Microsoft PowerApps, Microsoft Flow, SharePoint and Dynamics 365 working together, No coding required!!

All of you who attended the Microsoft Inspire and Las Vegas this year and the Microsoft Business Sumit at Seattle, would have heard a lot about the Microsoft Power platform. All the surrounding apps and services in Dynamics 365, such as Microsoft PowerApps, Flow, PowerBI, CDS etc. now are referred as the new Power platform.

In today’s blog post, we will see how all these powerful services puts the real power in the hands of the super-users of the systems and enables them to create seamless business process automation between applications such as Office 365, Microsoft SharePoint, Dynamics 365 and others, without requiring to write a single line of code.

The Scenario and the requirement:

  1. IT team of an organization uses Microsoft SharePoint(Office 365) for tracking company equipment loaned to it’s employees and for managing them. They use a SharePoint list for tracking these loaned equipment.
  2. Let us say the HR team of the organization wants to have visibility into the details of the equipments which are loaned to the employees, within the ERP system of the organization, which is Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations in this case.
  3. Also, let’s say there is also a requirement, where the HR team wants to be able to edit or add new loaned equipments for employees, from within Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations ERP application.
  4. Finally, when they are done with adding new loaned equipment for employees from within the ERP, they want an email notification to be sent to certain parties.

How do we do this?

The First component of the whole scenario is the SharePoint list that IT team uses to process and keep track of loaned equipment to the company’s employees. So just create a very simple Share point list with some¬† basic data fields as shown in screenshot below.

I am not explaining the details of how to create the SharePoint list. All of us know it ūüôā

Loaned Equipments Sharepoint

The Second component of the scenario is building the ability for the HR team to be able to see the details of these loaned equipment for each employee from within the ERP, which is Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations(Referred as D365F&O from here on).

Let’s build this.

D365F&O provides the ability to embed Microsoft PowerApps into the forms directly and we will leverage PowerApps to extend the User interface of D365F&O, without requiring us to code and customize a new forms and underlying business logic. So we will first build a PowerApp from the SharePoint list we have for loaned equipment tracking.

To create the app, you can either initiate the App creation directly from within the SharePoint list, or you can just create a blank PowerApp within PowerApps online and the Connect to data and select the SharePoint list and list. Both will do the same thing for you.

App from Sharepoint

Screenshot below shows the app I have built from my SharePoint list. I am using the 3 default screens, Browse, Details and the Edit screen.

PowerApps screens

Since we need the HR team members to be able to see the loaned equipment details for respective employees, we will need to establish the context relationship between D365F&O and the PowerApp and the SharePoint list. In this case, I will use the Unique  Personnel number/Employee ID field of D365F&O to build this relationship.

When the PowerApp launches and starts within D365F&O, we need D365F&O to pass the Personnel number of the selected employee record to the PowerApp, so that it can look for the corresponding loaned equipments for that employee and show the results. To accomplish this, we will use the standard formula on the On Start action of the PowerApp’s main Browse screen. See screenshot below.

The formula to use on the On Start action of the PowerApp:¬† If(!IsBlank(Param(“EntityId”)), Set(FinOpsInput, Param(“EntityId”)), Set(FinOpsInput,””))

Note: FinOpsInput here is the global variable that PowerApp will use to receive the input data from D365F&O. The above formula is just a standard formula and you can use it as it is. You can name the global variable whatever you want.

OnStart Formula

Next, we will need to tell the PowerApp how to filter the data from the SharePoint list, based on the context /input data it receives from D365F&O. The input field in my case is the Personnel number of the employee. To do this, you can just use the simple Filter function of PowerApps on the BrowseGallery of the app. This filter will take the FinOpsInput global variable as the criteria. See the screenshot below.

Filter Items1

 

The next component of this requirement is, sending the email notification when an asset is added by HR team from within D365F&O into the SharePoint list. We will leverage Microsoft Flow for this. You can simply build the flow directly from the SharePoint list and the flow will be just basic, where it will send an email to one or more persons after a new item has been added to the loaned equipment list. Screenshot below shows the flow i have built for this.

FlowFrom List

Flow email

The Final component is embedding our PowerApp into the Employees form in D365F&O. This is very straight-forward. Just go to the Employees form and click on the Insert a PowerApp button. You can insert PowerApp on other locations of the form such as under a fast tab, or even as an action pane menu button. On the next screen,  you can enter a name/label for the app, and then specify the App ID of your PowerApp (You can get the App ID from the app details within Powerapps online). Lastly, you will select the input data field that you want to pass into the app. The screenshot below shows this setup i have done.

Insert A powerapp

Insert A powerapp2

With that, we have now built all the main components for accomplishing our requirement. Let us see this in action now.

The IT team has the SharePoint list for the loaned equipment tracking and i am not demonstrating how they will use it. It is just standard SharePoint functionality. I have loaded some data already to show in this demo. As you can see in screenshot below, the list has 2 Equipments loaned to Aaron, 1 to Adam and 1 to Adriana.

FlowFrom List

The real fun starts here. Now the HR team logs into D365F&O and navigates to Human Resources > Employees.

