Traditionally, consulting organization, in particular in IT, have been focused on specific technologies. As a result, we have seen a lot of services and offerings around a specific stack, with a very defined platform and skillset.

This approach is very efficient, and allows organizations to maximize resource allocation. The clear focus on a particular platform allows for the creation of a highly skilled workforce, very good technical resources with the ability to handle complex situations in a very dynamic way.

Is this the way to go? Is this what the market really needs?

The advantages of platform and/or technology focused teams is undisputable. From the ability to handle complex situations, to the ability to deliver complex projects in record time, it is a great win for both consulting organizations as well as customers. But the market evolves at a very rapid pace. We are seeing more projects where not only requirements evolve during the project evolution, but instances where the market dictates evolutionary changes. The increased level of customizations and options in various products requires rapid adaptability and an increased interaction between multiple platforms. What used to be a very focused solution now can easily span multiple technologies, with various degrees of integration complexity.

The focus now becomes how to communicate and position an engagement with that level of complexity. We are boxing ourselves in when we have a platform focused discussion with a customer. There are a few different aspects to be considered now. The discussion starts with the focus on the business. For technical people, many times, it is difficult to disconnect yourself from the technology and listen to the business need alone. Making abstraction of the underlying technology solutions is even harder when the consulting organization is structured around technical platforms and skillsets, and the commission is based that particular sale.

We need the ability now to stand back and look at the big picture. We need to focus primarily on the business, the processes, and the ability to influence substantial improvements. This will lead us sometimes on the path of solving a more complex problem, and providing better return on investment.

The way we tackle these discussions has the potential to define us as trusted advisors for our customers. We can bring to the table years of experience when it comes to various technologies, but we need to appreciate more the years of business knowledge the client brings to the table. The best solution is a solution that blends both. And also, a solution that is not focused on a single platform where we might be experts at.

We should strive to become experts at piecing things together like Lego blocks. We also see that approach with many solution providers. In the Microsoft ecosystem alone, during the last few years, we are seeing how platforms are starting to blend together and function as one. Selling a SharePoint engagement, or a Dynamics CRM project, or any other type of project is a simplistic way of looking at things. Too often we have to begin by looking at how the business performs, and what are the top features required for that particular organization. We can then start extrapolating, and looking at a generic overall solution that encompasses various processes and functions. Only when that picture is clear, we can start looking at what pieces fit the model.

With the advancements of cloud, that story becomes easier to tell. A lot of new features now rely on communication between all these components. We see a re-focus around Azure and Office 365 working with SharePoint as a background service more than anything else. We can use these features now in Dynamics CRM and Dynamics AX to an extent. We can use 3rd party solution like the ones from KingswaySoft or Scribe for integration to other platforms. This gives us the flexibility to step outside of the Microsoft ecosystem, and integrate now into other SaaS platforms. Custom Azure APIs allows us to tap into pretty much any other system. What used to be traditionally a Microsoft owned shop now has the ability to become a blend of the best tools for the trade, no matter the source. And Microsoft understands this. We have seen this over and over, with opening the office tool set to all platforms, with the increased adoption of open source and embracing Linux, and more recently with SQL on Linux. It becomes harder to ignore the trend.

As consultants, our responsibility now also increases exponentially. We now have to understand multiple platforms, and we need the ability to make the right decision on which tools apply better to a particular engagement. We need to see the bigger picture, and we need to be able to advise and guide our customers towards the best possible outcome. This could be a solution that might seem at first more complex than needed, but it gives our customers the ability to grow and expand as the business evolves. This could be a modular solution, that allows adding and removing components as needed, allows changing business processes on the fly at no or minimal cost to adapt to change.

The Value Proposition now takes into consideration all these aspects, and the potential client now trusts you enough to award you the project. It is as much of an elevator pitch as it is a process to understand and educate customers.

