Sonoma Partners Microsoft CRM and Salesforce.com Blog

Fiddler is Your Data Migration Companion

Today's blog post was written by Keith Mescha, Principal Architect at Sonoma Partners.

Here at Sonoma, we are a big fan of KingswaySoft’s tools for data migration to Dynamics 365 and Salesforce. We use SQL Server Data Tools and SSIS all the time for data migrations and integrations to CRM for our clients. The tool set they provide is an add-on that allows us to quickly read and write data from the cloud. In one recent migration project, we ran into an odd issue that took a bit to figure out. Here's what happened...

Within the KingswaySoft CRM Online adapter, there is built-in functionality to do lookups for related fields based on text provided. This will allow you to provide the text value, and it will retrieve the GUID for you to populate in the target entity. In this case we were using this functionality for loading Opportunity Products and using text lookup for the Unit of Measure attribute. This attribute is required on this entity, but we are not really using Units of Measure so we just needed to retrieve the default ‘Primary Unit’ GUID.

Destination Editor

So we wired this all up and started to push our data however nothing was happing. The process just appeared to hang, and we did not see any data show in CRM. No obvious errors were being returned by the KingswaySoft CRM adapter to tell us anything was wrong like we typically see. We started looking at plugins and workflows on the target org. We played around with various batch sizes, but still nothing was happening.

After some head scratching we decided to fire up Fiddler to see what we could find in the messages being sent between our process and CRM Online. We quickly noticed that we were getting 500 errors for every call to CRM. In digging into the messages, we were getting an error that ‘UoM entity does not contain attribute with Name = ‘statecode.’ This didn’t make any sense at first, but then we remembered there is an option in the Text Lookup function to Exclude Inactive and realized very quickly this must be our issue. So we unchecked this box, and our process started working and records migrated into CRM.

Error Code

This seems like a defect in the product, and we will report a bug to KingswaySoft but figured if anyone else ran into similar issues this might be of some assistance.

The key takeaway here is that for data migrations with CRM Online, Fiddler is your friend for pulling the curtain back to see what’s really going on with some of the calls that the data migration tool set might be gobbling up and not exposing. Oh and don’t check this box if using Text Lookup on the UOM entity as there is not a statuscode field on that entity in CRM apparently.

Text Lookup Editor

Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Extending the Dynamics 365 Editable Grid

Recently we blogged about the functionality of the new editable grid in the Dynamics 365 release.  One thing we pointed out in the post is that the editable grid doesn’t respect read-only fields on the form.  For example, if I have the Email field on the Contact form set to read-only and I use an editable grid for a Contact view that contains the Email field, it will allow the Email field to be editable.

One way to make the field read-only in the editable grid as well, is to write custom JavaScript.  In order to do so, we need to utilize the OnRecordSelect event of the editable grid.  First, create a JavaScript web resource with a function called onrowselect.  For the scenario of disabling the Email field on the Contacts sub-grid, the code will look like this:

function onrowselect(executionContext){
    var entityObject = executionContext.getFormContext().data.entity;
    entityObject.attributes.forEach(function (attribute, i) {
        if (attribute.getName() == "emailaddress1") {
            var emailControl = attribute.controls.get(0);
            emailControl.setDisabled(true);
            break;
        }
    }); 
}

The code uses the execution context to get a reference to the entity and then loops through each attribute to find the email attribute and then disables the control.

Now that we have the JavaScript web resource with the necessary function, we need to hook the function up to the editable grid.  Navigate to the form customizations where the editable grid is located.  Open the properties for the grid and there will be a new tab labeled “Events”.  Select “Events” and in the “Event” dropdown, choose “OnRecordSelect”.  Add your new JavaScript web resource and set the Function to “onrowselect” and be sure to check the option to pass in the execution context.

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Click OK, save the form and publish customizations.  Now, navigate to your editable grid and when you select a row to edit it, the Email field should be disabled.

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This is quick and easy to implement but the caveat here is that you need to apply this JavaScript to every editable grid for the desired entity, if it has a field that should be read-only.

Topics: Microsoft Dynamics 365 Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Dynamics 365 Editable Grids

As with any release, the recent release of Dynamics 365 has introduced a bunch of new features.  Head over to the CRM Roadmap site, or the CRM What’s New site to see first hand the features that have recently gone live.  In this blog we’ll talk about one of those new features we’re really excited to see get added to the project:  Editable Grids.