They can see the Loaned Equipments PowerApp button right there.

Launch PowerApp

When clicked, the PowerApp will launch and show the loaned equipments list for the employee record they have selected. In this case they have selected Aaron Con, so they see the equipments loaned to him..

Aaron Equipment

They can click on an asset to see the further details. All of this data is coming in real time from the SharePoint list.

Aaron Equipment detail

When they want to see the Equipments for another employee, they will select the employee and the PowerApp will show the respective Equipments. To prove this, I selected Adam Carter and you can see the Equipments for him now.

Adam Equipment detail

Now, let us say there is a scenario, where HR wants to update some comments on an existing equipment record or they want to create a new equipment record for Adam Carter from within D365F&O. We will see how they can do this and how the PowerApp will write the data back to the SharePoint list.

Selecting Adam’s worker record, the HR person clicks the New button on the PowerApp.

Add new equipment

Then they fill in the required details of the equipment. Let us say they want to add a new Samsung monitor for Adam.

Add new equipment1

After they successfully add the new equipment, the data will sync back to the SharePoint list via the PowerApp and it can be seen on the PowerApp after refreshing the list.

Record added to SP

RecordAdded for Adam

Finally, when the record has been added to the SharePoint list, my flow will trigger and send the email notification to required persons. I am not able to demonstrate this here since there are some data policies setup on the tenant that is blocking my flow, but it is very straight-forward. You can refer to my earlier blog post on Microsoft flow to know how this works.

So, with literally no coding required, we were able to leverage the Microsoft Power platform (Powerapps, Flow) and we connected data between SharePoint and Dynamics 365 and were able to see relations based data between the 2 systems. THIS IS VERY POWERFUL indeed !!!

I just made up this sample scenario for my post,but think of the possibilities with these. You can extend D365F&O functionality and automate business processes around everything. What if,

  • You can create a Smart Bot using Microsoft QnA Service maker, use PowerApps to connect to the QnA service using Custom API and custom connector and build a PowerApp for the Q&A interaction with users. You can then embed this PowerApp in D365F&O (For example on the Vendor self-service portal) to make it easy for vendors to get answers to their questions in a bot chat interface. (Got to test this out at some point :))
  • You can create a PowerApp to create shipping labels and pass the delivery address from D365F&O to the app to generate shipping label ?
  • You can have tracking number of sales orders and build a PowerApp to build a package tracker. (Microsoft uses this for demo purposes)
  • You can create a PowerApp to create product labels, QR codes and pass Product ID from D365F&O to generate that.
  • And many more….

That’s it for today’s post. Till next time…

-Sandeep

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Add and manage custom data fields without requiring code development in Dynamics 365 for Talent, Finance and Operations

In almost every implementation of business applications (ERP specifically), we often hear customers asking to add new custom data fields across various forms of the application, for them to be able to track additional data for their business needs. Sometimes, these custom data fields may involve certain level of custom business logic too, and sometimes these would just be straightforward data fields, meant for additional data tracking with no additional custom logic.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 allows you add and manage custom data fields across a wide range of forms and tables, without requiring any coding or development effort. In today’s post we will review this new feature. I am using Dynamics 365 for Talent to demonstrate this, but the same functionality is available in Finance & Operations as well as the Retail Management applications.

NOTE: In Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, this feature is available in Platform Update 13.

How to add a custom data field on a form:

Let us say I as an end user of the system want to add 2 custom data fields on the Employee master.

Data Field 1 “Is Exempt” : I need this to be a checkbox to indicate if an employee in Exempt or non-exempt.

Data Field 2¬† “Employee group:” I need to group my employee’s in a very custom way, so i need this field. This will be a pick list(Dropdown type field).

Dynamics 365 let’s you add the custom fields using the “Form Personalization” functionality. To add the new custom field, navigate to the form where you want to add the custom field and click OPTIONS > Personalize this form. In my case, I am on the Employees form.

Personalize this form

On the Personalization pane, select Insert > Field.

Insert Fields

Select the area of the form where you want to add the new field and you will see the new Insert fields dialog opening up. This lets you chose any additional existing data fields you want to add to the form. But this also lets you add a new custom data field.

Create new field

Next, you need to select the table where you want to add this new custom field. Note that only forms/tables that are allowed for adding custom fields will be visible here (You can see most common tables available here).

Additionally note that, you will only see the tables which are included as a data source on the Employee master already. The table names here are more easy to read rather than being robotic names, which makes it easy for an end user to deal with this.

I will add my first custom field, which is the “Is exempt checkbox“.

Create Custom Field

Enter a Name prefix for your data field. It might be a best practice to follow a common pattern for all custom fields. System then creates the field name automatically.

Select the field Type, which is Checkbox in my case.

Enter a front end display label, which the user or everyone will see this field as.

Finally enter the Help text, which will tell more information about this data field to an end user.

Now i will go ahead and add my second data field “Employee group”, which is a picklist.

Create Custom Field2

I added the 2 custom field on the employees form just like that. I will now click Save to see my changes. On the next screen, just click the Insert button.

We will now see these 2 new fields in action on the Employee details page and we can start using these. How cool is that!!!