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The Spring Wave release for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 has been announced. Here’s the announcement:

Dynamics Blog

As mentioned, the focus is on the FieldOne and Adxstudio acquisitions and their integration onto the core platform, as well as Machine Learning enhancements.

A video of the new features is available here:

https://youtu.be/2Uy5Ql30tQc

In addition, and of great importance, the CRM Roadmap site has been also announced. It is available here:

CRM Roadmap

Here you will find all the necessary details about existing features release, in preview, in development or postponed. A great source of information.

Enjoy!

One of the greatest features of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform is the ability to configure entity forms to be available only for specific security groups. While this works great, in principle, the story quickly becomes muddy when you start implementing it in organizations with a more complex security structure. In particular, when working with different business units.

As we know by now, when adding elements to a solution, we can only capture security roles from the root business unit. This is a limitation of the solution package, and we have ways to work around it for most situations. For example, if we want security roles to be solution aware, even though we need them in child business units, we create them in the root business unit. They are inherited to the child business units, and we can assign the users at the business unit where we need them to have the respective security roles.

Unfortunately, one overlooked aspect is the role based forms. While the scenario described above works fine for users and security roles, once we bring into our equation role based forms, the whole pyramid collapses. Lets look at an example.

We’re going to start with a set of business units as described in the screenshot below.

businessunits

As we can see, we have the root business unit called very creatively me4co. Right below this, we have the following child business units: Finance and IT. And just to make it more interesting, we have the following three child business units underneath the IT business unit: Cloud, Delivery and Infrastructure.

Now let’s create a few security roles. Go back to Settings > Security and choose Security Roles. Here we see the default security roles on an organization, all under the root business unit. We’ll come back to this view in a moment.

Once we’ve seen the default security roles, let’s go and create some new roles in the context of a solution. So, go to Settings > Solutions. Create a new solution if one is not already available for playing with. In this solution go to Security Roles. Once there, create a New role and name it creatively role1. For business unit, leave the root business unit. Click on Save and Close. I’m not going to assign any permissions here, i’m just using it for demonstration purpose.

Same way as before, go ahead and create a new security role. Keeping in line with our extremely creative naming convention, name this one role2. Only this time, instead of leaving the default business unit, change it to Cloud. This is a 3rd level down business unit, having IT as parent, which in turn has me4co as parent (the default business unit). Again, hit Save and Close. Now, looking at the solution, this new role called role2 does not appear in the Security Roles part of this solution. This is because only Security Roles in the default root business unit are being captured in a Solution package. To verify that our newly create security roles was indeed created, navigate to Settings > Security > Security Roles. Select from the Business Unit drop-down the root business unit if not already selected, and observe that role2 is also missing. But if you change the business unit to Cloud, now you will also find role2 in the list. See the below screenshot.

securityroles

Now, with all these items setup and ready, let’s have a quick look at role based forms.

Go to Entities in your solution, select Add Existing, and select Contact.  When prompted to select entity assets, do not select anything, as we’ll just add a brand new view.

Entity Assets is a new feature added  with Dynamics CRM 2016, as part of enhancements to the Solution package model.

Click on Finish. Go to the Contact Forms, and add a new Main Form. Click on Save As, and name this form to RBF (short for role based form, but you can name it anything you want).Save and Close this form. In the Active Forms view for Contact, select this newly created form, and click on Enable Security Roles in the ribbon. The new screen that opens up allows you to choose a security role. Unfortunately, you only have a choice from the security roles created in the root business unit. No option to change the business unit selection. This relates to the fact that security roles in child business units are not captured in a solution package.

Conclusion: part of a Solution package, you cannot assign security roles to a role based form if the security role is not part of the root business unit.

But, if you really, really, really need to do this, you can still do it outside of a solution package. Do keep in mind that this configuration can not be ported to another organization through the use of a solution package. If you need this kind of configuration, you will have to manually implement if in all instances (dev, qa, uat, prod)… ugh…

Instead of doing this as part of the existing solution, let’s go back to Settings > Customizations. Select Customize the System instead. These customizations are applied directly to the root solution. Find the Contact entity, go to Forms and find the RBF form we’ve created earlier. Observe how the form created in an unmanaged solution is also present in the default solution.

