15 Microsoft Ignite not-to-miss non-Dynamics Session

A few years ago, and earlier, every time when I attended some conference I’ve chose the topic I’m familiar with. For example, probably in 95% of my time I attended Dynamics NAV sessions or something very close with it.

But in the last few years I changed my attention to very different sessions. In these times, everything is different, and everything is changed. Now if you want to survive in your ERP or CRM world, you need to learn a lot of different topics outside of your primarily interest. Solutions are more and more connected and now nobody want to buy i.e. ERP, but they want to buy completely solution… and if you want to provide it, you have to me familiar not only with ERP, but with IoT, AI, ML…

Because of that, I want to write a small recommendation not-to-miss sessions for all Dynamics ERP or CRM experts on this Microsoft Ignite. As Microsoft Ignite will start in a few days (September 22-24, 2020) and registration is free of charge, be sure you registered and try to attend the following sessions:

Of course, there are a lot of other Dynamics topics and I can suggest watching sessions about solutions you don’t implement. You will expand your knowledge and in this era it is very important to know how to choose what to and when to implement; when to customize and when to integrate… Of course, this is just my opinion and prediction… if you think differently, do as you think. Definitely, try to enjoy this virtual event.

All Dynamics events in 2020 are going virtually

All Dynamics events until the end of 2020 will go virtually… or they are cancelled. I don’t know what to say… if it is a good or bad. Definitely virtual event cannot replace live one and I’ll try to explain why. But with given circumstances, I think that going virtual is the best possible option… on the first place because of our health and not losing community work.

Right now, we have the following situation with all our Dynamics events:

  • First, we will start with D365 Community Summit. It will go virtual instead in Nashville and it will be held in period October 7-9, 2020. Agenda is already ready and if you didn’t register, you can see details and register here.
  • Directions EMEA and Directions Asia, instead of Prague and Bangkok will be organized as a common virtual event in period November 3-5, 2020. More information here.
  • Directions NA, Orlando is unfortunately canceled for this year. But as Directions EMEA and Asia will go virtually, it means there is not any limitations for colleagues from North America to join this even.
  • NAV TechDays is canceled somewhere on the beginning of Corona crisis and we will not have opportunity to meet before next year.

OK, I wanted to explain why I’m not a fan of virtual events… but to be honest it is probably better to have them in comparison with cancelation all these events. With virtual event you can still have an opportunity to listen prepared content and this is good. But… attending conferences is not all about content… content is important of course, but more important is an opportunity to openly ask what you need and not to get an answer only from presenter. You have an opportunity for discussion on sessions, but probably more important during the pauses. All these networking is not possible to be created in a virtual world… minimum it is not possible in this moment. And communication between presenter and attendees actually doesn’t exist in the virtual event. And when I’m talking about all of these, this is not problem only for attendees, it is not inspiring for lecturers as well (it is not the same when you have people in the front of you and when you have camera and laptop).

But again, with these circumstances, this is much better to have virtual events than not having them at all. And I must admit in a few digital events I’ve already participated, organization was really the best possible what somebody can make in a virtual world… and probably beyond my expectations. But again, this is not the same ☹.

And on the end, our hopes for the next year are that we can see each other in a live. I hope we will have much better health situation and we will attend minimum these already scheduled events:

  • Directions Asia, April 15-16, 2021 – Bangkok, Thailand
  • Directions NA, April 25-28, 2021 – San Diego, CA, US
  • Directions EMEA, October 7-9, 2021 – Milan, Italy,
  • NAV TechDays, November 16-19, 2021 – Antwerp, Belgium
  • …and hope others will schedule events soon.

How to Build Power Portal connected with Business Central

Introduction

When I think about new Dynamics 365 Business Central (in the future, I’ll use only ‘Business Central’ or just ‘BC’) features, the first things in my mind are openness and integrations. Then one of the most common limits in Business Central (and in Dynamics NAV before) was lack of portal connected with the database. Of course, you could develop portal from the scratch or use one of existing solutions and develop integration… But what is common in both of these cases? You need to pay in the first case for development (not so cheap) and in the other case for IP or license (again not so cheap).

But with Power Platform we got something more. Now we have Power Portal and as you have Power Platform included in your user’s subscriptions, you don’t need to pay something more (minimum, not such a big amount of money). Only what you need to pay is using portal, but this is really not so costly (100USD per month for 100,000 page views for unauthenticated users or 200USD per month for 100 daily login sessions for authenticated users. More details here: https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/). And yes… we have an issue here… Power Portal is based on Dataflex Pro (formerly known as Common Data Service). But this is an opportunity, not a limitation. And this is the topic of this whitepaper.