Fields in action

Custom Field help text

Can I share custom fields with others? 

Yes, you can !!! If you or others of your organization creates a custom field on a form, they can share it with other users (All or specific subset of users). There are 2 ways you can do it.

The best way is to have your system administrator manage this. Under System Administration > Personalization menu, they can select specific use(s) by their security role or simply for All users, and then either ‘Select an existing personalization to apply for those users”, or they can also import a personalization file for those user(s).Admin PersonalizationThe other option is for you to simply export your personalization¬† and share it with specific users and have them import those on to their view.

Export Personalization1

Export Personalization

How a system administrator manage the custom fields centrally at one place:

Yes !! A user with System administrator privileges, can see and manage ALL the custom fields added by everyone in the system , all at one place under System Administration > Setup > Custom fields page. Here , you can Edit the Label, Help text or even the length of text fields. You can also add new values for Picklist type fields at any time.

Note that you cannot change the Fieldname, Field type.

Lets say i want change the label of the “Is Exempt” field to “Is Salaried employee” and i want to add a new value to the Employee group field.

Edit Custom Field 1.

Edit Custom Field 2.

If I now go back to my employee details form, You will see the changes reflected there.

Edit Custom Field applied

Can I delete a custom field if I don’t need it anymore?¬†

This is highly unlikely, but there¬† may be instances where you decide not to use a custom data field anymore for some reason. If you decide to do so, you system admin can delete the custom field and all the associated data and the field will be deleted from the database and you cannot recover it. Something you should think before doing ūüôā

Delete Custom Field

Custom Field Delete Message

How can I add a custom field to a data entity?

When you introduce custom data fields on tables/forms, it is highly likely that you want to expose those fields and use them in Data uploads, edit in excel etc. The Custom fields feature supports this scenario. After you have added custom fields, your admin can enable those on selected data entities Under System Administration > Setup > Custom fields.

Add Custom fields to data entities

How about multi-language support for custom fields?

Dynamics 365 supports multi-country, multi language requirements. When you add custom fields for your needs, you can enable additional language support for those as well.

Lanuage Support1png

What a neat feature!!! This is something a lot of users and customers have been looking for. Hope this feature will continue to improve.

Regards,

Sandeep

Common Data Services (CDS), Data Integrator and Dynamics 365, What will you do?

In my post on “My favorite features from the July 2017 update of Dynamics 365 For Finance & Operations“, I highlighted the availability of the Prospect to Cash integration scenarios between Dynamics 365 For Sales and Dynamics 365 For Finance and Operations.

The out of the box¬†integration¬†is probably one of the best things that can¬† happen to an ERP and CRM platform, where we will now depart from the traditional way of writing custom integrations every time, to be able to¬†connect CRM and ERP systems. With the power of “Common Data Service(CDS) and the new “Data Integrator” feature now available, the integration of Dynamics 365 for Sales (CRM) and Dynamics 365 For Finance and Operations (ERP) is now possible right out of the box in Dynamics 365, with no or not much custom integration needed.

In this post, let us decode some of these new features and terminologies into simple definitions, so that we all can better understand what these are, how they work and what benefits these will bring on to the table for partners and customers.

Common Data Services: The ultimate purpose of Digital transformation initiatives and implementing business applications for an organization is to be able to drive and produce actionable data and then democratize the data for key users to make more sense out of those data from all areas of the business. You can then use the data to create BI dashboards/reports using Power BI or configure business apps using Microsoft PowerApps and share it with others in the business as needed.

At the core, Common Data Services is a Microsoft Azure based Cloud data storage service that allows to surface data from multiple applications (Such as Dynamics 365, Office 365, and other similar¬†Azure or Non-Azure based¬†services), and make them all available at one central¬†place. The data model in the Common Data Services is referred to as the “Common Data Model” that basically contains several out of the box data entities. These entities then contain¬† the required set of data fields to store the data.¬†Some examples of these data entities are “Customers”, Accounts, Contacts, ERP Sales Orders etc. When you create a new environment in CDS, you will see the readily available entities that you can take advantage of, or you can create your own entities as you need.¬†You can¬† also modify the standard entities of CDS to be able to store data specific to your business.

Screenshot below shows some standard entities of the CDS and specific data fields of one of the entities.

Common Data Service Entities

Accounts Entoty

Data Integrator: With that high level overview of what is Common Data Service, let’s understand what is the Data Integrator. The Data Integrator is a new feature of the Common Data Services, that lets you build an end to end view of your business data by making Dynamics 365 data available in Common Data Service. It enables you to connect multiple business applications such as “Dynamics 365 for Sales” and “Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations”, by surfacing data from the source app to CDS and then passing it over from CDS to the target app automatically.

This is done through a set of Connection definitions and Connection sets, which are eventually used in the data integrator projects. Connections basically stores the active directory credentials for your target app/system. Connection sets primarily stores the organization mapping info(For example the Legal entities of D365 For Finance & Operations app and Sales Unit/organization of D365 for Sales). We will discuss more about the specifics of the Connections and Connection sets in a future post.

