Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 Task Flow

A task flow is a new business flow process available in CRM 2016 Online.  It is currently in preview so you have to enable the preview option for your organization.  A task flow allows you to guide users through a certain task or set of tasks that have a particular objective.  In the example I’m going to cover in this post, we are going to create a record in CRM and associate it with another record.  This doesn’t seem like a big task to complete but for a new user who is unfamiliar with CRM and the process, it is not always easy to remember exactly where to begin the process to include remembering which record to open first to ensure ease of relating the needed records, where to go on the record to create the related record, etc.  The task flow makes this process easy as it removes all questions and allows the user to move rapidly through a process that could otherwise be more challenging to complete.

In this example, I will walk you through the creation of a task flow and completing it after it is moved into production.

First enable the entity for Business Process Flows

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Select Process from Settings and select new and give your process a name.  When you select Business Process Flow as the Category, a new option will appear, “Run process as a business flow (Classic) or Run process as a task flow (Mobile Only.  Select task flow (Mobile Only).  Select the Entity you want to use for the Task flow and modify the schema name field if desired. 

Note: Task Flows are available for Preview at the time of this writing.   They are not solution aware so you will not be able to export them from a solution and import into a new environment.  However, if you have a custom publisher, you should create the Task Flow from within a solution that uses your publisher to ensure the desired prefix is used.

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Select Ok and the Task Flow designer will open

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Expand Details to see and update additional information if desired.

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Here you can add a description, change the Task Flow name and you should set the Image.  If you would like to use a custom image, select the Set Image option on the right under Category and upload an image.  Otherwise you can use the default image.

The next step is to begin adding fields to the Task Flow.  Under the headers Label, Source, Field, you’ll want to add each field that you want the user to complete.  At a minimum, ensure you add all required fields to this area.

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If you know the field name you can begin typing it and select it when it appears in the dropdown.

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Tip:  Fields displayed for selection include all entity fields not just those on the form.  It is helpful to have a record open so you can select and order only those fields you want the user to complete.  Additionally, JavaScript works in Task Flows so ensure you add the fields that interact with scripts. 

After you’ve added all the fields and you are done with the Task Flow process simply activate the process and it will be available for testing in the mobile application.  You can launch the Task Flow from any screen in the mobile application by selecting the icon in the lower left hand corner.

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All available Task Flow processes will appear so the user can select the desired process.

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You simply select the Task Flow desired and the process begins. 

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In the first step you can choose to update an existing record or create a new record by selecting the New button from the bottom of the Task Flow.

In this example we will update an existing record.  The first thing you’ll need to do is lookup the record.  You can do that by typing the name of the record needed and the list automatically begins displaying records that meet that criteria.  You can also use a wildcard at the beginning of the phrase to pull back records that contain a value.  The wildcard symbol is the percent sigh % as you will see in the example below.

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You can select the record you want to update and it will load displaying the fields available for update. 

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After completing all the fields, you simply select Done.

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If you need to create a new record rather than updating an existing one, you simply select the new button at the bottom of the page when the process initially opens.

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After selection, a new record form will open.

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After entering data into the fields, simply select save and you will be taken to a page where you can review your entries and either select Save if you are satisfied with your work or Cancel and start over.

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If you select Save, a new page will open that allows you to review your work.  Here you can select Done if satisfied or Cancel and start over. 

There are several things I like about the Task Flow process.  One significant advantage is that using the ability to more quickly complete work that involves multiple entities.  For example, if you users need to create records related to other records and you want to ensure those records are easy and fast to create then this is a good fit.  Another advantage is for onboarding new staff and quickly getting them up to speed with performing their daily work. 

I also like that the UI has a pleasantly simple yet sophisticated design.  There are some impressive features.  One example that I liked is the way date fields display.  Rather than the typical calendar selection, you can select from each date part individually or display all three at the same time depending on what you need to change.  There is also a clear field option.

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Although there are some limitations, as compared to dialogs, I think this is a great starting point and I’m confident that Microsoft is going to continue to invest in the feature.  I’ve already starting adding suggestions to Microsoft Connect for future feature considerations and I encourage you to do the same.  For example, I would love to see dialog and guided help features rolled into the Task Flow.  I think having the ability to prompt, obtain a response and take action based on the response will take this feature to the next level.  Of course, it will also be great to make this available in the browser rather than just the mobile application as well.  It’s easy to see how dialog and guided help features could be rolled into this in future releases.  With those changes I can see how the Task Flow could quickly replace dialogs in CRM.  I’m not saying that is the direction Microsoft will take but this could become a very powerful and productive tool in the not too distant future.  I’m excited to see the direction Microsoft takes with this in the future.

Give the new Task Flow feature a try and share your experience.  I’ll be interested in knowing your thoughts.  Ensure you give your feedback to Microsoft as there is a good chance that your feature requests could make it into the final release once the preview period is complete.

Cheers

Additional items available in the Task Flow process include the ability to branch, add a custom image, insert multiple pages, add business rules, supports “intelligent” search features, and business rules.  Currently, users can launch a Task Flow from the mobile application only.

Helpful Resources

What are task flows and how do they compare to other tools in Dynamics CRM?

