Ever wished that you had a single place to manage/create environments, see statistics for all of your systems, view data integrations, etc?
Traditionally, it’s sometimes been quite hard to see all of this – admins have had to go to multiple places to find this information, and then bring it all together manually. A tedious task at times! This was especially true if an organisation had multiple environments – truly a major headache.
But now…..there is an answer!
With the new Power Platform Admin Centre (note – it’s currently in Preview), this is all a thing of the past. It’s now extremely easy to see a massive amount of information in just one place. This covers environments, analytics (not only Dynamics environments, but now also the CDS, Flow and PowerApps for a tenant), Data Integrations, Data Gateways, etc.
As as tech guy, I immediately know what someone is referring to when they’re talking about environments (within a technical context, of course). However there are a large number of (non) technical people who have absolutely no idea what the word ‘environment’ means, leaving aside how they are used.
The aim of this post is therefore to demystify what environments are, the different types, how they’re used, etc.
Caveat: There may be specific circumstances in which these may differ, eg for Dynamics F&O
So firstly – what is an environment?
This is simple to answer – an environment is a full (technical) system. There may be multiple different systems contained within the same environment (or they could be split out). There will be different environments used (more details below) in any company
Incidentally, people may also use the word ‘instance’ instead of ‘environment’.
The next question is – how are environments used?
Thankfully this is also simple to answer – environments are used to enable different parts of the technical system roll-out process. Each environment is unique (and should usually not be connected to each other
Types of environments
There are quite a few different types of environments needed. Listed below are the ones that are usually considered to be MVP (no, not Microsoft Valued Professional….in this context it means Minimum Viable Product)
Development This is the environment that the development team will use for coding and configuration, as well as initial testing of code Once code is stable, it will be promoted to the next environment
UAT (User Acceptance Testing) This environment is where the client/business will access to test the system. Each development item will have a logged story, and these will be tested against. They will either pass (and then be signed off) or not pass (with explanations given as to why they haven’t passed) and be sent back to the development team
Note: It may be possible to use the UAT instance for training, and all client/business users to access it. This will depend greatly on the resources needed, project timeline/progress, etc. It is not usually advised to do this though
Staging This environment is where data migration is tested out, to ensure that all data from the previous system/s are successfully migrated (with any transformations that may need to take place).
Note: It may be possible to combine the UAT and Staging instances, if the proposed system is very simple and not complicated/large
Production This is the actual LIVE system for the company
Customisations, code etc are promoted through the different environments with releases. It’s important to ensure that these are carried out properly and scheduled in, especially when applying a release to a production environment. I’ll cover how this should be done, and what things to bear in mind, in a future post.
There are also several other types of environments that may be being used, depending on the type/scale/scope of the project:
Training This is an instance with all customisations and code (to date) along with data that is used to train all client/business users. Any updates in functionality to test environments would need to be replicated to this environment as well
Integration Depending on the other system/s that D365 will be exchanging data with (both in and out) it may be necessary to have a specific instance set up to test out the integration with these other components
Support A clone of the Production environment for use in support cases eg attempting to recreate issues/bugs that have been raised
If you’ve come across any other types of environments, please do comment!
My current logo is quite standard (I’ve actually used it for a number of years for some things). But it’s not quite what I’m wanting for this. Therefore a logo rebrand is now being kicked off – results to hopefully be displayed soon!
As mentioned by many people, it’s vitally important to have a consistent theme and brand. It’s also important to cover the multiple different channels available.
Additionally I’ve now registered both Twitter and YouTube channels! This will push my comfort zone (for YouTube at least), but will hopefully be good.
You’re in the middle of editing the values of specific fields within Dynamics. Suddenly a colleague comes over to your desk to ask you something, or you get a phone call (obviously to assist with a technical matter!). You spend some time on the call, and deal with whatever is needed. You hang up, and look back at the screen.
Hold on. The train of thought is gone. You’re looking at the overall entity, and can’t remember if you did update a specific field, or you didn’t? And if you did, did you already publish the entity, or not?
You’ll need to open up each field that you’re needing to update, to see if you already dealt with it or not. MAJOR pain and headache, and loss of productivity.
