November 2016 saw the release of Microsoft Dynamics 365, which technically includes version 8.2 of Dynamics CRM. With this update came some fantastic pieces of functionality, worthy of their own feature posts at some point in the future which will detail the granular nuts and bolts, instead, this post aims to begin with an overview of what that awesome new functionality is and how steps you can take to get started with each part.

This post will be a more detailed and written version of the 12 Days of XRM-Mass feature i posted on Twitter in December 2016. For each  of the items I run through, i’ll post the 5-6 minute walk-through I created on YouTube to accompany it. The videos were intended to be very quick run through, giving you a high level overview.

The following items are included in this post:

  • New Process Designer
  • A New Business Rule – Recommendation
  • Editable Grids
  • Business Process Flow Improvements
  • Microsoft Flow
  • Relevance Search
  • Microsoft Portal
  • New ‘Sort Date’ field on Activity Pointer
  • Roll-up of Child Activities from a custom activity to a Parent
  • New App Designer and Sitemap Designer
  • New Actions available in Workflows
  • Sorting on Activity Walls

Some of the notable additions to the release I wanted to mention which are not included in this post are:

  • Data Export Service – You can now copy your online SQL Database (which you don’t have direct access to) to another SQL Database on Azure. Scott Durow’s video provides a walkthrough and more detail how to achieve this here
  • Product Catalog Amendments for Developers – Developers can now programatically create Product Properties, this means that pretty much all of the Product Catalog can be automated, which will be an upcoming XRM Feature, so stay tuned!
  • Client updates to the XRM Object Model & Additions to the Web API – Read all about them here

So, lets get started!

A New Process Designer

A new Process Designer has been introduced for which involves a drag and drop UI. Unfortunately, this is not available for workflows, but it is available for Business Rules, the new App designer and Business Process Flows. The new designer allows you to visualise your business logic and provide a more tactile interface to move components about, as after all, customisers don’t get things right first time and this functionality allows you to make changes quickly. In addition to that, you have what I call the ‘Action menu’ which lets you rapidly create your  processes through coping and pasting too.

The video demonstrating the new Process Designer is here

How to get started

The screenshot below demonstrates the new Process Designer UI when creating a new Business Rule. This example is going to be a bit different than some of the others, as there isn’t a walk-through to this specifically – it is more listing the capabilities of the functionality and an annotated diagram of how to access the majority of those. I will be publishing an infographic of the new designer in a few weeks, so stay tuned for that!

1. To access the new designer, create a new Business Rule via your solution and wait for the new Process UI Designer to load.

2. The diagram below has annotations on how to use the new designer, and i’ll also recommend checking out the video of it in action above

Capabilities include:

  • Drag and Drop UI
  • Contextual Menu
  • Component Menu
  • Action Menu
  • Text view of your logic
  • Interactive Map
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The new Process Designer in Dynamics

A new Business Rule – ‘Recommendation’

Business rules are insanely productive! Why you ask? Check out this post here where I cover their concept in more depth but in short, business rules allow you to implement business logic which can replace a lot extensions that would have previously only been capable with through scripting. By using business rules instead of scripting, it means there is less risk, more likely to be upgrade-able, easily changed through the UI and it means your entire team can take ownership of a business rule and not just be something just a developer is responsible for maintaining.

The new capability introduced in this release allows you to add a ‘Recommendation’ feature to your forms (or editable grids!) where if a condition is true,  a ‘recommendation’ icon appears next to a field of your choice that when selected, gives the user a recommendation to complete an action, or to ignore it. If the user chooses to apply with the recommendation by selecting ‘Apply’ then it performs whatever business logic you have set.  Whether the user chooses to ignore the recommendation or apply it doesn’t prevent the form from saving.

This feature is available for forms or for Business Process Flows.

Check out this short video which details setting up a new Recommendation Business Rule below here

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The ‘i’ icon appearing next to a field demonstrating the new ‘Recommendation’ component of Business Rules

 

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When a user selects the ‘i’ icon, a recommendation appears which can be applied or dismissed; The form can still be saved

How to get started

This example will run through how to implement a ‘Recommendation’ Business Rule feature on a Form.

