What is Microsoft Dynamics 365 and How to get Started?
The goal of this how-to is to get you ready to develop a Dynamics 365 Sales application your customers can use right away!
If you want to get started with a Dynamics 365 application other than sales, please look at the Dynamics 365 documentation: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365/. But if you are new to Dynamics 365 you will still get something out of this read.
If you haven’t worked with Dynamics 365 before it can be pretty difficult to find the right documentation for the right business application and get started developing.
To help ease the get started experience we will get a Power Platform environment up and running with a model-driven sales application installed. To achieve this, we will be looking into what Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform is, including what a model-driven app is. We will afterwards get down to business and go into the process of installing a Dynamics Sales app step by step on our own newly created Power Platform environment.
The History of Dynamics
The word Dynamics describes a collection of Microsoft business applications within the ERP and CRM domain. But to learn why the word Dynamics is being used throughout a lot of Microsoft applications we will have to go back in time a little bit.
In the early 90s, a company called Great Plains Software made an accounting system called Dynamics. Microsoft acquired Great Plains in 2001 and later Microsoft had acquired four ERP systems and a CRM system. Microsoft now had a great collection of business applications to offer its customers and wanted to brand the applications as an overall package of business solutions. The marketing department liked the name Dynamics from Great Plains, and hence called this collection of programs for Dynamics.
The ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) applications were then called:
- Dynamics GP (Great Plains)
- Dynamics NAV (Navision)
- Dynamics SL (Solomon)
- Dynamics AX (Axapta)
And the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) application was:
- Dynamics CRM (previously called iCommunicate.NET) — Sales, Marketing and Customer Service software
Solomon Software was bought by Great Plains Software in 2000 hence Microsoft acquired two systems when they bought Great Plains Software. Microsoft also acquired Navision and Axapta at the same time because the two Danish companies Navision Software and Damgaard Data (the developers for the two systems) had merged prior to Microsoft’s acquisition.
What is Microsoft Dynamics 365?
The essential part about Microsoft Dynamics 365 is that Microsoft wanted all the business applications within the Dynamics umbrella to go cloud and be better integrated with each other, so customers can get better use of all the products within Dynamics. Many of the programs have been rebranded over the years and several new programs have been added to the Dynamics collection — as the illustration below shows.
One of the results of the rebrandings is the Dynamics 365 Sales app, which is the one we will install today. This app is based on the old Dynamics CRM solution. An interesting thing about the Dynamics CRM database is that the Power Platform is based upon this database and a lot of the data manipulations and views are as well. This means that apps that originated from Dynamics CRM, like the sales app we are going to create, is going to be customized/develop on the Power Platform very similar to how it was done on the Dynamics CRM platform — just with some more modern and prettier user interfaces.
Note: The transition from Dynamics CRM to the Power Platform is ongoing and hence some of the operations still need to be performed on the old CRM platform.
What is Microsoft Power Platform?
Together with the emergence of Dynamics 365 and everything moving to the cloud, the Microsoft Power Platform was giving birth to. The Power Platform includes tools to improve integration between Dynamics 365 applications, but also between Microsoft products in general. With the Power Platform, the goal for Microsoft is to build a flexible and easy way of developing Microsoft applications across different business domains. Products within the Power Platform are made with the focus on citizen developing, i.e. make it possible to develop applications using the no-code/low-code principles.
There’s more to the Power Platform than this, but that is outside the scope of this how-to.
So what is the Power Platform exactly? It is a collection of the following four applications:
- Power Apps
- Power BI
- Power Automate
- Power Virtual Agents
These four applications are built on top of Data connectors, AI Builder, and the Dataverse (Common Data Service). Other Microsoft applications then use the Power Platform to grain the beneficial power that follows, as illustrated below.
In this article, we will focus only on the Dataverse database and Power Apps from the Power Platform.
Power Apps currently contains:
- Canvas apps
- Model-driven apps
The sales app we will install today is a model-driven app. This type of app looks very similar to apps from the old Dynamics CRM platform, but with a cleaner and more user-friendly UI. This model-driven app is exactly what end-users will be using to create new leads, opportunities, accounts and customers. Plus, they will be able to see all data connected to these entities on a form where they can edit and update information, and much more.
The Dynamics 365 Sales app can be viewed as a collection of components. When installing the Dynamics 365 Sales app we will get a set of predefined tables right off the bat with predefined columns, views, relationships and functionalities. It also includes the model-driven app called Sales Hub, which is the app the end-users will use.
All of the data in Sales Hub is being stored and configured on the Dataverse database. For a long time, the database was called the Common Data Service, or simply CDS. The database had its own name conversion for the components created in it. In the CDS days, a database table was called an entity, columns were fields, rows were records and so on. But after the database has changed its name to Dataverse a lot of the database terms were renamed to something we are more used to from the database world.
