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You can find the release notes at this link: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/business-applications-release-notes/april19/

Some highlights are:

  • Sales forecasting - with the help of Cortana
  • Deeper and more powerful LinkedIn integration
  • Teams integration with Relationship Assistant
  • App licensing requirements presented to app makers while building PowerApps - know if your app will work with your licensing!
  • Canvas apps with responsive layouts
  • Save and reuse PowerApps components

If you're interested in learning more about what some of the new features means for your implementaitons, feel free to reach out anytime! My email is bthibeault@aerieconsulting.com or give a call at 802.922.0942.

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Adding a Map control to your PowerApp can be very helpful to end users, but it is not available out of the box (unless we continue to keep voting here). There are many use cases, such as displaying a map based upon an Accounts address, or displaying the location of a Work Order.

Here's a quick way to add the map to your screen by using an Image control and a Bing Maps Key. Please follow the steps here for getting your own Bing Maps Key.

After you have gotten your key, it's time to go into your PowerApp.

Step 1:

This step is as simple as adding a Text Input box to your screen and renaming it to "txtInput." (Or in case you are linking the map to an already existing address, make sure that field or data card is on the screen).

Step 2:

Add a Label control to the screen and rename it "BingMapsKey." Take the key you got from following the steps in the above link and put it as the Text property of the label. Now that you have the Key and Label on the screen, set the Visible property to false, this way users cannot see the map key.

Step 3:

Add an Image control to the screen and rename it "MapControl." Make sure to size and position the map based upon the other controls, forms or galleries on the screen. Now set the Image property to  "https://dev.virtualearth.net/REST/V1/Imagery/Map/Road/" & EncodeUrl(txtInput.Text) & "?mapSize=600," & 300 & "&key="&BingMapsKey.Text. The numbers highlighted in Red (below) help size the map accordingly, so you may need to play around with these numbers depending on the size of the control you created.

It's as simple as that! Test out your map by "playing" the app and typing an address into the txtInput control.

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If you're in the healthcare industry, or even if you're just a patient from time to time, the lack of efficiency in some areas of this industry may be as clear as day.  Fixing those problems is unfortunately not always as easy as identifying them.  There is a way to gain efficiency in the Healthcare Industry, however, and we'll show you how. 

1. Reduce the Volume of Paperwork
 

The Problem: 

Do you ever wonder why you have clients filling out the same paperwork every time they visit the office?  Forget the imposition on the client, the cost alone, to hire, train and retain the skilled employees that need to track and store the volume of paperwork being generated is excessive.  Or worse, what if government regulations are not followed and an audit results in fines or closure?   

The Solution: 

Fortunately having the right IT systems in place can address this issue.  Using a document management system will facilitate both the collection and distribution of information, accurately and in a timely manner. By setting up an information architecture that supports your practice, the information that you gather can be easily located and easily updated directly into the system to avoid mistakes and data loss. It can also be accessed quickly in emergency situations and shared across the provider enterprise or with designated caregivers, with appropriate permissions and governance built in.

2. Operate Smarter, Not Harder

The Problem: 

Time is scarce and any opportunity to automate workflows can result in greater potential to see more patients, provide better care, reduce human error, and save time and money.  While every patient is different, many of the processes you do each day are repetitive.  

The Solution:

Removing paperwork will certainly help generate efficiencies but there is more you can do.  A document management system that is customized for your practice can offer file tracking, versioning, and auditingAutomated workflows can be set up to generate forms, reports, notes, prescriptions, etc. based on specific inputs.  Most importantly, it will allow you to provide faster response to patients and providers and deliver a higher quality of service. 

3. Provide High Quality Medical Care

The Problem: 

With the number of patients that need to be seen on a daily basis, it's almost impossible not to run late on some appointments.  With a high volume of paperwork, there are likely to be some discrepancies across documentation.  And a discrepancy could result in making an inaccurate diagnosis or prescribing the wrong medication. And if you have ever been through that, you might also have a lack of trust in the information. 

The Solution: 

Making sure patients are kept up to date on the status of their appointments or letting them know if there is a delayed start for their appointment would go a long way in terms of delivering high quality service.  The right technology can provide status updates, just as the airline industry does for flight departure and arrival times.  This would keep the flow of visitors to your office informed and less agitated, while reducing the stress of a long list of patients in the waiting room.  Using the Dynamics Healthcare Accelerator, the same tracking system could also ensure that the data captured is accurate based on prior history.  Artificial intelligence (AI) can alert staff when certain information is inconsistent or certain conditions are met, enabling better preventative care.  