Editable Grids

One of the most sought after features since I’ve been working on Dynamics CRM is editable grids.  The mantra of Dynamics CRM for the past 15 years has been read only lists/views, and a single record form to modify the data.  In most of our implementations, we’re asked to create an editable grid to allow users to more quickly modify data.  We even took our client specific editable grid solution, made it generic, and provided a free version of it for Dynamics CRM 2011/2013/2015/2016 for the community to download from our tools site.

However, Microsoft has released the ability to turn any grid in Dynamics CRM into an editable grid with their latest release of Dynamics 365 for Sales.  Upon this announcement, I believe I heard all of the developers at Sonoma Partners let out a loud cheer as working with editable grids is a pretty challenging task.

Note that this new editable grids functionality is available for sub grids (that appear on forms) as well as home grids (the grid that shows when you select an entity from the Site Map, or when you expand a sub grid on a form to be full sized).  And as you can see below, editable grids are supported on the web, phone and tablet clients.

What’s supported on the editable grids?  Is everything you’re used to with a read only grid and record form supported?  The quick answer is that yes, everything you can do with a read only grid you can do with an editable grid (plus more):

  • In line editing
  • Sorting
  • Grouping (see below)
  • Filtering
  • Pagination
  • Calculated and Rollup Fields
  • Run time resize/move columns (see below)
  • Auto Save / Manual Save (see below)
  • Toggle between read only and editable grid (see below)
  • Filtered lookups
  • Chart panel interaction
  • Command bar interaction
  • Business Rules (e.g., show error messages, set field value, set business required, set default value, lock or unlock)
  • JavaScript

Enabling Editable Grids – Home Grid

To enable the editable grid for a home grid, first go to customizations for the entity at Settings –> Customizations –> Customize the System –> Entities, and then click on the Controls tab for an entity you want to configure.  In my example below, I’m working on the Account entity.

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By default, the Web/Phone/Tablet will all be using the legacy read only grid.  However if you click on the Add Control link, you can select the Editable Grid control in the dialog that pops up, and click on Add.

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You’ll then have the option to enable the editable grid for the Web, Phone, and/or Tablet experiences by selecting the appropriate radio buttons.  For now, we’ll just enable it for the Web.

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Enabling Editable Grids – Sub Grid

For a Sub Grid, navigate to the form that the sub grid is on and find the sub grid you want to make editable.  Select the sub grid on the form, and click on the Change Properties button in the ribbon.  In the dialog that appears, select the controls tab, and click on the Add Control link.  As with the main grid, you can add the Editable Grid control, and then configure in the sub grid properties dialog which form factor the editable grid applies to (web, phone, and/or tablet).  We’ll choose just Web once again for the Contact sub grid on the Account form.

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Configuring the Editable Grid

Whether you enabled a Main Grid or Sub Grid to use the Editable Grid control, the configuration is the same.  Once you add the Editable Grid control, you’ll see an Events tab appear.  This allows you to configure JavaScript code that will trigger on certain events that occur in the grid.

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This is very similar to the Form Properties dialog where form JavaScript libraries are configured at the form level.  The events currently exposed by the API for editable grid JavaScript libraries are:

  • OnChange (when a particular field is changed)
  • OnRecordSelect (when the user selects a record)
  • OnSave (when a record is saved)

In addition to adding JavaScript to your editable grid, when you have the Editable Grid row selected in the Controls tab, you’ll see some configurable options at the bottom of the dialog.

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The Add Lookup link allows you to configure how a lookup will work in the grid.  You don’t have to add a configuration option for a lookup.  However, with this option, this allows you to configure filtered lookups for a specific view, just like you’re able to do on the form.  Therefore if you have filtered lookups on the form, it’s strongly recommend you configure your lookups on the editable grids via the Add Lookup link.

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The Nested Grid View and Nested Grid Parent ID are used to display a grid within a grid.  Note that this functionality is only available on and Tablet.  Clicking on the pencil icon next to these settings will allow you to select the entity to be shown in the nested grid, along with the parent lookup field on which the related records should be fetched.

The Group by Column setting allows users to select the Group By option on the top of the grid when actually working within an editable grid.  Group By is different than sorting on a column in that it will put records into an expandable control based on the field that you have grouped by.  Only the fields in the current view will be options in the Group By dropdown.  Groups can be expanded or collapsed.