A lot of tools and articles will still use the old names so that is something you should be aware of.
Now let’s just get down to business and get started creating the Dynamics 365 Sales app!
Get Started with Dynamics 365 Sales
Hopefully, the above information has given you an idea of the different parts needed to get a sales app up and running. To get the Sales Hub app, we will need to install the Dynamics 365 Sales app. To install this app, we first need a Power Platform environment. We can get this by signing up for a trial license for Power Platform. The license needed is called Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement Plan.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do all this:
Step 1: Set up a D365 Customer Engagement account/license
Step 2: Set up an environment on the Power Platform admin center
Step 3: Navigate to the model-driven Sales Hub app
Step 1: Set up a D365 Customer Engagement account/license
Go sign up via this link Signup and follow the steps. There are 4 steps in the signup process which are broken down below.
I recommend that you use a new Chrome profile so that you do not have to sign out of your current Microsoft user — Microsoft is not good at handling different logins on the same browser profile.
- Type in your work mail or private mail, press ‘Next’ and select ‘Create a new account instead’.
2. Fill in the needed information. Choose a phone number you’re currently using as you’ll need to verify the account shortly.
3. Choose a domain name for your Dynamics 365 account.
Choose a username and a password for an admin user. This user will be the first user on the platform and have full admin privileges to Microsoft 365 and the Power Platform. So you could maybe just call the user admin, but I have put in the following:
4. We are all done!
Press the “Get Started” button to go to the admin center of the Power Platform. Here you can manage your existing environments and also create new ones. The default environment cannot do much, so we will have to create our own environment for development.
It might take some time for the new environment to be ready. Here is the direct link if needed: https://admin.powerplatform.microsoft.com
If you experience issues logging in, it might be because of third-party cookies being blocked. Follow these steps for help: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/powerapps/troubleshooting-startup-issues#instructions-for-google-chrome. This issue can be avoided by creating a new Chrome profile.
Step 2: Set up an environment on the Power Platform admin center
On the admin center site we will be creating a new environment for development by following these steps:
- Press the ‘+ New’ button
- Choose an environment name (I have picked DEV as we are using the environment for development)
- Choose Trial (subscription-based) as environment type
- Press ‘Next’
5. Choose a URL for your model-driven app to exist on. This will be what the users see in the browser’s address bar — so choose something recognizable like ‘delegate-dev’ for example, where delegate is name of the customer’s company name.
6. Enable Dynamics 365 apps
7. Lastly, choose ‘Sales Pro’ or ‘All enterprise applications’ (both include the Dynamics 365 Sales app) and press ‘Save’.
You should now see something like this:
Note the state of the newly created environment is ‘PreparingInstance’ so it might take a while before we can use the model-driven app that is being created for us.
We can verify that the Dynamics 365 sales app have been installed by clicking on ‘DEV’ in the Environment column.
You might need to refresh to be able to select the environment right after it has been created.
Inside the environment you can select ‘Dynamics 365 apps’ under ‘Resources’:
In this new view we are able to see that the app has indeed been installed:
It is also here that you will have to install Dynamics 365 apps in general if they are not installed on the environment by default.
3. Navigate to the model-driven Sales Hub app
To check out our newly created model-driven app which is included in the sales app, go back to the environment page for DEV (one click back) and press ‘Open environment’. Or go to the overview of all environments and select DEV to open the environment.
You will see all the available model-driven apps that are installed by default on your environment:
Here you can choose the Sales Hub app which is the default model-driven app for sales. Sales Hub showcases all the functionalities that come with the installation of the Dynamics 365 Sales app. You should see something like this after opening the app:
Congrats, you have just created your own Dynamics 365 Sales app!
Of course, this is an app right out of the box from Dynamics 365 Sales and your customers might need something slightly different. You can create your own model-driven apps on your newly created environment, or customize the existing ones via the App Designer for model-driven apps.
Check out the further readings section below for more info.
- Overview for model-driven apps: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/powerapps/maker/model-driven-apps/model-driven-app-overview
- Give users of the platform access to your app: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/powerapps/maker/model-driven-apps/share-model-driven-app
- Page for developers — includes guides to change the looks of forms, views, buttons etc. and how to make custom business logic in different ways: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/powerapps/developer/model-driven-apps/overview
Topics of interest include browser development, OS development and networking, although that I am not an expert in any of the subjects. I enjoy teaching in a step by step manner with visual cues and letting people try things out themselves, since I believe that is the best way to learn.
Working with: Microsoft Dynamics 365, Microsoft Power Platform, Power Apps, Microsoft Azure.
Name: Thomas Carlsen
Title: Associate Consultant
Company: Delegate — A Broad Horizon company