1. Open your solution and expand the entity you wish to work with. Select the ‘Business Rules’ node on the left hand side.

Business Rules_3_RecommendationFeatureWalkthrough

2. Click ‘New’ which opens up the new Process Flow Designer (this is also covered in this blog post!)

Business Rules_4_RecommendationFeatureWalkthrough

3. Create your condition by selecting on the purple condition block and entering the conditions in the right hand side. What is the condition you wish to be true to allow for the recommendation icon to appear to your user? The example in the screenshot below shows the condition “If ‘Subject’ is equal to Delivery” on the Case Entity. Once your ready, click ‘Apply’ on the right hand side to set your condition. You’ll see your purple block change to reflect this with your changes.

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4. Once your condition is created you are now ready to add the ‘Recommendation’ feature. Click on the Component tab on the contextual menu on the right hand side, and you can see Recommendation. Click and Drag that option over to where you want your action connected to your condition.

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5. Once your recommendation block has been created (which is blue in the screenshot below) add in the Recommendation details by selecting which field you wish the icon to appear on, and what detail you want in the Title (which displays at the top of the icon in bold once selected) and the Details (which displays under the title once selected). Click Apply at the bottom of the area to confirm your changes here. (This is important, as if you move onto the next stage without doing so, they will be lost)

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Remember to click ‘Apply’ to confirm your changes

6. Once completed, select the drop down arrow on your blue Recommendation block labelled ‘Details’ to expand the Action tab (circled in the screenshot below). Click the Action tab so its selected and the details appear in the contextual menu on the right hand side. Your action is what you want the system to do if the user clicks ‘Apply’.

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Set your action you wish the system to perform once the user has selected ‘Apply’ on your recommendation

7. Add in your Action detail, title the Action and click Apply to confirm your changes.

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8. Finally, add in a name and description for your business rule and validate your rule. Anything missed here will appear now in red under where its missing. (Its not overly helpful as even though you can expand the validation errors and it does tell you what they are at the top,  you still have to hunt around for it).  Activate your new Business Rule once everything has been validated.

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9. That is it! Go check out your awesome new functionality

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Editable Grid

Editable Grid functionality was one of the most anticipated releases of this version and for good reason! It extends the standard application to make a massive positive impact on the user experience by allowing users to edit information inline without having to click and load a new form every-time, allowing them to update data rapidly. I’m a big fan of anything that increases user experience and the editable grid functionality was something you had to rely on in a custom solution, implemented by using a framework like SparkleXRM or ready made solutions by ISVs.

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Editable Grid on the ‘Opportunities’ view

A 5 minute video which details how to get started with the Editable Grid is here

How to get started

To make views editable

Select your entity you wish to activate for Editable Grids.

1. Click on the entity itself (not the nodes) and click on the ‘Control’ tab, Add a New Control of type ‘Editable Grid’

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2. Select ‘Web’ so that it has the selection selected

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3. Save your changes and publish them

4. Go back to your View to see the editable grid functionality! (Refresh your  page if you have it open in another tab).

To make sub-grids editable

Select your sub-grid you wish to activate for Editable Grids

1. Open the form you wish to modify

2. Open up your sub-grid properties by double clicking on the item itself in designer mode or select it and click ‘Change Properties’

3. Click on the Control tab

4. Add the Control if it doesn’t exist already, select Editable Grid and Activate for Web, Save and Publish your changes!

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5. Go back to your Sub-grid and check it out!

Enhanced Business Process Flows

Business Process Flows were originally introduced in CRM 2013 where they enabled users of the system to be taken down a particular path of stages which were related to fields in the system. Since then, they have been enhanced continuously throughout the new releases, for example being able to branch depending on field data. This latest release has to be one of the milestone improvements for Business Process Flows which has given even more business  benefit for implementations of the functionality – access to KPIs and reporting. One of the key improvements is being able to report on how long a stage has been opened which we will see in the walk-through and video below, but other areas of improvement include:

  • Refreshed UI
  • Time the stage has been active
  • New Process Designer – allowing for improved ability to design branching
  • Linking workflows to stage entry and stage exits
  • Mark processes as finished or abandoned – enhancing the meaning  of ‘Status’ to be more realistic and reporting to be more meaningful
  • KPIs available for time open

It achieves this by actually creating a new entity per business process flow.

