Tag Archives: Tech Conference

Analytical Workspaces (D365O Tech Conference)

Last year I blogged about Workspaces in Dynamics 365 as a concept. At this year’s Tech Conference, TJ Vasser talked about some of the newly available features on the reporting side. TJ highlighted his own blog post about the various reporting options available for Dynamics 365 for Operations.

Analytical Workspaces

Up until March 2017, the only option for bringing Power BI content into D365O was to publish content packs in PowerBI.com, and each user had to link a Workspace to that published content pack. With Platform Update 4, it’s now possible to embed Power BI content packs directly into a Workspace. Embedding Power BI into Workspaces should remove much of the effort from the end user, and shifts the work to reporting analysts and developers.

The major components of the embedded experience are:

  • Adding a new form, or adding a Workspace tab.
  • Defining the .pbix files that are embedded in the Workspace.
  • Writing a controller class that links the .pbix file to the form, manages filters and security, and defines drill-through experiences.

It’s Not All Rainbows

There are many caveats to this story – when investigating D365O and Power BI features, it’s always a good idea to prototype the entire process before building out any specific feature. Some of the caveats for the embedded reports include:

  • Currently only Entity store is supported; using your own database (BYODB) is unsupported.
  • Embedded Power BI requires a developer and code promotion; publishing to PowerBI.com is easier to make fast changes.
  • It is possible to drill through from the embedded report, but each drill-through experiences require an Event handler in code.
  • There are better options for dynamic filtering experiences, but these also require development.

 Summary

Simplifying the user experience and bringing reporting into the app will make embedded Power BI a powerful tool. I anticipate quite a bit of development effort to provide awesome experiences. I also suspect the change management process for embedded could be problematic. It’s a good step in the right direction and is worth exploring. 

New Configuration Copy Features (D365O Tech Conference)

D365 for Operations needs a simpler way to define and export groups of entities from a source environment, and transform and import data into a target environment.

Microsoft is building some brand new (and long needed) tools for importing and exporting configurations between companies, environments, and default/template data environments. Mike Falkner led the session demoing the new features.

Define and Export

The Data Management UI is getting a refresh to be more usable in a number of areas:

  • Better overall organization of Workspace
  • Lists instead of tiles
  • Easier picking of entities into a group, including mass picking
  • Manual and automatic sequencing improvements

Transform and Import

There weren’t demoable features ready on this side of the equation. The general approach is supposed to be hard coded rules that can transform specific entities. The import should be simplified by more quickly selecting and importing multiple Data Packages.

Summary

I’m very happy to see more features in this area. The current features are workable, but every step takes longer than ideal. Look for features to come out this spring, with a quick and iterative release cadence.

Common Data Service (D365O Tech Conference)

The Common Data Service (CDS) has been a much discussed concept since the middle of 2016 when Dynamics 365 was first announced. The way this feature is described sometimes seems like CDS is the unicorn of the Dynamics 365 world – it solves any problem.

Sometimes what gets lost in this story is the basics – CDS is a new, simplified database concept. The advantage of the new CDS approach is a faster setup, deployment, and management of the data model, user interfaces, and integrations.

Environments

Environments group features together in CDS including:

  • A collection of tables and table relationships – aka creating a database
  • Publishing Power Apps aka a user interface
  • Integration and mapping tools connected to Dynamics 365

Common Data Model

The CDM is the definition of tables and table relationships. The Microsoft published CDM is geared towards the Dynamics 365 entities and used for integrating multiple D365 products.

Power Apps

In many of the CDS demos Microsoft shows Power Apps with CDS, which sometimes conflates the technology. The database components of CDS don’t require a Power App to be used.

Power Apps are most…powerful when they combine requirements from multiple systems into a single experience. For example, there may be multiple systems that do issue or task management, and each system may require its own fields. A Power App can be created with all the fields required across all systems, then the integration features to push issues into each system will work swimmingly.

Integrations

CDS entities eventually will be used to pass data back and forth between Dynamics 365 databases. There’s a focus by Microsoft to provide some scenario based integrations for things like Order to Cash scenarios between Dynamics 365 Sales and Operations.

There are a couple of mechanisms for passing data back and forth. Microsoft Flow is most commonly used in demos because it supports many products, but there’s also a more “native” integration feature that will pass data more efficiently for Dynamics 365. The integration features also include data transformation logic.

Templates 

Templates are used to deploy the CDM, PowerApps, and Flows/Integrations as an Environment.

Admin Center

The Admin Center is a portal for designing, publishing, and maintaining the CDS environment.

This portal also manages the security. They key components of security like table level and record level security are in the toolkit.

Summary

There is a lot of interesting technology around the CDS. But right now it seems like the CDS is a solution in search of a problem. There needs to be simple examples of the technology solving specific problems for Dynamics 365 for Operations customers to jump in on this new feature set.

Microsoft will probably hate the comparison ūüė¨, but I think of CDS in the same way as people used to use Access databases. Access databases were simple, limited, specific tools; many times they were disposable as technology evolved. Conceptually CDS may be an evolution of that story. If the business use case is longer term, it may be better to build features and UIs directly in a Dynamics 365 product.

App Source (D365O Tech Conference)

Application stores are a mainstay of every modern operating system. Microsoft is working towards bringing this concept to the business application space.

The Dynamics 365 App Source concept allows ISVs and partners to bring their addons to a centralized marketplace. App Source can help partners and customers find business users and customers. On the flip side, customers can find validated solutions that have gone through a validation and approval process.

Unlike a traditional App Store, business apps are generally more complex to implement than a PC or mobile app. Many times code, business processes, and data need to be tested and promoted to various systems to make the solution work. The Dynamics 365 for Operations App Source site connects to a management toolkit called Lifecycle Services that helps strategically deploy the key assets into various environments.

At the tech conference, Shefy Manayil Kareem (@Shefymk) from Microsoft discussed the following key features of App Source:

  • A new publishing portal for Dynamics 365 due later in 2017
  • For ISVs, improved actionable insights for App Source hits and leads
  • New predictable trial experience
  • Announcement of “Test Drive”, where a managed environment is already running and ISVs can temporarily allow access to an environment for a prospective customer
  • Leveraging multiple components from D365 Operations, Sales, PSA, PowerBI, Common Data Service, and Power Apps
  • Reviews and ratings displayed in App Source based on the trial experience

The App Source concept is a few years old, and continues to round into form. Key upcoming features like Test Drive should lead to simpler trial experiences should significantly increase the value of having a solution on App Source. Ultimately, ISVs and partners hope to decrease the time for prospects to investigate the features of an product and drive sales.