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Using the Editable Grid

After you have your grid configured, your users can simply click into a field to be able to edit the value in the field without opening the record form.  You can also quickly change fields via the keyboard (tab) or mouse.

To save the updates you made to the record, you can simply click off to another record, or click on the Save icon in the top right corner of the grid.

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Users can also change the grid between the new editable version shown above, and the classic read only version via the Show As button in the toolbar.

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Also note that the columns in the grid can be reordered per user per view.  The column order, group by setting and sort order is persisted throughout the application until the user clears their browser cache.

Considerations

With the new editable grid functionality, there are a handful of tips and considerations to think about as you’re configuring your CRM deployment.

  • The Editable Grid doesn’t respect read-only fields on the form since that isn’t a legitimate way to control security.  To prevent users from editing these fields, you’ll need to either add field level security to the field, not put that field in the view, or write JavaScript (this will be covered in a future developer related blog post).
  • The Editable Grid version of a sub grid takes up more space than the read only grid (especially if you enable the Group By feature).  Allow for a larger sub grid to make sure your users see the same amount of data they used to.
  • Enabling editable grids on a home grid is a global setting meaning that wherever you see that entities home grid it’ll show as an editable grid (e.g., tiles clicked from anywhere on the Site Map, sub grids that are expanded to the full grid).
  • Enabling editing on a sub grid is a per sub grid basis meaning that every sub grid on every form and dashboard must have their editable setting enabled individually.  You could have the situation where the sub grid doesn’t have the editable grid enabled, but the home grid for that sub grid does have the editable grid enabled.  In this scenario, if the user clicks to expand the sub grid to the full grid, they’ll go from a read only grid to an editable grid.
  • Some fields are not editable in the editable grid:
    • Fields from related entities
    • StateCode
    • Customer fields (e.g., on an Opportunity or Case)
    • Composite fields
    • Party List fields (e.g., the To field on an Email)
    • Field Level Secure fields (if your field security profile prevents you from editing the field)
Topics: Microsoft Dynamics 365 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Metablast Updates

With the changes in Dynamics 365 and the introduction of AppSource as a way to showcase apps, it was time for Metablast to make a few changes. We are happy to announce that we have launched a Managed Solution version of Metablast, now available in the AppSource and download from our website for On-Premise Microsoft Dynamics CRM users! 

The Managed Solution version of Metablast supports Dynamics CRM 2016 and up, so if you are on a previous version of CRM the previous version of Metablast will work for you. All the features of our prior versions detailed in prior posts are included, with the addition of two new output columns:

  • Global Option Set – Displays Yes or No for Option Set fields to show the field is a global option set reference (Yes) or a local option set (No)
  • Formula – Displays Yes or No based on whether or not the field is a formula field (editor’s note: an update will be posted soon, at the original time of posting the output is the XML formula itself and not a Yes or No)

Once the solution has been added to your org, you can open the solution and view available entities in the configuration page. The left list contains available entities not yet selected for the export, and the right list contains entities you have previously selected.

Metablast 1

Typing in the search box filters the list of entities to make finding and making selections easier. Note that the check mark in the list denotes whether or not an entity is custom versus native.

Metablast 2

Selecting each entity will add it to the export list. The Add All link will add all unselected entities to the export list. Removing entities from the export list can be accomplished by clicking the red X or the Remove All link to do so en masse.

Metablast 3

Once your list is complete, you can click the Export button and download the same CSV format as your prior Metablasts.

Metablast 4

We hope you find the same great uses out of this tool with an easier way to access the schema information right from your organization!

Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Migrating Data from a MySQL Database

Today's blog post was written by Rob Jasinski, Principal Developer at Sonoma Partners.

Recently, we had a need to migrate data for a customer to Microsoft Dynamics CRM, but the data was located in a MySQL database. We have many tools, applications, and interfaces that rely on the source data being Microsoft SQL Server, so ideally we like to convert the data from a different database platform to SQL Server whenever possible. Since MySQL is open-source and considered the second most popular used RDBMS (according to Wikipedia), we use this platform more than others.

To convert a MySQL database, you’ll need to first have MySQL installed which can be downloaded from here. Then, you’ll need to install the SQL Server Migration Assistant tool. I won’t go through step-by-step on how to use this tool as there is a good blog here to get started. Instead I will go through some of obstacles I had and how I resolved them.

