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One of the most common question driven by the push to Cloud is: How do I get my on premise accounts working with the cloud services I am using now?

From the perspective of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, but not only, SMBs typically have an on premise infrastructure, with a local Active Directory setup. For those that have not yet embraced Office 365, but want to take advantage of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, this process might seem a little daunting. Yet, it needs not be.

Directory integration is the way to tackle scenarios where an on premise directory service needs to integrate with Microsoft Azure Active Directory, aka Microsoft Azure AD. Some of the benefits touted by Microsoft for this hybrid deployment scenario are:

  • Simplified administration
  • Streamlines sign-in experience
  • Unified administration experience for both user and device identities
  • Unified application administration
  • Leverage single sign-on to cloud based solutions

Specific scenarios are supported for a hybrid identity infrastructure. Choosing one of the supported scenarios depends on the type of service you want to offer your users. The following table provided by Microsoft at https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/azure/jj573649.aspx describes the difference between two common deployment scenarios. But let’s first have a look at the available options.

Directory sync

Directory sync (directory synchronization, DirSync) is the configuration that allows management of directory objects from your on premise Active Directory. The changes are synchronized up to your tenant.

The downside to this approach is that users will have separate user id and passwords between the on premise and cloud services. Not ideal, other than for unified administration experience.

 DirSync with Password Sync

As the next step up from plain vanilla directory sync, DirSync with password sync allows users to use the same username and password across all services, cloud based and on premise. This already makes life easier for users, by reducing the need to memorize another username and password. It also leverage the same unified administration experience, making it easy enough for administrators to deal with account changes.

DirSync with Single Sign-On

Taking the previous scenario a step further, in DirSync with single sign-on users not only use the same account and password, but seamless authentication with cloud services is available when locally logged in with the provided account credentials. This means no authentication prompts at all when accessing both local and cloud resources with your Active Directory account credentials.

The setup in this scenario is a little more complex, requiring the organization to have not only the typical on premise Active Directory, but also to provide a security token service hosted on premise. Typically this is ADFS (Active Directory Federation Services).

From a Dynamics CRM perspective, you will required this setup anyway if you intend to deploy your on premise hosted Dynamics CRM in an IFD (Internet Facing Deployment) scenario.

Multi-forest DirSync with Single Sign-On

Extending on the previous scenario, this scenario requires a similar setup, but offers synchronization across multiple forests. The Active Directory structure is comprised typically of a few logical components, including Organizational Units (OUs), Domains, Domain Trees, Forests. For details on the structure and components of Active Directory you can have a quick look at the following link, but it is advisable to talk to an AD expert for deployment/configuration.

https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc759073(v=ws.10).aspx

With all this information in mind, when launching on the journey to extend your services to cloud, take into consideration what type of Hybrid Identity Infrastructure you need to implement. Err on the side of caution, and go with the minimum required scenario.

Toolset

Azure AD Connect is the newest kid on the block for hybrid integration tools. For an introduction to the tool, as well as a link to other tools comparison see the following knowledge base (KB) article in the official documentation:

https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/active-directory-aadconnect/

NOTE: This has been an awareness overview, always involve your AD Administrator or an AD expert when making any changes to your Active Directory infrastructure.

Enjoy!

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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’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!

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.

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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.

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

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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!

Following THIS previous post where I described how to connect Power BI Desktop to Dynamics CRM, we’re going to have a quick look at how to map our Accounts from Dynamics CRM in Power BI. For the scope of this post, we’re going to highlight the states where we have clients (Accounts).

Once we have the connection to Dynamics CRM established, we are presented with the Navigator. Here we can select the data from Dynamics CRM that we want to work with. I’ll be selecting here the AccountSet.

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You will get a truncated view of the data for preview. Select Load. Note that this is not the fastest kid on the block, so wait for a moment while all your data loads. Depending on the data set, this could take a while.

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Once loaded, your data set will appear in the Fields area, on the right hand side. If you want to make your query leaner, you could edit the properties and remove the columns you don’t need, but we’ll be looking at advanced query configuration some other time.

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Now is probably a good time to check and make sure that your Accounts in CRM have Latitude and Longitude. Geo-mapping an address is not something you can turn on out of the box, so you will have to either customize the functionality to map an address to it’s coordinates, or use a 3rd party solution that does that.

Next select the icon that looks like a map, and click it. A map representation shows on the page.

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Click on the Data icon on the left side. Here you get a view of the data from CRM, and the ability to customize each field’s properties.

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Select each of the mapping fields and from the Properties ribbon area define the Data Category for each. For example, select the Address1_Longitude field and select Longitude in the Data Category.

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Do the same for Latitude and the address fields as needed.

Now go back to the Report view and in the Visualization Fields wells start dropping the values you need as depicted below.

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Now your Report view should refresh and show you something like this:

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You can tweak the settings as needed. When satisfied, save and publish your report.

Enjoy!

I just had a user asking me today about connecting Power BI Desktop to CRM Online. It’s been a while since I looked at this, so I had to think about it for a moment. So I decided to write it down as a reminder.

Starting the application you are presented with a screen as below.

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If you disabled the startup page, you can get to the same wizard by going to Get Data on the ribbon.

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Select More, and in the window that pops-up find Dynamics CRM Online.

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Once you click Connect you are presented with the URL screen. Here’s where it’s easy to make a mistake, even though it’s stated pretty clear what URL you have to point to. Make sure it’s the complete Organization Service URL, not just the Org URL.

CORRECT: https://<org>.crm[x].dynamics.com/XRMService/2011/OrganizationData.svc

NOT CORRECT: https://<org>.crm[x].dynamics.com/

When using the incorrect URL you are not prompted to provide the credentials later on, and thus can not establish the connection.

