SharePoint and Flow

What if we told you that you have the power to connect all your SharePoint lists and libraries to a host of other apps from Dynamics CRM and Yammer to Dropbox, Mail Chimp, and Twitter? Imagine creating an item in SharePoint whenever a new lead is added in Dynamics or automatically copying files from your Dropbox to a SharePoint document library. Now what if we told you that you could do this in a matter of minutes and with zero lines of code? You’d be tempted to ask if we’re crazy or have had one sleepless night too many in Seattle.

The Microsoft Flow team gives us great pleasure to announce the integration of Microsoft Flow into SharePoint Online lists and libraries. Microsoft Flow is a new workflow tool that enables business users to create automation to receive notifications, synchronize files, and get data between your favorite apps and services, be it on premise or in the cloud. Be sure to check out this and other announcements from the Future of SharePoint conference in San Francisco.

In this post, using a premade flow template, we’re going to walk you through how you can quickly copy new members from a MailChimp member list to a SharePoint Online custom list based on approval via email. We will also be showing you how we are integrating Flow directly into SharePoint lists and libraries and the future of our integration work.

MailChimp to SharePoint Online in a few easy clicks

Let’s imagine that you work for an office supply company called OPENFIELD. Your marketing team manages email campaigns using MailChimp but you want to track your largest accounts in a list in SharePoint Online so that you can have a column for assigning the accounts to specific members of the team, and store additional metadata to add that personal touch to customer outreach.

Let’s create a flow such that whenever a new member is added to a subscriber list in MailChimp, you receive an approval email asking if you want to add this member to the VIP SharePoint Online list. To make things easier, you can just start from this premade template.  Once you open the page, click “Use this template”.

Enter your credentials and click Continue.

Now select a MailChimp member list and configure the Send Approval email step.

Then select your SharePoint Site Url and the list you want to add these members to. In the example below, we use a list named “VIP Customers”, with columns “First Name”, “Last Name”, “Email Address”, and “Account Lead”.

Configure the Create item step for SharePoint such that for every new member in MailChimp, if the approval condition is met, the First Name from MailChimp maps to the First Name column in SharePoint. Map the other values from MailChimp to the columns in SharePoint as appropriate.

Click Create flow and you’re ready to go! Learn more about how to see your flow in action in this post or documentation.

Integrating Flow into SharePoint

We firmly believe that all of our SharePoint customers can benefit greatly by connecting their data in SharePoint to other data sources. While Flow templates are a great start, we want to make the flow even easier (pun very much intended). In an upcoming release to SharePoint, we will be integrating Microsoft Flow directly into your SharePoint lists and libraries. With this update, users will be able to simply click Add flow and select a flow template from a panel. We will automatically carry forward the context of the site and list you’re on into the Flow template that was selected.

Future of the integration

I will continue to invest in some integration efforts with more templates for more services and a more complete experience within SharePoint itself. In addition, the Microsoft Flow Team also plan to enhance the flow authoring experience for SharePoint by:

  • Adding read/write support for Person and Taxonomy column types (currently we have read only support)
  • Enabling look up of multi-value properties such as Single-choice, Multiple-choice, and Lookup columns
  • Adding ways to leverage your existing SharePoint workflows in Microsoft Flow.

Stay tuned for more updates and check out http://flow.microsoft.com/search/?q=SharePoint for all SharePoint focused Flow templates.

Integration with the Microsoft Common Data Service

With the launch of Microsoft PowerApps and Microsoft Flow, I thought it would be useful to have a close look at the underlying database and integration capabilities of these new systems.

In this, the first of two posts on the topic, I summarize the native integration capabilities and limitations of PowerApps and Flow. The second posts will show you how to do a bulk import of data from Dynamics CRM or Salesforce into the Common Data Service.

Overview

Power BI, PowerApps, and Flow are part of a major push to bring application development and integration to the hands of the ‘power user’ – allowing them to get done what would have in the past required programming skills, with each playing a specific role:

All of these can connect to various data sources such as Dynamics CRM, Salesforce, Excel, MailChimp…(full list for Flow here), but Microsoft is also providing the Common Data Service (CDS) as part of PowerApps to provide native database capabilities for the apps and BI.