The data that is synchronized to CDS by Data Integrator is currently Read-Only and will not be editable. You can use the CDS data to sync that to other business apps or to create business applications using Microsoft Power Apps and CDS SDK.

Customers can create Data Integration projects by themselves from scratch or use existing templates provided by Microsoft and then set those data integration projects to run on a recurring basis to sync data into the CDS flow the data between multiple applications.

Screenshot below shows some data integration templates that are already available to pass data between Dynamics 365 for Sales and Dynamics 365 For Finance and Operations. These templates seems to be supporting the Prospect to Cash scenario between D365 For Sales and D365 For Finance and Operations, where you can pass Customers/Accounts data from Sales to Operations , pass Products/Items data from Operations app to the Sales app, or pass Sales quotation data from Sales to Operations(Still in preview) via the Common data Services.

Note: I have not configured my D365 For Sales environment yet, so I am not able to test the full experience yet, but it is very obvious how this feature is architected and how the data flow will happen between the apps. I will be able to test this soon, when the environment is ready in coming weeks.

Data Flow Overview via CDS

Data Flow Overview via CDS

Connection Set

Data Integrator

PowerApps and CDS: If you do not know already, think of PowerApps as the front end interface for interacting with the data in your database (which in this case will be the Common Data Services or any other supported services). The configurable data integrator feature of the CDS is the first step towards integrating the Dynamics 365 apps (Such as D365 For Sales and D365 For Finance and Operations). Down the line, all the apps under Dynamics 365 such as D365 for Project Service Automation, D365 for Field Service etc., will be supported for this integration, where we will be able to sync data between all these different purpose built apps using the CDS as the staging database.

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Think about it ! Once your data is available in CDS via the Data integrator from multiple applications, Power users of your organization can write business apps (Mobile or tablet based) using this data and PowerApps and extend the business processes more with this. I explained some of my initial observation about PowerApps and CDS in my earlier post here. In future, Microsoft will surely make it easier by providing more and more out of the box data integration templates for more data integration scenarios and will automate the data sync to CDS automatically at some point, so that the data will be readily available in CDS any time for you to consume and use.

What is next: For customers who have the Plan 2 or Dynamics 365 For Finance and Operations subscription, they have access to Common Data Services and the Data integrator feature right now. Go and explore what you will do with it!!

I will share some real time testing experience of the Prospect to Cash integration scenarios between D365 Sales and D365 Operations with the Data Integrator, Connections, Connection sets etc., once I have my environment for D365 For Sales configured and after I have fully tested it.

Till then, stay tuned, stay current !!

Cloud, Hybrid, On-Premise Deployment Options for Dynamics 365 For Operations, Your business application, Your choice, You control !!

Microsoft Dynamics 365 For Operations¬†is a¬†modern HTML 5, ¬†cloud based, intelligent, true SaaS ERP application built and¬†run in the Microsoft Cloud, accessible anytime anywhere in any device, enables customers to run their end to end business operations. Since it’s launch as New Dynamics AX (AX 7) back in February 2016 till the most recent release back in November 2016, it has seen tremendous success and customer adoption, where more and more customers are willing to move their business operations management into the cloud.

With all the positive buzz around cloud, there has also been a lot of anxiety in the Customer, Partner and Technical community of Dynamics 365 and Dynamics AX regarding availability of a fully On-Premise or even a Hybrid deployment option. While more and more customers are realizing the benefit of moving their business to a fully cloud based true SaaS ERP, there some customers who are still reluctant and are not sure how their cloud ERP journey will look like, while some other customers are limited and controlled by regulatory requirements, enterprise standards, regulatory data security and privacy requirements, geographical constraints etc., and they do not feel comfortable running their operations on a public cloud environment. Microsoft kept a close watch on these scenarios and finally listened to the crowd. Kudos to Microsoft !!!

Back in Summit 2016 held at Tampa Florida, Microsoft announced their intentions and plans of a Hybrid cloud deployment option¬†for Dynamics 365 For Operations. The true meaning of a hybrid cloud deployment is that “Customers will be able to run their business processes and transactions in an environment that are supported by Local application services and their business data will be stored locally on either Customer’s or their partner’s data center, instead of the public cloud (Microsoft Azure), while allowing them to¬†connect and replicate their data and environment to the Microsoft Cloud¬† to take full advantage of the¬†power of Microsoft cloud for automatic updates, business intelligence, financials reporting, telemetry, artificial intelligence, Cognitive services, Customer insights, PowerApps, Flow and more such surrounding apps and services.

In Summer 2017, Microsoft plans to roll out this Hybrid cloud deployment options which will be called as “Cloud and Edge’. The business process and transactions will be allowed to run at the edges¬†with¬†business data getting stored locally,¬†this will be referred as “My Workplace”. The central Cloud node (Microsoft cloud)¬†will provide a single view of the business across distributed “My Workplaces” with the power of Microsoft cloud, utilizing it’s¬†surrounding apps and services. With this, Customers will get the best of both the worlds, Cloud and On-premise !

