I really enjoy the early phases of new greenfield Microsoft Business Applications projects. It might be delivering a fixed scope project with expected outputs already defined. It might be formulating and documenting new requirements for a truly agile project. Fundamentally however, it’s about getting into the minds of business users, perhaps building some SFDs and mapping the technology to participants, perhaps unknown, wants and needs. Continue reading “Five Tips for Running Remote Discovery Workshops during a Pandemic”
There are a myriad of new features being released to Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform right now. It’s tempting to try out new features and, perhaps push a new feature through to production if you or your customer is willing or agile enough. For some larger organisations however, there’s more of an importance placed on standards and governance than ensuring the continued agility of getting new features and new applications quickly to production.
But how do, or how should Enterprise Architecture standards apply to those of us who have invested our time in these newfangled Power Platform based solutions. How can we ensure an organisations approach is both agile and structured?
A lot has been said and written about ‘Portals’ since Microsoft bought ADX Studio in 2015. If you are unaware of the background, ADX Studio at the time was the de-facto market leader and default solution for building portals to front and expose data from Dynamics CRM.
With the ADX Studio product being built in a configurable way, it seemed like a good acquisition from Microsoft. This was a departure from earlier acquisitions of technically different products which had to be integrated to Dynamics – see Parature (cough) or Marketing Pilot (splutter), which have since died a slow death. ADX Studio was a product that, on the face of it, could more easily integrate and slot in to the new approach.
Since 2015, Microsoft has been on a journey to integrate and extend this old ADX codebase onto what has since become Dynamics 365 and, more recently, the Power Platform. ADX Studio in its old form – a .NET website and configurable code framework – is now effectively dead* – the Microsoft shift to the cloud is nearing completion, with new features being added regularly. Continue reading “PowerApps and Dynamics Portals Design Decisions”
A few months ago I met an old colleague – let’s call him Ben, and we got talking. He is an experienced Microsoft developer now working on a greenfield Dynamics 365 project. He’d picked Dynamics up quickly after a few months training and upskilling himself, and had a good grasp of the platforms functionality and extensibility techniques. Our conversation went something like this :
Him : I’m working on a potential 200 seat project for <financial organisation> for a Sales Process. I’m going to automatically create a lead when my custom entity changes status and allocate it to the correct sales manager.
Me : Are the sales guys using Leads at the minute or how are they tracking leads outside of D365 – spreadsheets / access / onenote?
Him : Not sure, but that’s what’s going to happen – the Business Analysts have already modelled it in our new process flow diagrams. Once the lead is qualified, we need a trigger to create a case against the related account so another team can track the lead.
Me : What is the purpose of the case? Are you sure you need to use the case entity here?
Him : It’s mainly just for tracking purposes, but the new process says we might need the ability to merge cases sometime in the future. I’ve nailed the security model for cases and leads based on our to-be business units. Dynamics is great for that.
Me : Ok,it’s good you are thinking about security. Have you considered the licences each of these users might need alongside the security rules?
Him : No, that’s not my department, my manager deals with that, I just have to design and build the solution before year end. Licences are in next year’s budget. The project needs to save the company £200k per year by year two.
Me : Hmm. Let’s discuss this in more detail.
The conversation with Ben got me thinking about my approach to initiating projects and how my approach to development and design has evolved over the years across a variety of software projects. Methodologies included :
There’s a lot of talk about software delivery methodologies these days. To those not constantly reading the latest 400+ page textbooks on methodologies, it can be quite hard to keep up.
Agile methodologies such as Scrum can be great, but to work optimally they require a fair amount of education for all stakeholders involved, which is not always practical. Waterfall is considered by many as old hat, but lots of successful projects are still delivered this way. Hybrid methodologies can also work and can work practically and commercially. What is more important, across whatever methodology you use, are the techniques you use as part of these methodologies to define solutions and deliver real business outcomes.
There is a technique that I like to use which is ideally suited to Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform. It’s a great technique because:
- It helps you gather real requirements aligned to the technology. We shouldn’t pretend to understand what someone else is imagining about a technology they have never seen before and try to make it fit.
- It starts you thinking about the end-game very early in the process.
- It helps you learn new technologies and capabilities as they are released.
- By virtue of this techniques name, you are setting the bar quite low, so risk of embarrassing yourself is minimal (although conversely, partial failure here may be a very good thing).
- It can provide valuable insight into estimates for future tasks.
It’s called the Shitty First Draft, hereby referred as an SFD.
As Microsoft Practice Lead for Codec in UK and Northern Ireland, I’m regularly thinking how Codec has grown a Microsoft Dynamics practice from a small team of 2 people to over 100 Microsoft ‘Power Platform‘ Consultants, in little over four years. In the past two years, our Belfast team has experienced rapid growth with exciting plans to grow further. Building teams at such a rate can challenge any company of any size, but Codec’s success has not come around by accident or luck.
To gain an insight into some of the factors that have helped Codec become both Microsoft Ireland partner of the year and Microsoft Dynamics partner of the year in successive years, here are some of the principles we’ve adopted in Belfast, and across the Codec group, to ensure that we stay the best at what we do. Continue reading “Building a Power Platform Dream Team”
The hills are alive, with the sound of people downloading the new Microsoft Dynamics 365 Licensing Guide October 2018, just released today! Ok, so apart from me, most people don’t get too excited about software licensing, but there are some fundamental changes coming for Microsoft Dynamics customers, so be aware. You’d better set aside a day or two to fully digest and understand the changes,. If you haven’t got the time to do so, read on for my highlights. Continue reading “Dynamics 365 CE Licensing Guide Changes October 2018”
Over the past few days, I’ve spent some time doing a deep dive into the Unified Client Interface – it seems like most people have now settled on calling it UCI. I have been trying to work out some ‘better practices’ for user centered design, with the aim of improving user adoption for those users inclined, or perhaps directed, to use it.
Microsoft are clearly working towards a User Centered design through the very fact that the new interface exists and the principles they have implemented so far. Ultimately though, the user experience will be as good or bad as the decisions you make when, as a Dynamics customiser or partner, you configure it.
In April 2017 I attended SummitEMEA in Amsterdam and listened intently when Matt Barbour told us that a true Microsoft Dynamics XRM image – i.e. a CRM organisation instance with only accounts, contacts, activities and nothing else – existed internally within Microsoft. This interested me as partners have been calling out for this since the old CRM 4.0 on-premise days. At that time it seemed there were no immediate plans to do anything with it.
Fast forward one year, and this time closer to home in SummitEMEA in Dublin, April 2018 and Matt Barbour again moved the conversation on a country mile or three. I discovered that XRM no longer officially exists in name, but does exist in practice and has been renamed PowerApps. So, how does this work? Continue reading “PowerApps is dead. Long live XRMPowerApps.”
I spent some time watching the some of the Microsoft Ignite sessions on YouTube, and the most interesting from a Dynamics point of view was Matt Barbour’s session looking at platform updates for Dynamics 365 Customer Edition v9.
One thing that was not disclosed at the preview sessions earlier this year was the addition of Auto Numbering for any entity – not just a few select core entities. From the screenshot Matt put up explaining how they are created in C#, it was enough to see how they were defined, so I wrote a web resource to allow users to create these without any code.
To download and see how it works find full instructions can be found on the Dynamics 365 Heroes blog. Hopefully this will not be required for too long as I would expect the native UI to be updated in a minor rather than a major update.
Any questions, let me know!