Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 has recently been launched and you will have already been made aware of the awesome new features that is included in this release by the variety of official and unofficial material that has been published in the last month. The best places I would recommend starting in your search of this material is the preview guide and the SDK publication detail & What’s New information as they contain a wealth of information.
There is a great deal of functionality that actually isn’t live yet and there is a huge amount of functionality surrounding applications that are not specific to the web application of CRM either. In fact there are loads of updates that are not to do with the core web application but to do with other Microsoft technologies such as Office 365, Azure and the Mobile/Tablet applications. For those who go Online your likely to have an Office 365 subscription so you get many of the word and excel benefits already (The latest template releases don’t require Office 365).
This blog post is an introduction to the huge scope of the latest updates and walks you through how to use some of the key pieces that are available now. The remaining updates will be covered in later blog posts.
This post will cover Introductions to the following functionality and how to use them:
Notable additions to functionality with the Dynamics CRM 2016 Release which are not included as part of this post but are likely to be in later posts are:
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 has brought a new way to represent the data in your system by allowing you to actually create your own templates in an easy to use fashion that can be reused over and over that look great. This is sort of similar to mail merge, but quite a lot easier without a lot of the dependencies & a lot easier to use.
Templates can be used for Word and Excel but they are both actually quite different.
Word Templates can be used similar to the standard out of the box reports as a way of giving and distributing information. These types of reports can be styled how you wish (and using the limits of Microsoft Word) but with little effort can look much nicer whilst still taking less time and money creating more complex reporting through SSRS for example. There are some known issues with certain data representations in the templates, such as checkboxes, (detailed in this guide) hopefully this is patched soon.
The following tutorial shows you how to create and upload a Word Template or the Quote entity.
1. Navigate to an entity view you want to create a template for and select a record, and select ‘Create Word Template’
2. Check your entity is correct and select ‘Select Entity’
3. Select the relationships you want to include – if you don’t select any you will only have the base information available on your quote
4. Your template will appear blank, you need to go into the developer tab, select XML Mapping Pane and change the Custom XML Part to the one beginning with ‘URN’.
5. Now select your fields and right click and select ‘Insert Content Control’ and create your layout using the normal word tools. I find it is helpful to put a label e.g. ‘Revision Number:’ then put your field in there but that’s up to the design really. There are a few known bugs on here, so check out the link above to review these
6. Your associated entity fields you selected are at the bottom of the list on the right hand side marked by a little arrow.
7. Create repeating lines and tables by selecting the line only of the table and right clicking the relationship and select ‘Repeating’. If you select the full table it won’t work and your table won’t display.
8. Save your new template with your desired name and upload to CRM
9. Run your report and test it out to make sure you’ve picked up the data your expecting
Excel templates are a little different. When I first came across these, I wondered what more they could offer than creating a Dashboard or creating awesome views using Advanced find and looking at entity wide charts. You want to allow people to edit and contextualize their data within a system, not encourage them to take it into their comfort zone of Excel? What I feel that has happened is Microsoft have actually taken this and used it as a benefit because they have taken something they know a lot of people are familiar with and made it a part of the CRM functionality.
You export your data, edit your data including add new columns and create charts from those columns, and then import this data back into CRM as a template that everybody in your organisation can use (that has access to it) the magic? The new data you include in these reports don’t have to exist as fields in CRM. No more making fields just for the sole purpose of aggregation or calculation and adding to the database where you don’t need to. (Every little helps.. right!).
In addition to the CRM 2015 Update 1 release of inline editing with Excel this means this can be one hell of an immersive experience where you never need to leave the CRM interface for a second when viewing this data.
In the tutorial below, I export some data, modify it and then reimport the template back into CRM and view it using the CRM Excel inline experience, but you can equally just download it and view it on your machine.
1. Go to a view you want to create an excel template for and select Excel Templates and ‘Create Excel Template’ button.
2. Select your view and also edit your columns if you want to take over more data than is already in the view. Click ‘Download File’
3. You will now see a familiar table (for those who do imports). You can now make modifications to your table and create charts. In the example below I’ve added a field ‘Current Difference’ and performed a subtraction calculation on two fields. It has a sort of intellsense using the ‘@’ button to bring up fields to make it really helpful. You shouldn’t refer to field locations e.g. E3 and instead refer to them by Name. Once you have completed your formula, hit enter and it copies it for all those in the column.
4. To make a chart from your data, I did this by selecting the table (not the header), selecting ‘Pivot Chart’ on the ribbon and ensuring the selection is ‘Table 1′. If the data here has specific cells, i got an XML error and it doesn’t allow me to create anything.
5. You will then be taken to this screen which tells you how to create charts and reports. To create your the chart I did above, all I did was select the three fields on the right hand side and it makes your report and chart (in three clicks!)
6. This then creates a table and a chart which I copied and pasted into my one screen with original template data (which you can see 3 screenshots up)
7. Upload your new template by going to Settings – Templates – Document Templates and selecting ‘Upload Template’
8. Go back to your view and select your template from selecting the data and selecting ‘Excel Templates’ – [Template Name] – Download/Open in Excel Online
9. View your template!
Its worth noting I have not found a way to get these to work with anything lower than Office 2013. 2010 didn’t work – you can use other schemas but have no idea where to find them, as with the latest versions it’s already in the document itself that you download.