This week (on 2/23/2017), Microsoft announced the next chapter is this journey, “The option of¬†a fully On-premise Dynamics 365 For Operations environment”. What this means is, Customers will be able to run business processes and transactions in their local data centers and store business data in their own or their partner’s data center, without the replication and connection of business data into the Microsoft Cloud. Good news is, Customer can simply chose to turn ON or OFF the cloud synchronization of their business data to Microsoft Cloud.¬†¬†This obviously means that Customers who chose not to replicate business data into the Microsoft Cloud will NOT be able to use the Power of Microsoft cloud such as Machine learning, telemetry, embedded BI and more. This deployment option will be called as “Local Business Data” option and will be available¬†during Q2 of 2017

In the Local Business Data deployment scenario, The application servers and the SQL servers will run on Customer’s own data center, however, they will still need to use Lifecycle Services (LCS) in Microsoft Cloud,¬†for managing their deployment, implementation and monitoring.

Image/table below shows the side by side comparison of the different deployment scenarios.

d365-opr-deployment-scenarios

Image Source: Microsoft Dynamics 365 Official Blog

Stay tuned for more details on this topic at the D365 Technical Conference in Seattle next Month.

Sri Srinivasan, General Manager of Microsoft Dynamics 365 For Operations at Microsoft announced this in a blog post on 23rd Feb, where he provided additional details on licensing options and availability for these deployment options. You can refer the detail of his blog post at the URL below.

https://community.dynamics.com/b/msftdynamicsblog/archive/2017/02/23/the-right-cloud-option-for-your-business

Regards,

Sandeep

Dynamics 365 For Operations Tip: Now you can use Position based hierarchies in all workflows

Using a Reporting manager hierarchy for routing workflow documents has always been possible in Microsoft Dynamics AX and Dynamics 365 For Operations. This worked great in cases where you were required to route all of an employee’s workflow documents, such as timesheets, expense reports, purchase requisitions and more, to the manager they report to.

Now in Dynamics 365 For Operations, you can use Custom configured position hierarchies to route workflow documents. So, let’s say¬† you have a scenario where you need to route timesheets of an employee to the reporting manager, but route the expense reports to a manager they report to in a specific project hierarchy, you can configure this in Dynamics 365 For Operations ! Let’s see how?

 On the Position Hierarchy Types, you can select the workflows which can use the selected position Hierarchy for outing documents. For example, in the screenshot below notice that the Matrix based hierarchy can be used by the expense report РUSMF and Timesheet workflow.

position-heirarchy-workflow

NOTE: Note that a workflow can use only one custom hierarchy.

Additionally, you will notice that, on the workflow setup form, you can now view and manage the associated configurable hierarchies.

manage-hierarchy

On the workflow setup/configuration, you can select the steps to be assigned to a Configurable hierarchy. See screenshot below.

workflow-setup

So, when an employee submits their expense report/timesheet, this workflow setup is going to look for the Matrix Position Hierarchy and assign the workflow document to the worker to whom the employee reports in the Matrix hierarchy instead of the managerial hierarchy.

phierarchy

matrix-workflow

Small, but useful enhancement !! Hope this quick tip is useful.

Meet the All new Dynamics 365 Home page, the new home for all your Business Apps

When the New Dynamics AX/AX 7 was launched back in February this year, it introduced a whole new way of how we interact with Dynamics AX. While that was maturing and users and community were learning to get comfortable with it, Microsoft announced Dynamics 365 at WPC, with the intent of combining the Cloud CRM and ERP offerings under one unified platform called Dynamics 365 and produce the next generation of intelligent cloud business apps. Dynamics 365 is now released and is publicly available for purchase by customers.

Starting 1st NOV, 2016, when you login to you Office 365 home page, you should notice the new Dynamics 365 app on your Office home page. Along with this, you should also see the other surrounding apps such as Flow and PowerApps, as those are now publicly available for use.

office-home-apps

So with this, it is very evident that Microsoft wants to this to be a default landing page. default landing page, from where you can literally launch any application or cloud service that your organization is subscribed to or those which are Free to use. For example, from this Office home page, you can launch Dynamics 365 (Your business applications), Power BI (Your business intelligence app), Flow, powerApps (event automation apps), or even any of the Office apps. Eventually Microsoft will make all these apps work seamlessly with each other, without the users having to notice any significant differences in front end.

We have already started seeing this, where Dynamics 365 talks seamlessly with Office 365 allowing you to interact with Dynamics 365 data from within Outlook. You can also use Flow and PowerApps to build powerful events automation in Dynamics 365. Dynamics 365 already has Office 365 apps and Power BI at it’s core and works very well with these apps too.

In today’s quick post, let us see¬†and experience how the new Dynamics 365 home page looks like.

After you have logged in to Office 365 HERE, select Dynamics 365 app to launch it.

You will then notice the screen below opening up, which is the Brand New HOME page for Dynamics 365, business applications.

d365-home

On this HOME page, you can see all the business apps you are subscribed to under Dynamics 365. For example, if your organization has subscribed to the Dynamics 365 for Sales and Dynamics 365 for Operations apps, then those 2 will appear here on the Apps pane.

apps

You can also launch them from the apps pane on the left hand side. You can obviously access the direct URLs for those apps separately using a web browser, but Dynamics 365 Home is the new way of interacting with all these apps, from one central location.

apps-d365

In the upcoming releases, there will certainly be more and more out of the box integrations between these apps and the UI across these apps will be very unified, so that user cannot really notice any difference when they switch between apps. These apps will also exchange data seamlessly and talk to each other (There already many scenarios of data exchange between Dynamics 365 For sales and Operations apps on the first release that came out on NOV 1st). This obviously achieves Microsoft’s primarily goal of launching Dynamics 365, which is to combine the CRM and ERP offerings under one unified cloud service, so that customers and users can take optimum advantage of these to streamline their sales, marketing and operations, get high returns on investment, at a much lesser cost.

On this Dynamics 365 home screen, you can also see a way to directly launch the Dynamics 365 Appsource, which is the new platform for all 3rd party cloud apps, that are built for Dynamics 365. These are typically add-on solutions from partners and ISVs for addressing specific business needs for various industry verticals.

appsource

appsource-landing-page

One example of such an app in the Appsource is AXIO For Professional Services, from SBS Group, which offers purpose built solutions for advanced contracts and revenue management.

axio-proserv

Last, but not the least, you can also see the Apps that are shared with you from Microsoft PowerApps, which means you can launch the apps from within this. To get an idea what PowerApps is and what it can do for you, you can ready my earlier post HERE.

I wish Microsoft will make this new HOME page for Dynamics 365 to be more informative in the upcoming releases, where it can show user/role specific Power BI dashboards for business insights, predictive recommendations (Artificial intelligence) etc., right on this Dynamics 365 home page, before even user launches a specific app to see the corresponding BI and dashboards or information.

Till next time!!! A lot to digest and learn.

Project Services Automation(PSA) in Dynamics 365, What options are available and what is best for you!

With literally 1 week to go for Dynamics 365 to launch officially, I am sure most of the customers and prospects are anxious and keen to explore more on this and find out what is right for them, which services they should chose within Dynamics 365 to drive the Digital transformation of their organization.

psa-dynamics-365

First thing first! Dynamics 365 is a fully Cloud based SaaS service and has various services/solutions offered under it. You can refer to my earlier post for a brief explanation on what each of these services are and what they really mean. In today’s post,¬†we¬†will discuss¬†on what is the story of Project Service Automation/Professional Service Automation¬†(PSA) in Dynamics 365, what options does customers have for¬† PSA in Dynamics 365 and which option may work best for their organization.

There are 2 primary options/services for Professional/Project Services Automation in Dynamics 365.

OPTION 1: A Fully integrated PSA solution within Dynamics 365 for Operations.(This was Previously know as New Dynamics AX/AX 7)

  • This is the fully integrated Enterprise ERP solution that supports both project operational¬†and financial automations, all within one solution.
  • Project operational processes such as project management, project accounting, end to end project procurement and end to end project sales & distribution are fully supported in this.
  • For those who are familiar with Dynamics 365 for Operation (Known as New¬†Dynamics AX earlier), this is really the Project Management and Accounting module and it’s built in integration with the other modules of AX.
  • Traditionally customers always had to build integrate Dynamics AX with Dynamics CRM if they wanted to establish the seamless flow of customer and project data from Lead to Project delivery. With Dynamics 365, the built in integration of Dynamics 365 for Operations and Dynamics 365 For Sales/Marketing is already off to a great start and will only improve significantly in future.

OPTION 2: Dynamics 365 For Project Service Automation service/solution, Stand alone solution which can be integrated with Dynamics Financials or any other financials solutions

  • A purpose built, specific solution for stand alone project service automation.
  • This ¬†supports key project service processes such as project management, resourcing, project execution and billing up to some extent (Not Advanced Billing).
  • For those familiar with Dynamics CRM Online, this is basically Project Service Module of Dynamics CRM online, now improved with Dynamics 365.
  • Since this solution was built in traditionally within Dynamics CRM online, the Dynamics 365 for Project Service Automation probably integrates more seamlessly with Dynamics 365 for Sales in¬†current state.

The table below shows a high level comparison of the key features of Project Service Automation (PSA) solutions between Option 1 and Option 2 mentioned above.

project-service-comparision

With that said, let us now understand what an organization should really consider while choosing between these 2 options for professional/project service automation solutions in Dynamics 365.

We can think of various deciding factors that can play a role in choosing one of these solutions, however I will mention some of the common factors that I think are crucial to be able to chose between these 2 solutions.

You should chose the fully integrated Project Service Automation solution, i.e. Dynamics 365 for Operation if,

  1. Your organization’s strategy is to have one unified ERP system to manage projects end to end,¬†along with Financials and Operations (Procurement and Supply chain), all in the same application.
  2. Your organization’s focus is more on having coverage of features and business processes in areas such as Project management, project procurement, project supply chain, project financials accounting and human capital management, all in one application.
  3. Your organization is decently large in size and has project based operations with focus on project based distribution/engineering/project based manufacturing.
  4. Your organization is a Hi-tech consulting and service provider/AV integrator having the need to fully streamline the project financials and the complex project/contract revenue recognition, all in one integrated ERP.
  5. You are professional services organization and you have complex billing and accounting requirements for your projects.