The grand scheme that Microsoft is working towards looks like this:

The general idea is that enterprise users will be able to pull data from disparate sources into the database, and then rapidly develop apps and analytics to use this data. To quote Microsoft:

This data service adds powerful data storage and modeling capabilities to PowerApps. Our objective for the Common Data Service is to enable the following capabilities for the PowerApps, Microsoft Flow and Pro development communities:

  1. An easy to provision, yet scalable data store
  2. A common data model with standard entity schema and behavior
  3. A powerful data access layer with support for data import, export and security
  4. Integration with Microsoft Office for Excel and Outlook

The Common Data Model (CDM) database implemented by the CDS is a standardized set of entities and data types to ensure that apps are able to safely and reliably access data. The database is extensible – users will be able to add custom entities, but the standard fields in the standard entities cannot be modified. The objective is to ensure that PowerApps and PowerBI have a core set of entities and fields that can be relied on.

On a broader front there are indications that the CDM will form the basis of the Dynamics 365 platform going forward. Jukka Niiranen has an excellent blog postproviding quite a lot of context on the Dynamics 365 architecture and relationship with Azure.

Structure of the Common Data Model

At time of writing (November 2016), the only way to see a CDM database is to log into Power Apps and click the ‘Entities’ option in the side menu.This displays a list of the entities (aka tables) in the CDM database attached to your subscription. A detailed Entity Reference document is available, although at time of writing it does not accurately match the released database.

For a CRM user, the set of entities looks a little unusual – heavy ERP flavor, with multiple entities concerned with Purchase Orders, Sales Invoices, Sales Orders, Supplier Invoices etc. More unusual was the set of entities concerned with people in the August preview which had Contact, but also: Alumnus, Contractor, Customer, Donor, Employee, Family Member, Fan, Household Member, Team Member, Tenant. As Jukka Niiranen noted in another post:

OK, great, so I can store the name, address and Twitter handle of a physical person into 11 different entities now. I don’t recall ever wishing for such a possibility to exist, but it’s what’s coming at us now when Dynamics 365 arrives.

Thankfully, with the November release, this has been significantly rationalized, and a ‘Type’ field added to contact. We can expect the set of standard entites to evolve rapidly. Note that Microsoft is monitoring the way users customize the standard database and doubtless will incorporate some of the more popular ideas.

Working with the Common Data Service

InaPlex is an integration specialist, so our particular interest is how  to integrate with CDM. Currently there are two options for getting data into a CDM database:

  1. Use Flow, or
  2. Import Excel spreadsheets

Flow will be discussed in more detail in a later post, but for now note that the challenge with using Flow is that it is transactional – a Flow is defined as a connection between a data source and sink, and the the flow has to be triggered by some event. For example, you may set up a Flow that connects Dynamics CRM Companies and CDM Accounts. Each time a company is created in CRM the flow is triggered, and the company is created in CDM.

The problem with this approach is the initial data load. If you already have a few thousand companies in CRM, how do you get this data into the CDM database?

Importing Data into CDS Using Excel

The only answer at the moment appears to be to import Excel spreadsheets. There are some tight constraints on how this can be done:

  • The worksheet must have the primary key of the table, and matching appears just on the primary key. If there is a match the record is updated, otherwise created.
  • The field names should match the field names in CDM exactly. If the field names in the Excel file do not match the field names in CDM exactly, you’ll have to manually map them during the import. You will want to avoid doing this because there is not currently a way to save a mapping, which means you have to do the mapping again if you do another import.
  • All required fields must be mapped, even if you do not have data.
  • Picklist fields need to have the correct values.

The easiest way of setting up the Excel spreadsheet initially is to do an export to a template from the CDM database. This gives you a work sheet with all the correct field names. You could also do a data export – this also provides an Excel worksheet with the field names, but additionally shows you how the data needs to appear.

