Microsoft Dynamics 365 Deep Dive Series: Using Microsoft PowerApps, Flow, and Common Data Service with Dynamics 365

Microsoft Dynamics 365 has been released, but what is it, and why is it better than previous releases of Dynamics? What does it mean to you? In our first in our series of Dynamics 365 Deep Dive blogs, What It Is, What It Costs, and What it Means to You, we introduced you to the product and pricing. We continued the series with 10 of our Favorite Tools. In this blog, we get to know the powerful tools that help you :

Join us on the Dynamics 365 Deep Dive journey as we explore the new kids on the block: PowerApps, Flow, and the Common Data Service (formerly called Common Data Model). The visual below is how the Microsoft folks are positioning these products (or services).

If you have been the applications business for as long as I have, you have heard the mantra of “codeless applications”. It’s something many companies have been chasing, but Microsoft is now getting closer than I have seen from nearly anyone else.  And these three services, PowerApps, Flow, and Common Data Service are the core foundation for building useful business applications, quickly and without code.

Microsoft Power Apps

First let’s cover Microsoft PowerApps. PowerApps is a service that lets individuals build simple, useful, custom applications without writing code. These apps can be published instantly and used on the web or from your mobile device. The best use cases for these are for purpose built needs. In the example below I created a mobile app that would show a user all the projects assigned to them. With a simple tap of the start/stop button, they can much more rapidly capture the time spent on each of their projects. It’s also possible to edit the projects and create new ones. That data is saved to the Common Data Service, which then updates both CRM and Operations. Everything done without a single line of code, and in less than a day.

And the finished app:

PowerApps allows business users to easily create mobile apps for smartphones and tablets. These apps can also be accessed via a browser. We now have a platform that can consume, edit and create data from many of the systems you already use. For example, you might already have a form or SharePoint list to capture new project requests. Simply point PowerApps at the SharePoint list, and it will create most of the app for you. Want to add CRM or ERP data to that as well? It’s simple: Tap into the Common Data Service. With PowerApps, this can all be accomplished without writing code and using an intuitive point-and-click designer (web or desktop).

Some of the most common applications that PowersApps can tap into are:

·         Common Data Service

·         Office 365

·         Dynamics 365

·         Excel

·         Google Apps

·         SQL Server

·         SharePoint

·         OneDrive

·         Box

·         Azure


Check this full listing to see all the available applications. Check back often as more are added nearly every week.

Microsoft Flow

Next up is Microsoft Flow. Microsoft Flow is a service for creating workflows across applications that your business users rely on every day. If you have Dynamics CRM, you probably know there is a pretty powerful workflow engine included. The challenge is when you want to incorporate workflow outside of CRM. This becomes much more challenging and requires some serious custom code development. Flow overcomes the limitation in Dynamics CRM workflow and supercharges it into an amazing cross-application and cross-platform workflow workhorse. We are talking Clydesdale level here. For example, perhaps you want to monitor Twitter for certain #hashtag (or keyword). When Twitter sees that hashtag, it will automatically create a lead record CRM. If I wanted it to do more, I could keep going and perhaps notify someone via email or text message about the new lead. In the past, this would require third-party tool custom development. With Flow, it’s point and click, and I literally did this under 15 minutes.

More importantly, Flow works alongside PowerApps to provide even greater power and usability for Dynamics 365. With Flow, you can automate almost any time-consuming process or task, from simple tasks such as approval workflows to much more complex workflows like working across Sales, Service and Operations:

  • Get Notifications
  • Synchronize Files and Services
  • Collect Data
  • Automate Approvals

Some of the features you get with Flow include;

Common Data Service

Last on today’s list is the Microsoft Common Data Service (CDS). CDS is an Office 365/Dynamics 365/Azure-based business application data model and storage application. CDS comes pre-configured with a large set of standard entities used in business applications. For example, CRM and ERP both have customer fields, but they are not called the same thing. Each system calls it something different. With the Common Data Service, you can map both applications to single, common field called “Customer”. Now, when that field is updated, CDS will update both applications as well. Think of this as codeless integration.

Even better, these standard entities can extend the data model with custom entities, again without writing code. This opens a whole new world of possibilities for building even more useful PowerApps and Flows. Now, non-developers can create a data model to support their needs. The beauty is CDS is that it provides a single data model that can source data from multiple systems, relate the data, and allow users to view and update data across many applications.

In the past, custom code, kludgy workarounds, and third-party solutions were required to provide these capabilities…but no more!

Watch this information-packed on-demand webcast, No-Code Applications That Solve Real Business Problems, for a deep dive demonstration of what you can do with these new capabilities.

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Contributor: AKA Enterprise Solutions

AKA is comprised of professionals with deep experience in business, technology, and their respective industries. Our team members regularly share their knowledge and expertise through blog articles. We hope you find them helpful, and we welcome your comments.

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