Now, when you click on the RBF form and select Assign Security Roles, you will find role2 in the list of roles, as shown in the screenshot below.

securityroles2

Once you Save and Publish your customizations, your newly created role based form is available as defined.

Use this approach with care, and only if really necessary. The fact that this configuration can not be captured in a context of a Solution package, and can not be ported to another environment/organization is a major downfall, and it goes against best practices regarding solution management and deployment models.

Enjoy!

 

The CRM User Group (Canada) has published the dates for the following two chapter meetings. They are as follows:

  • When: Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016
  • Locations: Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Regina, Toronto, Vancouver – Microsoft Offices
  • Time: 12:00PM to 04:00PM ET

and

  • When: Thursday, Apr. 21, 2016
  • Locations: Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Regina, Toronto, Vancouver – Microsoft Offices
  • Time: 12:00PM to 04:00PM ET

The audience is described as:

All Dynamics CRM users are welcome. Your CRMUG membership extends to ALL employees at your company, so we encourage you to invite your colleagues and fellow peers. Partners members are welcome to attend provided they are accompanied by a customer.

For more details see the GRMUG portal at:

https://www.crmug.com/engage/chapter#chapterevents

Enjoy!

The following new Dynamics CRM 2016 Certification Exams have been added at the end of January 2016:

  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 Online Deployment MB2-710
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 Customization and Configuration MB2-712
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 Sales MB2-713
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 Customer Service MB2-714

Enjoy!

I see this question asked every now and then, so I’ve decided to put all the new steps together. You have your Dynamics CRM Trial set-up. You’ve started from this URL:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-ca/dynamics/crm-free-trial-overview.aspx

with the Self-Start Trial, followed all the steps, and your 30-day Trial is up and running. Hopefully you’ve made a note of the username and password configured, as well as the URL provided. If you did not save the URL, no problem, as you can login into the O365 portal with the user name and password, and get to your CRM instance from there:

image

But, soon after, you realize that a whole bunch of services require a little more than just your instance of Dynamics CRM to run properly. Things like the Document Management features, OneNote, Office Groups, etc. require also a subscription to Office 365 Online.

No problem. You can easily add a 30-day trial of O365. But in order to be able to easily integrate these services with your Dynamics CRM Online instance, you should spin-up this trial on the same O365 instance. To do this follow these steps:

In the Office 365 Admin portal, once you logged in with the credentials for your Dynamics CRM trial organization, navigate to Billing > Subscriptions

image

On the top-right of the page, find the Add subscriptions link.

image

On the next page, scroll down until you find the Enterprise Suite section. Here you can choose to add a trial of Office 365 Enterprise E3, Office 365 ProPlus or Office 365 Enterprise E5. E5 replaces the old E4 and adds a few new features. E3 is still the most popular option. For the purpose of the demo, go for the best available option. That is, select the E5 trial.

image

Confirm your order by selecting the try now button, and click continue on the next screen.

image

And with that, your setup is complete. Don’t forget before you move on to assign the proper licenses to all users. You do that by navigating to Users > Active Users

image

Select a user from the list, and on the right side, find Assigned licenses and click on Edit.

image

Make sure both Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Professional and Office 365 Enterprise E5 licenses are checked, and click on Save.

image

That’s it. Now your user has access to both Dynamics CRM Online and Office 365 Enterprise for 30 days. With this set-up in place, you can now go ahead and use the O365 services for integration in Dynamics CRM. Configure Document Management, set-up your integration with OneDrive for Business, Office Graph (Delve), and OneNote. Further more, while at it, have a look at the new CRM App for Outlook too once you’ve configured Server-Side Synchronization.

NOTE: Alternatively, you can do the reversed process, starting with an Office 365 Enterprise E3/E5 trial and adding the Dynamics CRM Online trial. The process is quite similar.

