Non-interactive Access Mode

Why would you want to set Access Mode for user to Non-interactive? 

Setting the Non-interactive access mode fro a user will prevent him from accessing Dynamics 365 application UI in any official Dynamics 365 client: Web, Outlook and mobile. While human users need an GUI to actually do some work, external applications interacting with Dynamics 365 do not. Note that security mechanism such as Security Roles, Field Level Security etc. apply to users with Non-interactive access mode just as Read-Write users.

Assigning the Non-interactive access mode to applicative users used for interaction with external applications is a good security best practice as long as you assign the most restrictive Security Roles rather than System Administrator. This way, if this user’s credentials are breached, a potential attacker can access via API only, limited to the data scope and operations dictated by the Security Roles to begin with. 

If you do use the Non-interactive access mode for applicative user, consider the password renewal policy for this user, as there is not human on the the other side to actually change the password. This means that dependent integration points may fail due to expired password.

For more details about setting up a Non-interactive user follow this article.

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Microsoft Dynamics 365 – Send SMS using Flow

Looking at the list of traditional CRM activities I always miss the SMS, being a common and effective type of communication between organizations and customers.

Sending SMS triggered by Microsoft Dynamics 365 events (e.g. Case created) used to be a developer’s task. You had to write Plugin or Custom Workflow Activity code to access the SMS provider web service and maintain it as endpoints sometime change.

With Flow you can integrate applications in a declarative manner so an event in one application will trigger an action in another application along with custom conditional logic and even wait capabilities (similar to Dynamics 365 internal Workflow Wait step). 

In this post, I’ll walkthrough the process of setting up SMS sending without coding using Flow and Twilio (SMS provider).

  1. Prerequisites

    Before advancing make sure you have the following:

    a. Microsoft Dynamics 365 instance (trial will do)
    b. Twilio account (trial will do – click +sign up in Twilio home page)

  2. Setting up Twilio account

    a. In your Twilio Account console, click ‘Get a number’ button under the build menu

    Setting up Twilio account

    b. In the dialog, choose the suggested number or select a different one.
    c. Go to the Home tab and note the Account SID and Auth Token keys, you will need these later

    Setting up Twilio account

  3. Setting up Flow

    a. Login to your Office 365 environment and click the Flow tile

    Setting up Flow 

    b. In My Flows tab click the ‘+ Create from blank’

    image

    c. In the search box, type in Dynamics and from the results list select the ‘Dynamics 365 – When a record is created’ trigger 

    Setting up Flow

    d. In the Organization Name select the name of your Dynamics 365 instance. In the entity name dropdown select the entity for which the Flow will listen

    Setting up Flow

    e. Click the ‘New Step’ button and then ‘Add an action’

    Setting up Flow

    f. Search and Select the Twilio – Send Text Message (SMS) action

    Setting up Flow

    g. Feed in a name for your Twilio account (for future Flows) and keys from your Twilio Home tab: Account SID goes into the Account ID box, Auth token goes to the Access Token box

    Setting up Flow

    h. Feed in the your Twilio assigned Phone number in the From Phone Number box. Feed the target phone number in the To phone number. Feed in the SMS text. Note you can map dynamic data from the Case record into the text or target phone number

    Setting up Flow

    i. Click ‘Create Flow’ and then ‘Done’ 
     

  4. Testing & Monitoring
    a. In your Dynamics 365 create a new Case.
    b. After a few seconds, you should get a SMS message

    After a few seconds, you should get a SMS message

    c. In Flow management console Click ‘Manage’
    Testing & Monitoring 

    d. You can view your Flow, edit and deactivate it here. Clicking the i will show you the Flow instances details and running results 
     
    Testing & Monitoring

 

Implementation Notes

  1. It may take Flow some time to kick in. If you didn’t get an SMS message after creating the first Case, create another
  2. Twilio trial account will grant you a limited amount of SMS messages and each message will starts with ‘Sent from a Twilio Trial account’
  3. Twilio supports sending messages in these countries

@microsoft.com

I am back.

It has been a while since my last post. About a month ago I started a new job as a Dynamics TSP (Technology Solution Professional) at Microsoft. It is a technical role aimed to support Dynamics related sales processes.
Sadly, It means giving up my MVP title, as Microsoft employees are not eligible for this award. 