A quick video on these enhancements can be found here

How to get started

1. Navigate to your solution, click Processes and create the type as Business Process Flow – keep the Business Process Flow selected and not Task Flow

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2. You’ll see the ‘Name’ field appear for you to rename the new entity that is created as part of this if you want to. It defaults as the Process Name you entered.

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3. The new Process Designer opens

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4. To keep it simple, create a new stage and add your fields using the new designer. In the Component area you can also associate workflows to the stage and when they trigger (Stage entry or exit). Once your finished, save and publish your flow. That is your flow created, you can go check it out on your form.

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On your entity with your process flow – to change the status of your Process:

5. Click ‘Process’ to be able to switch process for concurrent process or Abandon it.

To be able to report on your Process – In advanced find, select the new entity you made when you created your Process Flow.

6. Select the field ‘Active Stage Started On’ to be able to report on when the currently active stage started – you can also do some validation for what the active stage is ‘Active Stage Id’ which will be represented by a text e.g. ‘Qualify’.

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You can see all the fields available to you within Advanced Find on your new process you created

Get started with Microsoft Flow

Microsoft Flow is a new application which is available in the various licencing tiers of Dynamics 365. It may seem like an ‘add on’ but it really is an amazing stand alone application by empowering your other applications to do more and extends their capabilities profoundly. It does this by being a data transfer engine between applications – and when i say applications, I don’t just mean within Dynamics, and I also don’t just mean within the Microsoft stack either, it includes even templates for Salesforce, Wunderlist, Twitter and well, the list is endless and is being added to constantly. You don’t have to use a template either, and you can make your own from scratch.

The walk-through below helps you get started using one of the standard templates, Twitter to Dynamics.

Watch a short introduction on how to get started here

How to get started

1. Start out on your homepage via the Flow icon on Office 365. If you don’t see this, contact your administrator. This is available on free trials at time of writing.

Flow_1_Walkthrough

 

2. Click create from template in the top right hand corner (screenshot below)

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3. Select the template you wish to use, in the demo below and in the video, I use the search box at the top of the screen to quickly find and select the template I wish to use.

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4. Click ‘Use this template’

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5. Authenticate with the twitter account you wish to use and select the Dynamics account you wish to authenticate with as well. This is how the process will access the data. You need to confirm the terms of agreement here also to continue.

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6. An empty template will appear for you to get started. Select the keyword you wish to search on and you can also expand the ‘User’ details as well which is who the Tweet was ‘Tweeted By’ by default.

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7. Click the downward arrow on the 3rd block to select the instance of Dynamics you wish to create your Lead.

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8. You can edit the data mapping which is set as default which maps the Tweet data to Dynamics data by selecting ‘Edit Dynamic Content’ and configuring this if you wish

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9. Once finished, click ‘Create Flow’ where it will briefly validate the name and save your Flow. Go back to your screen by clicking ‘Done’ and then ‘Manage’

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10. You can see your flow in action by clicking the ‘i’ on the management screen to see each Flow ‘Job’ (very much like Jobs in Dynamics) and click into the Job to see the actual detail. To edit your Flow, click the flow line itself and click ‘Update Flow’ to be taken to the designer screen again. Please bear in mind, for this example you do need to wait for the conditions to be met for your tweet, so you won’t see instances straight away. If your using this in a pre-sales environment, i’d suggest you set one up with examples prior to the demonstration (and test it before hand to ensure its worked).

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The ‘i’ button allows you to see instances of your ‘Flow’

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An instance of a Flow where it created a Lead based on a Tweet within Dynamics

Thats it! You have successfully implemented a ‘Flow’.

Relevance Search

A new way of searching for records has been introduced in this update called Relevance Search. By using the search bar in the top of the screen, we have been using what is referred to ‘Categorised’ Search which groups up my search results per entity and is very specific on my search term unless i use wildcards etc. Relevance Search allows a more flexible search criteria, filter by entity and customised grouping and highlights my search term within the results.

