A Look at Dynamics 365 Apps

You’re probably used to hearing the term “App” to describe an application.

It’s a nice and simple way of saying application, almost a buzzword, that spawned with the rise of mobile devices. And like mobile application, the smaller word just seems appropriate given how mobile apps are all smaller than things we’re traditionally called applications on desktop computer. As is typically the case with such popular and catchy words, those with a keen sense of sales and marketing quickly sought out how they could use it wherever possible.

When used everywhere it opens to door to for confusion when people talking about specific things they associate with “apps”. Are “apps” only for mobile? What about on tablets? How “big” is an “app” versus an application?  With Dynamics 365 client Engagement, also called XRM, the confusion can be quite real with the term “app” now being thrown out left and right in many parts of the platform.

Let’s do a quick rundown of these and clear the air and learn more about how they are applied and used.

Apps for Mobile

Since the term was born form the rise of smartphones, it only makes sense to start here first. Flipping a coin, I’ll start with Android first. This was easy enough to find without confusion.

Now how about on iOS App Store and I get…multiple?

This is certainly confusing…which one should be used?

The first one is simply “Microsoft Dynamics 365”. This is the actual CRM app by Microsoft that provides the closest possible Dynamics 365 Client Engagement experience possible on a mobile device. I use the phrase “closest possible” because it doesn’t quite provide all of the options available when accessing CRM from a web browser. These differences are intended to be resolved in the future by way of the Unified Interface, which is still being developed.

Now that I brought up the word “Unified”, it only makes the second available app choice more confusing. “Dynamics 365 Unified Ops” is not Dynamics 365 Unified. This is actually the mobile version of the Dynamics 365 ERP application for finance and operations. It’s a large enough application by itself and its best that it’s separate from the CRM application. It’s not something most CRM users use, nor is it something they will want to have their smartphone hardware weighed down with.

Apps for Outlook

The tie between Outlook and Dynamics CRM has long been one of the primary deciding factors in choosing Microsoft Dynamics CRM over other products thanks to the functions available through the CRM add-in for Outlook.

This is planned to be replaced with the Dynamics 365 App for Outlook as part of the move towards a unified client.

Calling this an “app” is somewhat of a stretch. In either form, this is still an add-in and not a standalone running application. Microsoft had planned to deprecate the older add-in with the next major release, version 10, but backtracked in January 2018, announcing that the older add-in would remain.

Why the change of plans?

In what could be a textbook example, it was again proven that while users are accepting of the fact that “apps” on mobile will be lightweight with less features, the will flat out refuse to accept this direction when it comes to desktop PC applications. Microsoft received an overwhelming negative response from customers on having to switch to an Outlook add-in that lacked the features important to them. The plans to deprecate the current add-in are now on hold until the Dynamics 366 App for Outlook has the core features demanded.

Microsoft’s statement and additional information are available here: https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/crm/2018/01/29/continued-support-for-outlook-add-in-dynamics-365-for-outlook/

App Modules for Dynamics 365 (PowerApps)

When logged to Dynamics 365 there is the option in the “Dynamics 365” drop down that takes you to https://home.dynamics.com. Scrolling down, you will be presented with a box grid of available PowerApps based “apps” and once again these are not standalone applications, but add-ons using Microsoft PowerApps. A good argument could be made to simply stick to calling these “PowerApps” and avoid any confusion.

PowerApps are unique in that they are small, easy to make and share, and work across different Microsoft applications using Microsoft Flow. For example, a button to automatically generate an email for a new case approval and then, if approved, create the new case in CRM. This page may be confusing for some as it tracks PowerApps install across the organization and all applications you’re may see repeating sets of the same app boxes.

Microsoft AppSource

Need more apps? Well you’re in luck because the PowerApps list on the Dynamics home page is just to the tip of the iceberg. You may have noticed some boxes have a giant circle plus icon with text “Find more apps that work with Dynamics 365”. Click on one of these and you’ll get a popup for Microsoft AppSource, then click “Apps” on the top left corner to left of “My organization”

Here you’ll get a large selection of apps, basically an application store similar to the ones available on iOS and Android smartphones. A good number of these are developed by third-party partners and require purchase, while others are free. Keep in mind that free apps will carry no promise of future support. It is recommended one shop carefully on here to make sure the app fully works on Dynamics 365 version 9, and if the app is a paid purchase, comes with some promise of support.

Also keep in mind that you don’t have to go through the Dynamics or Office 365 login and home page to reach AppSource. You can go directly using this link: https://appsource.microsoft.com/en-us/ and sign in there. Going to this page will not only show you apps Dynamics 365, but for all the Office 365 products as well. Given that a good number of apps work between multiple Dynamics and Office products, Outlook in particular, searching for apps on here will yield more applications that could be potentially useful to your organization.

The scope and size of these apps can vary greatly. Some are small extensions, such as a QR code generator, or an event planner. Larger and more sophisticated applications are mainly in the “featured” apps section at the top. Among these are a system health for care coordination system and for another IT asset management.

Like with smartphone stores, there is the enviable flood of adware and “junk” apps, such as emoji collections, or an app to send eGift cards for a major coffee restaurant chain, all with virtually no support or any kind of quality assurance. While a number of these may look appealing, they really don’t bring anything of real value and just bog down your system with distractions that can lead to user frustration. Even worse, you could end up inadvertently helping a competitor collect data. Your CRM system should only be working to help you.

Custom Apps Through a Dynamics Partner

The option of creating custom applications specified tailored for your organization is always available. Going this route will give you more control and not have to deal with trying to shoehorn an application that “almost fits” your needs.

There’s no need for hiring or training your own software developers for this. A good Dynamics Partner like KTL Solutions has the knowledge and experience to handle the legwork of development and support. KTL Solutions understands that every organization is unique with its challenges and needs.  Our experience working with hundreds of clients will provide best practices, recommend improvements, and software customizations you need to help your business succeed.

 

 

 

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