Friday, 25 November 2016

Dynamics 365 for Operation, PowerApps, Common Data Model and mobile apps

A lot has been going on in the field of Dynamics AX - in the spring, AX7 got renamed to "The New Microsoft Dynamics" but by November 2016 AX7 was released as Dynamics 365 for Operation as "the evolution of Dynamics AX on Azure". 

Some of us perhaps remember "Project Green" back around 2007. Project Green was rumored to combine or merge the at that time vastly different business applications in the MS portfolio. An article from 2007 by Mary Jo Foley gave us some insights:
"Green was Microsoft's plan to unify its four ERP applications. Initially, Microsoft officials said Green would culminate in a single, Microsoft-branded ERP product that would take the best features of the existing four ERP products and meld them together. Before Microsoft got to that point, according to the Green roadmap, the Micrososft Business Solutions team would roll out new "waves" of its existing ERP products that used shared elements, such as a common workflow engine and business-intelligence tools." (reference)
Does it sound familiar to the products we now have? But wait there is more:

"The plan of record -- even though Microsoft no longer refers to it publicly as "Green" -- is to introduce at some point in the next decade [my emphasis] a round of releases of its ERP products where Microsoft's four ERP lines all look and feel remarkably similar, he said.
Ultimately, "we could have Dynamics without the little (GP, AX, SL and NAV) appendages [my emphasis]," Utzschneider said."(reference)
Well, there you have it - or at least it could be interpreted as "Project Green" finally saw the light of day with the release of the Dynamics 365 suite. The referenced article is from 2007 so the "decade" was not far off.

Alongside the release of Dynamics 365 for Operations - D365O - a plethora of other products got released that in some way or the other integrate with D365O pretty much out-of-the box. These product are referred to as the application platform (reference)

The Common Data Model (CDM) is a data store that offers a consolidated set of data sourced, via an entity model, from across the enterprise (reference) and PowerApps can build on data consolidated from the various system of records in an enterprise - system of records being the phrase used most often to describe the "old" Dynamics ERP products, when the lack of intelligence-offerings is contrasted to the capabilities of the newest version, i.e. Dynamics 365.

PowerApps is a generic framework for building apps for any device - it is super easy to use and it literally took me less than 45 min to go from "Hmm - I wonder how this PowerApps work" to I published my customized app to my iPhone that showed real data from my D365O instance. That is pretty amazing and a huge leap from the capabilities of the previous versions of AX.

While CDM offers consolidating options, if you just need to build a mobile app for you D365O instance, there is a little trick to get the mobile customization option.

Normally the URL looks like this:
And the Settings offer the usual options:
But if you add a small snippet to the end of the URL :


a new option appears in the Settings:

If you then open a list page and click the Mobile app you can create a mobile app drawing on the data from that particular page:

Add a page and select the fields that you want to present on your page in the app

When you press the Select fields you can select fields directly from the overview grid by pressed the '+' icon next to the field:

Super easy to populate and you even the type of the field from the grid.

When you are done with customizing the app you get the option of publishing or exporting your workspace:

And you created your first workspace app.

So, there are many new features and products in the Dynamics 365 product portfolio and there are many areas to explore business wise and tech wise with the increased application platform. 

The public roadmap is always worth to watch

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