Restoring a Backup of the Database to Your MySQL Database

When I loaded the SSMA tool, I had issues connecting to the MySQL database. I finally had to completely uninstall the MySQL ODBC driver and re-install it to finally get a connection to work. For the SQL Server connection, SQL Server agent needed to be running so it was started. Next, check the target schema. I’m not quite sure how this is defaulted, but it was pointing to the wrong SQL database. I didn’t notice this at first and had to change it manually.

Before the data can be migrated, it must synchronized so the tables are created on the destination. The “How To” blog states it’s under Tools, but I didn’t see it there. I finally found it in the SQL Server metadata browser window, if I right-clicked the destination database, synchronize was an option.

Finally, when I tried to migrate the data, the process would start then the application (SSMA) would just suddenly close after about a minute or two. I retried several times even after a server restart and the same issue continued. After some research I found a message post to try and set the affinity of the application (SSMS) to just one CPU. After I tried that, it worked. All the data from MySQL was migrated to the SQL Server database.

Once we had the data migrated to SQL Server, we were able to use our common data scrubbing tools to clean and migrate the data into CRM.

Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Activity Feeds Are Made of This

Today's blog post was written by Ross Talbot, Principal Developer at Sonoma Partners.

Collaboration within your organization is vital to your success. Your teams may have different focuses, but they still want cross-selling visibility. The key is ensuring that information reaches the appropriate people in your organization to better serve your customers. In this series, we will focus on a few options for collaboration within Microsoft Dynamics CRM. 

We start with Activity Feeds because they are built into Dynamics CRM. Introduced in Dynamics CRM 2011 in an update after its initial launch, Activity Feeds are enabled when you create a new instance of Dynamics CRM. 

The first place you encounter the posts are the social dashboards in CRM such as the Sales Activity Social Dashboard or Marketing Social Dashboard. You can see the feed similarly in the “What’s New” area in the CRM sitemap. This feed view will show post records that are regarding your user record, your user is @mentioned in and posts regarding or @mentioning records that you follow in CRM.

Activity 1

You can also see the feed filtered down to records that are regarding or @mention a specific record by looking at the social pane on the record’s form.

Activity feed 2

Posts are denoted as either system generated or user posts.  User posts are manually created by users or by code on behalf of users (such as in a plugin). System generated posts are created from the activity feed configuration under the Settings->System area of the sitemap. 

Activity feed 2c

Here we can see which entities have been configured for Activity Feed posts. 

Activity feed 2d

We can take a look at all rules in the CRM organization via the Activity Feed Rules as well, however we will typically be looking at rules related to a specific entity.  In our case, let’s take a look at Opportunity.  Here we see that there are already 10 related rules on opportunity.  We see that a post will be generated when a new opportunity is created for a contact. 

Activity feed 2e

The text for a system generated is not something that can be altered, so if there is anything specific to the content of a record (more than the primary attribute of the record and links to the related record) this would require a workflow or plugin to dynamically set the text of the post instead of leveraging these native rules. As we create new opportunities and cases, we see the system generated posts created below.

Activity feed 2f

Users can now comment as replies to these system posts or add new posts for a record if there is more to be said regarding status, information that others may have, or just cheering a repeat customer.

Activity feed 2g

Activity feed 2h

Security regarding Activity Feeds is set in security roles as on or off (organization wide or none selected). Users are either allowed to view posts or not, and this is not context specific to the records related to the posts. User follows on the related records will affect visibility of these posts in the What’s New areas on dashboards, however, so users can target specific records that they want to see for the related activity posts. 

Activity feed 2i

In summary, Activity Feeds are useful for light collaboration within your CRM system. With a little configuration, you can see system generated messages that help alert the team to new opportunities, service requests, customers, or team wins. You can leverage user posts to help conversations along and have conversations within your CRM system regarding opportunities, support cases, or even shared contacts. If you are looking for ways to bring more collaboration into your CRM world, the easiest place to start is a tool that already exists in your system. If you travel that world and the seven seas and you’re still looking for something that fits your need, stay tuned for our looks at additional collaboration tools that integrate with CRM.

Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Dynamics 365 Site Map Designer

Previously we posted about the new Dynamics 365 App Module that was recently released with Dynamics 365.  Part of that module that we skipped over in the initial post is the Site Map Designer.

