on the General tab. You will find there the option to enable Feedback.

Note that for new entities, this is enabled by default. If you don’t use it, make sure to disable it. I would not want that enabled for most entities probably, so I think it should be off by default.

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Note also that this is one of the options that, once enabled, it can not be disabled.

Configuration

Once you have this feature enabled, you will find in your entity the relationship to feedback, as seen below:

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Observe that, by default, you can track feedback from both internal and from an integrated portal, if you have one. So far, this serves me well for the ideation platform.

Within the feedback record, you can first observe that, by default, there is in place the ability to have the status as Proposed or Accepted. This is nice, as you can enforce an approval process for feedback, and only take into consideration approved feedback. This can be beneficial for feedback from public, captured from a portal.

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The rating is what I was looking for. It is by default just a text field, but you can enforce rules to make sure you only capture the format you need. Let’s say I want to have a rating on the portal with 5 stars, so I’m only going to capture a value from 0 to 5.

Now that I can capture feedback and rating, I want to roll-up the rating. I want to display on the idea record the average of all ratings from the feedback.

On the Idea entity, I can add a simple roll-up field. I defined it as a Whole Number Rollup field, and added the following definition:

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And once it’s saved and published, I modify the default idea form to add this field, and the default view to add this column.

Result

Looking at a record view of ideas, now I can quickly see the ratings, sort and filter by rating, etc. And all this without a single line of code. Sweet!

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Enjoy!

A new feature introduced with Dynamics CRM 2016 Update on both online and on-premise is the ability to use word templates. This makes simple reporting a lot easier now, as well as provides assistance with various data print jobs. A very welcomed feature added.

But let’s have a look at what this is and how to use it.

One common question back in the day was: How do I print this record? Can I just do a print? Do I do a print screen?

Not any more. Now, with a simple template, we can print a nicely formatted record, showing exactly the information we need, in a layout that’s pleasant to both users and customer.

The process involves a few steps. Let’s have a look at the steps involved:

  • Create a template
  • Define the template (design)
  • Upload the template to CRM
  • Generate a document (test before you release)

Creating a Word template

The first step is the creation of a Word template. This is a process we start from within Dynamics CRM. Navigate to More (…) > Word Templates.

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From the fly-out menu select Create Word Template.

Follow the prompts and select Word for template and the entity you started from. Next slide in the wizard shows you all the relationships active on the selected entity. This is a very important part of the wizard. Select the relationships you intent to use to bring into your template data fields from related record. You should understand the data model for Dynamics CRM.

If you only need to bring into your template data fields from the current record alone, nothing needs to be selected here.

Once done, click on Download Template and save it locally. Now comes the editing part.

Define the template

With the template provided saved on your machine, now it’s time to define how the final output will look like. You can make it as fancy as you need, your knowledge of Word editing being the limit.

When you open the template file you downloaded, it will show you a blank page. That’s normal!

Next, enable the Developer tab in Word. You do that from File > Options > Customize Ribbon.

As all new products, a few issues are documented by Microsoft as possibly causing crashes. They are:

  • Auto-correct – might lead to freezes when customizing word templates. Turn off auto-correct if that happens.
  • Content types – use only plain text or picture.

On the Developer tab find and select the XML Mapping option. Make sure to select from the drop-down the correct schema as seen in the screenshot below:

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Create your page design using tables, images, headers and footers, etc. Introduce the CRM data fields at the correct locations from the XML Map.

When you are satisfied with the layout and format, you are ready to push the template back to CRM and make it available to users.

Upload the template to CRM

Now here comes the flexibility. You do not have to be an admin to use this template yourself. You can actually create your own custom templates, and use them yourself.

If you want to make the templates available to all users, you need to either be an admin, or have an admin perform the template load for you.

As a user, to load the template for personal use, you follow the same steps we covered in extracting the base template from CRM. You navigate to a record. This defines the record type for the template. From the Create Word Template wizard select Upload and load your template. Once done, this template will be available for you to use on any record of that selected type.

In order ta make a template available to all users, as an admin, go to Settings > Templates > Document Templates and upload the template there.

This makes it available to all users that have permissions to use it.

Generate a document

As mentioned before, always test before you release. You can test by loading the template for yourself only first. Once you are satisfied with the output, load it through the Documents Template menu in Settings.

Now you have a nicely formatted way of printing records. All users of Dynamics CRM should take advantage of this feature to create nicely formatted print-outs for reporting or for customer communication.

Enjoy!

Microsoft Business Solutions MVP

Check out my course [Video]

Configuring and Extending Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement

Configuring and Extending Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement

Check out my course [Video]

Getting Started with Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement

Reviewed Book

Implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations

Implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations

Reviewed Book

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Extensions Cookbook

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Extensions Cookbook

Check out my Book

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 Customization - Second Edition

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 Customization - Second Edition

Check out my Book

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Customization Essentials

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Customization Essentials

Check out my Book

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Scripting Cookbook

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Scripting Cookbook

Reviewed Book

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011: Dashboards Cookbook

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011: Dashboards Cookbook

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