4. Be Audit-Ready

The Problem:

Between medical devices, endless data and changing government requirements, it takes a lot of time and resources to ensure that your practice is in compliance with and prepared for an audit. The cost is significant and can rob you of time that could be better spent, on research, with patients, or with your own family.   

The Solution: 

Wouldn't it be easier if all the information you needed was at your fingertips for an audit and little additional preparation was needed?  With a file structure that allows for tracking actions across all documents, from viewing to editing, and one that is easy for auditors to search and review, minimal resources will be required to prepare. Not to mention, you'll benefit from a reduction of errors that can come from a traditional corporate filing solution that doesn't track versions or allow for permissioning to prevent unauthorized use.

5. Have Confidence in Your Privacy & Security Practices

The Problem:

Medical documents involve sensitive information and strict regulations regarding privacy.  It's difficult to be sure that the plethora of paperwork you retain over time is secure but at least you may feel like you have control of access.  You may have even less confidence in storing information online where it could potentially be hacked or misused.  Then there is also the possibility of a disaster, like a flood or fire, which destroys all of your documentation. 

The Solution: 

With a document management system, you can control who has access to different types of information.  You will also be able to track names, dates and times when documents were last viewed or changed.  Encryption can also be automated so all appropriate documents are not at risk to external parties.  Cloud platforms like Microsoft Azure, offer data backup and recovery, systems to secure data across all access points and the ability to detect and mitigate threats, 

At the end of the day, you just want to be able to do your job and feel good about the services you provide.  With a cloud-based, customized document control solution, you can reduce paperwork (thereby reducing staffing and storage costs), increase productivity, reduce the stress of audit readiness, and improve security.  As a result, you will be able to focus on providing high quality care to your patients.

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For those who want a quick answer:

The Common Data Model (CDM) is a standardized, modular, extensible collection of data schemas published by Microsoft that are designed to make it easier for you to build, use, and analyze data. This collection of predefined schemas—consisting of entities, attributes, semantic metadata and relationships—represents commonly used concepts and activities, such as Account and Campaign, to simplify the creation, aggregation, and analysis of data. - Microsoft 

For those looking for more detail:

The CDM is a common data structure that you should use to build out all of your business applications for consistency in entities, attributes and relationships. More simply, a CDM facilitates data management and application development by unifying data into a known form.  This way, you can use data across multiple applications without having to manipulate the data, saving time, aggravation and money . 

Here is an example:

Scenario 1: You're a company that sells and manufactures widgets. Your sales, manufacturing and accounting departments all manage their own business processes and data within their own application. That's 3 applications. AKA, your IT department's worst nightmare. And each individual application may have different data structure and records for the same Accounts data. Sending/receiving data from one system to another may require custom attribute mapping and some data may not make it.

Scenario 2: You're a company that has motivated executives who have had their ears to the ground on Microsoft's digital transformation message. You also sell and manufacture widgets. You have since converted all of your business applications into the CDM and your Sales, Manufacturing and Accounting teams all share the same set of Account data. No integration needs to take place and your IT department's business expense for Advil has gone to $0. Building out additional business applications is a breeze - since the core of your application has already been built for you.

Which company do you think has the leg up on their competition?

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You may think you've addressed and eliminated all of the major inefficiencies on your manufacturing floor but as technology evolves, if you're not re-evaluating opportunities to drive manufacturing quality and volume on an ongoing basis, you may be at a weakness to competitors who are.  Most manufacturers agree that the greatest cost to their business comes from unplanned downtime or downtime that occurs unexpectedly or as a result of a failure.  This may be driven by excessive tool changeovers, excessive job changeovers, lack of operators, and unplanned maintenance.  The cost of unplanned downtime could be upwards of $1 million dollars per event.  Even more troubling, however, is that customer service is often a casualty of unplanned downtime, and could cost even more in the long-term.  Downtime is not the only challenge to manufacturing productivity.  Keeping up with changing regulations, managing vast quantities of data from consumers and the production line, maintaining appropriate inventory levels, maintaining optimal workforce. 

In a study conducted by Vanson Borne, 81% of respondents felt that digital tools could eliminate unplanned downtime. Further, 85% of respondents admitted that their organization could improve its effectiveness when it comes to asset management.  

How can you address cost-draining manufacturing inefficiencies? 1. Internet of Things (IoT)

Predictive maintenance and remote management can greatly reduce down time.  IoT can provide real-time feedback and alert companies of product defects or damaged goods.   By incorporating real-time production monitoring, manufacturers can improve the accuracy of their Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), production output rates, quality and efficiency. 

