CRM, CRM features, Dynamics 365, Mobile, Unified User Interface

Introduction to the Dynamics 365 Mobile Apps for V9.0 Part 4: New UI Components and the CCF

Hello, it has been a few weeks since I posted my last blog relating to the new Mobile Apps for Outlook and the Unified User Interface; you can find my previous article here.

For this post, I will explore the following new areas of functionality that have been provided with the UUI and available on the mobile devices using the new Dynamics 365 Mobile Apps:

  • Custom Controls and the CCF
  • Controls for Views
  • Task flows
  • Activity Timeline

Custom Controls

The boring bits

With Dynamics CRM 2016, Microsoft released visual controls for the mobile apps as a preview, these were configured through the form customisations area and by setting individual field properties for each form; link to the YouTube video providing an overview is shown here.

With V9.0, Microsoft released the Custom Control Framework (CCF – not this CCF)  which builds upon the earlier release of custom visual controls, these have been slightly updated and refined to work inside of the UUI.

I won’t go through the process of adding Custom Controls to your implementation, the Microsoft documentation is excellent in this regard with the link provided here.

Overview

What are Custom Controls? Good Question!

reading

To add bespoke UI functionality to forms, previously Microsoft allowed developers to add i-frames/web resources onto the forms which may display some sort of fancy looking HTML object to enhance the user experience for the customer. The bespoke functionality would have been anything to allow users to visualise or enter data in a quicker and easier method than Dynamics CRM allowed using just out of the box methods, such as:

  • Pictures
  • Visual indicators which where dependent on field values (i.e. like a case priority with a red indicator for the serious tickets requiring urgent attention.
  • SQL/Fetch XML Reports
  • Custom Buttons – these may have associated N:N records using a checkbox list rather than manually creating the relationships between two records.
  • Editable Grids – Before Microsoft blessed us with their version of Editable Grids, this functionality was built by many 3rd parties using HTML web resources.

With custom controls, Microsoft provides a way for users to visualise field data which may contain only text or numbers, by providing a visual/presentable format that is more user friendly allowing the user to consume the data in a format which has meaning. Whilst also designed to provide new visualisations to user, custom controls also provide a new method of data entry which are designed to be used with a Mobile device and Touchscreen interface.

What is the Custom Control Framework (CCF)?

In simple terms, it is an extensible layer that sits on top of Dynamics 365 forms which allows partners and 3rd party vendors a framework with which to build custom control such as visual indicators or custom functionality to enter data. Unfortunately, Microsoft have not yet released the SDK and what we do know is currently under closed preview and NDA. The CCF however, will allow partners a new framework in which to design, build and deploy custom functionality in Dynamics 365 as their own IP.

Where do Custom Controls exist?

Microsoft previously provided us with the new custom controls in CRM 2016 to be used on the Mobile Apps, these were originally configured through the Form Customisations area in Dynamics CRM. This is the same place where you can configure them for the UUI, but they are now visible not just on the mobile apps but also on the web browser for UUI.

With Version 9, there are now additional custom controls available for Views too!

Current Form Custom Controls

The following shows a list of the current Custom Controls which are provided out of the box with V9.0, with a brief description and scenarios these controls may be used.

My colleague, Chris Huntingford, recently posted a great YouTube video demonstrating the Custom Controls in the UUI.

Arc Knob

Ark Knob

  • Field Types: Whole Number, Float, Currency, Decimal
  • When to use: These are really good for adding in numeric values where a defined range is set, i.e. entering a measurement value in.

Auto Complete

AutoComplet

  • Field Types: Single Line of Text
  • When to use: Autocomplete fields are good when you would like to restrict the options available to the user but allowing them to type them. They are similar to option sets but can be configured using an Entity and a particular field value off the records.

Bar Code Scanner

Barcode

  • Field Types: Single Line of Text
  • When to use: Great where Bar codes are used. If the User is using the Mobile Apps, the Bar code Scanner will ask to use the devices camera to scan the Bar Code and enter the scanned information into Dynamics 365. This may be good when issuing scanned bar-code passes at Events when attendees arrives – as this effectively can provide them access to certain areas at your event with their pass.

Bullet Graph

Bullet Graph

  • Field Types: Whole Number, Float, Currency, Decimal
  • When to use: I personally use these on calculated fields where an average value is required. You can highlight the range and set low, high and good value indicators on the bullet graph.

Flip – Switch

Flip Switch

  • Field Types: Two Options
  • When to use: of you enjoy a toggle/flip switch Yes or No (Boolean) option!

Input Mask

InputMask

  • Field Types: Single Line of Text, Email, URL, Phone
  • When to use: Input Masks can be used to create a set format for Users entering data into certain field types. Say if you are entering serial numbers for a particular model or product and they all take the form W-X1X-1234-ABC (i.e. starts with a W, then different combinations of number and letters), you can use a Input Mask Control to validate as the data is entered.

Linear Gauge

Linear Gauge

  • Field Types: Whole Number, Float, Currency, Decimal
  • When to use: Linear Gauges and Sliders are different Controls which allow users to enter numeric values on a mobile device easier based on a set range.

