Tag Archives: Workspaces

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. 

Workspaces in Dynamics AX (v7) – Let’s Make them Awesome

Dynamics AX has been down the dashboard road before. Role centers were introduced in AX 2009 and carried forward into AX 2012, but never really found traction. The new Dynamics AX (v7) fundamentally shifts what the dashboard concept means; take a fresh look at Workspace design.

What is a Workspace

Microsoft defines a Workspace as

A way to provide an initial overview and to increase productivity in the activity by allowing simple tasks to be completed directly in the workspace.

This is a major change from prior versions of AX; a Workspace is now a task center not a role center. Anticipate users having access to multiple workspaces, and using the one that best fits the activity at hand.

I was an accountant in a previous life, so I’ll use that role as an example. Consider the activities an accountant does:

Does the accountant really want to create journal entries at the same time their attention is focused on month end tasks that are past due? (Hint: No.) Consider first the activities of a role, then group related tasks into a Workspace.

What’s in a Workspace

Once the scope of a Workspace is defined, tasks should be broken down into standard sections.

Workspace Screenshot

  1. Buttons to add new information.
  2. Tiles to surface critical tasks and to-dos.
  3. List pages with commonly accessed records and buttons.
  4. Charts and PowerBI reports to review historical trends.
  5. Links to favorite forms.

The immediateness of information should be presented from left to right and top to bottom. Buttons and tiles are for tasks to address each time the Workspace is opened. List pages quickly drill into a multitude of forms. Charts and BI are periodically reviewed to investigate trends. Links are default favorites for commonly used forms.

If You Build Tiles, They Will Come

To get users excited about workspaces, compelling tiles are the selling point. Tiles must surface information users wouldn’t already know but want to know. Here are some tips for creating good tiles.

Be specific

Users want to know what they need to do, not all the work that needs to be done. Menu items with “My” in the title can easily be the starting point for great tiles.

Take action

Getting people to come back to a workspace is achieved by letting them know where additional action needs to be taken. The simplest example is displaying the number of pending approvals in workflow. Other things may be date driven, such as Purchase order lines that where the delivery is past due. Perhaps there are things a user needs to keep an eye on, like unposted journals or source documents.

Knowing what open issues to address will increase the frequency a user will visit the Workspace.

Prioritize

Put the tiles in order of most urgent to least urgent. Since languages are commonly written left to right, the natural tendency is for the eye to start at the top left corner and work into the page from there.

Considerations for Other Sections

List pages

List pages allow contextual buttons that get the user into a specific form quickly. So the most important part of these pages is determining what are the most common buttons on each form the user wants to access.

Pretty stuff

Charts, APIs, and other visualizations are easy to demo but difficult to implement. Visualization design should begin with interviewing users and understanding their current decision making process. The parameters around that decision can then be surfaced so they can more quickly recognize and investigate issues.

Links

Put in the links section menu items a typical user would tag as a Favorite.

Gamification

The term gamification means awarding electronic certificates after a participant has earned a certain number of points. Remember in elementary school when the teacher would put a gold star sticker on your homework when you did a good job – that is an example of gamification.

This concept could work well for Employee centered Workspaces. Here are some examples of badges that could be given out:

  • A Sales order processor entered 10,000 order lines.
  • A Timesheet worker submitted 52 timesheets in a row on time.
  • An accountant literally wears a green visor.

 

Now let’s go make some awesome experiences.