Adding Portal Content Faster and Easier with the New Portal Management Centre

There’s been lots of talk about the new portal management capabilities in the latest release of Dynamics 365 and portals. Managing content and adding web pages in portals has up until now been most easily done using the front-side editor when it comes to standard content; meanwhile adding views or forms for other non-portal entities has always been a manual process involving creating entity forms and entity lists on the CRM backend. Indeed, the pain and confusion involved with the process of doing so has been a big blocker in terms of adoption of the Portals as a turn-key solution.

This has changed somewhat with the latest releases, with a new Portal Management Center right in Dynamics 365 Web Application which makes adding content a bit quicker and easier, especially if your goal is surfacing Dynamics entities that don’t belong to the portals site map concept.

First off, in order to use the Portal Management area of the Dynamics Portal module, your CRM security role must have full read/write/ permissions to all of the Portal entities administered by this functionality: namely Entity FormsEntity Lists, and Web Pages. Assuming you are able to access it you’ll notice that there are two options. The first is to Create Portal Content, and the second is to Enable Analytics. We might look at the second of these options in a future post, but today we are talking about the first: The Create Portal Content Wizard.

Please Note: In order to try this out you’ll obviously need to have a portal available for you to use and play around with. If you haven’t already done so, I’d suggest signing up for a Dynamics 365 trial. Also, this post assumes you are already familiar with front-side editing and portal content management basics. We’ll post on those topics at a later time, but they are well-documented on MSDN.

The simplest task to perform using the Portal Management Center is simply to create a web page containing basic content. This is typically done using front-side editing, and front-editing is still perhaps the optimal tool for this task. However, if you are going to create Web Pages inside the Dynamics Web Application, the Create Portal Content wizard is a more streamlined method of doing so than manually creating the records using basic CRM forms.

TO CREATE A WEB PAGE

  1. Sign in to Dynamics 365.
  2. Go to Portals > Administration > Portal Management. The Portal Management page is displayed. 
  3. Select Create Portal Content. The Create Portal Content window appears. 
  4. Specify the required details. At a minimum:
    • Select your website; prepopulated if only one website is available. The list is sorted alphabetically by the website name.
    • The Page Name.
    • Page Title (required for some reason, even though it’s not required by the system).
    • LayoutThe Page Template.
    • Parent page in the content hierarchy; prepopulated with the Home page.
    • Publishing Status
    • Finally, for a basic page, set Expose organization entities in the portal to false. We’ll get to this!

The web page you create here is going to be pretty basic –just some simple content using an out-of-the-box Portals page template or one that’s been created by your team. When you click Create, the shiny new record will open in CRM, and you will be able to navigate to the Page on the portal (by typing in the URL directly, for example). There won’t be any content yet –you’ll create that separately.

EXCITING STUFF, RIGHT?

OK, so this by itself may not be all that awe-inspiring to those who have configured content for Dynamics Portals before, but let’s take a moment to appreciate just how few clicks were actually involved here, and just how fast that process actually was. This is shiny new functionality –a true wizard-like interface for creating content for portals– that’s been missing for a long time.

The really exciting new functionality, however, is unlocked when you choose to expose organization entities on the portal. This functionality actually allows for a view (list) of just about any entity in the CRM to be exposed on the portal, along with create and edit capabilities, should you choose to enable them. Finally, something as straightforward as exposing a list of leads on the portal, which has always required some rather complex configuration, is just a few clicks away.

This time, let’s create a web page that surfaces said list of leads. A publicly exposed list of leads may not seem like a realistic use case in and of itself –and that’s true– but bear in mind we aren’t discussing security or access permissions today (with which you could lock down this list to only certain users) nor are we really discussing verticals. This is more about exposing any kind of records from the CRM quickly and easily. There are many different possible scenarios where you would want to expose a list of records on the portal, with the ability to edit or insert from the portal being a part of many such scenarios as well.

To set this up, we’ll be creating a web page using the same method as before, but making use of some advanced options:

  1. Sign in to Dynamics 365.
  2. Go to Portals > Administration > Portal Management. The Portal Management page is displayed.
  3. Select Create Portal Content. The Create Portal Content window appears.
  4. Specify the basic required details. At a minimum:
    • Select your website; prepopulated if only one website is available. The list is sorted alphabetically by the website name.
    • The Page Name.
    • Page Title (required for some reason, even though it’s not required by the system).
    • LayoutThe Page Template.
    • Parent page in the content hierarchy; prepopulated with the Home page.
    • Publishing Status
    • Finally, for a basic page, set Expose organization entities in the portal to TRUE this time.
  5. This is where things get interesting. The wizard will now give you some options that will result in Entity Listsand Entity Forms being created. Without getting too deep into the details in this post (a future post maybe), let’s look at the options:
    • Select Entity: The entity that you want to expose.
    • Select Views: Choose the views you want to add to the view. If more than one is selected, portal users will be able to switch between them.
    • Select Form: This is the form to be used for reading individual records when you drill into the list.*
    • Allow Record Creation? Select if you want people to be able to insert new records.
    • Allow Anonymous Access? Should people who are not signed in be able to see the list? If you select NO, you will need to set up Entity Permissions, so choose YES for now. If you choose NO to Allow Anonymous Access, more options become available (we’ll skip this for today).
    • Allow Record Editing? Exactly as the name implies. If yes is selected, the Read form becomes an edit form if the portal user has write permissions.
    • Contact Relationship: If you want to show only records that are related to the sign-in user, what’s the relationship between them? It’s an advanced option we’ll talk about in a future post.
    • Restrict Records Owned by the User: They’ll only be able to access their own records (needs above mentioned contact relationship to be defined)

* Please Note: I recommend creating specific forms for the portal, as the OOTB Dynamics “Information” forms, while well-suited for the CRM web application, are not as well suited to being displayed on the portal. It’s a good idea to name these forms with a naming convention so that they can be easily selected while setting up Entity Forms, whether it’s manually or using the Create Portal Content Wizard

* Also Note: You cannot enable Allow Record Editing if anonymous access is allowed. It may seem strange that you can enable Create for anonymous customers, but there you have it. That said, whatever we create here will respect Entity Permissions, a topic for another day.

LET’S LOOK AT A SIMPLE EXAMPLE.

We’ll keep most of the options either turned off or simple for now. Let’s just create a list of leads on the portal:

Here are all the options displayed:

Here are the options we want:

Click Create, and then wait for it to finish spinning; once it’s complete, you’ll be able to navigate to the page on the portal by typing in the URL directly, or by adding a Web Link to the page on the primary navigation.

(Creating a web link…)

…and presto!

So, now we have a list of leads. If you sign out, you’ll notice that it’s accessible whether you are signed in or not. Furthermore, you can click on the linked Name fields of each of the rows to view more details – but only if you have permissions set up, oddly enough. Same goes for the create functionality. This is a bit odd, since there are in fact configuration settings possible which would enable BOTH of these functions with no configuration of permissions, if they were the defaults. Ah, the mysteries of the Dynamics Product Team!

Regardless, we’ve got, at the very least, a read-only list that can be made a lot more useful with a bit of extra configuration – configuration that we’ll cover in Part 2. Don’t miss it!

In the meantime, this post has demonstrated just how easy it is to get up and running with the Create Portal Content functionality of Portal Management in Dynamics. I hope you found this useful.

See you next time!

 

This blog post is one I wrote originally for KPMG Adoxio – It was originally posted over on their tech blog. Go check it out!

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