Monday, 30 October 2017

Part 1 of Dynamics Portals Web Forms - Save and Close, and Submit

20:59 Posted by Benitez Here , , , No comments
Dynamics Portals was launched in May 2016 where the foundations derive from Adxstudio Portals. One of the features available is Web Forms where Web Form Steps can be configured to replicate a step-by-step form experience for portal end users.

As always when learning for the first time, you pick up on the basic functionality such as configuring a Dynamics Portal Entity Form to point to a Dynamics 365 entity form. For example, the "Customer Service - Create Case" Dynamics Portals form that end users see when creating a new Case is the "Web - Create Case" Dynamics 365 entity form.

Once you get past the basics there's the second part of learning - unlocking what you don't know by exploring and working with what's available to create a cool output. This is what I cover in Part 1 of my Web Form vlog series by showing other configuration within Web Form Steps that can be utilized to change the end user experience. Watch my vlog below to learn more.


The Dynamics Portal I've provisioned uses the Community Portal and since I'm a Game of Thrones fan, this is the theme of my portal. It's recruitment for individuals in Westoros where applications can be submitted for different positions. Good luck surviving in Westoros ;)

I created two custom entities for the application process,
  1. Application - details of the position they are applying for.
  2. Compliance - proof of evidence that needs to be supplied such as Passport. This is inserted as a sub-grid in the Web Form Step.
I then created two Web Forms where each one has Web Form Steps,
  1. New Application
  2. Edit Application
How this ties in altogether is illustrated in the ERD diagram below. ERD probably isn't the best method for outlining how it all works but I find it helps whenever I teach people about Dynamics Portals.

The above is how you would configure Dynamics Portals Web Forms and Web Form Steps. These are the components required to set up a flow of information an end use needs to complete.

The end user experience for the Application process is as follows which is represented by the Web Forms Steps.

I had a different expectation

What you don't realize until you configure Web Form Steps and do a run through is that the Previous, Next and Submit button isn't quite what you think it is.

When your first Web Form Step is an Insert in a "New Application" process, the record will be created in Dynamics 365 when the end user clicks on the Next button. Any other clicks within the Web Form of Previous, Next or Submit (in the last Web Form Step) will save any changes made along the way. They are all a "Save" button in the context of Dynamics 365.

If you have used other portals before, there is functionality where end users can go back to a saved form to complete at a later date and submit when ready. 

Due to the nature of Dynamics Portals with Dynamics 365, this is not the immediate experience as by default in Dynamics 365 when a record is Saved, it is created or updated. Dynamics Portals respects this.

With additional configuration methods, you can achieve a similar outcome to the Save and Submit experience.

Tell me more...

The following can be applied
  1. Relabel the the step labels
  2. Add an additional Web Form Step in the Web Form where it will redirect back to the view (Entity List)
  3. Use a workflow to update the record Status Reason

1. Update the labels in Web Form Steps

To make it more clear to the end user that what they are entering will be saved, rename the labels in all the Web Form Steps
  • Previous = Save and Previous
  • Next = Save and Next
  • Submit = Save and Close

2.  Create a new Web Form Step of Redirect

As you would have seen in my vlog (please watch if you haven't already done so!) when a end user clicks on "Submit" in the last step, a message is displayed and the end user remains in the last Web Form Step. 

If they wanted to go back to the My Applications view (this is an Entity List), they need to click within the top navigation menu. This is an extra click and in my opinion not the best user experience. They should automatically be redirected back to the My Applications view.

To achieve this, you can create a new Web Form Step where the type is "Redirect." This way when they click on the relabeled Save and Close button in the last Web Form Step, the Redirect will be executed taking them back to the My Applications view.


Hold on to your horses, there's actually something else you need to configure before hand. One thing to know about Dynamics Portals is that there's quite a number of configurations to complete to get one process to work as it's all native within Dynamics 365. So for a Web Form Step to redirect to an Entity List, you need to first create a Web Page that references the Entity List. 

In the screenshot below, you'll see that my Web Page is linked to the My Applications Entity List.


Once you have a Web Page that points to the desired area in Dynamics Portal, select the Web Page in the redirect Web Form Step.

3. Create a workflow to update Status Reason

The last bit of the jigsaw puzzle is to utilize a workflow that will update the Status Reason to allow the end user to "Submit." I created a new Status Reason of Submitted and updated the default value to Unsubmitted. I then created an on-demand workflow that will update the Status Reason from Unsubmitted to Submitted.