Top Tips & Recommendations to get started: – Make awful templates just to familarise yourself with the process of creating and uploading. Once your there, before you download your template (to re-upload) think about what you want to include first to ensure you have the relationships (word) and data from the views (excel) so you don’t get half way and realise your missing something. Also you can use the standard reports and dashboards as examples as it is a good start for data inspiration.
Knowledge Base Improvements
The new knowledge base has been attempted to be separated out from the old knowledge base as much as possible, and this is where a lot of the confusion comes in with terminology and where things refer to the old articles and where you can use the new articles. To help out to begin with, I’ve put together a friendly table below of information that separates this:
I can understand the predicament as Microsoft couldn’t depreciate or edit much of the older KB Articles so have isolated the new versions into their own entity. From my (albiet so far) limited experience using them, I’ve found the following information which may assist you and help some problems (like help not make you feel like your going crazy).
Quick Tips to get started
How to create articles (and edit them)
1. Navigate to the Interactive Service Hub by clicking the yellow banner that doesn’t always appear at the top of your screen or use the URL format below.
https://[hostname[:port]]/engagementhub.apsx (On Premise)
2. Click on the Quick Create button in the navigation banner and select ‘Article’ and enter your details
3. Navigate to the Article Views by clicking the burger button and clicking ‘Service’ and then ‘Knowledge Articles’ and selecting the name of the article that you just made
4. Open the article and make your edits. To include pictures in your content, click the picture icon on the Rich Text Editor ribbon and for URL, you simply pasted the full URL of your web resource you have previously uploaded to CRM
5. Save and Publish your article
How to search for and link articles on the normal CRM web application:
1. Set your KB Articles up via the Settings – Service Management
2. Navigate to a Case record and select the KB Article column
3. You’ll find the name of the case is auto-populating, remove this and add whatever you want – your search term doesn’t have to start with the item it only has to contain it and can also contain the keywords specified in the articles your searching for. E.g. my example contains the word ‘Blog’ in the title but not the start of it, and also doesn’t include the word ‘Coffee’ in the title, but it does in the keywords, I can therefore simply type ‘Blog’ and it will appear or ‘Coffee’ and it will also appear.
4. You can also use the search filters of Draft, Approved and Published or also the modified on date or the number of views filter on the sort.
5. Once you have found your article, you can inspect it further by clicking the ‘Pop out’ button on the top right of the article
6. You can then link the article by selecting the ‘Link’ button on the left hand side of the article in the header (see the above screenshot) or the popped out page depending on if you did that or not in the previous step. This action creates a new ‘Knowledge Article Incident’ joining record between the article and the case.
How to view articles on a Case and the Articles that are linked via the normal web application:
This is where I found a new modifications really helped (see below) – by adding the Knowledge Article lookup on the Knowledge Article Incident entity (the joining entity) it means you can see the actual article within CRM and view it even if you are still managing cases via the normal web application (which is more than likely at this stage).
1. Go onto the form and add the field which is existing by default but no on the form by default
2. Go onto the case Form and edit the view to include this field also & save and publish your changes
3. You can now see clearly the actual articles you have linked to your Case from these modifications. You can also click the articles and see statistics on them in the web application as well as review the article itself
The edited subgrid using the customisations below to show the ‘Knowledge Article’ column
Add the field to the form of the Knowledge Article Incident if you want to (not essential)
Open the case form and select the View to edit to show the ‘Knowledge Article’ column on the subgrid. Save and Publish your edits.
You can now see your article when you click on this lookup on the case to review, if necessary
Interactive Service Hub (ISH) or Interactive Engagement Hub (IEH) or Interactive Experience (IE)
The Interactive Service Hub has been one of the most talked about features of the latest release. I’m not going to be embarrassed to admit – I didn’t quite know where to start with this piece of functionality and just didn’t feel the seduction of the flashy dashboard and black chart backgrounds straight away because, well, what does it give me that the normal Dashboards don’t? My thoughts have been vastly changed since having a play around with them from this link & think they certainly have a place within CRM. The advice I’d say is that just like the normal Dashboards, don’t jump in to just using the out of the box dashboards, these are the same style of information gathering and data representation and need some real thought and process behind what you put in them to actually give any benefit to your client’s organisation. (Or yours!).
So what do they do differently? They allow for encapsulation of process, that is one of the things I have found. The ISH is in an isolated part/application to CRM and is accessed by a different URL altogether. This is physical (sort of) encapsulation of the application, but also one of the major people gaining benefit from the ISH, in my opinion, are going to be Managing Directors, other senior managers or lower level managers in organisation wanting to get an overview of the organisation’s data who may not necessarily want to actually do anything to that data, want to maybe lightly drill down, view a form or modify it in very minor ways without needing to go into the main CRM Application. Naturally, you can also use it as it was intended as a ‘Customer Service Centre’ and cup your entire customer service process through the hub also. The fact that you can’t enable any other out of the box standard entity for the interactive service hub than those summarised below shows that this is being driven in that direction, but lets not give up hope that updates for other entities may come in the future.
