Unified Interface – What does it mean for me?

The face of Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement is changing with the introduction of buildable Unified Interface apps. But what’s happening and why would you consider it?

As discussed in a previous post you can create hubs or apps for Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement in the latest releases, hereby referred to as the Unified Interface. You can find my earlier post on this here; What’s the Hub-bub? Create Dynamics 365 Apps for your business – fresh from the Business Applications Summit here are some of the updates I can share (though not exhaustive).

The Unified Interface can provide a responsive user experience for Model Driven Apps, allowing access to rich visualizations with custom controls, based on a consistent and responsive UI – be it web or mobile. Built on modular app based functionality sets that are aligned to PowerApps.

“Accessibility” is the keyword for the direction of the Unified Interface and its associated road map.

We have already established that using an app built-in the Unified Interface allows us to only show users parts of Dynamics that are important to them – which has been an age-old problem for many. Using a specific site map we can add entities, process flows, views and dashboard.

One of the key things for administrators is the ability to move away from the “vertical scroll” which was enforced with the release of Dynamics CRM 2013 (collective cheering from users) and produce forms that promote data and content “above the fold” – much more suited to most devices and use cases.

Some of the topics covered at the Business Applications Summit 2018 included;

Refreshed Capability: Grid visualizations in a list view has been added along with;

  • Custom Control for grids (think calendar view) and lists
  • Semantic zoom – jump to tabs and views making navigation on a mobile device
  • PCF control for Reference Panels (on per form), and add sub-grids, quick view forms and web resources
  • Timeline Control introduced to replace the activity list, along with filtering capability.
  • Responsive design – scaled responsively for devices allowing a consistent experience
  • Additional Chart types – Donut and Tag charts for the UI
  • Task Flows – take a user through a data entry/updated process for a mobile device based on task flows which are assembled like a Business Process Flow (BPFs also supported)
  • Grouping and Filtering of grid views (list views)

Extensibility: You can provide custom visualizations using a rich API, with extensibility to be provided on building custom frameworks.  Previous form restrictions for mobile – 75 fields and 10 sub-grid tabs have been removed. Which is perfect for a consistent user experience.

Mind the Gaps: Currently there are gaps between capability/functionality available in the Unified Interface vs. the Web Client, those items not currently included in the Unified Interface highlighted are as follows…

  • Advanced Find
  • Bulk Edit
  • Merge Records
  • Record Sharing
  • Personal Options
  • Creating a Personal View
  • Creating Email Templates with Dynamic Slugs
  • Composite Address Fields
  • Personal Charts and Dashboards
  • Chart Drill Down
  • Trigger/Run Workflows
  • Chart Control for Sub-grids (Chart only option)
  • Create/Edit Duplicate Detection Jobs
  • Admin settings/experience

Hybrid Client Use: Hybrid Experiences are used for functionality not yet compatible with the Unified Interface, this relies on the classic web UI, but navigates you back to the Unified Interface when selecting records to avoid “leak” to the classic client. The Hybrid experience is to be “opt in – opt out” in your system settings.

Microsoft are committed to updates using the hybrid release approach, the indication is at the time of writing;

Hybrid Use (from Aug 2018)

  • Advance Find
  • Record Sharing
  • Bulk Edit
  • Merge Records
  • Personal Settings

Hybrid Use (from October 2018)

  • Run SSRS Reports
  • Personal Dashboards and charts

SidebySideUI

Unified Interface by Default: All current Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement instances running version 9.0 are able to run a side by side experience. In coming releases side by side is to be switched off.

New customers to Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement will be on-boarded with Unified Interface as default in coming releases (post August 2018).

Scenarios for new customers

The good news for existing customers is that the use of the classic or web client can be phased out, as the functionality/capability gaps are closed. Microsoft will be examining their telemetry data for the platform to understand when it is feasible to end the life-cycle for the classic web UI.

Making the Switch:

The switch to the Unified Interface does not need to be immediate and there is a high level road map for the transition between a hybrid experience and a full Unified Interface experience for Dynamics 365.

