This is my fourth blog relating to new features with the Spring Release of Dynamics 365 (July 2017).
My previous blogs can be found here:
Please note any pictures are taken from the Dynamics 365 Preview Executive Briefing which can be found at the following link (by CRM Innovation). All information contained in this blog is a summary of the Mobile Experience presentation on the first (of three) days of the briefing – there are still a lot of unknowns at this point so please bear with me!
This blog follows on nicely from Blog 2 as the Mobile App is based on the new Unified Interface
Dynamics 365 – A mobile history of time
The Mobile App for Dynamics CRM has come along way since 2012; previously – Dynamics CRM 2011 only had the Mobile Express forms for Mobiles/Tablets which would eventually be replaced with the Dynamics 365 for Phones/Mobile that we use today. There are third party add-on products such as Recsco or CWR (which has now been acquired by Resco) which were primarily chosen (at additional cost) for mobile access to Dynamics CRM data.
The Mobile Express Client provided by Microsoft for Dynamics CRM allowed licensed users to access their Dynamics CRM data on the move. To set up the Entities for Mobile Express use – the Mobile Express forms would have to be customized (separately to the main forms) and you where generally limited to what you could achieve on them:
- Read Only/Create/Edit records
- Few buttons (Create/Edit/Delete/Save) with no ribbon
- All Views where shown (but just the first two columns of each View)
- No JS/Web resources on forms
- Cannot execute On Demand Workflows or Dialogues
- No Offline availability
- No filtering
- Poor Lookup functionality
- No Dedicated App – just a different page would be displayed on the devices browser (m.orgname.crm.dynamics.com)
Dedicated Apps for Phones/Tablet
Microsoft finally announced dedicated Mobile Apps with the release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013. There were separate apps for the following device types:
- Windows 8.0/8.1
If you had Dynamics CRM online or an IFD configuration – then you could use the Apps.
The Apps provided a more streamlined way for Users to view, edit and create new data in Dynamics CRM. They could look at the Sales Dashboard and interact with the Business Process Flows on the Case/Opportunity and Custom entities.
The early version of the MOCA framework appears here and the development principle was coined:
Design once and deploy across clients.
The introduction of the Tablet/Phone Forms was separated out from the layout of the Web Client Forms by re-rendering Form components for a Mobile device based on a set layout.
New functionality was added to the Mobile App:
- Business Process Flows could be progressed
- Views could be shown (with more than two columns
- Charts could be displayed
- Lookups could search for records
There were how ever some limitations imposed (some of which still exist today)
- Form Controls where limited to 5 tabs (or 75 fields and 10 lists). This limit includes hidden fields.
- Activity Feeds (Social Pane) and Yammer were not supported
- No true Offline Capability (just cached data)
The layout for the Tablet app was defined and separated from the updated Form layouts in the web client.
Today – Dynamics 365
The Dynamics 365 Apps (Phone and Tablet) have been enhanced with CRM 2015 and CRM 2016 and now offer Offline capabilities with Mobile Offline Synchronization Profiles – but this needs to be enabled by a system administrator! Otherwise – you have Offline drafts.
With the new Apps – you can now use Dynamics 365 exclusively from these Apps as they are feature rich, and in some case provide enhanced functionality over the web client (like Task Flows and Mobile only Controls (i.e. Scan Barcodes or Form Controls)
There is great integration with the other Office 365 Apps – for example:
- You generate a Word (or Excel) Document Template from within the D365 App for Phone
- Open it in the App version of Word (or Excel)
- Make changes to it, Save it to SharePoint
- Send it as an Attachment in Outlook (App)
- Track the Email with the App for Outlook and related it back to the record you generated it from
Over the past 5-6 years, Microsoft has slowly improved the Mobile App into a very productive tool which could ultimately be used by a set of Users instead of the Web Client.
Dynamics 365 – Spring Release, the new Mobile Experience
With the Spring Release – the Unified Interface was announced with the true aim of providing a common platform to deploy a single set of customisations across multiple devices at the same time.
A major part of the Unified Interface is the inclusion of the Dynamics 365 Mobile Apps for Phone and Tablets.
It has been built with Accessibility in mind from the ground up – meaning multiple devices can access the same interface. Also – with the Phone App, you will now be able to swipe Right-to-Left which was commonly highlighted!
Microsoft has target productivity features to make the experience on the device more delightful.
Dashboards have received an overhaul on mobile devices,
- You now have pinch to zoom charts
- Touch Tooltip
- Charts and Views are combined into a section with new additional chart types
- Interactive Dashboards (from Interactive Service Hub) will now be available
The Activity Timeline replaces the Social Pane (from the Web Client) in the Unified Interface – and this will be available on the Mobile Apps also.
Business Process/Task Flows
Business Process Flows have been improved drastically (I will be writing a blog on the improvements in time – execute MS Flows?!) and the look and feel on the Unified Interface has changed with a linear stage view.
Optimized Navigation and search
One of the main draw backs of the Dynamics 365 App for Phone/Tablet was the way the Navigation was not consistent with the Sitemap defined in the Web Client. Now the Modular Apps you can create in Dynamics 365 are now available in the Unified Interface and Mobile Apps with FULL Sitemap now available.
You also have the Quick Navigation bar and access to favorites and recent items like in the Web Client. This should hopefully save you some time navigating through Views to find your last opened Opportunity or Case!
Tabs are now stacked side by side (Tabbed navigation) – hooray for swipe Right to Left support (RTL)! Quick View Forms and Card Forms are now available.
There is also a Birds eye view (known as Semantic View) allowing you visually see the Tabs and Sections; this allows you to jump to the Tab or Section easier without having to Tab/Scroll though.
Relevance Search is enabled in the Unified Interface and extensive filtering (i.e. Visual Filters) are available also.
Accessing the devices hardware like the Camera and Microphone are already present – but with the new capabilities in the Activity Timeline (you can create Notes and Attachments) – you can now capture location information at the point of capture!
Enhancements to Mobile Offline
This deserves its own blog – as the Azure layer will take some explaining; there is now added support for Create/Update and Deletes to your Dynamics 365 data!
Extension to existing functionality
Whilst there are many new areas of functionality – the Product Team have done an excellent job at enhancing the existing functionality:
- Relationship Assistance
- Document Interaction and suggestions (boost up with Azure ML)
- Office 365 Integration (i.e. with the other device apps)
- Efficient Metadata Synchronisation for better performance
- Upgrades to Apps/Customisations
Microsoft have added the ability to allow you create your own Custom Controls (rich visualizations). More to come on this as it will be a separate preview and I cannot speculate anymore on this!
The Unified Interface will certainly change the way the Dynamics 365 App for Phones and Tablets will be used moving forward – perhaps we can soon start to think about the scenario where the Web Client is redundant for everything except customisation! I will be writing about the Mobile Offline capabilities next – but this will have to wait until next week as I am having a short break away with my family this weekend!
Thanks for reading,