Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement

Future Proofing your Dynamics 365 implementation and Configuration (Part 1 – The licensing question)

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement is an incredibly versatile platform that can be configured with relative ease. This is both a good and bad thing because often solutions that are implemented descend into configuration anarchy. Yes, it sounds as bad and it is. Imagine a deployment with hundreds of entities, attributes and solutions that are irrelevant or are there for no particular reason. On the other hand, what about loads of old ISV solutions that aren’t being used anymore. As fans of Dynamics 365, I can guarantee that most of us have seen this.

So how does one future proof their implementation? I appreciate the fact that there will be loads of opinions on this matter and there are hundreds of things one could do to manage this process from a business and technical point of view.

One of the big questions during any implementation is whether to utilise what is available out the box or whether to create custom entities and attributes. This is generally based on the scenario and the customer’s requirements. Personally, I prefer to use what is already available as much as possible as there is a load of functionality that you may need to rebuild using workflows and plugins if you go the custom route. IN ADDITION, when Microsoft release updates / upgrades, I know the functionality in my solution will be upgraded correctly and is in line with Microsoft projected functional roadmap. That isn’t to say that Microsoft don’t deprecate functionality. They definitely do!

Now, here is the thing: The licensing model limits us or controls what you can and can’t do as far as the addition of custom entities relevant to the existing functionality. YOU MAY NOT REPLICATE THE FUNCTIONALITY OF STANDARD ENTITIES IN DYNAMICS 365 WITH CUSTOM ENTITIES. If the standard entity is replicated then the user must be licensed appropriately for that standard functionality. This is available in the Licensing and Pricing guide on page 17. THEREFORE, in short… you can create your own “Case” entity, sure… However, you will then need to purchase the Dynamics 365 for Customer Services license for users that will be accessing this entity. This is because it replicates the current and standard case management functionality.

This makes absolute sense. Information on the enterprise-licensing model can be found here in appendix B. This is one of the first documents I generally consult during solution design. Microsoft suggest that configurators utilise what’s available within the standard Dynamics 365 platform so that when core functionality is added to the platform on top of the standard entity set or functional area (marketing, Sales, Service, PSA & Field Service), customers have access to this without having to add additional configuration. As an example, when the entitlements functionality was added to the services module, it linked to the standard case entity and functionality as a standard. Companies that had built their own case functionality had to either move to the standard case management functionality or configure a link to the entitlements.

A second example that I have come across before, which required configuration and was considered future proof was where a customer had several case types, each of which required a large amount of data capture. Instead of adding hundreds of fields to the case form, the case was simply used as the header record and a set of custom entities was created for each of the categories. The core case functionality, such as routing and email-to-case was used and the configuration flexibility of the platform was used to apply a huge level of personalisation from an incident management point of view.

In summary, part of future proofing your configuration is to bear in mind what Microsoft offer as out the box functionality, as well as what the licensing model allows you to do and not to do. Often, this involves an honest and transparent conversation with your customer, which will enable you the ability to educate them in what, is required to implement a robust, performant solution that is as future proof as you can make it. In the next post I will be talking about the Dynamics 365 roadmap and how you can prepare your solution for what’s coming.

D365 Custom Control Framework (CCF)

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement contains some impressive hidden gems in some really cool functionality that really promote a more immersive and interactive user experience. One such gem is the Custom Control Framework or CCF, which enables users the ability to place interactive controls over attributes. This video shows off some of the standard Custom Controls and how to add these to the new Unified User Interface (UUI) forms. It is believed that Microsoft will enable us the ability to create our own custom controls in future releases.

I’d also like to give a shout out to Amandip Dhillon for being a part of the testing of these controls! Awesome job 🙂

Microsoft Teams & Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement – And some other ideas :)

There are so many discussions about Microsoft Teams, how they are being used and how they will work with Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement. If you think about what exactly Microsoft Teams really does it starts to make perfect sense.

GOOGLE TOLD ME THIS: “Microsoft Teams is a chat-based collaboration tool that is part of the Office 365 suite of services. Teams enables local and remote co-workers to work together in real and near-real time.”

AWESOME, sounds very useful, but don’t we have Office 365 groups and Yammer for that? Recently a few enthusiasts and I (One of them being Ken) had a discussion about what works where and how. Rather interesting because the results were quite different. I’m also almost 108.65% certain that various people were asking the same thing when O365 groups were released. “Why can’t we just use Yammer?”….???? Well I’m DEFINITELY not answering that question with this blog post and if you need more information Please look HERE… A really rock solid article that talks about some of the stuff that’s going on. I will take it on properly at some point.