The Site Map Designer is a visual way to update your sitemap for your app.  The Site Map Designer allows you to update the default site map (which was the site map we’ve known and loved over the years for past versions of CRM), as well as app specific site maps. 

This means that now you could have more than one site map in your deployment depending on how many apps you have.  If you don’t have any apps, then you’ll have the single “Site Map” under Site Map components.  However, if you have at least one app, when you go to add a Site Map to your solution, you’ll see the default/base site map, as well as your app specific site maps.

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Launching the Site Map Designer

To kick off the Site Map designer from your app, simply click the arrow pointing up to the right on the Site Map area of the app designer.  You can also kick it off by double clicking on the specific Site Map component in your solution, but depending on the XML in the Site Map, the designer may not be able to load it (see below).

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You’ll be presented with a blank canvas with a default Area and Subarea already placed on the canvas for you.  You simply need to rename these using the Titles and Descriptions area, as well as update the ID, Icon, Show Groups, and URL (more details below about each site map components properties that can be edited).

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In the Site Map designer, you can click the + icon in the top right corner to add a new component to your site map, or you can drag / drop the component from the right side over to the canvas to add it to your site map. 

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The table below shows the components that can be added onto the canvas, along with the properties per component that can be configured.

Component Properties
Area ID
Icon
Show Groups (flag)
URL
Titles
Descriptions
Group ID
Set as Profile
URL
Titles
Descriptions
Sub Area Type (Dashboard, Entity, Web Resource, URL)
ID
Icon
URL
Parameter Passing
Offline Availability
Entity
Default Dashboard
Titles
Descriptions
Privileges (Entity, then All/Create/Read/Write/Delete/Append/AppendTo/Share/Assign)
SKUs (All, OnPremise, SPLA, Live)
Client (All, Outlook, Web, Outlook Laptop Client, Outlook Workstation Client)

 

If you add an entity to the Site Map that’s not a part of your App artifacts yet, it’ll automatically get added to your App without any forms, views, or charts selected for filtering.

Note that some of the Sub Area options become read only based on the type you select.  For example, if you don’t select Entity as the type, then the Entity dropdown that allows you to select the entity is read only as it only applies to that type of component.

 

Troubleshooting

If you wanted to, you can still export the app specific site map, and mess with the XML directly (if you’re courageous).  However, if you do so, be careful because some of the preexisting site map XML is not supported in the site map designer.  For example, I stole the “Settings” and “Training” areas of the main site map for my custom app specific site map, and had to comment out the following in my app specific site map because the designer wouldn’t load with it included.

<!--SubArea Id="nav_plugintrace" ResourceId="Homepage_PluginTraceLog" Icon="/_imgs/area/Plugin_TraceLog_32.png" Entity="plugintracelog" Client="Web" IntroducedVersion="7.1.0.0">
  <Privilege Entity="plugintracelog" Privilege="Read" />
</SubArea-->
         
<!--SubArea Id="nav_systemjobs" ResourceId="Homepage_SystemJobs" DescriptionResourceId="SystemJobs_SubArea_Description" ToolTipResourseId="SystemJobs_SubArea_ToolTip" Entity="asyncoperation" Url="/tools/business/home_asyncoperation.aspx" AvailableOffline="false" IntroducedVersion="7.0.0.0" /-->
         
<!--Privilege Privilege="LearningPath" /—>

Until I commented those out, I would receive an error such as the following when I tried to go back into the Site Map designer.

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However, after I removed all the unsupported XML, I was then able to go into the Site Map designer and see all the Settings and Trainings components in my site map and I had the ability to tweak them using the new Site Map designer way, versus the old manual XML updates way.

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Topics: Microsoft Dynamics 365 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Dynamics 365 App Module

As with any release, the release of Dynamics 365 yesterday has introduced a bunch of new features.  Head over to the CRM Roadmap site, or the CRM What’s New site to see first hand the features that have recently gone live.  You can also see what’s in preview, in development, previously released, or indefinitely postponed.

 

App Module

With this release, a new concept has been introduced to Dynamics 365 for Sales (formerly Dynamics CRM).  This concept is the ability to have multiple Apps within the product.  First off, note that this feature is in preview only mode for this release. 

