As we continue on our Dynamics 365 Deep Dive journey, we’re now plunging into three powerful new services – PowerApps, Flow, and the Common Data Service (previously formerly called Common Data Model) – to explore how they can be used to your advantage in Dynamics 365. The visual below will help you understand how the Microsoft team is positioning these applications.


 

In the world of business management software, “codeless applications” have long been sought after as a way to make business software more user friendly for non-technical users. Microsoft’s answer to this pressing need has arrived in the form of three services – PowerApps, Flow, and Common Data Service – that constitute the core foundation for quickly and easily building useful business applications without touching the underlying code!

Microsoft Power Apps

We’ll start with Microsoft PowerApps, a tool that allows individuals to build simple, useful, custom applications without writing even a line of code. Moreover, these are apps can be published instantly and then used either on the web or from a mobile device. These apps are what’s known in the industry as “purpose-built,” i.e. they are created to address specific needs. As you can see in the example below, I’ve created a simple mobile app to show users which projects are assigned to them. By tapping the start/stop button, these users can then instantly capture the time spent on each of their projects. What’s more, they can edit projects as well as creating new ones. The captured data is automatically saved to the Common Data Service and then updated in both CRM and Operations. The entire process is completed in less than a day and without writing a single line of code.


 

The finished app looks like this:


 

PowerApps is a vehicle for business users to easily create mobile apps for smartphones and tablets. They can also be accessed from a browser. This is a platform that can now consume, edit and create data from many commonly used systems. Let’s say, for example, that you already have a form or SharePoint list to capture new project requests. All you have to do is point PowerApps at the form or SharePoint list in question and most of the app will be created for you. Should you want to add CRM or ERP data, all you have to do is tap into the Common Data Service. By using PowerApps you can accomplish all of this with an intuitive point-and-click designer (web or desktop). And again, it’s codeless!

These are some of the most common applications that PowersApps can tap into:

  • Common Data Service
  • Office 365
  • Dynamics 365
  • Excel
  • Google Apps
  • SQL Server
  • SharePoint
  • OneDrive
  • Box
  • Azure

 

All of the available applications are shown on this full listing. We recommend that you check back often because you’ll find that new applications are being added to the list almost every week.

Microsoft Flow

Now let’s take a look at Microsoft Flow. This is a service for creating workflows across applications that business users commonly rely on in their day-to-day activities. If you’re already running Dynamics CRM at your company, then you’re probably familiar with the CRM workflow engine, which is pretty powerful. But the challenge lies in incorporating workflows outside of CRM. Doing so is considerably more challenging because it requires serious custom code development. Microsoft Flow resolves this issue by overcoming the limitations inherent in Dynamics CRM workflow. Flow is a supercharged cross-application, cross-platform workflow workhorse that rises to the Clydesdale level. Here’s one easy to understand example. Let’s say that you’d like to monitor Twitter to track specific keywords or hashtags. When any of the hashtags or keywords you’ve identified come up on Twitter, Flow will automatically create a lead record in CRM. I could take this one step further by sending an email or text message notification about the new lead to someone of my choosing. Whereas in the past, this would require third-party tool custom development, with Flow, it’s point and click. I was literally able to set this up in less than 15 minutes.

 

The best part is that Flow works alongside PowerApps to provide even greater power and usability for Dynamics 365. Flow will automate almost any time-consuming process or task, whether it’s a simple task such as an approval workflow or a far more complex workflow across Sales, Service and Operations. A few examples would be:

  • Notifications
  • Synchronized Files and Services
  • Data Collection
  • Approvals Automation

 

Getting started with Flow is easy and includes:
 

  • 400 Templates with more to come
  • 95 Services with more to come

 

Go to the full listing here.

Common Data Service

Last but not least is the Microsoft Common Data Service (CDS), which is an Office 365/Dynamics 365/Azure-based data model and storage application that comes pre-configured with a large set of standard entities used in common business applications. Take for example the customer fields that exist in both CRM and ERP but are called something different in each of those systems. The beauty of CDS is that it allows you to map both applications to a single, common field called "Customer." Thus, when that field is updated, both applications will be updated as well because CDS has created a codeless integration between the two systems.

On top of that, these standard entities can extend the data model with custom entities, once again without writing code. Just think about how this opens a whole new world of possibilities for building even more useful PowerApps and Flows, a world in which non-developers can now create a data model to support their needs. CDS provides a single data model with the ability to source data from multiple systems, relate data, and permit users to view and update data across many applications.


 

There is no longer a need for the custom code, kludgy workarounds, and third-party solutions that were previously required to provide these capabilities. All that is in the past!

Next Steps

We hope you will join us for an information-packed webcast, a live deep dive demonstration on March 16th so you can see for yourself exactly what can be accomplished using these new services.