Preview feature: Create a New Task Flow

Creating and Customizing Task Flows

Microsoft MVP Virtual Conference

I was pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the first ever Microsoft MVP Virtual Conference.  For those of you not able to attend, we had a panel of four Microsoft MVP’s to include Alex Fagundes, Chris Cognetta, Shan McArthur and me.  Of course, the topic was the latest release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

The panel provided a strong mix of both functional and technical areas of expertise.  We discussed and provided clarity regarding things like the new CRM naming convention, update navigation menus, ability to update themes, email tracking flexibility, mobile, transactions at the SDK level, upsert capability, plug-in logging, Microsoft update rollup strategy and how to leverage it to your advantage, and more.

For those of you that missed the session but want to hear what the MVP’s have to share about the new CRM 2015 features, take some time to view the video on Channel 9 and hear what the MVP’s have to say about the 2015 Spring release.

Dynamics CRM MVP’s – Ask the Experts

Check it out and leave comments to let us know what you would like to learn more about in the coming months.  We love your feedback and will take it into consideration for future plans.

Cheers

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Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 Record Update Enhancement

After watching a video or two about the Dynamics CRM Record Update enhancements, I decided to try out the new features.  The enhancements make updating records in CRM much easier and more seamless so I wanted to share the information with you.  I wrote an article that was posted on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Team Blog. 

Check it out when you have a few minutes then try out the new feature and let me know what you think.

Cheers

Power BI Free Preview for Microsoft Dynamics CRM

In the event you are not aware, you can obtain a preview instance of Power BI for free.  When you go to the Power BI sign-up page it will ask for a work or school email address.  The sign-up process will complain if you try to use a personal email address.  In the event you don’t want to use your work address, you can spin up a CRM trial instance and use that email address to sign up.  That is the approach I took and it worked well.  The nice thing about that approach is that you can connect Power BI to your trial CRM instance with just a few clicks.  Let’s take a look.

After signing in to Power BI you’ll see Microsoft Dynamics CRM in the left navigation window.  When you select it a Connect button will appear.

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Select the Connect button and you will be asked to enter your Dynamics CRM OData Service URL which can be found in CRM under Settings, Customizations, Developer Resources.

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Copy and paste the OData URL into the Power BI field and select Next.

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You’ll be presented with sign-in options.  Select oAuth2 from the list and Power BI will connect to CRM.  The initial data load will take several minutes but once complete you will see a Dashboard, Reports and Datasets section.

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You are now ready to begin exploring Power BI.  Check out this Power BI getting started article for a host of information to include working with Datasets to create charts (drag and drop), creating reports and dashboards, sharing dashboards and a whole lot more.

You can also download and try out the Power BI for Mobile App, Power BI Designer Preview and Analysis Services Connector Preview.

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Keep an eye out for future articles as I begin exploring all that Power BI has to offer for Microsoft Dynamics CRM analytics.

Microsoft MVP Virtual Conference 2015

In case you haven’t heard, Microsoft is hosting the first US MVP Virtual Conference on May 14th and 15th.  The really excellent news is that we will have a Microsoft Dynamics CRM session. 

That’s right, I will be hosting an Ask the Experts session and we will be talking about your favorite subject this time of year which is the CRM Spring release, CRM 2015 Update 1 aka 7.1.  You can find the session information under the IT Pro track.

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We have a panel of superstars ready to deliver their knowledge, tips and tricks related to CRM Online 2015 and we will, of course, be taking audience questions.  Panel experts include Dynamics CRM MVP’s Alex Fagundes, Chris Cognetta, Matt Wittemann, Shan McArthur,  and me, as the host and moderator.

In addition to our session, there are many others that you will most likely find interesting.  Topics like Azure, PowerBI, Skype for Business, and Windows are sure to be high on everyone’s list and you definitely don’t want to miss out on the keynote delivered by Steve Guggenheimer, Corporate VP & Chief Evangelist at Microsoft, on Thursday, May 14th at 8am PST

Check out the Agenda page to get a complete view of the event schedule for both days.

I’m really looking forward to connecting with my fellow MVP’s to discuss the latest release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, share our product knowledge and tips with you and respond to your questions.  Bring your coworkers and all your tough or even easy questions and we’ll be happy to respond.  I hope you can join us on May 14th at 5pm PST. 

We look forward to seeing you at the event!

Microsoft Dynamics CRM, SharePoint & One Note Step-by-Step Integration

With the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Spring 2015 release just around the corner, I wanted to try out the OneNote integration. The setup is amazing easily.  If you would like a preview, check out the step-by-step article I wrote for the Microsoft MVP Award blog site.

I think this integration is definitely going to make the most frequently used, new feature, list.

Cheers

Inspire the Next

At Hitachi Solutions one of our logos displays the phrase, Inspire the Next.  

Hitachi corporate logo

The Merriam Webster’s definition of inspire is, “to fill with courage or strength of purpose”.  I personally love the phrase because it points to inspiring whatever is next; in life, in work, in play… and applies to every day, hour and minute.   

It’s not always easy to inspire ourselves or others because life can be challenging at times.  That is why I think it is important to share our inspiration with others whenever we can and celebrate those times when we’ve been able to achieve positive results. 

I recently had an opportunity to do just that and shared my story on the Microsoft MVP Mentor Blog site. I hope you take a few minutes to read the story and you are inspired by how we can work together to support one another to achieve our life aspirations and dreams. 

When life or work gets tough, you can always bring yourself back to this simple yet vibrant and full of promise, affirmation; “Inspire the Next”.  I hope it helps to lift you to a better place during challenging times and keeps you there when things are good. 

I look forward to hearing your stories about how you inspired yourself and others along life’s journey.