You should chose the stand alone Project Service Automation solution of Dynamics 365 if,

  1. Your current financials system (Dynamics or non-Dynamics) works fairly well and is well set for the organization and you are not really looking to revamp the financials and accounting processes of your organization. You can chose the Dynamics 365 for Project Service Automation and integrate it with your current financials system.
  2. Your organization is keen on deploying a specific, purpose built, targeted solution to solve issues related to Project services only (Project management, time and expense, billing etc.). You can deploy Stand alone Project Service automation and integrate with your existing financials solution.
  3. Your organization is in the Small to Medium in size and does not have very complex project management and accounting needs. In this case, you will probably be better off choosing Dynamics 365 for Project Service Automation and Dynamics 365 for Financials.

I would like to reiterate, the above analysis is just my opinion and what I think are some of the key factors differentiating the 2 key Project Service Automation solution options in Dynamics 365. I am sure we all can count on several other factors and probably argue several alternate possibilities. Feel free to comment or contact me if you would like to discuss.

Regards,

Sandeep

 

Microsoft Unveils the Next chapter of Dynamics Cloud Business Apps, Dynamics 365

With the launch date now getting near(1st November 2016), Microsoft unveiled the First look and shared more information regarding Dynamics 365, the next generation intelligent business apps in the cloud. Right now, there are obviously a lot of excitement, questions, confusions, concerns among existing customer and user base of the legacy On premise applications (GP, SL, NAV & AX) as well as prospective customers and the partner community. All of us probably are wondering how our investments is Microsoft Dynamics is going to shape up in the new Dynamics Cloud era .

In this post today, let us understand and decode some of the key facts about Dynamics 365, that were unveiled and discussed in Summit 2016 held at Tampa, FL.

d365intro

Microsoft unveiled the First Look of the next generation cloud business apps, all under one unified platform called Microsoft Dynamics 365. Below are some of the key take away from the first look.

  • Microsoft Dynamics 365 is the next generation of intelligent business applications that enable organizations to grow, evolve and transform. These applications unify CRM and ERP capabilities by delivering new purpose-built applications that work seamlessly together to help manage specific business functions across Sales, Customer Service, Operations, Financials, Field Service, Project Service Automation, Marketing, and Customer Insights.

  • This perfectly aligns the Dynamics business segment with the Cloud First, Mobile first strategy of Microsoft and puts the Dynamics platform and business applications in the forefront of the Cloud and mobile innovation by Microsoft. This means customers will see faster and continuous innovations in the business applications¬†and will¬†get¬†feature updates frequently, and get¬†capabilities connected to the entire breadth of Microsoft Cloud apps such as Office 365, Azure, Cortana Intelligence Suite, Power BI, PowerApps, Flow, IoT, Machine Learning¬†and more.

dynamics-cloud

  • Dynamics 365 integrates the Dynamics CRM and ERP products into one unified Cloud Service and delivers end to end business application functionality as a SaaS service in the Cloud. These apps can be consumed separately and together based on your needs. So you pay only for what you use.

unified-cloud-service

  • Let us¬† now understand what each of these business apps really ¬†are under Dynamics 365.

Dynamics 365 For Sales: It is the Sales component/module of Dynamics CRM Online.

Dynamics 365 For Customer Service: It is the Customer Service/module component of Dynamics CRM Online.

Dynamics 365 For Field Service : This is the Field Service component/Module of Dynamics CRM Online.

Dynamics 365 For Project Service Automation: This is the Project Service component/module of Dynamics CRM Online.

Dynamics 365 For Marketing: Microsoft recently announced that it fully will integrate Adobe Marketing cloud with Dynamics 365 and make it the preferrable marketing app for Dynamics 365.

Dynamics 365 For Operations: This is the New Dynamics AX (AX 7) ERP that we all are familiar with. This is where most of the customers/prospects might get¬†confused. The name “Dynamics 365 For Operations” misleads a little bit. This business app¬† is really ¬†targeted for the enterprise customers and obviously includes full advanced Financials functionality as well of AX 7. With this app, customers do NOT need to buy other Financials apps such as “Dynamics 365 for Financials”. “Dynamics 365 for Operations has everything you need to manage your Operations, including Core Financials. Hopefully Microsoft will rename this app to “Dynamics 365 For Operations¬†& Financials” at some point :).

Dynamics 365 For Financials: This is the new Financials app of Dynamics 365(Earlier known as Project Madeira)¬†and is primarily targeted for SMB customers¬†in most cases. This does not include any of the advanced Operations functionality such as Manufacturing,¬†E-commerce(Retail), advanced supply chain¬†etc.¬†¬† When we say, this is targeted more for the SMB customers, we might argue whether Microsoft thinks that SMBs do not have “Operations” ? Of course some of them do and Microsoft is probably thinking those customers should chose Dynamics 365 For Operations app instead of the Financials app. We will have to wait and see how this shapes up.