Start with building entities in Power Platform

First as I already mentioned, this is necessary to build solution in Dataflex Pro and that means you need to create entity(ies) you want to connect with Business Central. That means you need to run Power Apps: https://powerapps.microsoft.com/. After that, I’ll continue with task. In this example, I’ll use Employee entity as we already have Employee table in BC.

To do this, you need to start from Entities (Data > Entities in the left navigation pane) or you can start with Solutions and create new entity from there. In the new entity, enter Display name and enter primary name.

Click Done when you enter that. After that, you need to add new fields using Add fields command. When you finish with all fields, click Save Entity to save all changes.

When you finish with all details in creation of entity you can start with building connection with Business Central. But keep in the mind that you need to make something more here and we will come back later. Right now, only one thing you can add is Key just to avoid having duplicates and my recommendation is to copy keys from BC table.

Connecting Business Central with portal

OK, connection with the Business Central can be done on a few different ways and I’ll try to explain all of them here.

Business Central customizing an integration with Common Data Service

From the Wave 1 2020, Business Central supports an integration by default with a set of entities in the Dataflex Pro default database, but you can make customization through extension and add more. For developing extensions that integrate Business Central with Dataflex Pro, system uses extensibility capabilities where proxies to Dataflex Pro tables can be created in Business Central, and these will be made extensible. This allows for custom attributes to be synchronized and for additional tables to be added to the default synchronization process.

When you create this extension, only what you need to do is mapping tables with entities as well as mapping fields in Business Central and Dataflex Pro.

I don’t want to write in details how you can do it as Microsoft already published completely documentation how to build this kind of extension and how to configure it. For more details, open this page: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365/business-central/dev-itpro/administration/administration-custom-cds-integration.

When you finish with developing an extension, you can find here how to map tables and fields: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365/business-central/admin-how-to-modify-table-mappings-for-synchronization.

When you connect entities in Dataflex Pro and Business Central, you can continue with building Power Portal.

Integration using webservices and Power Automate

Previous way of integration is native, but it requires some development knowledge. But what if you are not developer and still want to build portal based on Business Central? Do you think it is possible? Yes… this is an answer.

From the Entity page in Power Apps, just click Get Data and in the Power Query window choose OData tile. Go next and then you need to stop yourself there. You should move to the Business Central. Open Web services page and add page you want to use in synchronization. In our case, this is page 5200… just click New, as Object type choose Page and add this page number; enter Service name you want to use and click on Publish field. Copy OData V4 URL value.

Move back to the Power Apps and in the Connection setting paste this value to the URL field. Choose Organizational account as an Authentication kind. Confirm your credentials and go to the next page. Click Next until you open the following page.

Now you need to choose Load to existing entity option and in the Destination entity choose entity you created (in my example BCEmployees).

In the Field mapping part of window (right side), you need to map fields from web service in Business Central as a Source column with Destination fields (fields in our entity). When you finish it, just click Next and you will find a page where you can configure refresh settings. That means you need to choose how often system will synchronize data from Business Central web service to the entity. Click Create and you have been finished with integration.

But something will miss here. As you are using just refresh model, that means you will get records from Business Central, but you cannot insert there. Actually, you can insert to entity, but system will not insert them to BC. To solve this, you can create very simply flow in Power Automate. Actually… you will need as many flows as you want actions.

You can see on previous picture that I chose When a record is created and it will be OK if you want to have only Insert from portal. But if you want more action, you need to use the following triggers:

  • For ModifyWhen a record is updated,
  • For DeleteWhen a record is deleted.

In this example you will see flow for inserting, but I think you can easily understand how to create two additional flows based on well-known parameters.

Keep in the mind that you need to use the following parameters in the trigger:

  • Environment – choose an environment you used for building solution in Power Apps
  • Entity name – entity you created
  • ScopeOrganization

Now when you save it, your solution is finished. I would just like o mention that instead of web service integration you could choose API integration as well:

Configuration in both of cases is very similar and there is not a reason to repeat completely process.

Building a portal

Power Portal

Now when we made an integration using one of the models, we can continue with building our portal.

To finish with this process, we need to open Power Apps again and to start with creation new Power App. You can start from Home or from Create and you need to choose Portal from blank option.