What I am going to answer is how deeply MS Teams works with Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement. At the moment my personal preference is towards MS Teams because I feel as if a lot of the existing O365 collaborative functionality is going to get absorbed by MS Teams. (Personal Opinion).

MS Teams actually has an existing “Integration” (More of a connection) with Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement and will let you surface certain information within a MS Team as well as track certain activities and changes. It’s really simple… Simply follow the instructions below and you are off to a good start:

Get a team up and running and create a channel of your preference.

Once you have done that… jump into the menu and hit connectors.

Filter the connectors menu and select Dynamics 365.

Select the correct instance of Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement. Looks like you need to select an instance within your O365 tenant.

From there select a record you would like to connect with. I only saw the ability to connect with “Accounts”, “Opportunities” and “Leads”. I have a workaround for other records explained at the end of the post for other record (Entity) types.

Once you’ve connected to a record (It seems as if you can only select one at a time), you will see the “1 Configured” link under the Configuration button.

If you select the link you only have the option to remove the record. Nothing else. (YET!!!)

After you have decided not to remove the D365 Customer Engagement records because of its vital importance to your team, you will see an update on your team channel with the records addition details.

I can go into D365 Customer Engagement, search for the record, make my updates and then these will be posted to the Team Channel.

Obvs’ you can then click through the Team link through to the Dynamics 365 instance record to review and interact with the record as required.

NOW… That’s the easy part done… Here’s the hard part. There is a lot I / we don’t know. In honesty format here we go:

  1. There are only certain entity types you can connect to out the box.
  2. There are only certain fields and activities that sync through to the Teams channel from the record.
  3. The information displayed is okay, but may not be enough to inform the right team members.

The solution:

I created an MS flow to interact with Teams and D365 Customer Engagement. It solves a lot of the problems that you would generally perceive with the MS Teams and D365 connector. IE… It doesn’t only look at Accounts, Leads and Opportunities. Because flows are pretty easy to create. I reckon this solves a lot of thaw current connector gaps.

Probably another blog post for another time…

If you are serious about using teams, in my opinion, that’s the right route! Have fun and shout if you need help!

UUI Email

Microsoft have finally included the Email functionality within the new UUI in Dynamics 365 customer Engagement. They have also treated us to something delicious which is the new HTML designer! This is just a very quick video to show off some of the basics.

A couple of things about the new Dynamics 365 CE UUI

As many of you are aware Microsoft released Version 9 for Dynamics 365 customer engagement. One of the primary features was the new Unified User Interface (UUI) which originally was going to be just for business edition, but that also seems to have changed / re branded / disappeared. No worries there, we get the new web refresh and UUI in the enterprise release! FAB!!!

All good and well but there are a few things you need to be made aware of if you are looking to implement version 9, especially if its primarily for the new UUI. Firstly, I need to give a shout out to some of the team that have been testing this with me: Rob DawsonMatt Webb & Jason Almeida… Thanks for having a crack at this with me… I bet we find more interesting little Easter eggs 🙂

One thing I need to make very clear is that the UUI and the WEB REFRESH are 2 very different interfaces. The Web refresh is the same browser interface that has just had a bit of a coat of paint to remove a lot of the white space. It does look a lot cleaner and “fresher”. Below is an example of my contact record in the web refresh. (Yes you can totally colour brand the subgrid headers)

The UUI is the new unified interface that has been generated with the platform refresh and will provide the same user experience across mobile, tablet, Outlook, web and Unified Service Desk access. This is going to be the preferred interface in the future and it more intuitive which is really going to promote user adoption. The controls are a lot more user friendly and are reliant on the new Custom Control Framework (CCF).

In my experience, the new UUI presented a few challenges during testing. I thought it may be useful to bring up these gaps before you decide to upgrade only to use the UUI. This all being said, the testing has all been undertaken on trial environments and have all been tested across different browsers. The different APPS enabled for UUI were also tested. It also doesn’t mean that you will experience these within the web refresh interface.

Email Activity Creation

Other than from within the Outlook interface I have not yet found a way to send an email from the new UUI. The attempts to send the emails were made directly from the time line on the account and contact forms where the actual email activity option is missing from the list. I also attempted from the quick create for activities from the top nav bar, where the option exists but nothing happens when you select it. You can click the little email shortcut on the right hand of the account or contact, but that will simply utilise the built-in email available on your device.

Advanced Find

I was unable to conduct any Advanced Find within the new UUI. This is a real core function within Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement. I can utilise the categorised and relevance search functionality.