Well…not to fear! When dealing with field values in PowerApps Entities, there’s an extremely helpful visual cue for this (outlined below):
How it works is simple:
You open up an existing field in the Entity Designer, and edit something, anything at all, within it
You save it
Bingo! The icon shows next to it!
When you then Publish the entity, the icon disappears
Now, what could we possibly do with all of that time saved…..
I’ve recently started my journey into the Microsoft Power Platform, and am digging into how it all works.
Late last night I decided to start playing around with entering the data fields directly into the entity first (the aim is to drive a Model App eventually). Managed to get some stuff done, then headed to bed.
This morning I brought it all up again, and picked up from where I left off. Something immediately jumped out at me – the fields I was adding were shown in bold (as outlined in the image below)
This intrigued me – originally I thought that perhaps I was creating a field that was named the same as a default schema, and the system was letting me know this somehow. However, this wasn’t the case at all.
What it actually is, is showing the new fields that have been added (whilst the entity hasn’t yet been saved). Once you save the entity, then the bolding of the name disappears.
So quite a useful way to see new fields, and work out exactly where you are with things!
Whilst on the commute into the office this morning, I got to thinking about the last year or so, and how far I’ve come along in that time. If I went back in time to spring/summer 2018, I don’t think I’d have ever (accurately) forecast my development and status that I’ve undergone over that time (both personally and professionally).
A major impetus and assistance for some of the progression has been down to the wonderful people that I’ve met (as well as my family, of course). Without the network that I’ve built up, I would most certainly not be where I am now.
So this post is to say….
…to all of the people who I’ve met:
The Dynamics Community (CRMUG and others)
The MVP’s who I’ve reached out to with questions (ok – some of the questions ‘may’ have been silly, in hindsight!)
The SME’s who I’ve pinged to find out more
The people who helped me with setting up this blog (as I had no idea what I was doing)
The conversations where I joined in, even though it wasn’t directly relevant to me
All of the assistance with introductions and interviews
The training for taking exams (documented in blog posts here already)
The great suggestions
The social meets
And last but NOT least, to the support and patience that my family provided me with.
I can only pay back in a small part. What I can do, however, is copy your examples and do my best to help others as well – ‘Pay It Forward’ (which has been touched on before).
So if I may be able to help with something, even in a small way, please reach out 🙂
Dynamics 365 is Microsoft’s business application suite, combining in a single system its Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) capabilities. It includes four main applications: Customer Engagement, Finance and Operations, Talent and Retail.
Microsoft allows organisations to pick and choose the specific
applications they want to use to achieve their needs and objectives. This
allows organisations to use only the applications that they need, rather than
purchasing licenses to applications that may be left unused.
365 for Customer Engagement
Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement is Microsoft’s CRM system. It
contains a collection of separate applications that make up its CRM system,
including: Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Field Service and Project
Dynamics 365 for Sales
This application enables organisations, and the users within these
organisations, to track sales across the entire sales lifecycle from beginning
to end, build and maintain close customer relationships through effective
management of customer accounts and gain valuable insights on the sales
process. The application also includes tips, suggestions and insights which
help to maintain customer relationships with ease.
Dynamics 365 for Marketing
Dynamics 365 for Marketing is an
application which seeks to optimise the way in which organisations generate
sales opportunities and turn them into business relationships. The application
seeks to bring together sales and marketing strategy to create a unified
approach for managing the whole sales lifecycle. Companies can use the
Marketing application to create a personalised marketing strategy which uses
data on previous activity to target specific individuals and deliver
personalised advertisement messages.
Dynamics 365 for Customer Service
This application provides
companies with the ability to provide personalised, high quality customer
service on a range of platforms. The Customer Service Hub within the application
provides a centralised GUI and includes many tools that companies can use to
improve and optimise the service they provide to customers. These tools provide
a complete view of customer cases and enable companies to provide personalised
support for customers. Users can create and view customer cases, record and
monitor progress, view previous customer interactions and see an overview of
all open cases, which can be broken down into categories, such as product,
priority and incident type.