2. Document Management Systems

If, like many other manufacturers, you are struggling to manage and process the high volume of paper documents that flow through your organization, including delivery forms, invoices, revision notices and purchase orders, machine maintenance documentation.  While necessary, these documents all have the potential to slow operational productivity if not managed properly.  The advantages of a Document Management System in Manufacturing are many. 

  • Quickly locate documents with easy search and refine capabilities
    • Reduced data loss and need for storage space for paper documentation
    • Faster response time to customer and supplier inquiries, medical emergencies, etc.
  • Enhanced security
    • Customize document management system for rules around governance
    • Track versions of paperwork to ensure use of latest documents
    • Easily share and access safety and training documents
    • Audit-ready
  • Automated workflows
    • Improve production quality
    • Reduced downtime (equipment is functioning properly)
    • Reduce possibility for error

3. Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Machine Learning

AI is being used to enable collaborative robotics (robots that work alongside humans), automate workflows using predictive analytics, improve recruitment and retention of manufacturing experts, and to optimize equipment and plant effectiveness. Machine Learning reduces need for technicians with the ability to improve the performance of computer systems through exposure to data, eliminating the need to follow explicitly programmed instructions. 

4. Business Productivity Tools

With its latest business productivity tools, Microsoft is helping transform their organizations using end-to-end solutions that connect data, people, and equipment.  For example, Dynamics 365 Connected Field Service, manufacturers can deliver a profitable field service that deepens customer loyalty. Using these solutions provide manufacturers with higher visibility across their organization while minimizing downtime, reducing costs, and increasing customer satisfaction and sales through cross-selling and up-selling opportunities. As a result, manufacturers are transforming their market offerings to deliver a rich set of value-added business services and provide a complete, connected customer experience.

5. Data Analytics

Advanced analytics provide manufacturers with insight based on data captured from machinery and processes across the plant floor to improve product quality, reduce production delays and improve time-to-market for new products.  With an ability to predict equipment failures and anticipate consumer demand, customer service will also benefit.  Data is streamlined so information about supply, delivery, customer support, that used to be difficult to find, is more easily accessible and easier to analyze, particularly with apps like Microsoft PowerBI, which consolidates data from a variety of sources and facilitates analysis. 

Employees and customers alike have become accustomed to immediate gratification from technology and now expect the same from their processes and products, requiring faster innovation. To keep up with high expectations, digital transformation is a necessary evolution in order for manufacturers to stay competitive and to improve the way they manage and share information across the enterprise.  With the digital transformation, comes great opportunity to reduce costs, drive efficiencies and improve productivity and product quality. 

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Dynamics 365 is a great tool on which to build any of your business applications. Buying a license will spin up an instance already configured with Sales, Customer Service, Field Service and Project Management modules. They all have the standard Dynamics dashboards and reports. But how do you know when you need to customize those reports, or better yet, upgrade your reporting to Power BI?

Dynamics Dashboards

Dynamics dashboards are great for listing out the information a user may need to see: such as their open leads, opportunities, and cases. This is information a user might need to have easy access to, with on-screen reminders like “I forgot to follow up on this lead last week, I should check in today.” You can click into this dashboard to go right to the lead’s information so that you can call or send an email. Having access to those records in one click is incredibly useful.

Where the advantages of Dynamics dashboards starts to fall off is in visualizations; they leave quite a bit to be desired. Not being able to pick colors can cause bar charts to become confusing, and pie charts to look undesirable. You are also limited to bar, line, pie, area and funnel charts, so you are not able to create more complex visuals such as map visualizations or bar-line chart combinations. 

 

Power BI Dashboards

This is where Power BI comes in. It gives you the ability to make incredible, interactive visualizations. If you are a sales manager, you may not need to see the information on an individual record basis, but you want to see the whole picture. How much revenue are we forecasting by region? What is our Won vs Estimated revenue? Who has been falling behind on their sales activity?  The best part is that these reports are available in Power BI content packs, so you will need to do little to no configuration!

 

In just a few steps you can integrate your Power BI dashboard right into Dynamics 365. Any dashboard you want can be added into the system and you can slice and dice the reports any way you want. Read my blog on how to do this.

For more information or if you would like help integrating Power BI with Dynamics 365, please feel free to reach out to Bernie at bthibeault@aerieconsulting.com or leave a comment below!

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Microsoft's Business Applications are uniquely capable of helping you transform your business, enabling you to optimize your processes by connecting the key pillars of your business. You cannot name another business software company that can provide you with modern, integrated and intelligent applications for every part of your business process.