Next, for authenticating to CRM Online, select Organizational Account on the next screen

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If you have provided multiple URLs before, including the incorrectly formatted one, select the correct one you want to use.

You will be prompted to sign-in. Do so using a user with permission to access the organization.

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If everything is ok, when clicking on Sign In you will be redirected to the O365 login page:

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Once everything is ok, click Connect and you should be in. Now select your data set and start building the visuals. We’ll be looking at some of the features and options available with Power BI in another post.

Lesson learned: read and follow the instructions carefully. Check the URL you provide. Don’t be “lazy” and expect the app will figure out what you meant (even though it would have been easy to validate the URL and append the Organization Service suffix if missing).

Enjoy!

Yes, I have to say it, I don’t build charts too often. And because of that, sometimes it’s hard to remember how did I do it last time. Stacked charts is one of those examples. It’s been a few months since the last time I built one, and I just got asked a few questions that sent be back scrambling to figure out how to do it.

First off, what are stacked charts?

A stacked chart, looking like the image below, is a representation of parts in a whole. Very generically stated.

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The chart describes the cases by origin for each day. So, the whole is the day, while the parts are the case origins. This could have been a single bar for the current day, or a set of bars for multiple days like the example shown.

So, now that we see the purpose, what available options do we have for representation?

Starting with the previous article HERE, we can adjust colors, labels, and other properties of the chart by modifying the XML. But let’s leave that as a last option, and look first at what we can do out of the box.

The example presented above shows a simple stacked chart. We can actually modify it to make it into a 100% Stacked Column chart. That is very easy to achieve by going to the chart properties, and changing the type of chart to 100% Stacked Column.

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NOTE: You can not modify a default chart, you have to save it as new and then modify it.

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The end result will look like the above screenshot. Of course, make sure that it makes sense to represent the data as such.

Now, pay attention to which charts support this functionality. Just like I mentioned above, making sure the data represented makes sense, some chart types do not make sense to have a stacked option. The ones supporting stacking are:

  • Column Type Charts
  • Bar Type Charts
  • Area Type Charts

Bonus Brownie Points

Editing the XML allows us to change this chart and show it in 3D. Export the chart XML, and find the <presentationdescription> tag. Underneath, locate the <ChartArea> and right before the closing tag of </ChartArea> add the following line:

<Area3DStyle Enable3D="True" LightStyle="Simplistic" />

Re-import the XML as a new chart. And now, your shiny new 3D chart will look like so:

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Cool, eh? Now go ahead and stack’em high.

Enjoy!

Creating new Charts in Dynamics CRM has been quite easy for a few versions now. It’s a visual process, very intuitive. But how is all this configuration stored?

To have a quick look at this information, we can start by selecting a chart to analyze. Let’s navigate to Sales > Accounts. Expand the chart in the My Active Accounts view on the right side.

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Then click on the ellipsis (More Commands) and on Export Chart.

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The output is an xml definition file. Let’s look at some of the elements.

Wrapper – the entire customization is wrapped in a <visualization> tag.

Inside, the specific chart ID is defined in a <visualizationid> tag. This recognizes if this is a new chart or n update to an existing one. Do note that you can not override the OOTB charts.

Next we have the respective <name> and <description> tags which are pretty self-explanatory.

The <primaryentitytypecode> tag defines the entity for which this chart is available. In our case it will be for account.

All the way at the bottom of the file we have the <isdefault> tag which simply defines the Chart as the default or non-default chart for this entity. Values are true or false.

The <datadescription> tag contain the <datadefinition> tag, which in turn contains the <fetchcollection> and <categorycollection> tags.

The <fetchcollection> contains the <fetch> tag which describes the query used to retrieve the data. This uses standard FetchXML to retrieve data for the chart. The <entity> tag defines the entity queries, while the <attribute> tags define the properties.

The <categorycollection> tag defines the category and series. These are basically the horizontal and vertical axes of the chart. The <category> sub-tag contains for each defined category a <measurecollection> which maps to a series element. For a single series chart we will only find a single <measurecollection> tag, while a multi-series chart will have more than one. The <measure> tag inside the <measurecollection> is just referencing the vertical axis value (series) which correspond to each element on the horizontal axis.

The next important tag is the <presentationdescription> tag. It contains the <chart> tag that wraps the following definitions:

The <series> tag which defines the chart type, labels visibility, colors and font size.

The <chartareas> tag which defines the chart border properties and the X and Y axis properties.

The <titles> tag which defines the title font, alignment and color.

The xml of the <chart> tag is a serialization of the Microsoft Chart Controls Chart class. For the standard features of the Chart Controls see this article on MSDN.

For the sake of this example, let’s modify the highlighted items:

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Basically we define the BorderColor to be Red, the TitleForeColor to Red and the ForeColor to Green. Now, the modified chart, once re-imported, looks like this:

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Not the most visually appealing, but proves the point. Now you can go ahead and “brand” your Charts.

When modifying colors, use the RGB notation.

Enjoy!

While on a load balanced setup using HWL, we found a bunch of errors with the configuration. Nothing was out of the ordinary after re-checking the configuration several times.

After various attempts to re-configure and debug the issue, we have turned our attention to the load balancer. This is a HWL.

What we found in the configuration is that the spoof option was enabled.

After disabling spoof, everything started working as expected.

So, note to self, when setting up HWL, if there is an option for spoof, make sure it’s disabled. Knowing this would have saved a few people a few hours of effort.

Enjoy!

Microsoft Business Solutions MVP

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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