Once the Excel file is populated here are the steps to import:

1. Select Entities, then Click the Import Data selection in the menu at top right.

2. Select the entity or entities you want to import into and click next.

3. Select the Excel file to be imported. The engine will load the file and check that matching (the Id field) and mapping (the column headers in the work sheet) are OK. If the field names in your work sheet do not match the field names in CDM, click the ‘Show Mapping’ link and select the correct mapping. Notice that the upload has selected the worksheet from the Excel file – you can have more than one work sheet for different entities.

4. Click import, and the Excel will be uploaded and imported.If there are errors, an error report in the form of an Excel file will be generated and can be downloaded.

Limitations of Importing with Excel

Importing through Excel is relatively straightforward, if tedious. The bigger problem is getting the data into the Excel file in the correct format and ensuring you have data for all the required fields. For example:

  • Required fields have to be mapped.
  • Picklists have a restricted set of allowed values that probably do not match your source values.
  • You may need to translate values to meet data type requirements.

Suppose you have a couple of thousand accounts and contacts in Dynamics CRM or Salesforce and you want the data in your local CDS database. You can drop the data into an Excel file, but then you have to manually reshape it, and if you do not rename all columns you will have to remap each time you do the import. And no, it will not work correctly first time…

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

With the launch date (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 in 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 in Tampa, FL.

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 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.
  • Let us now understand what each of these business apps really  is 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 preferable 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 appis 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 choose Dynamics 365 For Operations app instead of the Financials app. We will have to wait and see how this shapes up.

  • Dynamics 365provides 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!
  • 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.

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

  • 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.
  • Dynamics 365 is inherently MOBILE with full offline mode support! (For Windows, Android and iOS). This is probably one of the biggest feature updates 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 Dynamics365 for Operations (Dynamics AX).

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.

  • 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.
  • 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.

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 2021. 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

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 a 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 at the AXUG conference, think of CDM as a parallel data repository and will sync with Dynamics AX and other databases 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.
  • 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 : Dynamics 365 for Operations: Microsoft reveals AX 2009, 2012 upgrade tools, roadmap plans

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

the Common Data Model and Microsoft PowerApps in Dynamics 365

When Microsoft Dynamics 365 was announced a few weeks ago, the Common Data Model and other Microsoft productivity services such as PowerApps and Microsoft Flow were a significant part of this, along with the unified offering of Dynamics CRM and Dynamics ERP cloud services under this umbrella. The solution stack diagram below for Dynamics 365 depicts the positioning of these various  elements in Dynamics 365.

The Common Data Model is now available, let us try to make sense of these together and see what are the possibilities using the CDM and Microsoft PowerApps.

In today’s post, we will create a simple example mobile app using Microsoft PowerApps and the Common Data Model database.

Log in to Microsoft PowerApps at the URL https://powerapps.microsoft.com. You can use the PowerApps web version to create your apps. But the best way to do this is to download the app from Windows store .

In this post, I will use the windows store app to create this sample mobile app.

Launch PowerApps and click New tab to select the data source. While you can use various data sources such as Dynamics CRM online, excel file stored in the cloud, online storage such as OneDrive or Google Drive, in this case we will use the Common Data Model as the data source for this app.

On the next screen, select the entity that you want to use in this app and click Connect button. For this sample app, we will use the Sales Order entity and build a simple app to interact with Sales orders (Simple actions such as view sales orders, edit or even create a new order).

At this point, PowerApps will consume the Sales Order entity data and create the sample app with some default screens automatically, which you can adjust and change to make it look the way you want it. The auto creation feature comes in handy, as you do not need to create the app from scratch.

Now that the default screens of the app are created, let us try to edit those a little bit to make them look more complete. The first screen is a Sales Order overview screen that shows the list of sales orders.

  • Rename the screen to call it as “Sales Orders Overview”.
  • Next, lets establish the links to some of the data fields to show the sales order overview data. In this case, we will show the customer name, Sales order number, order status and the sales order total amount. To do this, select each data field and select the data field for each field on the right hand panel.
  • You will now notice that the first overview screen of the app looks more complete with meaningful data and you also have basic actions such as searching a sales order, or even sorting them. You can also select a different layout for this screen at this point if you want by selecting from various readily available templates.
screen1.jpg
  • Let us now move on to the next screen, which will load up when user select or taps on a specific sales order record on the first screen. Let us call the next screen as the Sales order details screen. Follow the same approach to make edits to this screen. For example, we will add a few data fields and change the layout a little bit.
  • In this screen, you can click on the “eye” mark to add or remove fields and then click Advanced option to chose data fields relation, or even rename a specific data field. For this demonstration, I have added simple data fields such as Order ID, Name, address, payment terms, shipping method, order date and tax, discount amounts of the order. At the end of this your screen should look something like below. You can also change the layout of this page, like you did for the first screen.
  • Moving on to the 3rd screen of the app, let us make it the Edit screen for the sales order. When user clicks on the Edit button on screen 2, this screen will load up. Follow the same instructions above to complete the design of this page. You screen should look something like below.
  • You can then explore the various tabs on the top to change different aspects of the app. For example you can add a new screen, change the color and theme of the app, add a new data source(such as the Sale Order line table if you want show order lines on this app), add a background image for the app, or even add new controls to the app such as a new button, a text field, chartsand more.
  • Now that all the screens we intended are designed, let us preview the app by clicking the preview button and you will notice that you can interact with the app in various ways. For example on the first screen when we select a specific sales order record, it will navigate to the details page. (Note: I have changed the theme of the app before previewing it.)
  • Now that all the screens we intended are designed, let us preview the app by clicking the preview button and you will notice that you can interact with the app in various ways. For example on the first screen when we select a specific sales order record, it will navigate to the details page. (Note: I have changed the theme of the app before previewing it.)
  • Finally we will save the app (you can save it in the cloud or in your local computer) and then share it for consumption by others. Notice that you can specify with whom you want to share this app and what level of permission you want to give them while sharing the app.

Below screenshot shows how this mobile app looked on my smartphone after I shared it and launched it on my Android phone.

This was just a very simple demonstration of the possibilities and what you can do with the Common Data Model and productivity tools such as PowerApps or Microsoft flow. The CDM is in preview now, but when it releases this fall, you will see a lot more data entities and much more capabilities of designing powerful business apps  in the cloud for your organization.

That is it for today’s post and I will share more as details emerge and as I learn more.. Hope you all will keep exploring more on this. Till next time!!

Microsoft Dynamics 365 : what you need to know

Most of us must have heard a lot and read a number of blog posts already about the newest member of the Microsoft Dynamics family, “Dynamics 365“. Those who followed the WPC updates on the web or those attended the event in Toronto this year must already know a lot of details of this by now.

This is the first blog post on my new blog which will be dedicated and tailored for Microsoft Dynamics 365 going forward. In this first post, we will summarize some of the key aspects of Dynamics 365 that you need to know for now.

What is Dynamics 365 ?

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is the next generation of business apps in the cloud from Microsoft. It is intended to bring together the best of Dynamics ERP and Dynamics CRM, cloud offerings into one consolidated cloud service. In other words, it is a new umbrella which will consolidate the Microsoft CRM and ERP cloud applications and provide specific purpose built apps for each of your business areas (Both for SMB and Enterprise Customers) along with the best of Microsoft Productivity apps (Office 365) and Business Intelligence/Analytics, IoT and power of Azure.

In more technical terms, Dynamics 365 aims at providing a new consistent application platform and a common data model with several standard business entities and  that partners can leverage to build innovative business process and industry specific solutions using Dynamics 365, office 365, Power BI, Microsoft flow, Power Apps and more. The benefit that customers will get out this is, their users will not have to switch or change between multiple applications and still get everything (Data, Process), all at one place.

Solutions stack in Dynamics 365

 

As depicted in the above solution stack diagram, you can clearly see that Dynamics 365 is fully a cloud only solution and is built on the Microsoft Azure stack. Dynamics 365 will provide a new application platform and common data model which will span across other cloud apps like Microsoft PowerApps, Power BI, Microsoft Flow etc., along with Office 365.

Two of the major components in this solution stack are the CRM and Finance/Operations. Dynamics CRM will primarily cater Sales & Marketing, Customer Service aspects. Optionally Field Service as well as Project Service (Professional Service Automation) can also be used by customers.