This is a major change for me. In the last 8 years I was self employed of a sort, without a regular schedule, office or boss. Switching to work in one of the largest corporations on the planet is overwhelming. But in a good way. Although I am still drinking from the firehose, I can now access deep and broad layers of knowledge I was missing before.

I have been writing this blog since 2009 and plan to continue. Although I am a Microsoft employee now, the opinions and views stated in this blog are my own.

So now, armed with new knowledge and super powers, this blog is getting even better. Stay tuned. 

Drag & Drop File Upload (part 1)

I have been planning to do this for over a year now, finally found the time. Started learning HTML5 (I recommend Pluralsight courses), and this is my first project.

In version 2016, Microsoft finally introduced some drag & drop file upload for the Word/Excel template feature, but that’s it. I would like to have similar UX in entity forms and Dashboards.

In this two-parts post, I’ll describe a working solution that allows users to upload a file by dragging it to a specific area in any business entity form or Dashboard.
The solution version available in this post adds an uploaded file as an attachment to a new Note record related to the context business entity. The next post version will use a more modular approach that can be used if you manage files outside of Microsoft Dynamics CRM database.


WIIFM?

An unmanaged solution can be downloaded here. Feel free to change the code to better suit you needs.

As this solution relies on HTML5 features, it will probably not work with early browsers versions. I tested it successfully with IE 11, Edge and Google Chrome v54.0.2840.71.
The solution uses the Web API service and therefore suitable for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 Online and on-premise. For earlier MSCRM versions, some changes are required (read the Bits & Bytes section below)

Drag and Drop demo

Using the Solution

  1. Download, import and publish the Drag & Drop File Upload solution
  2. Add a Web Resource control to any business entity form
  3. In the Web Resource form, make sure the “Pass record object-type code…” option is checked
  4. Set the Web Resource format to span over 13 rows at least
  5. Map the Web Resource control to the dyn_DnDFileUploadArea.htm Web Resource
  6. Save & publish
  7. Drag n Drop like crazy

    image

Bits & Bytes

  • The solution code portion is contained in the dyn_DnDServices.js Web Resource
  • As the code uses Web API to create a Note record, it will not work with versions earlier than 2016. You can adapt the solution to earlier MSCRM versions by changing the createRecord function in the dyn_DnDServices.js Web Resource to use the OrgannizationData Service (REST) or the Organization Service (SOAP) to create a Note (Annotation) record
  • The code prevents uploading some file types (exe, js, etc.) according to the default blocked file extensions defined in the System Settings area. Maximum uploaded file size is also limited. Both settings are managed as constants and can be easily changed

    Managing blocked files extentions and file size settings   

  • I considered retrieving the blocked file extensions from the server instead of managing as constant. I opted for constants as I rather have better performance all year round over minor maintenance effort required once a year or maybe never 
  • You can can position the dyn_DnDFileUploadArea.htm Web Resource in a Dashboard. It will create Note record along with file attachment but will not relate it to any business record
  • Unfortunately, there is no supported manner to refresh the native Notes control. It would have been useful to automatically display the latest note after uploading a file

Get (Online) Ready

If your Microsoft Dynamics CRM organization is deployed on-premise and Online is not even a remote option, stop reading now, this post not for you. Or is it?

Most of my clients are enterprise level organizations with Microsoft Dynamics CRM deployed on-premise. But even in these organizations, Online is no longer a theoretic concept. Sooner or later, Online is coming…oh wait. it’s here.

Following are some tips which implemented today may render your migration to Online a bit easier in the future, but will probably make your life easier even while on-premise.

1. Keep it supported
There is an infinite number of unsupported customization methods and even more available for an on-premise deployment: direct database access, using database triggers, editing ASPX and CSS files, adding HTTP modules…the list goes on.
If you currently implement any of the methods mentioned above, start planning to replace it with a supported customization method, since these are not viable in Online deployment.