UI_roadmap

So the “why” at this point for administrators is that eventually the classic web UI will be phased out in future releases, though not a hard stop, it is necessary to plan roll-outs based on the user roles and functionality they need. Some will be easier than others.

From an end-user point of view, well the experience is better; it offers that consistent experience across devices, easy to find data, easier to navigate – easier on the eye! 🙂 and allows forms that make use of custom controls and traditional components.

You can create a version of Dynamics 365 that is much simpler and much more tailored to the roles in your organization. Along with the themed branding it can feel more like a custom app created for your organization.

From a system’s perspective it is worth embracing the change and making sure that you can phase the roll-out with sufficient planning and testing time. The Unified Interface is also used for anyone developing modular driven apps (second party) and the Common Data Service.

Microsoft are encouraging users and the community to contact the product team to help fine tune the roll-out based on the adoption of current functionality here; unifiedfeedback@microsoft.com or go to the ideas portal for anything new.

There is more on the roadmap for Dynamics 365 here; https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/business-applications-release-notes/october18/

You can’t fight the future right? Have fun and happy app making!

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What’s the Hub-bub? Create Dynamics 365 Apps for your business

One of the most exciting updates to the latest version of Dynamics 365 has been the ability to define Custom Apps for your solutions. But what are they and what can they do for you?

For those who have been involved in the implementation of Dynamics solutions for a while, a bug bear of many an end user is the quality of the user experience and functions exposed to the web user interface. Previously we could tinker with the site map and add custom web resources to try and present a pretty face, but the advent of Dynamics 365 Apps gives the functionality available a much needed shot in the arm.

What is a Dynamics 365 App?

In Dynamics 365 we can add custom business apps that involve solution components such as entities, dashboards, forms, views, charts and business process flows. The use of these components are defined within the App Designer as is the sitemap for the App itself with “artifacts” such as; entities, dashboards and business process flows defined with their related “assets” – forms, views etc.

An App can be accessed using the traditional web client or using a unified interface (or hub).

AppDesigner01

What is a Hub?

Some of the key functionality available in Dynamics 365 have been packaged up in some pre-defined apps called “Hubs”, the hubs available depend on your subscriptions however the following are available at the time of writing;

  • Customer Service Hub
  • Sales Hub
  • Field Resource Hub
  • Project Resource Hub

A Hub can be accessed for the web – directly from the Dynamics 365 homepage of Office 365 and the content can also be accessed as part of the new mobile and tablet experience for Dynamics 365 v9.

Utilizing the unified interface hubs give a fresh and focused experience to your Dynamics solution.

ServiceHub

What can I do with them?

It is possible to both configure the existing apps/hubs out of the box and also create your own to suit your organizational needs. Apps can be added to a solutions and also created from components included in a solution.

The main thing from a Dynamics 365 users’ perspective is that the use of unified interface in your app makes your average CRM/xRM more sexy – visually at least, and as a system administrator/customizer you can reduce the amount of ‘noise’ encountered by your users in the solution and instead focus on what is important for their role. Assets such as; forms and views can be configured specifically for the unified interface from your D365 solution and can be filtered using the App Designer. If they don’t use an entity, view or process, don’t add it!

When a business process flow is available it is displayed with stages at top of the record form with the fields displayed as ‘fly-out’ panel on click. The image below is a comparison side by side, with the unified interface on the left and Dynamics 365 v9 web interface on the right.

hubvcrm.png

You can use the “My Apps” area to find both your Apps as well as launch the App Designer and manage security roles that can be used to access the App. Simply toggle the roles you need to be associated or removed from the app.

MyApps

My Apps view in D365 via; Settings > Application >My Apps

Here you can also apply a URL suffix for your app, for example – https://yourcrm.crm.dyanmics.com/apps/servicehub  allowing users to easily bookmark the app in their browser.

As briefly mentioned earlier the recent updates to the mobile and tablet app for Dynamics 365 means we can select our app/hub as a mobile user, this can bring continuity where required to the user experience. In our example, the same business process flow is displayed when mobile as it is in the unified interface (see below).