What is an app? Well in its simplest form, this is a collection of related entities, dashboards, and business process flows that will allow you to streamline and tailor Dynamics 365 for Sales so that your end users in different business areas can see only the pieces of the product that matter to them.  It also allows you to filter sub components of what you add – for example, your users only see a specific view of an entity you’ve added.

You could perform portions of this functionality with the older versions of Dynamics CRM.  For example, you could have only specific forms or dashboards display for users in specific security roles.  However, everything in your solution was in a single site map and you had to manage it as such, which forced configurators to always remember that the application they’re designing and building is visible to all users, unless they update the specific dashboards and forms to be visible only to users in a specific security role (by default they’re visible to all).

However, with the introduction of Apps for Dynamics 365 for Sales, configurators can now more easily put components that they want specific users to have visibility to into a specific app for those users.  This means that when you have new users rolling onto CRM, you can easily create a new security role for them, and then start putting the components of the system into their own app that only they’ll have visibility to.  Also you can filter what sub components of those artifacts you want visible in your app – this functionality doesn’t exist in previous versions of the product.

Also of note is that your apps will have a unique URL should you want to provide that to users to navigate to directly.  The URL will be in the format of <crmurl>/apps/AppName.

 

App Creation and Basics

When you create a new App (done from the solution since apps are solution aware), you’ll need to provide a few pieces of information.  Note that the Application URL will be the name used at the end of the URL for the application specific URL mentioned above.  This (along with the Unique Name) cannot be changed once you click Done on this initial app creation page.  The Name, Description, and Use Default Image can be modified after creation.

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After providing the basic information above, you’ll be taken into the designer area of the app.  From here you’re able to add the following components to your app.

  • Site Map – this is required and will is discussed in more detail in this blog post
  • Dashboards – you can filter what dashboards display in your app
  • Business Process Flows – you can filter what business process flows appear on entities for your app
  • Entities – you can filter what forms, views and charts appear on the entities for your app

After you add each of these components, you’ll have different properties to set for each.   For entities, you’ll be able to select which Forms, Views, and Charts are available in your app.  After you start adding components, your app will start to accrue a list of other dependent components that.  For example if you select a form that has a view from another entity used in a sub grid, you’ll need to make sure that view is in the target environment you’re deploying your app to or the deployment will fail.  If it doesn’t exist, simply make sure to add that component to the solution prior to deployment.

Note:  If you do not select any forms, views, or charts for an entity in your app, that entity will still display in your app but all forms, views, and charts will be displayed for it.  Even though you’ll get a warning when validating your app (see validation details below), the app will still work and show you all components of that entity without filtering some of them out.

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With Dashboards and Business Process Flows, you simply have the option to select which of those you want to include in your app.  Note, when you do this, if there are entities that are required for the dashboard or business process flow that you add, they’ll automatically be added to your app.  However they’ll be added but no sub components of them will be added (forms, views, or charts) which will fail validation which we’ll discuss in the next section.  These entities will be added but are not needed in your app.  They’re only needed if you want to further filter out the forms, views and charts that are visible to end users.  If you don’t want to filter them out and want to keep your app clean, you can simply click on the entity name and then click on the trash can / remove icon on the top of the page to remove it from your app.  Doing so will provide you a confirmation dialog prior to removing the entity.

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In addition to removing an entity from the app, you can also click on the Edit button that will open up the entity in an entity specific solution window.  Finally, the Add button will let you quickly add another artifact or entity asset to the app.

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Validation

As stated above, once you start adding components to your solution, you’ll app will start to take on dependencies which means that if they’re not in the target environment you’re deploying your app to, your solution import will fail.

For example if you select a form that has a view from another entity used in a sub grid, you’ll need to make sure that view is in the target environment you’re deploying to.  If it doesn’t exist, simply make sure to add that component to the solution prior to deployment.

To validate your app, simply click on the “Validate” button at the top right of the app.  You’ll get a summary at the top that you’ll be able to expand and see more details of what errors and/or warnings the validation identified.  You’ll also see on the visual designer the components highlighted that are causing the dependencies.  Finally, if you click on the “Required” tab on the left pane, you’ll be able to see a list view of the dependencies for the components added to your app, and those components are already added to your app will be checked off.

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App Deployment

As stated before, an App is solution aware which means that you can put the app into a solution when you’re ready to promote it from Dev to QA to Production.  Remember that if you have new components you created for your app (such as an app specific site map), those components also need to be included in your solution or the deployment will fail.