Enjoy!

I’m being asked every now and then about the URLs format for various services and global zones. I usually have a bunch of links bookmarked about this, but I’m pulling all information together here to make it easy for me to find it when needed.

The format of the Dynamics CRM Online Organization URL describes the data centre location. As such, the standard format is as follows:

https://OrganizationName.crm%5Bx%5D.dynamics.com

The OrganizationName is the name you have selected for your online organization. This is customizable, and is validated for uniqueness within the respective data centre.

The [x] represents a number. As of the time of this writing, this number can be anywhere between 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 or no number at all. This describes the global data centre used to host your organization. The following table maps the data centre to the URL format.

URL Format

Global Data Centre Location

crm.dynamics.com

NAM

crm2.dynamics.com

SAM

crm4.dynamics.com

EMEA

crm5.dynamics.com

APAC

crm6.dynamics.com

OCE

crm7.dynamics.com

JPN

crm9.dynamics.com

GCC

Out of these global locations, usually the following are getting the preview and new features first:

Organization

Global Location

crm.dynamics.com

North America

crm4.dynamics.com

Europe, the Middle East and Africa

crm5.dynamics.com

Asia-Pacific

The crm9 is reserved for Dynamics CRM Online for Government (public sector). The following page provides additional details on this offering.

Enjoy!

This has been baking for a while, but today it was finally announced during the Convergence 2015 EMEA Keynote. PowerApps is a new service for enterprises to create and share business apps. With a very easy drag and drop interface, and support for various devices, including mobile, this allow employees to quickly create and publish applications to the enterprise with an office-like experience.

The main PowerApps product page is available HERE.

The following article on the Microsoft Blog gives you more details on this new platform.

In addition, on Channel 9, the following videos demonstrate the ease of use.

PowerApps and Azure App Services is being discussed in THIS blog by Scott Hanselman.

So register for the service, give it a try, and don’t forget to have fun.

Enjoy!

As Convergence 2015 EMEA got underway, announcements started to roll. Probably the most highly anticipated was the official release of Dynamics CRM 2016.

If you didn’t have a chance to se the live stream and the quick demo, you can read about it in the following post by Jujhar, available HERE.

This release is for both Online and On-Premise.

The opening keynote will be available along with other recordings from the Convergence Video Library. For more details see the Convergence 2015 EMEA page. 

Enjoy!

After the relatively recent acquisition of FieldOne by Microsoft, the solution is now available to be installed on a new trial of Dynamics CRM Online 2015 Update 1.

image

FieldOne Sky is an intelligent fields service management solution. Its functionality revolves around enhanced management and scheduling for work orders. The scheduling engine is the highlight of this solution, where we are presented with three types of actions:

  • Manual scheduling
  • Schedule assistant
  • Automated routing scheduling

The friendliness of the UI and the ability to provide drag and drop on a scheduling board makes using this product very easy and intuitive. Coupled with a powerful back engine to validate and recalculate schedules, this is an ideal solution for field service. Add to that extensive support for mobile, and you have a complete end to end package for managing resources in the field.

The amount of business insight that can be gained using this solution is of great value. Starting with a real-time view into the performance of your business and field service, analyzing of large amounts of data to determine patterns and issues with standard scheduling as well as extensive reporting capabilities for operations analysis and strategy, this solution is a great add-on to the Dynamics CRM family.

The process to add the FieldOne solution is the same as adding the previously available Insights and Office 365 Groups solution.

From the Office 365 portal navigate to CRM. In the Manage all CRM Online instances select the trial instance or the one you want the solution added to. Click on Solutions.

image

On the next screen select the FieldOne Sky solution and click Install.

image

Note that the installation will take a short while.

Once the solution is installed, navigate to your CRM instance and validate that FieldOne Sky is installed. If your standard navigation is not customized, you can do that by looking for a new tab added to the top navigation and named FieldOne Sky.

Enjoy!

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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