After the workflow is created, you then need to create an action within the Entity List. Why? Well the last Web Form Step is redirecting back to the Entity List. Entity Lists can have additional actions where one of them is calling a workflow. In this case, we want to link the workflow so that the Application Status Reason can be updated to Submitted.

Simply associate the on-demand workflow to the Entity List and update the label to something more meaningful such as "Submit Application."

Bonus Tip

Update the message of the workflow to something more meaningful such as "Thank you, your application has been submitted." By default, the success message is "Workflow was initiated" which doesn't really make sense to the end user.


Hold on to your horses (again), there's something else I recommend you configure before hand. Make sure you have two filtered views that the Entity List will display. 
  1. Unsubmitted applications where Status Reason is Unsubmitted.
  2. Submitted applications where aStatus Reason is Submitted. 
This will allow the end user to switch between the views.

Hammer time! Ready to test

Once the configuration has been completed, the end user will now be redirected back to the My Applications view in the last Web Form Step.

The end user can then submit their application when they are ready by clicking on the Submit Application "button." Once the workflow is successfully completed the application will drop off from the Unsubmitted Applications view and appear in the Submitted Applications view. Ta-da!


Dynamics Portals is native to Dynamics 365 and respects how it works out-of-the-box which is why the buttons will create and/or save a record when using Web Forms (or Entity Forms). In this vlog post, I showed you how you can use other configuration methods to achieve the save and close, and submit functionality. Be open minded and explore what else can be done to achieve a similar outcome.

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Stay tuned for Part 2 of Dynamics Portal Web Forms with me.


Monday, 2 October 2017

Summary of Customer Engagement (Enterprise Edition) Updates

20:27 Posted by Benitez Here , , No comments
In the first week of October 2017, version 9 of Dynamics 365 became available and is now the version applied when provisioning a new Dynamics 365 trial instance. I've reviewed most of the updates outlined in Microsoft's list of features which is outlined in this post. As usual, I've outlined my observations and findings so far in the end of this post.

I've broken down my review into three areas:

  1. Visual Changes
  2. Customization and Configuration Changes
  3. End User Features

Visual Changes

The entire look and feel of entity forms has since been updated for end-users.

Entity Forms

  1. There are borders around the different components of sections on the form 
  2. You will also notice that the form header is different. The fields that are in the header form will not appear as being "cut-off." A lot of Customers found this annoying but now is resolved, hooray!

System Views and Dashboards

The system views and dashboard user interface appear differently as well. The same heading scheme and borders is consistent to the entity forms.

Wrapping of field labels

You no longer need to play with the field label length when the Display Name is long due to a high number of characters. Dynamics 365 will automatically adjust by wrapping the field Display Name.

Customer Service Hub formerly known as Interactive Service Hub

Previously you'd see this window when trying to load the Interactive Service Hub and it would take a while. 

In version 9, there's been more improvements to the Unified Interface Framework. As a result, the Interactive Service Hub has changed and is now called Customer Service Hub. It loads instantly too.

If you also click on the Hamburger icon on the left hand side, a vertical menu appears which is pretty cool.

The Knowledge Articles have also had a user interface refresh.



Accessibility features available

Accessibility within Dynamics 365 is now available. This is great for Australian government agencies that are required to be WCAG compliant. This is something that has been asked for in the past from government agency clients I've worked with and can now be reviewed and tested by accessibility readers out there. I don't have a reader myself to test this.

Below is a summary from the Microsoft's list of features.
  • People with screen readers can skip to content directly and navigate to sections that are important to them.
  • People using reading plugins receive great results.
  • People using browser plugins can jump to specific sections on a page.
  • Keyboard users can save time and effort by using the tab key and keyboard shortcuts. In the screenshot below I’ve hit tab from the Topic field.

Customization and Configuration Changes

Ability to change sub-grid colour

You can now change the sub-grid colour on entity forms. A CRM super user can update the hex colour of a sub-grid in the form customizations. Customers of Dynamics 365 will need to plan their colour palette according to their company branding or adopt a new colour scheme for the different components such as Blue for Connections across all entity forms that displays a Connection sub-grid and Orange for Contacts across all entity forms that displays a Contact sub-grid. This allows easy identification of record types when viewing sub-grids.

Multi Select Option Set

This a feature that a few people have asked for over the years. It's now available, hooray! There's a new attribute type of MultiSelect Option Set. In my screenshot below, I've created a Remoteness Area field. Remoteness Area is common in Australian government agencies.

New default themes

Three new themes are available. I've made the assumption here that existing Dynamics 365 Customers will already have their Dynamics 365 theme for Production in alignment to their company branding. In my opinion this is useful for Sandbox environments to have a different theme to Production for users to easily identify non-Production environments.