2. Get Sandboxed
Although on-premise you can register Plug-in and Custom Workflow Activities DLLs in full trust, I suggest registering these components to Sandbox mode.
In Online deployment, Plug-in and Custom Workflow Activities DLLs can only execute in sandbox, but even on-premise you can benefit from the sandbox isolation in security and performance aspects.
If you have code that exceeds sandbox limitations (file system/database access etc.), consider moving it to a different component such as an external Web Service.

3. Solution contained
Whenever possible, prefer a solution aware component rather than an external component. HTML (JavaScript, Images etc.) Web Resource over an external ASPX page, Action over a WCF/ASMX service. This will simplify your deployment process considerably even when moving a version between your on-premise test and production environments

4. Go Client
Whenever possible, prefer client side business logic over server side. Implementing business logic using JavaScript rather than Plug-in/Synchronous Workflow will yield better UX and reduce maintenance efforts in any deployment type:

  • There is a plethora of free utility JS libraries that can simplify and expedite your business logic implementation
  • JavaScript code does not require re-compilation
  • Debugging JavaScript code does not require in external tool (the browser developer tools will suffice)

Note that in Online deployment you can’t debug Plug-in/CWA components with the Attach To Process technique as server processes are not exposed.

5. Use modern APIs
Upgrade existing code to use the latest Microsoft Dynamics CRM APIs and end points. These APIs will last longer along with your business logic code and probably have performance and maintenance benefits.
When Online, old APIs and end points have higher probability to be decommissioned whether you like it or not.

6. Exposable Integration points
Integrating Microsoft Dynamics CRM with external on-premise applications is common in enterprise level applications.
Assuming some of these external applications will remain on-premise, make sure the integration points can be exposed directly or indirectly to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and vice versa in a secured and simple manner. Integrating an external application via a Web Service is preferred over consuming database stored procedures.

Accessing Form Header Web Resource

Although this Help article states that with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016/Online “You can’t include a web resource in a form header or footer”, you certainly can.

Sadly, form Footer Web Resource no longer display any content (as it did in version 2015). Form header displays content correctly, but adding it will spread the header fields all over the form width.

adding web resource will spread the header fields all over the form width

If you are ok with the UI, you might want to access the header Web Resource programmatically via JavaScript. Maybe when a form attribute value changes, the Web Resource content should change dynamically.
Unlike header attributes, which can be accessed using
  Xrm.Page.getControl(“header_name”), the header Web Resource can not be accessed this way as it seem to be invisible to the getControl function.

So how can the header Web Resource ‘Listen’ to form and field events?

Since Web Resource can access the Xrm.Page object via the parent object, it has full access to the form elements and events. The addOnChange function allows the the Web Resource code to register an internal function as an event handler for a form or field event.

The following sample demonstrates HTML Web Resource located in the Account form header area, ‘listening’ to the Account Name attribute change event. 
The code is located in the HTML Web Resource:

//register event handler to the account name attribute onChange event

function registerRefreshEvent()
{
    if(parent.Xrm.Page != null)
    {
         parent.Xrm.Page.data.entity.attributes.get(“name”).addOnChange(refreshContent);
    }
}

//do something with the Web Resource content…

function refreshContent()
{
    alert(“Refreshing Web Resource content…”);
}

registerRefreshEvent();

HTML Web Resource located in the Account form header area, ‘listening’ to the Account Name attribute change event

Update Records with the Import Wizard

I recently noticed that in version 2016, the option to export records for update (available in version 2015 as seen below) has vanished from the Export To Excel dialog.
When checked, this option allows you to update the exported data and later on use the Import Wizard tool to update existing records.

option to export records for update available in version 2015

import existing records with the Import Wizard

Consulting Faridun Kadir, a fellow MVP, I learned that exporting MSCRM records to a static worksheet exports records GUID (record unique identifier) by default as a hidden column. This GUID is later used by the Import Wizard mechanism to determine if the imported record is to be created or updated.
For this reason, the ‘Make this data available for re-importing’ checkbox was removed from the Export to Excel dialog.

image
 
As you can see above, the hidden columns title includes a warning (‘DO Not Modify’). Indeed, changing these columns data will end with an import failure. So although exposing these columns by itself will not cause any harm, you better leave it hidden to prevent an accidental change.

All you have to do in order to update existing records is to update required value in the Excel file and import via the Import Wizard. You can also add new records which will be created in the same import job.