If you are reading this blog post that means you have taken the brave step of modifying your Dynamics 365 (CRM) organization to fit your business needs. I specifically mention configuration and not customization because of the capabilities of the platform Dynamics 365 (which will be probably be re-named as Power Apps platform).
There are a lot of reasons for customizing CRM like adding new fields, updating drop-down options available in an optionset field, modifying the look and feel of the form, creating new tabs of information on a form, creating new views and so on. All such requests would fall under the configuration of CRM without code. Even if you wanted to create a new custom entity to track business specific data then that too would fall under the no code customization category.
Creating an Unmanaged Solution
So where do we start with the process? As a system customizer you would want to package all the changes you are going to be making in the system into a solution (an unmanaged solution). You will have to navigate to Settings->Solutions and create a new solution.
Creating a new solution here would create it as an unmanaged solution where you can add an existing entity you would like to modify or create a new entity. As you can see in the below screenshot, the new solution has been renamed PowerApps (this will become the future of Dynamics 365 customization/configuration, more on that in another blog). You can also see that you can create a new entity, option set, dashboard, process, report, templates etc. The same options are available when clicking on the Add Existing button.
Creating a New Entity
Let’s start by creating a new entity called Vendor. There are a lot of options available when creating a new entity and some of these choices become permanent so review them thoroughly before saving some of these options. You can also just leave things as is and go with the default options to start quickly.
This step of creating a new entity does a lot of things: creates pre-determined fields on the custom entity, basic views and forms for you to modify further, enables mobile access, makes it available in the sitemap/menu, sets it up for security and a lot more options. Behind the scenes, it creates a table in the database, fields, setup security etc. just by clicking a few buttons and filling out some fields.
Let’s say you already have a field which allows the user to select drop-down options and you want to modify them or add new options. Let’s walk all the way through this example.
Navigate to Settings -> Customizations-> Customize the System. Once you open the settings for the option set then you can change the existing value or add a new one by selecting the + button.
Simple changes like these are made with just a few clicks but there a few other ones which require more effort in terms of setting up the customization, like an entity where you must decide whether it’s an activity entity, allow connections etc. Here you can also create processes/workflows which can automate some actions within the system. A workflow can send an email, create a record for an entity or update the values on a related record. A workflow within Dynamics is a powerful tool, it can be used to perform a lot of actions which will make the life of the users easy in that some of their tasks are automatically completed.
Reporting is another important part of any system. Even in Dynamics you get multiple options to set up your reporting, you can use views to provide simple column & row reporting with filtering and search capabilities. Dynamics has also introduced grouping editable views which provide more flexibility in reporting for the system. Besides the views you can use dashboards, charts, reports and Power BI reports to present data to the system users. The reports can be built using SSRS and Power BI. All the views, charts and reports can be combined in dashboards so the user can get all their information and analytics in one place. All these components of reporting are customizable and configurable, so this becomes an integral part of the customization for Dynamics.
Integrating with Microsoft Products
Besides the inbuilt customization available with Dynamics CRM there are a lot of options available with integration using other Microsoft products like Flow, Forms, SharePoint, Exchange, PowerApps. A lot of customization options become available with Flow when you want to integrate Dynamics with other systems. Using Microsoft Flow, you can create records in Dynamics whenever actions occur in other systems or perform an action in other systems based on triggers within CRM.
For example, when a tweet is made on twitter for a certain hashtag or regarding your account then Flow can evaluate the sentiment of the tweet and create either a lead or a case with Dynamics. If a file is uploaded into OneDrive then Flow will appropriately associate that file to a record in Dynamics. You can create a data warehouse from all the transactional data that is being captured within Dynamics using Azure and then create your reporting environment using SSRS or Power BI. You can also leverage Azure to store files and link them back to Dynamics CRM records or perform logic and scheduled jobs in Dynamics CRM using Azure functions.
Besides the customization options that are available within Dynamics CRM, there are lot of outside apps like the ones created by Microsoft partners and community tools like XrmToolbox which allow you to customize Dynamics CRM. You can find custom workflow plugins and actions with Dynamics available from the Microsoft partner community which would require you to perform code customizations. Microsoft has made a lot of investment within its Dynamics 365 products and so has the Microsoft partner community. This allows you to use Dynamics as a true platform and perform low-code to no-code solutions to meet your business needs.
Give KTL a Call
The world of customization and configuration can be confusing. Where do you use code? Where don’t you? As a gold-certified Microsoft partner, KTL Solutions is here to help. We can customize your solutions to meet your business needs. On top of that, we also provide training so you can use every aspect of your systems.
Ready to move your business forward? Give KTL a call. We’re happy to help.