As Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM apps mature, can we still talk customization?

posted in: Cloud/SAAS, Microsoft Dynamics | 0

By:  Sarah Critchley

The latest release the Microsoft Dynamics 365 customer engagement app suite have brought even more functionality to the application that customers can utilize right out of the box. Though this is obviously a fantastic thing, though it can raise the question of whether customizing the system by adding complex workflows and other features still makes sense.

The out of the box, standard functionality has grown at an unrelenting pace in recent years. The introduction of a comprehensive service module, for example, allows many more customers to use Dynamics 365 for customer queries and complaints right out of the box. The rich knowledge article functionality allows businesses to digitize their knowledge and expand it across their business, emailing it to their customers at a click of a button. And with Dynamics 365 we saw the introduction of two new tools, Microsoft Flow and Power Apps, which aim to connect the applications up with more standard templates and functionality than ever before.

Since Dynamics 365 customer engagement apps are so functionally expansive, it raises the question (as it has done Here and Here) if the XRM platform, a term given to underlying customization framework of the solution, is even required anymore for a business to get value out of the application.

The answer is the same as it always has been when building solutions for businesses: utilize standard functionality where you can, and build up from there using standard platform customizing methods such as workflows, dialogs, and actions. Then move up to code if you need to.

This approach is one I will be arguing in favor of during my Workflow 101 sessions at Summit EMEA 2017 in Amsterdam on April 4th. The term ‘workflow’ has multiple meanings, from an abstract process at an organization to specific actions within a business system. Workflow means something particular within the Dynamics 365/CRM world. My session evaluates the context and creates its own definition as being a standard feature used to extend CRM functionality.

I’ll be exploring how users can get started customizing Dynamics 365 using Workflows, why they are so important, and how businesses can get value out of using workflows before code. Extending a Dynamics 365 application remains a viable option in 2017, and this session concentrates on giving those who have no knowledge of workflows, or have patchy knowledge, a framework they can use to create, configure, and test their workflows within the application to extend the standard functionality and extract even more value from the system.

Getting Value out of Dynamics using Workflows

A workflow is a process that is created in the user interface of Dynamics. It defines steps that perform functions such as checking conditions, sending emails, and waiting for conditions to be met before continuing. One of the most useful features of workflows is the ability to use dynamic data from the records that they fire from or interact with.

Some of the key strengths of the Dynamics 365/CRM workflow engine include:

  • The deep connection to the underlying entities, which makes it possible to do powerful things like create auto numbering solutions;
  • Scheduled workflows;
  • Making use of both background (asynchronous) workflows and real-time workflows.

When a business is creating a workflow in Dynamics 365/CRM, there are a range of decisions to make, and that is part of what this session is aimed at addressing, especially for first-timers. These decisions can often have an impact on whether the workflow works at all.

Customers often ask fundamental questions like, “Should I use a Background Workflow?” This question is important because you can only use “wait” conditions in background workflows. However, if you need to check conditions before a record is deleted, for example, only a real time workflow could work because you can’t execute business logic before the database transaction in background workflows.

A broader range of configuration tools

Beyond workflows, there are many other ways to configure standard features to make them work for your implementation. Microsoft Word and Excel templates were also introduced in a recent release (and they are covered by numerous sessions at Summit EMEA 2017). Templates allow users to easily do content control mapping and create pivot charts and tables that many users are already familiar with.

What Summit EMEA attendees will discover from sessions like these is that they still have a range of powerful tools to control their own Dynamics 365 solution. As the product continues to broaden and deepen its functional capabilities, customers will need to remain committed to understanding the basics and learning about the new capabilities that can impact their organization for the better.

About Sarah Critchley

As an individual that is knowledgeable in all aspects of the software development lifecycle and skilled in a diverse range of areas including development, consultancy and project management I am focused, determined and adaptive in any environment on the goals I aim to achieve.

I have experience of leading CRM 2013, 2015 and 2016 projects that required a range of skills including pre-sales demonstrations and discussions, scoping and designing architecture, writing functional and technical specifications, customizations using out of the box configurations, scripting, plugin development and data migration.

I also have a background in system testing & believe the customer should receive an end product that works to specifications and is of fantastic quality.