App Designer

I covered the App Designer in a previous post. It's one of the neat features of Dynamics 365 and I'm a fan of it.

You can inline edit the Title of a component in the Site Map designer.

You can configure an App to load a Welcome Page that will appear when an end user opens the App. This is great for Dynamics 365 Customers that want to make the experience more personal or display some quick tips outlined to the end user. You need to upload a .html file as a Web Resource into Dynamics 365.

I created a simple web page using Microsoft Word and uploaded it as a Web Resource in a solution.

End User Features

NOT IN query

You can now build a query that allows users to search for data that does not exist, such as Opportunities that do not have an email activity.

WYSIWYG Editor available in Email Activity

You can now use the WYSIWYG Editor in Email Activity.

Observations and Findings

Below is a list of things I've found while reviewing the new updates to Dynamics 365 in version 9.

Customer Service Hub

It wasn't displayed under the usual area within Settings > Application.

However you can still browse to it using the following URL:

Or you can get to it through the Apps menu.

NOT IN - not quite (yet)

I was excited about this but then after doing a thorough review, I'll be more excited for a future release.

Even though you can use the "NOT IN" condition in Advanced Find, currently it can't be applied in the following
  • Entity System Views - when using Edit Filter Criteria.
  • Workflows - when creating a conditional step.
  • Marketing Lists - since System Views can't be configured. However workaround is to create a Personal View and then this can be used in the Marketing List. I tested this and it works.
It's limited to Advanced Find only for now. I'm hoping the Dynamics 365 Products team will expand on this feature across the functionality outlined above.

If you still want to create NOT IN Entity System Views, you still need to use XrmToolBox for it. However a reminder that when using XrmToolBox FetchXMLBuilder for NOT IN views, you can only configure it through the XrmToolBox. You won't be able to edit the view through Customizations.

WYSIWYG Editor in Email Activity

It still leverages what we saw back in version 4. I'm hoping the Dynamics 365 Products team will expand on this feature by bringing across the WYSIWYG Editor from the Customer Service Hub Knowledge Article.

Welcome Page in App Designer

I found a couple of odd behaviours with this.
  1. If I went back to the App to change the Welcome Page to point to a different web resource as my Web Page, it would not save. I tried both in Google and in Internet Explorer Edge. I had to create a brand new App which was inconvenient. So be careful here! Make sure you are 100% certain that the Web Page is finalized before building your App.
  2. If I inserted an image in the Word file, it would not load. I tried both Web Page and Web Page, Filtered as the file type but still didn't work. Therefore I opted to insert text instead of a .png image.

I'll be logging a new item in Microsoft Connect when I find the time to do so.

Process Stage

I came across another odd behaviour with the Opporutunity entity. Usually as you progress in the stage of a Business Process Flow, the Process Stage record will update as the entity has a N:1 relationship to Process Stage which captures the Business Process Flow Stage information of an Opportunity.

In version 9, this information is not being automatically populated.

I tested this in another version 8 instance trial that I have access to still and it works as expected.

I found this when I was testing a workflow I built that was updating a custom field with the Stage Category Name. I was scratching my head trying to figure out why it wasn't working and then discovered the Process Stage fields is NULL.

When I then tried progressing to the next stage in a customized Business Process Flow, an error was being thrown which was referencing an out-of-the-box plugin. I think it's caused by the NULL Process Stage fields.

I'll be logging a new item in Microsoft Connect when I find the time to do so.

Opportunity Main Form

I noticed a couple of things with the reboot of the Opportunity Main Form.
  1. The Opportunity Sales Stage field displayed is a global option set that can't be customized. Refer to my other blog post that somewhat touched base on this field. Since it can't be customized to reflect configured Business Process Flow stages, it's best to remove it on the form otherwise it will confuse end users.
  2. The Contact Quick View form is duplicated. I recommend removing one of the duplicated Quick View forms.


Overall the above is my review on the new features of Dynamics 365. It's improved a lot and it's really cool to see what the Dynamics 365 Products team have accomplished to date.

If you are reviewing Microsoft's list of features, I couldn't figure out some of them such as the Timeline or Business process flow as Action steps. Either I was looking in the wrong place or they're not available just yet.

What I haven't reviewed yet is the following:
  • New LinkedIn Connector solution
  • Outlook app
  • Dynamics 365 mobile app
  • Multi-step workflow automation with embedded Microsoft Flow
  • Power BI enhancements
  • Web resource dependencies and localization
  • Unified Service Desk
  • Virtual Entities
Sign up for a Dynamics 365 trial today and start exploring :)


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