Quick Create

A number of the quick create buttons on the top nav bar don’t seem to work. I can create core records from the quick create “+” icon but not from the other 2 icons.

Some other stuff…

There are a couple of other little gotchas in the UUI that you may want to look out for such as:

  • No ability to bulk delete (Probably safer this way)
  • Quick create doesn’t work with custom entities.
  • A few issues with the CCF (Certain controls giving a couple of issues) which definitely deserves a separate post.
  • Outlook client is a little clunky but seems to have a lot of potential though.

 

This being said, the new UUI is looking GOOD and working well for where it is in the release cycle. I feel as if this is fantastic functionality from Microsoft and as the platform gets updated these little kinks will get ironed out and worked out. The experience is definitely A LOT better than the web refresh. The interface is a lot cleaner and it flows better/ It feels as if information is more readily available to users in a more interactive manner.

 

As we discover things, I’ll keep posting. I’m sure there is loads of amazing functionality buried in there!

WHats New in Dynamics 365 (CRM) V9

Whats New in Dynamics 365 (CRM) V9

RIGHT, SO, I figured I’d write the obligatory “Whats New” post in preview of the looming release of Microsoft Dynamics 365 V9. This post focuses on the CRM modules within Dynamics 365. There are so many features I couldn’t possibly cover all of them in one post. I also didn’t want to write a “Top X (5 #JustSaying) Features of Dynamics 365 V9”, because, well, I would have picked a random number like 8.658 and I also really like them all! 


I tend to waffle a bit about how amazing stuff is, so you may just get bored… This is why I included pictures and headings, so you can skim read and absorb the awesome 🙂 That being said, here are some of the features I think are really important to both business & Technical users. Please note that because these features are still effectively in Preview, the functionality released may change or vary, purely depending on Microsoft.

1. THE UNIFIED UI

YES, ONE UI TO RULE THEM ALL, in a manner of speaking! Microsoft Dynamics 365 promotes a new fresh look and feel in the form of a user interface that crosses desktop and mobile devices. The new UI will promote a single, familiar user experience and is designed to be responsive relevant to the device you are working from. This UUI, for this release, is only relevant to Business Edition. The UUI will be rolled out at a later stage for Enterprise Edition. Basically… it just looks EPIC!


2. The Web Refresh

Worry not enterprise users of Dynamics 365 (Most of the UK), you have not been left out. Thankfully Microsoft have decided to give the web client a refresh. Basically, this will promote user adoption and just create a better experience for users. All that ugly white space is no longer and the forms look a lot more structured with boarders, properly wrapped text and headers that fit. below is an example of one of the forms:

3. MULTI-SELECT

If I were to tell you that this has been a long awaited piece of functionality, i feel as if I wouldn’t be articulating just how long the Dynamics world have been waiting for this. when I read the PowerPoint headings I did it in “Movie Voice” because I was so excited : “A New Attribute Type, A New UI Control…. applicable to existing and new optionsets… MULTI-SELECT“. Nice and easy to config and the best part is we don’t have to use a million workarounds. Respect Microsoft!

4. Enhancements to the App Designer

As we know, in the Dynamics 365 release, Microsoft embedded “App Designer” functionality which allowed admins / customisers the ability to consolidate functionality relevant to a specific business role / function into an App. NOW, this has been enhanced to allow for proper App welcome screens to be generated with help / guidance information readily available to the user. #IncreasingUserAdoption. Apps can also be generated based on an existing solution. both of these features promoting better packaging of an App!

5. Security Enhancements

Microsoft have added made some much needed updates to the security functionality in Dynamics 365. We now have the ability to setup Max Timeout & Inactivity Timeout settings for sessions. I’ve been asked loads of times about how we achieve this and now there is finally an easy way to respond!

6. Organisational Insights

The organisational insights functionality has been massively extended for the V9 release. 

Organisational insights will provide system admins with better insight into organisations the usage of Dynamics 365. this is INCREDIBLY useful for loads of reasons. Now we will have the ability to understand exactly which entities are mostly being used and by which users. This is an extremely simple way of managing the licenses required by your organisation. Other activities can be managed such as API Calls, logins, Reads and more.

7. Data Export Service

SO, how many of you have had issues using the OData service with Power BI. ESPECIALLY the joys of referencing a load of optionsets and getting those values into power BI. Now, using the data export service, we can export data into an Azure SQL DB and easily reference it without the hassle of sifting through hundreds of fields and converting the information to something legible. THIS is VERY useful!



