A Closer look at Entity Forms and Entity Lists created by the Create Portal Content Wizard

In my post about the Create Portal Content Wizard, I talked about how easy it is to add content to the portal using point-and-click configuration, and demonstrated that the Wizard creates a whole lot of records in the background for you so that you don’t have to. It’s like magic! It certainly does beat having to spend the time configuring Entity Forms, Lists, Permissions, and web pages all from scratch. However, the Wizard also has its limitations. There are several scenarios that it simply can’t manage, including some fairly basic ones. The Wizard can also leave you with a fair bit of manual work or cleanup to do, depending on what you’re building.

In order to better understand the Wizard, I figure now’s the time to spell out exactly what records actually get created by the wizard. To do this, we’ll go through the different options for configuring a list (we care mostly about displaying organization entities, so that’s the focus of this article) and then see exactly what configurations are created with each and what changes occur with the different settings. If you aren’t familiar with the Wizard, I explain the steps for using it here. Read that first, then come back – this article is more of a deep dive.

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Building the Perfect Portal Team

Recently I participated in a group discussion with Colin Vermander about what it takes to have a successful implementation of Dynamics 365 Portals. Among many other factors that I’m sure we’ll discuss in the future, one that struck me is how to build the perfect Portals Implementation team

I thought it would be fun to take a look at the skillsets that are needed to build that team, and the roles associated with those skillsets. Now let’s make the distinction clear before we get started that many of these roles overlap, and the people who fill these roles simply need to have the skillsets required. Very often, one person might fill multiple roles on a smaller project. For example, the Business Analyst and Functional Consultant might be the same person. Conversely, on large implementations with tight deadlines, you might have a very large team with multiple workstreams. Each workstream might have a team of BAs, its own dedicated functional, solution architect, and development team. The golden rule at the end of the day is to ensure that the project is not understaffed, and that each of the below skillsets is taken into consideration when building your team.

Also note, that this article tries to be methodology-agnostic as much as possible. Some roles might only apply to certain methodologies – for example if you are using scrum you’ll need a scrum master, etc. Alright, without further adieu, let’s get down to it.

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Basic Portal Entity Permissions and the Create Content Wizard

In the last article I wrote on this subject, we talked a bit about the Create Portal Content wizard. In that article, we walked through creating a list of leads that displays on the portal. Anyone can access the list, and it’s read-only. Where can we go from here?

Perhaps we don’t want to allow any anonymous users to see our lead list because we only share this information with partners, for example. In this case, we want the ability to create new leads or edit existing leads from the portal, or to take actions on those leads. In other words, we want a secure list of leads that can be modified by those with the appropriate permissions.

For now, let’s not worry about the realism of this scenario.  In a future post, I’ll show you how to build out an awesome portal, and we’ll look in more detail at a realistic business use case at that time. For now, let’s use this simple example to build our knowledge of how to manage permissions for entities exposed on the portal.

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Embedded Canvas Apps within Model-Driven Forms

Just this past December, Microsoft announced the ability to enrich model-driven forms with embedded canvas apps – and this is really exciting. Since I first started working with the power platform, the fact that canvas apps and model-driven apps don’t really play together has seemed a notable limitation. This enhancement really helps bring everything closer together because we can get the same pixel-perfect purpose-driven UI that we’ve come to love (and we all know we do) about canvas apps but within a fully functional model-driven application. In case you are wondering, yes this does potentially open the door to embedding canvas apps within UCI for Dynamics 365 as well (since UCI for Dynamics is essentially a model-driven app).

First off, it takes only a few clicks to embed a canvas app on a model-driven form. Canvas apps are easy to develop (hence the somewhat-maligned concept of the citizen developer) and you can craft very nice visual layouts with “no coding” required (in fact it’s the same level of coding that you’d be using with custom excel apps for example). Furthermore, to bring in and display data from external services, you can choose from a long list of connectors that PowerApps offers for popular services such as SharePoint and Office365 or they can create custom connectors. Finally – and this is important – you get the context of the model-driven form passed in to the canvas app – including the current record or list of related records.

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Dynamics 365 Hybrid Interface

Microsoft’s Power platform is the direction to be looking at if you are involved with Dynamics 365 implementations in any sense. Built on the Common Data Model (CDM), Model Driven Apps – including yes, Dynamics 365 moving forward with version 9 – will be using the Unified Common Interface or UCI for short.

Many Articles have been written about the Unified Common Interface, including it’s ease of use and slick user experience. Much fuss has also of course been made about it’s limitations – which are mostly temporary. These limitations include but are not limited to:

  • Advanced Find
  • Bulk Edit
  • Merge Records
  • Record Sharing

There are various tricks that can be used to access the old interface, and these are well documented (one less documented way is to simply add “?forceClassic=1” to the end of the URL in your browser. However, if you like the new interface and wish to fully adopt it, instead of using the old interface for these functionalities a hybrid mode is possible which enables the aforementioned features in the new interface to a degree.

These features are enabled through a setting in System Settings (which you ironically need to access the old interface to get to).

  • Go to Settings > Administration > System Settings
  • Select the “General” tab
  • scroll way down…to the bottom…
  • Set “Enable embedding of certain legacy dialogs in Unified Interface browser client” to “Yes”

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After enabling, the hybrid experience will enable a bunch of options that utilize the old interface (and cause the old interface to pop up in a rather glaring fashion) in the Unified Interface command bar.

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Pretty nice. Enjoy!

Coming up soon, the next part in my series on Portal Management. View part one here.

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.

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