Enter the name of your portal and carefully choose Address for your portal. This is place where you can also choose a language.

When you select Create, you need to be ready to wait some time until system create portal. It usually takes a few minutes, sometimes more, sometimes less… but be a patient. When an app is created, open it in the edit mode. You will see we have prebuilt portal, but we want to add new page with our data. To do this, select New page and choose Blank.

System will create new blank page and we need to add necessary components. Select Components icon in the left-side menu and locate List. This is logical if you want to start with a list view.

Now you need to configure some details. As we will create new component, choose Create new display and as Entity choose your entity (BC Employee in my example). The next important step is to choose a view as each entity has more views. I think that Active {items} are logical choice here.

OK, this is how we can create a list. But if you want to have possibilities to create new entry or to edit or delete it from here, you have an opportunity to do it immediately here. In the right-sided pane you will see a few options appear.

You can choose if you want to add the following features here: creating, viewing, editing and deleting. If you switch-on any of these options, you will get an opportunity to choose which form will be run to make this action. This is very easy for configuration, but what is important is that you need to have these forms already built.

OK, now you need to select Sync Configuration command to see result. But you can see that you have only two columns here in your list and this is not what you want. This is because, when system creates entity, views are created automatically but only with the main field plus Created On. But this is not problem as you just need to customize your view.

View customization

To customize view, you should go back to Power Apps and entity you previously created. There you need to select View tab and from the list of all view to select one you want to customize. In our case it is Active BC Employees.

When you open this view in edit mode, you need to add fields you want to see on your view. I’ll add Name, Surname, Address and City and resize it as I would like to see on the screen.

When you finish with adding and/or moving fields, you need to click first Save and after that Publish commands. Keep in mind that if you didn’t publish it you cannot use it.

Test

Now we can say we finished with everything. Go back to the Power Apps and choose Apps on the left-side pane. You will see completely list of your apps. Just choose app (portal) you just created. When you run it, choose the page we created and that’s it. You can see the window in portal with our data from Business Central.

Cloud Partner Competencies and Business Central

You are involved only in Business Central business and now you have Enterprise Resource Planning competency. But this competency is not in the cloud and if you want to get Cloud Business Application competency you can choose one of the options as a two different paths in achieving competencies:

  • Customer Engagements options
  • Unified Operations option

The first one is for CRM partners and the second one is in ERP. But when you read details, this is for Finance, Supply Chain Management, Retail and Talent (F&O) and all required exams are from F&O. If you want to continue only in Business Central and want cloud competency as Business Central is cloud product, you probably don’t know how you can fit with these requirements.

OK before I continue, I need to mention that this is my private text and it doesn’t represent Microsoft official statement, and this is not an announcement. Everything I’m writing here is based on Cecilia Flombaum presentation on the Microsoft Inspire a few days ago. If you want to see whole presentation, session is still available here (first part of presentation is mostly about Partner Contribution Indicator, but you can find BC details from cca 13:30).

She mentioned that we can expect a Business Central differentiation as well as Power Platform differentiation if you are focused only on one of these solutions. That will allow Business Central partner to achieve their silver and/or gold statuses in Cloud Business Application competency.

Currently we don’t know what will be required to achieve competency and statuses and if it will be connected with recently announced BC exam (probably yes).

But Business Central implementers will have one more opportunity – to achieve Small and Midsize Cloud Solutions competency through a Business Central differentiation opportunity. Probably there will be some differences i.e. slightly different threshold.

OK, this is everything we know for now. As sook as we have more information, you can find it on the Microsoft Partner Network.

What happened with CDS and what’s the hell is Dataflex?

Two days ago when we started with Microsoft Inspire, Charles Lamanna published new blog post about Introducing Microsoft Dataflex, a new low-code data platform for Microsoft Teams. But he also announced that Common Data Service has now been renamed to Microsoft Dataflex Pro… and everybody were confused.

What happened with CDS, what is Microsoft Dataflex and what is difference in comparison with Dataflex Pro? Many of people went to Wikipedia and found DataFlex there…

I will try to avoid any additional confusing on this topic and try to be very short and very clear.

First, DataFlex you found on Wikipedia doesn’t have anything with Microsoft Dataflex (& Pro). You can go there and read what it is, but this is not my topic.