Whether sales, marketing, operations, finance, HR, or customer service, Microsoft has an application for you.  Built on a common data application and analysis platform called the Common Data Model (built on Azure), Microsoft's Business Applications are integrated with Office 365 (the largest productivity suite) AND the worlds largest professional network, LinkedIn.

This combination can supercharge your business and is completely unmatched. Microsoft calls this solution framework the Digital Feedback Loop, and is confident (as am I), it will propel your digital transformation.

There are 5 pillars to the Digital Feedback Loop, at the center of which is data & intelligence. 

Engage Customers

A deep understanding of your customer will enable you to design products & services that best meet their needs. When this customer data is are built into the feedback loop, you can deliver more effective and personalized products and services.  Microsoft gives you applications like Dynamics for Marketing, Sales or Customer Service, which are mainly customer-centric applications designed to tailor individual customer experiences. They enable you to have the right processes, data and touch points in place so that you engage your customers in an effective way. That means having the right information, at the right time to make the right decision every time OR providing the customer with the information they want, at the right time, through things like customer portals - and Dynamics 365 gives you that.  

Empower Employees

Just like with engaging customers - employees need the right information at the right time. But you also need to provide your employees with the tools they need to do their job more efficiently and effectively. These tools also need to be able to adapt to an ever-changing business landscape so that your employees can stay ahead of the curve. The productivity suite, business applications, and data analysis tools at your employees fingertips, cannot be matched.  Not to mention, your employees will be able to collaborate any time, anywhere and on any device. Empowering employees with relevant data and the Artificial Intelligence (AI) to assist with the analysis of that data, will support your business across all of the other pillars. 

Optimize Operations

When companies think of digital transformation they sometimes leave out their operations team because they are stuck on some legacy application or their user group may not be the most tech savvy. But those days are changing as Microsoft has been coming out with powerful applications that can empower your field service, project, or finance & accounting departments.

These applications improve responsiveness, service levels and reduce costs - leading to higher profitability.

Transform Products

Microsoft obviously cannot make your products awesome for you... but it can help shift your vision from hindsight to foresight by providing the data and applications you need to make those key product decisions.  Here again, a deep understanding of the customer will foster better product & service development by creating products that address customer needs. 

Data & Intelligence

PowerBI is the application of choice for data visualization and integration. These analytics will help your employees make key decisions and reduce the complexity of static data.  There are also built-in AI tools in Dynamics 365 like the Relationship Assistant, that serves up friendly reminders to complete tasks or answer emails. Not to mention, with the recent additions of AI for Sales, and AI for Customer Service, Microsoft is giving businesses the power of Artificial Intelligence to make (or help make) key decisions for you.

In order to remain competitive, all businesses will need to recognize the importance of the digital feedback loop.  Microsoft's business applications effectively facilitate the incorporation of data and business intelligence into decision making to transform businesses.

Find this post on my site or view some other blogs here: https://berniethibeault.com/2018/11/05/digital-feedback-loop/

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I’m going to keep this introduction short and sweet. If you are making the decision between Dynamics 365 and another software or are wondering how to leverage Dynamics 365 and the other Microsoft productivity tools, it is a no-brainer to use the integration between Office 365 and Dynamics 365. Here’s why:

Outlook

These days, every CRM system needs to integrate directly with Outlook – and none do it better than the Dynamics App for Outlook. You can work in Outlook all day and have complete access to the full functionality of Dynamics without skipping a beat. If you have emails coming in from leads all day, Dynamics 365 will know their data without your input and you can update their information right from the Dynamics 365 side panel. Turning on email tracking will also allow any emails sent to/from records in Dynamics to be tracked to its timeline.

Cortana

Microsoft is pushing Artificial Intelligence very hard. And one of the main places they are pushing it is in Dynamics 365. The relationship assistant monitors daily actions like tasks, sentiment in emails and opportunities nearing their close date to provide you with actionable insights. Data cards show up in your dashboards and on forms to give you friendly reminders to send the client that email or follow up on that opportunity. Just look at this list of AI features rolling out in the October ’18 releases here. AI is going to give you everything you need to have a leg up on the competition and close more deals.

    

SharePoint

SharePoint is another powerful tool that you should leverage with your Dynamics implementation. Every business uses documents and needs a place to store them. With the SharePoint integration, you can link those documents to a quote, opportunity or any record you choose, and it can all be surfaced in SharePoint, along with all the functionality you get with it, such as versioning and workflows.

OneDrive

By enabling the OneDrive integration, you can manage and work on documents from Dynamics 365 and have them automatically synced to your desktop or mobile device. Go with OneDrive if you want a more private file management solution.