For the Financials and Operations area, the New Dynamics AX (AX 7) will be the backbone for the Enterprise edition of Dynamics 365 which is targeted for the Enterprise customers. Project Madeira (Code name) will be the backbone for the Business Edition of Dynamics 365, which is targeted for the SMB customers.

Power BI and Cortona Analytics Suite (Which are widely used applications already) will be the business intelligence platform for Dynamics 365.

Finally, there will be third party business applications extensions/add-on solutions by partners for industry specific solutions or functionality enhancements. These apps will be available for consumption in an entirely new platform called “App Source”. We will debrief App Source further in the post below.

What versions are available for Dynamics 365 ?

As of the revealing so far, Dynamics 365 will be available in 2 editions. (This information is subjected to change when Dynamics 365 releases this fall)

The Enterprise edition is targeted for Enterprise customers and will come with full blown Dynamics CRM and Dynamics AX will be the ERP for operation. The Business edition is targeted for SMB customers and it will have a future sales and marketing solution (May be a lightweight Dynamics CRM online ?) with Project Madeira for financials.

Licensing options of Dynamics 365

Even though solid information about this is not yet available, the future licensing model is pretty obvious. Apps, Plans and Team members will be the new building blocks of Dynamics 365 licensing.

Refer the post at the URL below to know more on what Microsoft revealed at WPC 2016 about this.

http://msdynamicsworld.com/story/microsoft-dynamics-365-licensing-details-clarify-future-ax-crm-and-project-madeira

Introduction to Appsource, A modern way to discover and provision solutions

App Source is the new “app store” where business customers and prospects can find and buy solutions for any of the Microsoft technologies. This is the platform for Partners to publish their industry specific solutions for Microsoft Dynamics AX, Project Madeira, office 365, Power BI etc.

As an example, you can see AXIO For Professional Services, an ERP solution powered by Dynamics AX and is tailored and built for Professional Services firm.

How much is it going to cost you:

Details of pricing are not yet fully available, but customers will have better flexibility for pricing for sure. They will be able to buy in the traditional approach where they can license Dynamics 365 by application (Operations, Sales, Field Service etc.). They will also be to license Dynamics 365 by user role.

You can see some additional details on the blog post at URL below.

http://msdynamicsworld.com/story/microsoft-dynamics-365-licensing-details-clarify-future-ax-crm-and-project-madeira

Stay tuned for more details.

When will it be publicly available:

Even though there is no solid information on this yet, I guess it may be during the OCT – NOV 2016 time frame. Stay tuned for more updates on this soon.

What it means for existing customers:

For customers who are already using Dynamics CRM online and the New Dynamics AX, Microsoft says it should be a seamless transition. For customers on earlier versions, there will need to be a transition path. I am not very clear on the complete transition path right now, but more details to follow as details emerges.

On Premise Vs Cloud:

Dynamics 365 is a cloud service and will not be available on premise. Microsoft will continue to innovate and support the on premise Dynamics CRM, AX, NAV, SL solutions and may offer connectors if any customers want to use a hybrid of on premise and some of the cloud solutions. You can find more on what the engineering leads have to say about this at the blog post below.

https://community.dynamics.com/b/msftdynamicsblog/archive/2016/07/06/insights-from-the-engineering-leaders-behind-microsoft-dynamics-365-and-microsoft-Appsource

PowerApps and Microsoft Flow

Is Microsoft putting traditional software developers out of business or just redefining the business of software development ?

I’ve been in the technology sector for years and have seen many dramatic…and some not so dramatic…milestones in the evolution of business software.  IoT (Internet of Things), BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), App Stores, the consumerization of technology, mobile adoption, virtual reality, big data analytics and of course, the almighty cloud.  And these are just a smattering of the major turning points in business technology over the last decade.

Most wouldn’t classify the evolution of Dynamics to Dynamics 365 to be on scale with virtual reality or IoT, but I find myself wondering if they’re just not looking closely enough.