Knowledge Base Articles
Dynamics 365 for Field Service
The Field Service application focuses
on businesses’ operations in the field and provides companies with tools they
need to successfully operate and deliver high quality service to customers when
on-site. The application optimises the efficiency of resources through improved
scheduling, increasing the effectiveness of staff on-site and utilises Internet
of Things to identify and diagnose customer issues early on.
Agreements & Billing
Universal Resource Scheduling
Dynamics 365 for Project Service Automation
Project Service Automation is an
application targeted towards companies that provide project-based services and
includes tools to increase productivity, efficiency and the quality of the work
being delivered. The application includes tools to assist these organisation
through the whole project lifecycle and allows users to plan projects, track
progress, forecast price and profitability, monitor the scope, review and
assess costs and time, optimise resource scheduling, amongst other things
365 for Finance and Operations
Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations is Microsoft’s integrated ERP
system. It includes a variety of features such as supply chain management, intelligent
analytics, financial management, operations support and human resources
management. One of the central features of Finance and Operations is its
financial management capabilities. This platform allows organisations to use
features such as general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable,
banking, budgeting and forecasting, fixed asset management and tax management.
Finance and Operations also includes a number of capabilities which aid
organisations to manage and optimise their supply chain operations. Some of
these capabilities include sourcing and procurement, inventory and warehouse
management, materials requirements planning (MRP), and manufacturing
management. These capabilities enable organisations to optimise and automate
their supply chain at every point throughout the process.
365 for Talent
Dynamics 365 for talent, Microsoft’s human capital management
application, provides organisations with the tools they need to optimise the
way in which they manage and engage with their workforce. Talent is made up of
three central parts:
Attract focuses on the all parts of the recruitment process, from
finding suitable candidates to submitting offers to successful applicants. Once
successful applicants become new employees, the Onboard part of Talent helps to
assimilate new joiners into the organisation. Finally, Core HR is designed to
enrich the experience of employees and managers in organisations by creating a
self-service portal. Within this portal employees can request time off, set and
track performance goals, receive feedback and monitor skills and capabilities.
LinkedIn is the world’s largest talent database and often the primary
system that recruiters use to find, communicate with, and source candidates for
the jobs that recruiters are looking to fill. LinkedIn Recruiter integration
with Dynamics 365 for Talent (Attract) makes it easier for users to hire, and
to keep the data in sync between the two systems
365 for Retail
Dynamics 365 for Retail works to bring together both front and back
office function to assists businesses in optimising inventory, merchandising,
store operations and hardware to create a unified multi-channel sales approach
that delivers a high-quality shopping experience.
Retail shares functionality with both Finance and Operations, and
365 for Business Central
Microsoft Dynamics 365
Business Central is a cloud-based, all-in-one business management solution
which enables customers to upgrade from their entry-level accounting software
or legacy ERP system to one single, comprehensive solution to manage finances,
operations, sales and customer service. Helping organisations streamline their
processes, improve customer relations and enable growth through:
Business without silos—connecting
businesses and boosting efficiency with automated tasks and workflows, all
within the familiar Microsoft interface of applications such as Word, Outlook
Actionable insights—achieving more
and gaining a complete view of the business with connected data, business
analytics and guidance delivered by Microsoft’s leading intelligent
Solutions built to evolve—get
started quickly, growing and adapting in real time with a flexible platform
that makes it easy to extend beyond Business Central based on evolving business
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business
Central Essentials includes the following functionality:
ledger, workflows and audit trails, bank management, budgets, deferrals, bank
reconciliation, dimensions, fixed assets and currencies.
Customer Relational Management—contacts,
campaigns, opportunity management and built-in integration with Dynamics 365
Supply Chain Management—sales
order management, basic receivables, purchase order management, locations, item
transfers, and basic warehousing.
Human Resources—employees and
estimates, jobs and time sheets.
Other—multiple languages, reason
codes, extended text, Intrastat reporting, scheduled tasks and Outlook
Microsoft Dynamics 365
Business Central Premium will include the above functionality, plus:
Service Order Management—service
orders, service price management, service item management, service contract
management, planning and dispatching.
version management, agile manufacturing, basic supply planning, demand
forecasting, capacity planning, machine centres and finite loading