This is part two of my introduction to the preview version of the App for Outlook with the July 2017 release of Dynamics 365 (V 9.0), the first blog can be found here. At a high level, this highlighted how you can configure the preview of the App for Outlook by:
- Completing a set of tasks to enable the App for Outlook.
- How you can access the App for Outlook across multiple platforms/devices from a single configuration.
- What functionality is available over the Outlook Client.
The focus of this blog is to go in greater detail the functionality the App for Outlook provides and any main issues that our testing has raised.
Microsoft have issued a very comprehensive user guide (which starts half way down the page), I highly suggest you read this guide as it is a great introduction to the latest version of the App for Outlook!
Microsoft Known Issues
First off – I found the following Microsoft authored page very helpful to see the latest known issues for the App for Outlook (these have been raised directly with Microsoft):
For this blog – I will not detail these types of issues that we have encountered whilst testing, but I thought I would share the link for all to see!
The App for Outlook – a force awakens.
Microsoft announced the App for Outlook back in Dec 2015 with Dynamics CRM 2016 – this was known as the ‘light-weight’ app for Outlook and was only really useful for tracking emails in Outlook or the OWA (Outlook on the Web). It could not track ACT (Appointments, Contacts and Tasks) like the Outlook Client could, so it was never seen as a viable alternative to the “trusted” way to access and track Emails in CRM through Outlook.
Fast forward to V9.0 – we are almost there! It can track*:
*depending on the device you use – see my last post for more details!
Currently, the App for Outlook cannot yet track Tasks, I am sure it will not be long before Microsoft will add this functionality as the end users/partners have been asking for parity with the Outlook Client functionality.
This is the device I am looking for
Through out my testing, it is clear that whilst you can use the App for Outlook addin across multiple devices – there is still some element of thinking to actually complete the activity you would like to track in Dynamics 365. Say I wanted to track a new Contact, then I must use an Office 2016 installation on my desktop. Where as if I wanted to just track an email, I would be able to use Outlook on an iOS device or OWA etc.
It would be great if Microsoft could provide a similar (if not the same) level functionality across each device that uses the App for Outlook to eliminate this thought process, we are moving to a Unified User Interface after all!
A new hope (with customisation)
Unfortunately, I do not currently have access to an environment to show a comparison in screens of the 2016/365 version compared with the V 9.0. I started customising my environment to test out the other cool stuff with this latest version of Dynamics 365 – like Multi-Select option sets! I do know that one of my main concerns is that the information displayed on the relevant cards (i.e. the Contact information) was often blank because it was showing 2 phone number fields and these could not be changed. In fact, no item of the App for Outlook could be customised in CRM. My colleague, Jason Almeida also asked our team if we were noticing any strange or inconsistent app behavior. Whilst you can configure lots of apps with the app designer, none of them seemed to render in Outlook through the App for Outlook.
Whilst adding components to my solution, I was browsing the Apps area to add to my solution for customisation (I really just wanted to create a demo app purely for the UUI like the Customer Hub app); it was here that I noticed that I could add the “App for Outlook” App and also it’s Sitemap to my solution:
After further investigation, I found that you can actually edit the App and the Sitemap to customise it the way you want it through the App Designer.
Finally – you can change the information that is displayed on the cards shown in the App by finding the “App for Outlook #EntityName# Card” for the out of the box entities (like Account, User, Contact)!
Amend the form with the form designer (keep it to 3 fields – not found out what happens if you increase it):
Publish your changes and go and view your new (and customised) App for Outlook!
This was a good find and was an answer to Jason’s question ultimately! After customisation of the App for Outlook solution items – I did notice it took a few attempts to get the changes to push to the App for Outlook. With the old MOCA Client – you could push “Prepare customisations” or something similar which would speed up the process for the users connecting with the mobile client – this has now disappeared with V9.0!
Entity Forms strike back
So now – we have tracking functionality increasing with this latest version, we have the ability to customise areas of the App for Outlook, what else can we do? Well, the old Outlook Client could be used as an interface to access your CRM data and would be able to open CRM forms and render the records just as if you were in the web client.
The App for Outlook also allows for this – but it does so in the context of its pane in Outlook. So in my screenshot below – I have navigated to the Account Sitemap area in the App for Outlook and opened up the Account record:
This renders the entire Account form in the pane, so if you have a fair few fields like the default Account form does – then there is going to be a fair amount of scrolling to do! But you do have the standard actions in the Command Bar – like the Assign button, execute a process. If you try to click on those – you may get a “pop up blocked” notification which will need to be enabled (add the CRM domain to your trusted sites -https://*.crm11.dynamics.com) and then click an action like “Email a Link” and these should work:
Do not be surprised if some of the actions do not work – there are some known issues (listed in a section above).
We are getting to the stage where we can do some simple level of data entry into Dynamics 365 with Outlook in a very “light weight” way of working.
The one great advantage the Outlook Client had was that you could setup it and configure it to work offline with CRM data. It would install a local SQL Server Express instance and database allowing you to synchronise certain CRM (set up with synchronisation filters) and work with them offline. Unfortunately – to use the App for Outlook, you have to be online with a connection to the Dynamics 365 server.
The App for Outlook has a lot already going for it – you can also:
- View Dashboards (which do not work for me currently on this release)
- View a list of recent items:
- Navigation (some buttons do not work like the Back button!)
I have discussed some of the key items of functionality that the App provides – and some of the items you need to consider/be aware of that could be potentials issues for your customers/users. It is still in its infancy, but it is clear that this is the future Outlook solution and there is still along way to go. I have noticed a complete difference in stability with this latest version of the App over the versions in 2016 and Dynamics 365, I hope this improves even more so!
I cannot wait until General Availability (rumoured end of Jan 2018) for the new App for Outlook, support will be there and Users can finally start making the switch if they are running D365.
Thanks for reading,