Linear Slider

Linear Slider

  • Field Types: Whole Number, Float, Currency, Decimal
  • When to use: Linear Sliders and Gauges are different Controls which allow users to enter numeric values on a mobile device easier based on a set range.

Multimedia Control

Media

  • Field Types: URL
  • When to use: Along the with the Website Preview fields, you can provide preview panes to websites or media based on data entered into the URL field configured with these particular custom controls. The screenshot shows a link to Chris Huntingfords CCF video on YouTube!

Number Input

Number Input

  • Field Types: Whole Number, Float, Currency, Decimal
  • When to use: Number Inputs provide the default method of entry along with the + or – buttons to add or subtract values (in step amounts) from the number entered by the User. Good for keeping to a set level of precision. I have used these for small number ranges where 0.25 increments where required from negative to a positive number range. (i.e. -10.50 to +5.75).

Option Set

Option Set

  • Field Types: Option Set
  • When to use: The only time you should use this is for an Option Set of 3 or less; or you will not see the additional options! Does not work with Multi-Select Option Sets.

Pen Control

Pen Control

  • Field Types: Multiple Lines of Text
  • When to use: These are really good for when you would like to capture the the signature of someone  and store these digitally in your Dynamics 365 platform. Say your Service Engineers visit customers  to perform onsite services or repairs. When the customer is happy that they have completed the task, they can sign using the pen control and this is saved to the work order/record in Dynamics 365. Chris provides a great video walk through of this field type here.

Radial Knob

Radial Knob

  • Field Types: Whole Number, Float, Currency, Decimal
  • When to use: Great for entering larger range of numbers with larger step amounts.

Star Rating

StarRating

  • Field Types: Whole Number
  • When to use: I can see these being used for gaining feedback back from people (i.e. customers receiving a service) whilst onsite and allowing them to enter data in an informed manner.

Website Preview

Website PReview

  • Field Types: URL
  • When to use: Along the with the Media Preview fields, you can provide preview panes to websites or media based on data entered into the URL field configured with these particular custom controls.

So there are quite a few of the Custom Controls available with Dynamics 365, these help improve the way Users can enter data into the standard fields/data types than they could previously. Instead of having to just tap and type, the users can interact with the Control (such as swiping or turning a digital dial) to enter data into Dynamics 365.

Custom Controls available for Views

Custom Controls are not just available to Fields, but Microsoft have also provided us some at the View level (and not just in the UUI); Microsoft first introduced the Editable Grid have extended the custom controls for Views even further with the following options:

  • Read Only Grid – standard out of the box grid for viewing a list of records.
  • Editable Grid – recently released with Dynamics 365, one of the most requested features by end users where users can amend records line by line in a list view.
    Editable Grid
  • Timeline Control – allows data to be represented in a Timeline format where you can see records in a Timeline view based on when the last action occured (such as created on.
  • Calendar Control – data can be displayed on a Calendar like Appointments in your Outlook Calendar.Calendar

Taskflows

Going back in time to the CRM 2011 days, Microsoft provided Users with guided processes through the use of Dialogs (which have now been deprecated with V9.0). And more recently with Business Process Flows [BPF] (which have evolved over the years).

With V9.0, Microsoft have extended the BPF functionality by introducing Task Flows.

Business Process Flows, Workflows and Dialogs are generally executed in the Context of a record (i.e. when you create a new record the or when you are at the record level, or execute against multiple records in the case of a Workflow). Task Flows can be executed from anywhere in the mobile app by clicking the below icon:

Task Flow

Task Flows are defined against a particular entity in the system, but the User will need to first choose which record they wish to execute the Task Flow against, be this selecting an existing record or creating a new record.

They are useful for providing Users a common set guided of actions or tasks that they would normally undertake.

Unlike Business Process Flows, multiple instances of the same process can be executed against the same record; they are unique to the User – not to the record like for Business Process Flows where a single process instance passes through Stages and Steps to completion.

Neil Parkhurst has written a very good walk through/guide article explaining Task Flows and the differences between them vs Business Process Flows here:

Microsoft provide 3 Task Flows out of the box illustrating different ways in which a Task Flow can be used, these are:

  • Update Contact
  • Follow up with an Opportunity
  • After Meeting

Task Flows allow a User to enter data from different entities in a single form view where data is broken up into section by the labels. This should help reduce the navigation between records that a User would normally undertake to complete these steps which is important for the number of clicks/loading of data when accessing Dynamics 365 via mobile devices from a network performance/gains perspective.

Task flowss

Activity Timelines

I have previously blogged about Activity Timelines when they were first announced here. They are brilliant replacement for the Social Pane in the UUI; they reduce the white space and provide excellent filtering and search capabilities for the type of records the Users wish to see whilst providing you a highlighted list of what has happened since you last accessed that record! They look exactly the same on the Mobile devices except you have the ability to upload media (videos, audio and pictures) directly from your device.

ActTime

Summary

With the new Apps and the new controls available, the way users can interact with their organisations Dynamics 365 implementation is growing and making use of the latest technologies. The new controls should help with users interfacing with their devices whilst reducing the number of clicks or taps that would have to complete with the web client or earlier versions of the Mobile Apps.

Thanks for reading,

MW.

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