The real value is not just in how it is being offered (the cloud) but in the depth of the offering itself.  Bundling Office with ERP and CRM is great, and creating a common data model is great.  But, when they added in Microsoft Flow, PowerApps, PowerBI and a focus on “power users” over traditional developers, you start to see something much more pivotal.

Exactly What is a Power User ?

A Power User (also known as a Super User) is an end user expert with a more advanced grasp of a specific software solution than regular users, but not someone who makes their living as a technology consultant. For example, an accounting manager for a company using Dynamics 365 may have learned the ins and outs of the software through the normal course of business.  Not necessarily a Power User.  The Power User is someone with a taste for technology that takes a basic knowledge of a solution and runs with it.  They begin to learn about related technologies and delve into the “why it works this way” and “how it works this way.”  Over time, their penchant for a solution (or tech in general) becomes a defining factor in their career as employers begin to depend on them as internal experts.

Empowering the Power User

As discussed in previous posts, the introduction of CDM (common data model) for Dynamics 365 has opened many doors for businesses that choose to invest in the Microsoft Dynamics platform.  Although interoperability between products has always been possible, it was often just not cost-effective.  Workarounds and third-party solutions were the preferred methods for swapping, sharing and collaborating.  Now, Microsoft has introduced three new options to take advantage of the newfound interoperability and “empower the power user.”

PowerApps allows business users to easily create mobile apps for iOS (and soon Android and Windows) that can consume data from and insert into many of the systems you already use. For example, you might want to deploy an app that allows remote or mobile employees to add leads into Dynamics CRM from their phone. Or, a streamlined form your social team can use to post to multiple social networks simultaneously. With PowerApps, this can be accomplished without coding using an intuitive point and click, designer.

Other out of the box data sources, which can also be used to populate form fields (such as drop down lists) include Salesforce, Excel, Slack, Twilio, and Mail Chimp. If the data source or service you want to connect with doesn’t exist, then you can still connect to a custom API with relatively little effort.

Microsoft Flow works alongside PowerApps to provide even greater usability and access to Dynamics 365. With Microsoft Flow, you can automate almost any time-consuming process or task. From simple tasks such as emailing a group when a new inquiry is made from a website to much more complex workflows like as capturing, tracking and following up on leads.

 Similar to PowerApps,  Microsoft Flow can connect to dozens of commonly used services like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics . It provides common templates for various tasks, such as having Flow save your incoming email attachments to a SharePoint library or having a CRM item created automatically when a list item is approved. Workflows can also be created using a point and click interface with code only being required if you need to add some custom task. When used in conjunction with PowerBI and the Dynamics 365 CDM, the potential for business innovation and cost-savings is enormous.

Similar to PowerApps, Microsoft Flow can connect to dozens of commonly used services like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics. It provides common templates for various tasks, such as having Flow save your incoming email attachments to a SharePoint library or having a CRM item created automatically when a list item is approved. Workflows can also be created using a point and click interface with code only being required if you need to add some custom task. When used in conjunction with PowerBI and the Dynamics 365 CDM, the potential for business innovation and cost-savings is enormous.

 

Room for Software Developers ? Consultants ?

Creating with PowerApps and Microsoft Flow doesn’t require an advanced IT degree or extensive knowledge of programming.  Power Users can learn to create solutions using online training tools and intuition.  Some challenges are harder than others, so formal developers will always have a role in extending solutions, but the ceiling has most definitely been lowered.  As these technologies mature, premium services will often be reserved for the more complex projects while Power Users will often find what they need by browsing Microsoft AppSource and loading add-ons themselves or building them outright.

Technology and business professional services firms, like Dynamics VARs, will need to step up their game.  Implementations will continue to get easier as the cloud picks up the heavy lifting.  Automated configuration and online tools will also easy the challenge of tailoring solutions to the needs of individual companies.  Customers will still depend on outsourced technology relationships to assist with implementation, but their impact will be defined by:

  • Industry and business expertise
  • Broad knowledge of the Microsoft Stack
  • Best practices and business processes
  • Pre-defined implementation methodologies and templates
  • Advanced cloud-based development capabilities
  • Data migration and complex integrations
  • Project management skills
  • Experience with 3rd party solutions