There are loads of other features that are relevant such as Customer Insights, Linkedin Connector (Personal favorite), Resource Scheduling, Virtual Entities and much more. I’ll be covering these subjects off in separate posts due to the detailed nature of the functionality (Esp. Customer Insights). 


Personally, I feel as if Microsoft have really put in a lot of investment into Microsoft Dynamics 365 and the product has just evolved so much since its inception. More and more businesses are recognising that Dynamics 365 can add massive amounts of value to their organisations when implemented, extended and managed correctly.


As usual, if you have any questions please feel free to get hold of me and I’ll do my level best to respond and help out.

Dynamics CRM Deployment Models Vs. Drinking a Beer

Dynamics CRM Deployment Models Vs. Drinking a Beer


Recently I have been involved in various RFPs that have involved multiple elements of complexity and have required extensive research and thought regarding answers that we provided.In every single RFP questions regarding deployment models and architecture are always asked. Which is better? CRM on Prem. or cloud? What will work best for us? Please explain the differences between all the deployment models…Now before I start explaining Dynamics CRM

deployment models and diving into
architectures, I would like to state that after these types of very strenuous RFP processes, I generally like to unwind in a pub and give my poor brain a rest. After several beers I’m generally churning information and coming up with bright ideas for blog articles, along with texting the wife to let her know that I’m most likely going to be late.

This exact idea stemmed from one of these pub visits. I was reminded of a conversation I had had with a work colleague years ago in South Africa. I ran it past my current kung-foo master of sales, Mr. Stuart “No Code” Cassie, who has since collaborated with me on such concepts as comparing drinking beer to Dynamics CRM deployment models. So for those of you with a sense of humour, I encourage you to read on.

When asked deployment model related questions by people with a lesser understanding of Dynamics CRM, it’s always a bit tough to get them excited about how it all works. In order to relay this message in a creative and understandable manner, the 4 brilliant booze based comparative scenarios have been generated:

On Premise:

Like drinking beer at your own pub, which is a free house. You are responsible for choosing the beer, keeping it cold and for serving the beer. If you run out of beer, it’s your fault. Sometimes you will want to repair a fridge or stock up beer late at night, but your supplier will not be available. You may also require a beer at a random hour…. Choose your landlord carefully!!

Dynamics CRM On Premises deployments require an internal infrastructure that will support the solution that you have selected. Your internal IT department will be responsible for maintaining this infrastructure and making sure all works correctly all the time. If anything breaks that is out of their control, your supplier will need to help you resolve the issues.

Partner Hosted:

Like drinking beer at someone else’s’ pub, on a tab. They are responsible for keeping the beer cold and for the beer stock. But you choose the type of beer you want to drink from their long list, and if you decide that if you want some pork scratching’s and ready salted crisps, they will get some for you and add it to the tab. If you don’t want to drink beer any more, you can leave… but you still have to pay your tab. If a fridge breaks or beer runs out, they are responsible for making sure all is in order.

Dynamics CRM partner hosted deployments are hosted within the partners internal hosting infrastructure. The partner will be responsible for maintaining the infrastructure and service as well as supplying any extra components that may be needed.

Cloud (Online):

Like drinking beer directly from a pub located in the brewery grounds of your choice, but you pay per beer OR you can have a tab! You can leave when you feel like it. The beer is ALWAYS cold and it never runs out. You can have as much beer as you want! Service is normally really great… If the beer stops for any reason, they will apologise and provide some free beer to make it up to you 🙂

Hosting Dynamics CRM in the Microsoft Cloud guarantees great service, no internal infrastructure requirements and the ability to add or remove components based on requirements. This is a monthly investment and more simple to implement than any other deployment model.

Private Cloud:

Like drinking beer in a private box owned by the brewery at the Rugby or football – service is top notch, beer is always available in any quantity you choose but don’t expect much change left in your pocket at the end of the day

Private cloud deployments rely on Azure virtual servers hosted in the cloud. These are dedicated servers that contain only software and functionality relevant to your deployment. These types of deployments guarantee great service because they are hosted in the Microsoft cloud. They offer excellent flexibility and the ability to manage, to an extent, your own environments.

Whether you are installing Dynamics CRM or deciding on a pub, all options have their pros and their cons regardless of what you choose. Some customers are more focused on saving money whereas other customers are more focused on private, internally manageable solutions.

As you can see from the above descriptions, drinking beer can be equated to Dynamics CRM deployment models. I hope that this has both enlightened you and given you a bit of a laugh… it certainly was interesting to write. Thanks to Stuart for your vital input 🙂