Excel

The integration with Excel allows for data export/import, creating templates, and being able to refresh or edit Dynamics data directly from Excel using Dynamics worksheets.

PowerBI

PowerBI is a no-brainer when it comes to business analytics and interactive reports. Create powerful visualizations with your Dynamics data and embed it right into the D365 dashboards. You can also share these reports with non-Dynamics users.

OneNote

For every record in Dynamics, you can keep a OneNote notebook to store notes, pictures, videos or voice recordings. This enables your employees to collaborate on the sales deal or project in one of the best productivity tools that Microsoft has to offer.

O365 Groups

With this integration, you can create or link O365 groups to Dynamics 365 records. This gives you a way to link emails, conversations files and collaborations to a record. This is great for projects or big sales opportunities that may involve several users that need a place to collaborate.

 

Skype for Business

Dynamics allows you to click on any phone number in the system to automatically open your Skype for Business account and give them a call. This is a great tool for sales people who are constantly calling their contacts, lead and opportunities that don’t want to worry about managing contacts and phone numbers.

Dynamics 365 is a powerful platform on its own, but when you can leverage the functionality available in all the other Office 365 applications it cannot be beat. Combining the two will bring your organizations productivity to another level.

If you’re interested in learning more or need help setting these integrations up, please comment or contact me at bthibeault@aerieconsulting.com.

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The Unified Interface is meant to provide a consistent, accessible, uniform user interface across devices and across clients.  However, whether I am working with the Web/Classic Interface or the Unified Interface, I have always found it clunkier than it needs to be. Why not make the navigation as simple as possible? I don't need all that extra fluff. 


The NEW Unified Interface will take a big step forward to try to improve this, and in an upcoming release they will make it even better.

Old Unified Interface

  1. I have found that this navigation interface is still tricky to navigate - especially when you do not expand the flyout navigation. Even when you do, it is tough to know if there are other tabs.
  2. Users won't know which icon is which without lots of trial and error.
  3. The command bar is a single color and it is difficult to tell where one command starts and another ends.

New Unified Interface

  1. The navigation flyout will be expanded by default. This will certainly allow users to find what they are looking for much faster and without error.
  2. The entity you are currently in will be highlighted so that the user doesn't get lost in the system.
  3. Recent records will show up in the top of the navigation, as well as the ability to pin records.
  4. The area switcher is at the bottom of the navigation.
  5. The command bar will highlight which command is selected.
  6. Colors are added to the command icons.

Overall, it is not perfect but makes navigating the system much easier, for even the most advanced users.

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There are many factors to consider when deciding on a PowerApps solution and this blog is designed to help you understand the costs associated with it. Microsoft's pricing page paints a feature-rich picture, but does not explain much about the costs associated with a PowerApps solution. I have broken it down into 3 basic components that drive cost:  Licensing, Onboarding & Training, and Building.  

Considerations

Before we get started, there are some important things to take into consideration. I go into more detail in my PowerApps Checklist blog as well as in my Canvas v. Model Apps blogbut in summary: There are 2 types of PowerApps, Canvas and Model driven. A Canvas PowerApp is designed in a PowerPoint-like interface that uses Excel formulas to perform actions and connect to many data sources. A Model driven PowerApp is an application designed around a business use case - with a series of views and forms to see your data - which is stored in the Common Data Service. If you are familiar with Dynamics 365, you know Model driven apps.

Licensing

Chances are you are already on Office 365 - so this means you get a free version of PowerApps which allows you to create an unlimited amount of Canvas PowerApps that connect to standard data connections. These connections include any data in Office 365.

If you are looking for a place to create data tables, form structure, and business process flows, a Model driven PowerApp is what you're looking for. That means you will need PowerApps premium licensing and be able to connect to the premium data sources. For end users, the cost associated with it is $7/user per month. For the admin users that need to create and maintain the app, the cost is $40/user per month.

View the licensing page here for more details.

On-boarding and Training

With any new business application, you will need to take into account the amount of time it takes to train the end users to use the PowerApp. I have great news for you, because PowerApps is designed to be incredibly user-friendly, you can really limit the time needed to train users. I would make sure to allocate time to train the power users in the department or company, but vary the end user training depending on the level of complexity of your app. 

Build 

Ah yes! The good part. What will it cost to actually build my app?

Microsoft advertises PowerApps as a solution for the citizen developer, but in reality, if you want to create a business application that provides value to the users at your company, you need to know what you're doing. I would recommend bringing in a Microsoft Partner or hiring a PowerApps/Microsoft specialist that understands the data sources and connections that are possible. Consultants are going to be around the $150-200 per hour range, but trust me it is well worth the expense! 

 

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