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A Relevance Search result

Watch how to set this up in less than 5 minutes here

(note point number 6 when I had had too much coffee in the video! The items on the left hand side are fixed and cannot be changed, the facets and filters allow you to change the priority of the quick view fields configured)

How to get started

1. In the system, go to System Settings via Administration and in the General tab (first one) scroll down to select Relevance Settings and set the checkbox to Yes. There are terms you need to confirm that will appear and if you agree, confirm to change the checkbox to Yes.

ConfigureRelevanceSearch_1_Walkthrough

2. Within a solution, click the Entity node and select ‘Configure Relevance Search’ to configure which entities are enabled for Relevance Search

ConfigureRelevanceSearch_9_Walkthrough

 

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3. Technically this is ready to use now, but if you want to configure the search so that specific key information is available for your users when they use it and also if the fields you wish the user to FIND on are setup, you’ll need to just configure the Quick Find View per entity. This is nothing new compared to other searches, but please do be aware you need to be mindful that some fields, as in other types of search, are not available and will be missing e.g Lookups. Check out the guides which detail the field exclusions  and further detail here and here

ConfigureRelevanceSearch_4_Walkthrough

Navigate to find the ‘Quick Find’ view on each entity you wish to set up and open it to configure the View and Find columns

4. Click on ‘Add View Columns’ and ‘Add Find’ Columns’ and select the columns you wish to be displayed on the View and those also used in the search itself. Once your finished Publish your changes. Your ready to go!

ConfigureRelevanceSearch_5_Walkthrough

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5. The UI has changed in the Relevance Search to allow for extended filtering on Record Type, Owner etc as you see below:

ConfigureRelevanceSearch_7_Walkthrough

6. You can specify the default searches via the User Settings and also configure the Facets and Filters which allow you to configure which information displays on the results as a priority to you. (Note in the video i mention they are on the left hand side, NO they are not! (I must have had too much coffee!) the items on the left hand side cannot be changed)

ConfigureRelevanceSearch_8_Walkthrough

 

Microsoft Portal

Its old news that Microsoft purchased ADStudio  and have made their own offering ‘Microsoft Portals’ available off the back of this aquisition. What makes this super exciting is that on certain version of Dynamics 365 licencing plans (Enterprise Plan 1 I believe!) you actually get 1 free Portal to utilise. In short, by utilising portals it gives you access to either an internal or external website that is a pre-built template from a various amount of options, all integrated into your Dynamics environment. Where the power does come in is when you think about it in context with the Common Data Service and using it in line with Flow (covered in this post too!), workflows and other ways of automation to give you amazing insights and new data to inform your business.

This post won’t cover how to use the new functionality but the step by step guide, and the video, gives you a quick overview on how to actually set Portals up. At the time of writing and recording the video, trials are setup for this too, so you can go right ahead and follow this just by signing up to a trial.

A 6 minute video which details this step by step is here

How to get started

1. Navigate to your solution screen and select ‘Application’ tab.

SettingupYourPortal_1_Walkthrough

2. Click on the ‘Portal Add-On’ under Applications and click ‘Manage’ on the right hand side (with the pen icon). This opens up the configuration  for your Portal.

SettingupYourPortal_2_Walkthrough

3. Complete your details e.g. URL and which instance of CRM you wish to connect to and once you have done this, it will do some validation. Once completed some more options become available. Based on your Portal Audience, you can select which ‘template’ to publish.

SettingupYourPortal_3_Walkthrough

SettingupYourPortal_4_Walkthrough

Select which out of the box Portal Template you wish to used based on your Portal Audience

4. Once selected, read the Terms & Conditions and if accepted, the system will continue to add all of the sites and extensions and the solution via Dynamics. (For me it took about an hour to provision, but this can take longer or shorter for you)

5. Once its all set up, go back to Applications and click Manage to be taken to your Portal Admin area. (same as the first step, but as its configured you get taken to the admin area instead)

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Your Portal admin area

6. Click on Portal Details to load the URL of your portal and you can go straight to your portal to access your new Portal!

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Standard, out of the box configurable Portal

7. If you go back to your Dynamics instance you’ll see new areas of the sitemap has been made for you to extend and configure your new Portal.