As the second fact, Microsoft Dataflex Pro is Common Data Service. Nothing more and nothing less. This is just rebranding. You can see that we still have old URL with common-data-service there. If you know CDS, you will know Dataflex Pro. If don’t, you can find a lot of materials on Microsoft learning site… and I’ll highly recommend starting to learn it if you are doing with Microsoft BizApps.

As this rebranding can confuse, I tried to create one timeline with all these changes. I’m not 100% sure I didn’t miss something, but it will be more then enough to understand what happened here.

And not as a third topic – Microsoft Dataflex (without ‘Pro’). What it is and what it isn’t? This is built-in, low-code data platform for Teams, and it is built atop the Common Data Service (or to use new name, atop the Microsoft Dataflex Pro 😊). This tool will help Teams users to easily build custom apps inside. You will not need to leave Teams and to build everything inside it with really user-friendly UI. You can build apps using Dataflex as environment and together with Power Apps, Power Automate and Power Virtual Agents. And this is not full CDS… this is just a subset of Dataflex Pro capabilities and usage is limited to within Teams.

As I said I’ll be short, I don’t want to write details about it and I’ll just recommend to read Charles Lamanna blog post about it and to find some good presentations on Microsoft Inspire digital event: https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/introducing-microsoft-dataflex-a-new-low-code-data-platform-for-microsoft-teams/.

Business Central Certification Exam and more…

Yesterday on the first day of Microsoft Inspire (this year in digital format), we had an opportunity to see some long time waited news. We will finally have certification exam for Business Central. It will be MB-800 exam – Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central Functional Consultant and this exam will be available from October 2020. It will cover the following processes of implementation: set up Business Central, configure Financials, configure Sales and Purchasing, set up operations, and of course how to use Power Platform components. More about the exam here. When you pass this exam, you will become Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central Functional Consultant Associate.

But this is not all. We have more news in certifications. As Power Platform takes more and more spaces in solving business issues, we will get two new exams for Power Platform and they will be available from September 2020:

Business Central API’s and Available Methods

If you use API’s in Business Central, probably you found some limitations in methods, depending on API to API. Sometimes you can do more, sometime less. For example, with Accounts you can use only GET method (I still don’t understand why?), and so on…

You can find details about all of them here, but I prefer to have everything on one place as it will be easier to decide if I would use standard API or eventually I need to create the custom one. Because of that, I’ve made this matrix with all standard API’s and methods you can use with them:

Except these limitations, it would be nice to know that you have some other limits as well and they are important if you want to use API’s in some solutions. Even if those limits are high, they are still limits. For example, you can have maximum 600 requests per minute in production environment and 300 in sandbox. Complete list of limits is here.

And what is also important? If you are using those API’s through Power Platform (or Logic Apps) connectors, you should understand their actions and parameters. All details can be found here, but there is a table for better understanding:

It is important to mention that all that information are subject of change.

Business Central OnPrem vs Azure vs SaaS

A few last months constantly I see misunderstanding what Business Central SaaS offering is. To be honest I thought it is all well known, but often it is not a case. Because of that, I’ve readjusted standard IaaS vs PaaS vs SaaS chart and made it applicable to Business Central. I think this chart speaks for itself, but if someone needs additional info, you can send a question and I’ll add details.

Just to be clear, on the top level where we have Company Data, I think on using BC as a system through UI or API’s. That means you are master of your data. You need to be sure how you enter and post your documents. But if we talk about configuration of system, mostly it will be done by your partner, but again this is your decision (as customer) to find trusted partner to work with.

As this chart cannot offer completely picture, I’ve added one more. First one was all about technology, but the next one is about licensing and what is included in system.

*) One thing maybe not 100% clear from this chart is infrastructure subscription if you are using BC on Azure (IaaS model). If you want to use Business Central deployed on Azure infrastructure (no SaaS), you can use a few different models. First you (as customer) can have your own infrastructure (1 VM, 2 VM’2, or VM + Azure SQL). The second, you (as customer) can use partner infrastructure and in this case you can dedicated hardware or services to you (as if you use your own) or you can use shared resources (more cost effective). In this case, middle tier can be used for more clients, as well as Azure SQL database can be added to Azure Elastic Database Pool and to get better performances and better cost. You can find ideas how to make it here (and this is important especially if BC SaaS is not available in your country). And one more thing… if you are using model BC on Azure, cost for OS and SQL Server is included in HW Subscription.

I hope it is now far clearer, but again if you need any additional detail, just send a question.