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Also note that while you’re working on your apps, you don’t need to go through the Apps solution component to be able to resume development on the app.  You’re also able to see your published apps and apps being edited by going to Settings –> Application –> My Apps.  The default app that contains all your configuration and site map prior to the new app concept will be the only published app out of the box.  This app cannot be edited through the app designer and needs to be edited the old way through site map modifications.

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When the app is unpublished, you’ll be able to click on the ellipses and select Publish or Open in App Designer. 

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Once you have your custom app published, you’ll be able to Manage Roles to indicate what security roles should have access to view the app.  By default, only the System Administrator and System Customizer roles have access to view the app so don’t be worried that you’re only able to get to this screen after the app is published (which means if all roles had access to the app there would be a period of time between publishing and removing roles, that some users may have access to the app – that’s not the case).

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Using the App

After the application and site map have been completed and published, you access your new app via the app switcher which is the breadcrumb just to the right of the O365 tiles icon.  You can quickly jump between all the apps you’ve developed via this app switcher.   You also have the ability to “Pin This App” which will pin the app to the Home area.

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Clicking the top Home icon will take you to https://home.dynamics.com/ which is a new home for all of your Dynamics 365 business apps.  As mentioned above, your pinned apps will appear in a separate section on this page.

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Note that when testing out the new Apps functionality, I ran across what seemed like a couple defects with the Home area.

  • The Home area doesn’t seem to load when using IE11, but will load fine with Chrome
  • After clicking in the Home area, when I went back up to the App Switcher, only my pinned apps appeared for me to select.  In my example below, you’ll see that I no longer see the “Dynamics 365 – custom” app that I saw in my screenshot above.  Once I navigated to an app, it reappeared for me.

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If you click on “My Apps” in the App Switcher, you’re able to see all apps, and also search for apps should you have a lot in your list.  You’ll also see in this list any other CRM organization you have access in your O365 deployment allowing you to quickly jump to those orgs from your current org.  In the main menu under “Home” you’ll see just the current Dynamics 365 apps.  Additionally, you’ll see a light blue vertical bar to the left of the apps / orgs that are Dynamics 365 orgs.

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When in your app, you’ll only see the dashboards, entities, forms, views, charts, and business process flows that you included in the design of your app.

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Final Thoughts

Apps are another great feature for this continually evolving product.  We’re excited to see where this concept goes in the upcoming releases (what other components they allow you to configure to be app specific), and are as always excited for all the new features being released with Dynamics 365.

Stay tuned for more new Dynamics 365 feature reviews.

Topics: Microsoft Dynamics 365 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Amazon Alexa and Dynamics CRM

Here at Sonoma Partners we’re always looking for ways to use the latest and greatest technologies with CRM.  With voice dictation services becoming more and more prominent, we decided to put Amazon’s Alexa service to the test.  Using an Echo device, we were able to develop and test an Alexa Skill that can interact with Dynamics CRM using node.js.  The process was surprisingly easy as Amazon provides native OAuth configuration so we were able to connect to CRM’s Web API with little effort.

We recorded the whole process of building an Alexa Skill, check it out below!

Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Offload Processing with Azure Functions

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced Azure Functions which provide the ability to run code that can be triggered by events from within Azure or from third party systems or even scheduled at certain intervals.  There are many ways Azure Functions can be used to benefit your CRM system.  In this article, I will walk through how an Azure Function can be built and triggered from a plugin in CRM for asynchronous processing outside of the native CRM async service.

Note: Azure Functions are still in preview state and therefore provided “as-is” and may not be covered by customer support.

First, head to your Azure org and add a new resource.  Search for “Function App” in the filter.

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Select Function App and click Create and then specify a unique name for your Function App and which resource group and plan to add it to.

In our scenario, we are going to trigger the function from a CRM plugin so we want to choose the “Webhook + API” scenario and I’ll be using C# for this example but JavaScript could be used as well if desired.

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Now the Function App is created and a sample function is already setup with a Url that can be used to trigger the Function.  The sample Function looks for a “name” property in the request and returns a message back to the client application using the “name” property that was passed in.

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With this basic sample, you could be good-to-go already, if you don’t need to interact back to CRM.  You could have your CRM plugin pass in the necessary data and let your Function do with what it needs, such as processing that data and then sending it off to a third-party system.