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Solution extension within Dynamics for you to customise and manage your Portal

A new way of sorting Activities using the ‘Sort Date’ field on the Activity Pointer

There is a new field on the Activity Pointer field called the ‘Sort Date’ field. If you select an activity in Advanced Find, or on ‘Activities’ themselves, you will see the new field. This by default is blank – a common problem is when you group activities into generalised ‘Activities’ you can only sort on the fields available on the Activity Pointer entity which doesn’t have activity specific fields e.g.  ‘Sent On’ (which is on Emails)

The new Sort Date field allows you to extend the application to set the ‘Sort Date’ field based on whatever date is relevant to your business via something as simple as a Workflow (no code!) or even Business Rules. Once this is set, you can the configure your views, dashboards and other reporting methods (including the new Activity Wall Sorting feature which is at the bottom of this post!) and even use it in further extensions based on this field.

Walk-through video on the configuration here

How to get started

There isn’t much to do to get started on this, apart from being aware of this new field, which you can see in the new screenshots below, as this feature is giving you empowerment to be able to make this useful for any organisation implementing Dynamics. In the video I discuss a possible workflow option which would set the field based on a standard action when creating Activities.

ActivitySortDate_1_View

ActivitySortDate_2_ViewActivitySortDate_3_View

Rollup Child Activities to a Parent on Custom Entities 

If your on a form which has the Activities view and have a Custom Entity where you require the Activities of custom child entities to rollup to the Parent, this is now possible with simple relationship configuration. There are some caveats to this, such as it needs to be a 1:N relationship which is related to an Account, Contact or Opportunity as it’s Parent and the custom entity must be setup for Activities.

To achieve this, it is fairly straight forward!

Watch the 3 minute video on how to achieve this here

How to get started

1. Open up your relationship and change the ‘Rollup View’ configuration option to ‘Cascade All’ (the only other option is None)

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2. Publish your changes and go and make some test data to check it out!

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Activities on my ‘Cat’ custom entity related to an Opportunity

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The Activities ‘Rolling Up’ to my parent Opportunity via the new Relationship Configuration

What ‘Apps’ are and how to create them and use the new Site Map Editor

Apps were for me a confusing concept which was introduced in the latest version which left me skeptical as to what they actually were. If i felt this way, i’m sure at least some potential or existing customers/users of the Dynamics would feel the same, mainly as you see CRM as an ‘Application’ so how would more ‘Apps’ fit into CRM? This is where I found it helped by taking a step back. With the new licencing structure, what is being created is a ‘tailor made’ out of the box (if thats possible) system which is configurable for your needs. To do this there is some of the existing functionality, such as Sales, Service, encapsulated into their own ‘Apps’ so they have their own site map area and it means as a user, they only ever need to access their small section of the application, through a specific URL if required, without knowing it is part of a larger application all together.

Customisers also have the ability to create their own App, with their own entities, own site map, and section it off using whatever security role they  like. They can do this using the new App designer and the Site Map designer.

Watch the walk-through video on how to create apps here

Apps_1_Walkthrough

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The ‘Sales’ App – you can see there is no ‘Service’ site map or anything related to Cases

How to get started

1. Navigate to Settings – My Apps – You will be taken to the Application screen. The Application screen is where you can edit current applications, manage the security roles that have access to it and also create new applications

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2. On this screen, select ‘Create App’ at the top right hand section of the screen (highlighted in the red circle in the screenshot below) – you will be taken to a blank screen. Complete the form fields based on what application you wish to make. You will notice your URL at the bottom once you have done so which will point to your new ‘App’.

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Click ‘Create App’ to create a new application (section) of the system

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Complete these fields based on what application you are intending to create

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3. Once you have finished, click ‘Done’ and you will be taken to the Process Designer. You will notice the site map has validation error on straight away. My own recommendation will be to click this first which will open up the site map designer which will also do much of your app configuration for you!