Screenshot_20180213-103322    Screenshot_20180213-103732

Custom controls can be added to form fields, and used both in the mobile device and unified interfaces to give you even more bang for your buck.

For new implementations the use of custom apps can be a great selling point, for existing users it could be a value add to their user experience, elevating the often bland perception of the standard interface – this will differ depending on the level of comfort for change within user groups. For many, with the smart look and feel and the use of timeline and custom controls, this is a welcome step into a whole new world of UX with Dynamics 365.

There is more information on creating a custom app here (via the CRM Software Blog).

Give it a try! 🙂

 

Add some style to your CRM Solution with icons from Metro Studio

If, like me you are borderline OCD with your CRM solutions (not just the functionality but the user experience) then you probably pay an unhealthy amount of attention to the icons you include, well fear not fellow obsessives – Metro Studio by the guys at SyncFusion can help reduce the anxiety. 🙂

If you haven’t already used Metro Studio, it is a great free tool that allows you to access a collection of over 4,000  icon templates that can be easily customised within a nifty UX and exported for use in your CRM solutions or App’s. You can download the latest version (Metro Studio v3) here: http://www.syncfusion.com/downloads/metrostudio

The simple drag and drop interface allows you to quickly navigate or search through the icon library and add selected items to a project folder. The icons fit perfectly within the Dynamics CRM or Windows 8/8.1 application look an feel.

Metro_1

Once you have opened or created your project then you can manipulate the size, colour, padding and background to you icon then export to a folder directory in the format of your choice. You can then add the icons as a Web Resource in your CRM solution, (for more information on web resources see this MSDN article: https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg309473.aspx). Enjoy!

Metro_3

Gamification in CRM

Lately one of the areas I am hearing more about and getting asked more questions around has been “Gamification” in CRM, something that is especially useful to Sales and Service driven organisations (such as contact centres for example).

What is gamification you might ask? Well in short is the a term given to the use of game mechanics or ‘thinking’ in a non-game context to engage users of staff in problem solving or to help increase contribution. The idea is that you can align user output with a particular set of goals and rules in a structured way, whilst motivating the user or users to get involved.

Gamification has been widely applied in marketing too for example over 70% of Forbes Global 2000 companies surveyed in 2013 said they planned to use gamification for the purposes of marketing and/or customer retention.

Techniques:

Gamification techniques strive to leverage people’s natural desires for socialising, learning, mastery, competition, achievement, status, self-expression or closure. Early gamification strategies used rewards for players who accomplish desired tasks or completion to engage players. The same principles can be applied to a corporate CRM instances as that of a leisure activity such as running/jogging – see Zombies, Run! https://www.zombiesrungame.com/

Examples of the application of this concept can be found in the typical contact centre environment by using targeted KPIs (key performance indicators) such as inbound calls taken (volume), average call waiting, average call time etc. and applying gameful experience to achieving those targets, supplemented by elements such as leader boards and/or incentives.

For an insight into engaging people by introducing fun, check out this video on YouTube by Mario Herger: http://youtu.be/v2PIsksNLPk

Dynamics CRM:

In Dynamics CRM gamification could be promoted using Sales and Service Dashboards to render “Top 5 Performers” etc. but there is greater scope with an organisations CRM dataset to widen the parameters of what can be achieved and the user experience involved by using additional ISV solutions such as; “Hurrah!” and “Motivation Engine” by CRM Gamified: http://crmgamified.com/motivation-engine/

You can use gamification to drive areas such as:

  • Improved case resolution times
  • Improved sales performance
  • Increase system user adoption
  • Improve the standards of data captured in CRM
  • Activity tracking

A simple, practical example could be to use gamification in CRM to drive an improvement in the quality of data captured by the customer service team around customer contact details, such as email addresses – this could then directly benefit your marketing team as they have an increases pool of accurate email address to send marketing emails to.

It’s a concept that is well worth considering from an employee and customer perspective, if you are heading to Convergence 2015 in Atlanta, you can find CRM gamified at exhibitor booth 169.

Gamified1

CRMGamified – Motivation Engine