But what if you need to query CRM for more data or make some updates within CRM?  In order to do so, we need to do a little bit more work.

First, we’ll need to add some NuGet packages that our Function can reference to connect to the CRM API.  In order to do so, we need to add a project.json file to the Functions folder where it is hosted in Azure.

  • Click “Function app settings” at the bottom left of the Function app screen

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  • Click “Go to App Service Settings” in the Advanced Settings at the very bottom of the screen

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  • Under the “DEVELOPMENT TOOLS” section, click “App Service Editor”

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  • Click “Go” on the next screen and it will open a new browser window
  • Expand your Function app node under the WWWROOT node then right-click and select “New File”

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  • Type project.json for the file name
  • Update the project.json file with the following:

{
  "frameworks": {
    "net46":{
      "dependencies": {
        "Microsoft.CrmSdk.CoreAssemblies": "8.1.0.2",       
        "Microsoft.CrmSdk.XrmTooling.CoreAssembly": "8.1.0.2",
        "Microsoft.IdentityModel": "6.1.7600.16394",
        "Microsoft.IdentityModel.Clients.ActiveDirectory": "2.18.00"
      }
    }
   }
}

The necessary NuGet references for the CRM SDK are now added.  You can now either go back to the main Function app screen in Azure or just use the App Service Editor to edit the Function code in the run.csx file.  We will want to add the following namespaces to the top of the Function:

using System.Net;
using Microsoft.Crm.Sdk.Messages;
using Microsoft.Xrm.Tooling.Connector;

Now we can utilize the CRM SDK to connect to our CRM environment with a connection string like so:

var orgUrl = "https://org.crm.dynamics.com";
var username = user@domain.com;
var password = "password";
var authType = Microsoft.Xrm.Tooling.Connector.AuthenticationType.Office365;

var crmSvc = new CrmServiceClient($@"ServiceUri={orgUrl};AuthType={authType};UserName={username};Password={password}");

Now we can use the org service to do whatever we need within CRM.  For this basic sample, we’ll just do a simple WhoAmIRequest and log the result to the Function app console to make sure everything is working correctly.

var request = new WhoAmIRequest();
var response = (WhoAmIResponse)orgService.Execute(request);
log.Info(response.UserId.ToString());

The final Function should look like so:

using System.Net;
using Microsoft.Crm.Sdk.Messages;
using Microsoft.Xrm.Tooling.Connector;

public static void Run(HttpRequestMessage req, TraceWriter log)
{
    var orgUrl = "https://org.crm.dynamics.com";
    var username = "user@domain.com";
    var password = "password";
    var authType = Microsoft.Xrm.Tooling.Connector.AuthenticationType.Office365;

    var crmSvc = new CrmServiceClient($@"ServiceUri={orgUrl};AuthType={authType};UserName={username};Password={password}");

    var request = new WhoAmIRequest();
    var response = (WhoAmIResponse)crmSvc.Execute(request);
    log.Info(response.UserId.ToString());
}

 

Now click Run and in the Logs section you should see a Guid of your System User ID in between the Function started and Function completed statements.

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You can then use a simple app like Postman to test submitting a request to the unique Url that Azure gave you for your Function app.  Once you submit the request, check your Logs in the Function app and you should see your System User ID logged again.

The last step would then be to build a standard CRM Plugin on the desired event and have it submit a request to your Function app Url to kick off the process.  Microsoft Flow could also be used to trigger an event from CRM and call your Function app without building any custom code at all.

There you have it, we can now utilize Azure Functions to free up some CRM processing but of course there are some caveats.

  • If you are on the “Dynamic” service plan, Azure Functions will currently only run for 5 minutes before timing out.  This still gives us 3 more minutes than an asynchronous plugin in CRM but be cautious of long running processes.
  • If an error occurs, there won’t be any ability to reprocess like there is with an asynchronous plugin in CRM.  You will need to build that into your Azure Function.
  • Lastly, Azure Functions aren’t free (they are cheap however).  If you have long running, memory intensive processes that will trigger often then you should consider the pricing.  Pricing details can be found here.  Microsoft gives 400,000 GB-s for free each month so if you have 1GB of memory allocated to your Function, it can run for 400,000 seconds per month without having to pay a single dime!
Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online