Microsoft Dynamics 365 For Dummies
If you’re a user of Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM or ERP software, you can improve your user experience with these shortcuts and time-savers. And if you hit a snag, there are plenty of places to find even more help online.
Components of Microsoft Dynamics 365
There is no other ERP or CRM developer that can deliver all the pieces of a world class ERP or CRM SaaS solution by themselves, a cloud service you can license with a month by month subscription at a reasonable price.
Just take a look at the components of Dynamics 365:
- Computing Power: Microsoft is a leader in cloud computing.
The Azure Cloud is a planet-scale public cloud which rivals any other provider’s cloud services as far as coverage, security, resources, and capabilities goes. Dynamics 365 runs on Azure. Competing products often must rely upon some other company’s cloud infrastructure.
- Database: Microsoft is a leader in database technology.
The Azure SQL Database is essentially the same leading database product that acts as a widely adopted standard for business applications — the Microsoft SQL Server relational database management system (RDBMS). This is the same database that Dynamics has run on for many years, but now the Azure SQL version of SQL Server is optimized for the cloud, which means it has elasticity which allows it to grow as your business grows. Most competing ERP and CRM products also run on Microsoft’s SQL Server database; so they must rely on Microsoft, but not the other way around.
- Customer Engagement: Microsoft is a leader in CRM.
Dynamics CRM Online is now Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement; this is the same popular and very widely adopted leading CRM package, but now with more connectivity to the Dynamics ERP offerings (AX and NAV), standard reporting tools (such as Power BI), point-and-click customization tools (such as PowerApps), and more connections to other cloud services (such as Google, Amazon, and more). Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement (CRM) has expanded the traditional CRM capability of organizing and tracking communications with contacts and prospects to automate the sales cycle, to include applications not only for sales force automation but also for customer service, marketing automation, field services, project service automation, and HR talent (applicant tracking and on-boarding).
- Finance and Operations: Microsoft is a leader in ERP.
With two distinct cloud ERP applications to choose from, Microsoft has your SaaS accounting software requirements covered with Dynamics 365. For larger (enterprise or mid-market) organizations with more extensive requirements there is Finance and Operations (formerly Dynamics AX) and for mid-sized to small organizations there is Business Central (formerly Dynamics NAV). Both Finance and Operations and Business Central are full-featured, full-blown ERP systems with general ledger, budgeting, accounts receivable, accounts payable, inventory control, sales order processing, purchase order processing, manufacturing, and more.
- Common Data Model: Microsoft is a leader in business intelligence.
The Dynamics 365 applications are built upon the Microsoft Common Data Model. This means your development efforts for data integrations, custom reporting, and custom applications can leverage a shared data architecture. You can extend Dynamics 365 in innumerable ways, but all the extensions will be pointing to a shared set of standard entities, so that a change to one of the entities (such as adding a new field to the inventory record) will be automatically reflected everywhere. The code inheritance and code re-use inherent in using a common data architecture can both speed up development and reduce the cost of maintaining your customizations.
- Office 365: Microsoft is the standard in office suite software.
Microsoft is the standard for spreadsheets (Excel), word processing (Word), email (Outlook), presentations (PowerPoint), and more. Office 365 integration in Dynamics 365 is bi-directional and extensive. You can receive emails in Outlook and see the sender’s information from Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement (CRM) on a pane that appears to the right of the email you are reading. This kind of convenience saves you from having to toggle between applications, or cut and paste data, or laboriously attach and re-attach files. What you do in Outlook is reflected in Dynamics 365 applications and vice versa. Dynamics 365 includes an unprecedented level of integration with not only Outlook, but also with Excel and other Office 365 applications.
- SharePoint: Microsoft is a leader in document management.
Chances are that organizing your documents on SharePoint is already an established way to collaborate on projects at your organization or to distribute marketing collateral, knowledge base articles, periodic reports, and more to teams inside and sometimes outside of your organization. Dynamics 365 is connected to Office 365 SharePoint, making it easy to distribute Dynamics 365 reports and other information on SharePoint.
- LinkedIn: Microsoft is a leader in professional networking.
Microsoft’s LinkedIn is the number one professional networking website in the world. LinkedIn has become the de-facto way for business professionals to reach out to one another, find opportunities, and match requirements with people.
How to Get Around in Dynamics 365 for Operations
Navigation is a breeze in Dynamics 365 for Operations (D3650, for short). There are so many ways to get around the system and find the exact screen you are looking for. When you sign in to D365O, you are greeted with a home page as shown in the figure below. Your home page in D365O is called your dashboard — a configurable space that can be tailored to your personal needs. The dashboard contains tiles, which point to what is called a workspace. A workspace is another type of dashboard area, but one that is specific to a role or functional area. In the workspace are more tiles, reports, graphs, and other links to give you instant information and help guide you to where you need to go.