  • Dynamics 365¬† provides a unified user experience across all different apps and seamless transition. So you don’t have to spend more time navigating between systems. These apps are also seamlessly integrated to exchange data and play nicely with each other. For example when a Sales rep creates a Sales order from a confirmed sales quotation in the Dynamics 365 for Sales app, it will create the Sales Order automatically in the Dynamics 365 for Operations app. Very powerful. I am excited to test more scenarios and how the data flow looks between these apps !

ui

ui-apps

  • A brand new HOME¬†page showing you a view of all apps you own under Dynamics 365¬†and a¬†direct access to Microsoft Appsource. Appsource is where you can go explore more purpose-built industry solutions(Apps) built by¬†various Microsoft partners. When you discover new business apps, you can also see partners that are capable of implementing those apps.

home-page

And Probably a new LOGO for Dynamics ? The Dynamics platform is most certainly getting a new logo which may look something like below.

d365-logo-small

  • Power BI is embedded throughout the Dynamics 365 experience. As a result, you will get business insights for each of your business areas at one central dashboard page, still powered by Power BI.

powerbithroughout

  • Dynamics 365 is inherently MOBILE with full offline mode support!¬†(For Windows, android and iOS).¬†This is probably one of the biggest feature update¬†of Dynamics platform. With Dynamics 365, Customers can have mobile apps (Several Out of the box) and can create apps literally for any area/App. You can check my earlier post HERE to learn more about the mobile apps framework of Dynamics¬† 365 for Operations (Dynamics AX).

mobile-screens2

mobile-screens1

  • ¬†Integration of Dynamics 365 and Office 365 Better than ever before. Traditional On-premise business apps (NAV, AX, SL etc) always had integrations with Office 365 and could exchange data with Microsoft word, excel outlook. But the scenarios and capabilities were somewhat limited. With Dynamics 365, the integration goes to a whole new level and provides users a full-blown integration. For example, you can drill into the details of a customer record of Dynamics 365 from within your Outlook email and even see further details such as associated sales opportunities, and launch the Dynamics 365 for Sales app/Other apps from within the email. Sleek !! A lot to explore and learn.

office-integration

  • Artificial Intelligence in Dynamics 365. Microsoft and other big companies like Google, Amazon and more are betting their future on Artificial intelligence. With Artificial intelligence built-in in Dynamics 365, you can now get product recommendations, have your office 365 data(Such as email communications and more) automatically populated into Dynamics 365 Sales or even get proactive automated personal sales assistance with warnings and recommendations when needed¬†. This certainly involves a good learning curve for me and understand what are various things we can do with it.

ai

ai-1

  • New SaaS service called “Dynamics 365 for Customer Insights announced under Dynamics 365. This app/service is built on top of core Azure and Cortana Intelligent data services and it¬†can connect to your¬†Dynamics 365 data and literally any other data source,¬†to help you build¬†a 360 view of your customer and¬†better understand and engage with your customers in real-time.

customer-insights

Question: Do customers need to pay to use this Service ? I do not know and we will need to wait and watch.

  • What will happen to the existing customers using AX 2009 or AX 2012 On-premise versions: There is no immediate impact for these customers. Microsoft will continue to support AX 2009 until 2018 and AX 2012 for even longer time(2021, Find more info on my earlier post). There may also be feature updates released for AX 2012. However, Microsoft also revealed upgrade plans for existing customers. You can learn more in detail at the blog post by MSDynamicsWorld.com HERE.

Long story short, customers using AX 2009 can start evaluating their upgrade options with assisted upgrade tool for AX 2009. These tools are in preview now and when released, it will have the capabilities to do the heavy lifting for you for the upgrade. I assume, while the tool can help these customers to a great deal, there will still be good amount of work that needs to be done to make these upgrades successful.

For Customers using AX 2012, the upgrade path will be comparatively easier given the fact that schema and underlying business logic of AX 2012 and AX 7 are pretty much same. The upgrade assisting tools for AX 2012 may be available around March of 2017. Need to wait and watch.

  • More news on Common Data Model and surrounding Apps: Many of us probably¬†know what is the Common data model and the role it has to play in the new Dynamics era. CDM basically is intended to surface data that is stored¬†within Dynamics 365 across all the different business apps (Sales, Marketing, Operations etc.) into a set of data entities that can model the¬†data between these different apps. It can also connect to entities outside Dynamics 365 such as Office 365 and more. As Microsoft clarified further in AXUG conference, think of CDM as a parallel data repository and will sync with Dynamics AX and other database of¬†different business apps of Dynamics 365.Then services like Microsoft PowerApps and Microsoft Flow can use this to create powerful events automation and business apps connecting multiple applications and services.

cdm

  • What is coming in Dynamics 365 For Operations and it’s roadmap: There are a whole lot of new features and capabilities coming to the Dynamics 365 for Operations(Dynamics AX 7)¬†app in the fall release (November 2016). Below are some of the key features that you will see in the fall release.

Courtesy : MS Dynamics World News

feature

Hope this was a good summary of Dynamics 365 announcements at Summit this year. We all have  a long way to go and learn the cool new features and services and be ready to sail through the cloud era.

Best,

Sandeep