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Select ‘Site Map’ configuration to open up the new Site Map designer

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The new Site Map designer

 

4. This has a slightly different  interface to the Process Designer but it is still similar in that you have your Components (Area, Group and SubArea) on the right hand side for your sitemap and then the properties tab for you to do more specific configuration on the selected item. For this demo, the Area and Groups section require the ‘Name’ field to be completed (for real scenarios, complete all available fields as required!) but the Subareas you need to set a configuration type e.g. Entity, Dashboard etc as well and what they actually point to. The video will come in handy here but drag and drop to see how it feels and looks like. If you make a mistake, select the item you wish to delete and click ‘Delete’ near the top on the Action bar.

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Adding a title to an Area in the Site Map Designer

 

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Adding new Sub Areas to my site map

5. Once you are happy with your new sitemap and you have selected all the entities etc you wish to link to, save your changes and publish them.

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6. Click back to the App Designer by clicking the words at the top of the screen ‘App Designer’ to be taken back to your App configuration page. You’ll notice all your entities have been added that you added via your sitemap with ALL their forms. If you wish to configure this, click the item you wish to change on the process map and select the specific forms you want to include on the right hand side menu. You will see the form icon change from ‘ALL’ to the number you have selected.

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Dashboards and Entities have been added to my ‘App’ as part of the Site Map configuration automatically

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Clicking an Entity on the Process Map will allow me to select via checkboxes, which forms I wish to include in my ‘App’

7. If you want to add new entities, you can do this by looking at the components screen and you will see ‘Artifacts’ sub menu, select ‘Entity’ and you will be taken to a second menu where you can select the entities you wish to include. You can then configure them accordingly in the same way specified in the previous step. You can also add Dashboards and Business Process Flows.

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8.  Once you are ready with your application, click ‘Save’, Validate for errors and then and Publish. You can see your application now in the ‘Apps’ menu (You can keep it in draft state by not publishing it, and then it will be on the ‘Apps being edited’ tab)

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The ‘Custom’ application you see on the screen is the ‘full’ solution. It can be renamed in the Settings area.

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New Actions which are based on Standard CRM Messages available via Workflows

This might only make sense to those who have used or use Actions within CRM. They don’t get a lot of press but perhaps this new extension to workflows will change that. Actions allow users to create a new ‘operation’. So for example, a standard operation would be to ResolveQuote. With an Action, you can combine operations to make your own action which is meaningful to your business and then use them elsewhere within the application.

This feature has extended what Actions are available to you through workflows that are actually based on standard messages you will be familar with already but also allow custom Actions to be used within workflows too.

Some notable Actions which can be extremely useful are ResolveIncident and ResolveQuote – both of these involve normally, if you was do this programatically, to create a new entity and associate it to the item your closing e.g. CaseResolution entity. So this should make these specific actions much simpler and quicker to achieve.

Watch the walk-through video here

How to get started

1. Open up your solution and select Processes. Click New and Create a new Process which is a Workflow type.

2. Once opened, select ‘Add Step’ to bring up a new menu. Scroll down to ‘Perform an Action’. Select this.

Where to Find Actions_1_Workflow

On a draft workflow, select ‘Add Step’ and scroll down to ‘Perform Action’

 

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You will now have an empty Action step in your workflow. Select the ‘Action’ dropdown menu

3. You should now have a new block which is an empty Action statement. Click on the drop-down ‘Action’ to open a list with a number of different Actions available. If you have any custom Actions, they should also appear here.

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Under ‘Command Actions’ you will see the Actions now available

 

Enhanced Sort on the Activity Wall 

The Activity Wall has been enhanced to allow for in line sorting. It is configured on specific Date fields set on the form. This new feature has the potential to give a lot more meaning to the Activity Wall as often it was the bug bear of users when they would need to access activities which were sorted by a date specific to the business.

Check the video of the steps above here

How to get started

1. Open up a form which has the Activity Wall and you will be able to see a new arrow which you can select. Selecting the arrow allows for the user to change the sorting between ascending and descending order.

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2. To configure this, open up the form and open up the Activities properties menu. You’ll see the ‘Activity Wall’ tab and two options – the first being the field you wish to sort on, and the second which the default sorting criteria is (Acending or Decending).

SortingOnActivityWall_2_Walkthrough

3. Save and Publish your changes and that is it!