You might still be asking the question ‘What does it do differently’ – the answer is not much, like i said, it’s more a process change.
Some quick summaries of information about the ISH:
How to use it
There is a lot already set up for Case Management in the ISH (which is what it was intended for) and below is a brief overview of the form layout and navigation.
1. Navigate to the URL format below, or click on the link that appears in the yellow banner in your CRM system.
2. The navigation works just like CRM with a few differences. You have Dashboards (Main) but you also have Dashboards for specific entities too (Entity Specific ISH Dashboards). To access the Main Dashboards, click the Navigation, click ‘Service’ and Click Dashboards.
3. To access an Entity Specific Dashboards, navigate to the entity e.g. Service, ‘Cases’ and click the Dashboard icon in the bottom left corner to open up the Dashboard View. If there are no Dashboards configured for the entity, no icon will appear.
4. The form navigation is very similar to the web application, looking at the screenshot below, you have the same three columns layout you have in the web forms and the breakdown of tabs is displayed at the top of that form. To use business process flows, you need to click on the step itself and then you can action what you are required to and press ‘Next’ to go to the next stage.
How to customise the ISH and add new boards for a custom entity
As mentioned above, you can add new boards for the specific OOB entities or a custom entity. Firstly, you have to think about what kind of board you want to add, a main one or a entity specific one. This tutorial will walkthrough how to create a main ISH dashboard type for a custom entity that is a single stream type.
Also as discussed above, the dashboards and process of the ISH must still be thought about and isn’t something that can just be picked up blind by an organisation without encountering problems. As with any form of data representation have a think about what you want your dashboard to show and if ISH is the best place for it to be for people to gain exposure from it.
The example I’m going to be using is an ISH Dashboard for a custom Goal Entity. This is a new custom entity that fakes Goals. It frustrates me that Goals are not used more so i thought an ISR dashboards for senior managers would be a great way to introduce this into an organisation. I have thought about the process, but we’re not going to go into that at the moment as it’s very flakey – but to give you some background I did was setup a workflow that creates a new ‘Fake’ goal entity every-time a Goal is created that copies the key data across to my custom entity that I’ll be reporting on. This is the Goal itself, the owner, the total amount and the current amount of the goal. There then can be a second scheduled workflow that will work to update the fake entity every-time a rollup happens on the main core Goal entity that it is linked to via the lookup. This means it should technically be up to date information in next to real time to the actual real entity.
Following this tutorial, i hope the ISH is kind of debunked for you – it is basically like making the normal CRM web application dashboard but with some restrictions, new terminology & considerations to take in before you do so.
I designed the mockup below of how I want my data to look, and this is what the walk-through will include at the end of it but as a real dashboard!
Pre-req: Create the entity and create all the fields and process around that. Create your View that you want as your main stream of data and also your charts that you want based on that stream. Also the views of that entity you want aggregated into counts for the tiles. Please note I’ve not put special amount of detail into the charts which I would have liked to spend more time on but that can be another post in detail, so don’t judge the awful charts too much! (also charts are represented slightly differently in the new UI!)
1. Enable the entity for the interactive service hub functionality
2. Create a ‘Card’ view for your main stream view for your Dashboard. These forms are new, check out the structure below – based on the information this should hopefully also direct some of your field choices for what types you put where (e.g don’t put a lookup in the header unless the name itself is important as you can’t click it)
3. Navigate to the Forms section of your entity, click New and select Card form
Pay special attention to the fields you include in your ‘Details’ section as these are included on your tile dropdown when a user clicks the three dots ‘…’
4. Navigate to the ‘Dashboards’ section of the solution and select ‘New’ and select ‘Interactive Dashboard’
5. Select the Layout, ensuring you click the second tab for ‘Single Stream’
6. Configure your settings, entity first at the top of the Dashboard.
7. On the left hand side add your ‘Stream’ (View) that you want as your core view for the Dashboard. The data here will be represented as Cards using your ‘Card Form’
8. In the centre, add the charts
9. In the top right side, specify the views you want to aggregate the number of. Here I’ve put the main data at the top and some specific breakdown data which will prove useful for ‘at a glance’ without having to even move the mouse. You can use other entities enabled for the interactive experience and the related views to those entities also, not just your main entity for your board.
10. Save and Close your Dashboard
11. Open the ISH and navigate to your view using the drop-down menu to find your view and there is it is, a nice new shiny looking Dashboard with all the information relative to the data in the web application for easy and quick viewing! You may notice that charts are formatted differently where you have two series, shown by the orange outline in the screenshot below. I’ve not played around with customised charts where XML has been modified yet.
I hope that has helped get you started with three of the core features of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 update. I hope to follow up this post with more deep dives into the functionality but also expand on the detail mentioned in this post in the coming month or so.
Any questions please leave them in the comments & I’ll do my best to help you!