Business Central Virtual Event – 2020 Wave 1

A couple days ago, we had an opportunity to participate first Business Central Virtual Event. This was good opportunity to see what is new in Business Central and the team during these times when we don’t have in person events (Directions Asia and Directions US are postponed to the end of this year).

With all existing and new features Business Central confirms that this solution is an important member of Dynamics 365 and Microsoft family, available for easy using and integration and collaboration with other systems through Azure cloud.

It is presented to us a new Business Central GM – Mike Morton, an experienced Microsoft leader, who introduce himself to the community as well as his first plans for Business Central. As important results he mentioned that now Business Central on cloud has 6000+ customers with 250+% YoY growth.

During this event we had a great opportunity to see some new features as well as to hear what is planned for the future releases. One of these great features planned in the next release is SmartList Designer – a great reporting tool inspired with GP tool and created in PowerApps. Further we could hear about new integration with teams as one of the most important integrations with other Microsoft products.

I don’t want to write about all features in this new release (2020 Wave 1), as you can find all details here. I just want to emphasize a few of these features. Finally, we have all languages available for using… and not only Microsoft official localizations, but also partner translations for much more countries. And one of my favorite features – integration with CDS; really great improvement which will have a huge impact on future implementation; I want to write independent blog post about this feature and this is a reason I don’t write here more. There is a lot of UI improvements (Collection of pages with already configured filters per pages, now you can bookmark reports as well, pages with two parallel lines, you can collapse or expand your lines on the page e.g. in CoA, personalization is really improved…). Finally, we can purchase resources… something partners developed in the past, but now available by default. Many great development improvements as well as on the server/database side (e.g. database read-only replica for reports, API pages, and query objects).

You still can find active session for this virtual event with 15 recorded presentations.

Dynamics 365 Sales Professional vs Sales Enterprise

In my previous post (video), you could learn how to create Dynamics 365 Sales Professional demo environment. If you are experienced with Dynamics CRM solutions you can recognize differences between this solution and enterprise version, but if you are newbie I would like to introduce you with all differences you can find there.

03-What-is-Dynamics-365-for-Sales-Professional

On the first place, we can split them to the two types of clients:

  • Dynamics 365 Sales Enterprise – full sales capabilities
  • Dynamics 365 Sales Professional – core sales functions at a reduced rate for businesses with simpler sales force needs

But if you want more details and especially if you need to promise something to your client, you should have details. Let’s start with details. First list is list of all features Dynamics 365 Sales Enterprise has, and Sales Professional has not:

  • Access via Portal or API
    • Non-employees only: Work Orders
    • Non-employees only: Opportunities
  • Entities (Create, Update, Delete)
    • Max 15 Custom Entities
    • Competitors
    • Embedded Intelligence
    • Forecasting
    • Product Families
    • Product Hierarchies
    • Product Relationships
    • Quick Campaigns
    • Sales Goals
    • Sales Hub
    • Sales Literature
    • Territories
  • Entities (Actions)
    • Business card scanning as add-on (10 users/month: pooled at tenant level)
    • Business Units (Define and Configure)
    • Knowledgebase (create, update, publish, configure, search)
    • Teams (Define and Configure)
  • General System Use (Actions)
    • Max 5 customized Business Processes Flows
    • Max 2 customized Forms and Views per entity
    • Max 15 custom Workflows
    • Max 5 custom reports, charts, and dashboards
    • Without custom system reports, charts, and dashboards
  • Additional Services and Software
    • Dynamics 365 Gamification (Player & Admin)
    • Microsoft Forms Pro
    • Microsoft PowerApps
    • Dynamics 365 Sales Insights
    • Max 10 ISV solutions

If your conclusion is that Sales Professional doesn’t have a lot of features it is not a true. Sales Professional has a pretty big number of very good features and it can cover probably the most of SMB company requests.

But let’s add some of advantages of Sales Professional. This list is maybe not so big, but quality of this list is more important than quantity:

  • Price: full price is 65$ and this is 30$ less then enterprise version
  • Attach license to Business Central; if you already have Business Central, you need to pay only 20$ for license. As you already have integration in Business Central with D365 Sales, it is a real benefit both a price and functionalities.
  • UI is better (mostly in configuration) as this is intended for SMB customers.

If you need core CRM functionalities and solution easy to implement, Sales Professional is the right solution for you, but if you need all CRM functionalities you should choose Sales Enterprise.

As I see Sales Professional as a great opportunity for small companies and especially for those who already use Business Central, I’ll be focused on this solutions with the following posts (probably mostly videos).