A navigation pane can be extended outward from the left side of the screen. Press Alt + F1 on your keyboard, or click on the button with three horizontal lines found on the left side of the webpage toward the top of the page to display the navigation pane.
When the navigation pane is fully extended, the Module section is expanded and the Favorites, Recent, and Workspaces sections are collapsed. To extend a section, click on the small triangle icon to the left of the name of the section.
There are five major navigation sections, as follows:
- Favorites: Favorites are the things you use most often, so they are listed right at the top of the navigation menu.
When you start out, your default dashboard (home page) has no favorites at all.
You can add workspace menu items to your Favorites menu easily; to do so, click on the small star icon located in the right corner of any workspace menu item listed on the navigation pane in the Workspaces section. You may need to extend the Workspaces section by clicking the small triangle icon to the left of the word “Workspaces” to see the workspace menu items. When you click on a star icon, the star becomes filled in to indicate the workspace is now a favorite, and simultaneously a menu item for that workspace is added to your Favorites menu. Menu items appearing in the recent menu area can be added as favorites in the same manner.
- Recent: As you navigate through the system and work with various screens, these locations are automatically added to your Recent menu by the system.
As with favorites, this menu area is personal; you only see the menu items for the screens that you yourself have visited, not the recent navigation of other users logged into the system.
- Workspaces: Workspaces are similar to dashboards; workspaces are like home pages that are focused on a particular role or function.
When you click a workspace menu item on the navigation menu, your dashboard changes from your default dashboard (home page) to the workspace dashboard.
D365O comes with dozens of pre-defined workspaces for you to choose from; in addition, you can create your own personal workspaces, and your system administrator can also add workspaces or modify existing workspaces for any user to take advantage of.
A workspace can contain tiles, links, reports, and filtered grids.
The workspace concept was devised by Microsoft as a means to speed up navigation and more efficiently guide users through business processes.
Typically, a workspace has commonly used tiles related to whatever role or function the workspace is for; for example, the Fixed Asset Management workspace, has a tile titled “All fixed assets”. When you click that tile, you are taken to a list which can be filtered and sorted of all the fixed assets in the company you are currently signed into.
- Modules: The Modules section of the navigation pane represents a more traditional, old-fashioned hierarchical menu system (the ones I like the best).
Fortunately, when Microsoft added the new fancy navigation features such as tiles and dashboards, they kept the old-fashioned straight-forward menu navigation as well, so it’s a best of both worlds scenario.
As you click on modules in the navigation menu, the corresponding Module menu appears to the right of the navigation menu; this is a very convenient way to view the features contained in the module.
- Search for Page (Navigation search): Clicking on the magnifying glass icon on the top of the webpage towards the right side on the black navigation bar opens a
Entering search criteria in the search text box immediately causes a drop-down menu to appear beneath the search text box. The search criteria applies to menu item names as well as to the menu path.
This search feature looks for menu items, not for individual records; for example, you can find the Customer screen, but not a particular customer; you search for a particular customer from the Customer screen itself.
This navigation search feature gives you a quick way to find any menu in the system without having to fish for it through a maze of nested menus. Nice!
To quickly navigate back to your home page (your default dashboard), simply click on the words Finance and Operations on the black navigation bar at the top of the webpage, or alternatively, press Alt + Shift + Home on your computer keyboard.
How to Navigate with Dynamics 365 Tiles
Tiles are an important navigation feature of Dynamics 365 for Operations. The concept of tiles was introduced with the Windows 8 operating system. Tiles are menu items that appear on the screen as a square or rectangle that you can click on; they are sort of like oversized command buttons. Clicking a tile usually takes you to another screen.
Tiles are of these types:
- Standard: Standard tiles have a title (label) but do not show any additional information.
- Count: Count tiles display a number that is updated by a query that refreshes periodically.
For example, there is a count tile in the Manage Customer Credit and Collections workspace called Sales Orders on Hold. This tile shows the number of sales orders in the system that are currently in a hold status. When you click on the tile, you are taken to a list of those sales orders that are on hold.
- KPI: KPI stands for key performance indicator.
Key performance indicators are metrics that you use to evaluate the status of important aspects of your operations.
For example, a key performance indicator for many companies is the number of orders shipped today, or the total currency value of today’s shipments or this week’s sales, and so forth.
The KPI tile shows a summary or grand total for the metric it is tracking; for example, the Total Sales Today KPI might read $25,000.
When you click a KPI tile, you are taken to an expanded view of the KPI report.
- Link: Link tiles have a title (label) but as with a standard tile, they do not convey any information; however, unlike standard tiles, link tiles map to a URL (website address).
When you click a link tile, your web browser launches a new webpage taking you to the URL specified by the tile; these links can take you to an external website outside of Dynamics 365 proper.
Find Microsoft Dynamics 365 Help Online
If you come across a problem or question that you can’t find the answer to in Microsoft Dynamics 365 For Dummies, you can turn to the Internet for the information you need. Here are some great places online to learn more about Dynamics 365: