Tag Archives: Action

How to Call a Custom Action in a SSIS Integration

SSIS 300x225 How to Call a Custom Action in a SSIS Integration

We know custom actions provide an extension to available business logic. Certainly, we want to take advantage of this when we are bringing in new data. SSIS is a powerful tool to connect data sources and it’s scripting component allows us to take advantage of Dynamics 365 functions.

In Visual Studio 2015 SQL Server Data Tools, creating and editing SSIS packages is simple. The Script Component creates an instance of VSTA, a stripped-down version of Visual Studio. It cannot reference assemblies that are not in the GAC.

Microsoft’s SDK provides all the assemblies we need to access Dynamics 365 resources. It is very important to have the version of the SDK that matches your version of Dynamics. After downloading and installing the SDK, it will create a Bin folder and that folder will contain the required assemblies.

There are four assemblies required for this script:

  • Microsoft.Crm.Sdk.Proxy.dll
  • Microsoft.IdentityModel.Clients.ActiveDirectory.dll
  • Microsoft.Xrm.Sdk.dll
  • Microsoft.Xrm.Tooling.Connector.dll

Using the gacutil.exe tool, we will add these assemblies to the GAC so that they will be available to us during script execution.

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Now we can use these assemblies in our integration package. Launch Visual Studio and open our SSIS solution. We are going to create URL, username, and password parameters so that we can connect to our Dynamics instance. This provides security around sensitive information and the flexibility configure the package for multiple environments.

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Create the script component and select the type of component we are creating.

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We can use custom actions in any type of component. We will pass in the URL and authentication as ReadOnly variables.

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Select the URL, username, and password.

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Click Edit Script to open the scripting instance of VSTA. We will need to add references to the assemblies to the script project.

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Right click References and select add references. Click Browse in the left pane.

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Click the Browse button at the bottom of the window and browse to the Bin folder in your SDK installation. Select the dlls that we already registered.

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Click Add to include these references in the available assemblies.

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Finally, we are going to add the namespaces to our script and call our Dynamics custom action. At the beginning of the main.cs script expand the Namespaces region and insert the references for Microsoft.Crm.Sdk, Microsoft.Xrm.Sdk, and Microsoft.Xrm.Tooling.Connector.

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The following script constructs a connection to Dynamics and requests for the custom action and then it executes the action and retrieves the response.

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Using this technique, we can take advantage of advanced business logic during the import of additional data!

Be sure to subscribe to our blog for more Dynamics 365 tips and tricks!

Happy Dynamics 365’ing!

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PowerObjects- Bringing Focus to Dynamics CRM

From Insights to Action with the Power Apps custom visual

Power BI makes it possible for anyone to explore data and find insights to make better business decisions. But often, the insight itself isn’t the end result – instead, an action needs to be taken.  It could be identifying an underperforming sales region and initiating a targeted promotion to get it on track.  Or it might be identifying suspicious sensor readings from manufacturing devices and creating a work order to investigate.

With the new PowerApps custom visual for Power BI, taking action has never been easier or more integrated.  PowerApps makes it easy to build automated workflows that connect to software and services you already use.  Now, with our custom visual, you can use Power BI to find an insight, then trigger a PowerApps app right from within your report.  The custom visual eliminates manual, error-prone data entry so people across your organization can take action in one click.  If you’ve previously used the capability of embedding a PowerApp inside a Power BI dashboard tile, the custom visual takes it a step further.  It allows context about the current data being shown in a report to be passed through to your app, so you can prefill fields or lookup additional information.

Working%20Report From Insights to Action with the Power Apps custom visual

Check out the PowerApps team blog for more details on getting started.


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Microsoft Power BI Blog | Microsoft Power BI

PowerApps, Flow, and Power BI: Turning Insight Into Action

Real-World Dashboard for Disaster Monitoring / Planning / Acting

Informing people is worthless.

When working with clients or students, I like to challenge them with this seemingly-controversial statement: Informing people is worthless.

Then I finish the thought: better analytics, reporting, etc. is only valuable when it translates into better actions, better decisions. And while better information is a pre-requisite for better action, it is hardly sufficient. “Better informed” very often does NOT translate into better action, for a variety of reasons. One reason is that you can give someone something that’s thought-provoking but fundamentally isn’t actionable. In my experience, at LEAST 50% of all reporting today has that problem, but there isn’t room to go into it here – check out our thoughts on Verblike Reports for more.

The other way that “information” fails to translate into action? When you lack a clear or convenient action PATH. If I see something that’s screaming for correction, for instance, if it’s not clear to me HOW I correct it (ex: who do I talk to? Which system do I need to adjust? Do I even have the right permissions to do so?), well, I’m dead in the water.

Taken that one step further, even if it IS clear to me where/how to take action, but it isn’t convenient – if it takes too much effort, or isn’t part of some overall systemic workflow, well, I can still be as “stuck” as above.

That’s why I’m so excited for Brad to share his recent project experience with us. Two new amazing tools from Microsoft – Flow and PowerApps – make it MUCH more achievable to quickly build relevant action paths and integrated workflows. They do for the “take action” part of the loop what Power BI does for the “inform and advise” portion.

[Flow and PowerApps] do for the “take action” part of the loop what Power BI does for the “inform and advise” portion.

image thumb PowerApps, Flow, and Power BI: Turning Insight Into Action

This is One Sample Workflow of Integration Power BI with Flow and PowerApps to Produce an Action Loop


(The workflow for the disaster center solution described in this article is different, and diagrammed later)

Over to Brad…

PowerApps, generally available since November 1, 2016, is a platform to rapidly build web and mobile business applications without coding. Currently, PowerApps can only be shared inside an organization. I hear that sharing with users outside an organization is on the road map. Touted as “No-Code”, PowerApps enables building data driven apps that are device agnostic and can access a multitude of data sources, both cloud and on premise. What took months a couple of years ago, can now be accomplished in weeks. If your organization has Office 365 then you have PowerApps.

Microsoft Flow, released the same time as PowerApps, is a platform that enables automation of business processes through simple configurations. Things such as notifications, data collection, execution of stored procedures from apps, Twitter posts and Active Directory functions can be accomplished without writing code.There are dozens of pre-built templates to choose from that make adding Flows to your Power App solutions a breeze. Again, if you have Office 365 then you have Microsoft Flow.

flo web PowerApps, Flow, and Power BI: Turning Insight Into Action

Not “Flo.” It’s “Flow.”

And Power BI Needs No Introduction

But if you want one, this one is a great place to start. Short story, it is fast becoming the best and most popular BI tool on the planet and getting better every month. You *should* know that all these tools fit together. Here’s the Microsoft-required infographic which I kind of love – Measure, Act, Automate – pretty cool.

Measure, Act, Automate

And since we know you love stick figure diagrams, here’s another example of integrating the Power Trio (Power BI, Flow, and PowerApps) into a cohesive action loop:

image thumb 1 PowerApps, Flow, and Power BI: Turning Insight Into Action

Here’s Another Sample Workflow Using the “Power Trio.”


(Imagine this kind of workflow for YOUR business – this kind of need is EVERYWHERE)

One of our clients had a need to improve their disaster response process that was very manual and included phone calls, Excel lists and PowerPoint. This client has facilities spread across the eastern half of the U.S. When a flood, hurricane or other natural disaster happens, they go into “war room” mode for days to triage any damage to their facilities. Prioritizing issues so that these locations will be back up and open for business as soon as possible is key. Power outages, roof damage and flooding are tracked so that generators can be deployed or emergency work orders can be created to get things back up and running as quickly as possible.

It is often helpful to start at the end, so let’s do just that. Before we’re through, you’ll see how we created these Power BI Dashboards to provide the disaster response team immediate and up-to-date information on the status of properties affected by a major storm:

Power BI Dashboard to monitor storm damage and the status of their properties

As potentially dangerous weather events are forecast, the disaster response team keeps a close watch on the situation. When it seems imminent that a major storm is going to threaten areas where they have properties, the disaster response team begins preparation. They setup mission control and raise the alert status to Orange. This means the event is likely to impact their business.

There’s a storm a-comin’!

The first of three PowerApps is now put to use. This app allows the disaster response team to setup the event and select what areas will likely be affected. When the team selects the states and counties in potential danger, this app uses Microsoft Flow to kick off background SQL processes that gather data from their enterprise systems and moves the key information into an Azure SQL database.

Power App to select areas likely affected

In situations like this, commercial power may be unavailable, leaving their properties in a closed condition. Generators need to be moved close enough to the disaster area where they can be deployed quickly. The second Power App allows the generator team to stage and track the fleet of generators and, when these generators are deployed, it helps them keep up with what properties they are supplying power to.

Power App to help manage fleet of generators

As soon as the storm passes, field agents begin the process of assessing damage to their properties. Some of the key questions are:

  • Is the location open or closed?
  • Is commercial power available?
  • Any flooding or roof damage?

They use the third Power App to do these assessments via their phone or tablet. As they update information about each property, the results are reflected real time back at mission control via the Power BI Dashboard. This enables the team to make quick, informed decisions.

Power App used by field agents to update status of properties

Step Five: Monitor and Make Informed Decisions

The disaster assessment team can now make timely and informed business decisions using the Power BI dashboards and reports that are updated real time. This team now spends their time intelligently working to bring locations back online instead of spending their time assimilating information that is old by the time they report it.

image thumb 2 PowerApps, Flow, and Power BI: Turning Insight Into Action

Finally, THIS Diagram Illustrates the Real-World Disaster Response Solution Described in this Article

Utilizing the “Power Trio”, this organization now has near-real time information at their fingertips from locations hundreds of miles apart, and they spend their valuable time in a much better way: getting their business back up and running as fast as possible! Power BI, coupled with Flow and PowerApps are poised to do some great things.

Power BI Embedded Dashboard

You can close the loop and get action-oriented analytics developed a LOT faster than you’d expect. We’ll take you from zero to sixty and then some. Let’s get started.

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How Marketers can Take Action on GDPR Today

blog title gdpr gate chain 351x200 How Marketers can Take Action on GDPR Today

It is less than a year until the new EU-wide General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) come into force. Starting May 25, 2018, organizations could face potential heavy penalties for misuse of consumer data in a bid to give EU citizens better control of their personal information. According to a recent survey from the Direct Marketing Association, around a quarter (24%) of companies have yet to start a plan of attack, while only a little over half think that their organizations will be ready for the 2018 deadline. But what does the GDPR really mean for marketers and how can you take steps to address it now, so you don’t leave it too late?

What the GDPR means for marketers

The purpose of the GDPR is to unify data privacy principles and practices across Europe, giving EU citizens more control over their data and increased capacity to dictate how organisations may use that data. If you have an EU data subject that you are marketing to, then regardless of where you are located in the world you will have to comply with the GDPR.

Previous EU directives addressing customer data were more like digital rules, and have been interpreted in many different ways by different EU member states – some countries, such as Germany, have much more restrictive interpretations of existing methods than others, like the UK. Conversely, the GDPR is a law, meaning that all countries will have to abide by it in the same way.

The GDPR is the most comprehensive law coming into effect for the last 20 years, and will affect every company in some way, shape or form. It will most certainly have a dramatic effect on digital marketers. To begin with, there will be a lot of confusion. Can you track someone using their data? Can you share this data with third parties? If a customer wants to leave, do they have the right of erasure, and will companies have to return certain data? At the moment, it’s a very grey area, especially as the definition of personal data has been expanded to include online identifiers such as cookies and IP addresses. However, it is also a chance for marketers to reassess the data value exchange between business and user, and I believe it will ultimately lead to better digital marketers.

What should companies do to prepare for the GDPR?

If you’re a marketer in any sector, it’s important that you are thinking about your current data acquisition and customer contact practices and how these need to be adjusted in order to meet compliance. Come May 25th, companies will need to show that they are working to comply with the regulations, and those found non-compliant could very well be hit with a substantial fine.

The first thing I would advise marketers to do today is research how the GDPR affects them and their company, and re-evaluate their outreach and onboarding strategies. The essential thing to establish is that a consent trail exists so that it’s clear which data your customers have agreed to share.

Reviewing who is responsible for obtaining consent

Once you’ve reconnected with your customer database to ensure their consent statements will be GDPR-compliant, the next step you as a marketer can take today is to review contracts. Companies’ contracts will need to be updated within the media supply chain to clarifying exactly who has the obligation to obtain consent, and also who has the obligation to provide transparent information about how customers’ data is used.

Each country will have a Data Protection Authority (DPA) that will coordinate GDPR compliance; in the UK, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is that body. They have a lot of great information that will provide you some insights on what is required and how to prepare for the new rules of the digital road.

As a result of all the confusion and dread around the GDPR, the directive will definitely take some time to get used to. However, marketers must remember that it could ultimately improve the customer experience, which in turn will make us better digital marketers in the long run.

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Tech Sparks Transformation of Action Health

Posted by Ranga Bodla, Head of Industry Marketing, NetSuite

Cloud ERP leads to realignment, culture change for distributor

action%20health Tech Sparks Transformation of Action HealthFor more than 35 years and through two generations of ownership, family owned Action Bag Co. served two separate and very distinct markets: healthcare packaging, which accounted for 80 percent of the business, and retail gift supplies, which generated the remaining 20 percent.

Then, in 2014, a new generation of leadership joined the company—Sean Cwynar, grandson of founder Marie Gebbie and son of current CEO Nancy Cwynar, who took over as director of sales, and Phil Negri, who was brought in as CFO. The two Notre Dame MBAs quickly deduced two things: the healthcare portion of the business was growing steadily while the retail business was largely flat; and the healthcare market’s shift toward a more cost-conscious model to keep up with the growing needs of an aging population represented an opportunity.

In response to those two realizations, Action Bag Co. took two important steps. It found a strategic buyer for the retail gift supply business in order to concentrate on the more lucrative healthcare packaging business, and changed its name to Action Health to reflect that new focus; and while other companies in the market were recoiling from — and resisting — the shrinking margins hospitals, pharmacies and home health facilities demand, Action Health doubled down on a strategy to embrace that new low-margin reality. Its new mission: deliver savings to the supply chain.

To do that, management knew Action Health would have to deliver the most competitive price the business could reasonably support. That meant doing things more efficiently than any of its competitors, and technology would be a big part of the answer.

The company turned to NetSuite’s cloud-based ERP application, which has helped Action Health transform itself on three levels.

It has enabled the company to get out of the IT maintenance business so it could focus on its core competency and innovate in more forward-looking areas such as real-time access to business data; it has delivered cost reductions that have been passed directly on to the supply chain, as well as scalability that has the business performing at a higher level; and it has helped Action Health attract more and better talent, particularly from the Millennial generation, by not only providing engaging, user-friendly tools, but also making possible a more flexible work environment, with sales staff working remotely 60 percent of the time.

Still, a transformation is only as good as the business benefits it delivers, and Action Health has seen its bottom-line results swell as a result of its new strategic focus:

  • Sales have grown 18 percent in the past 12 months, a significant improvement over the company’s historical average of 2 percent;
  • Across-the-board efficiency gains have fueled a 40-percent gain in revenue per employee; and
  • Having a lean, scalable solution that stresses OpEx over CapEx has resulted in a 200 percent increase in operating income.

It’s clear that Action Health’s strategic decision to focus on its healthcare packaging business and modernize on NetSuite is helping the company make progress on its internal vision: to be No. 1 in every market the company serves.

Reaching such a lofty goal, particularly in a market that values low costs above all else, requires strong focus, maximum efficiency, and a talented workforce.

With a streamlined business, a modern and nimble technology platform, and an atmosphere that keeps employees challenged, Action Health has seamlessly begun to redefine the distribution of health care packaging, and the rest of the market will have no choice but to follow suit.

Take a look at Action Health’s business and hear about its NetSuite implementation in this video and case study.

Posted on Mon, July 3, 2017
by NetSuite filed under

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The NetSuite Blog

Digital Transformation in Retail – 13 Action Steps

GettyImages 568519199 Digital Transformation in Retail   13 Action Steps
  1. Recognize the need for digital transformation extends beyond websites and mobile apps to the entire organization and across all business processes.
  2. Understand the degree of change occurring in retail as a result of customers’ fast-changing behaviors.
  3. Judge accurately where your organization stands on a digital technologies maturity curve.
  4. Show the necessary leadership to change strategies, budget priorities and plans based on new data, trends and insights, and then make the required investments in digital technologies, people and skills to compete successfully.
  5. See that traditional channel-centric strategies are no longer viable; rather, retailers must adopt precise, customer-centric strategies, enabled by digital technologies.
  6. Don’t excuse slow adoption of digital technologies, as the data is clear and compelling and demands immediate action.
  7. Think with a digital mindset, intimately understand the capabilities of digital technologies, understand digital’s role and importance in customer interactions, and develop new digital business models, processes and strategies for supporting today’s and tomorrow’s digital markets and consumers.
  8. Realize that digital transformation and the industry’s adoption of digital technologies are occurring on an accelerated schedule that peaks around 2020. It waits for no retailer’s budget cycles, three-year master plan, leadership change or strategy.
  9. Align the pace of digital transformation initiatives with the speed at which consumers are adopting digital technologies, behaviors, markets and thinking. This might mean over-investment in the near term to catch up or stay ahead of the competition.
  10. Unify disparate digital transformation initiatives behind a single company-wide digital transformation doctrine – a guiding statement that effectively describes the reason for digital transformation, what needs to happen and what winning looks like. This doctrine must be used to direct and shape the entire company’s efforts.
  11. Closely monitor the business impact of rapidly emerging digital technologies to ensure investments are prioritized and acted upon in the right time and place to maximize ROI and competitive advantage, while also balancing the need to innovate and embrace a fail-fast, test and learn mentality.
  12. Understand how digital transformation will alter traditional retail roles, responsibilities and skills for all associates.
  13. Pay close attention to how digital transformation shapes and changes consumers’ interactions and experiences, and train associates to best serve digitally enabled consumers.
 Follow Kevin Benedict on Twitter @krbenedict, or read more of his articles on digital transformation strategies here:
  1. Mistakes in Retail Digital Transformation
  2. Winning Strategies for the Fourth Industrial Revolution
  3. Digital Transformation – Mindset Differences
  4. Analyzing Retail Through Digital Lenses
  5. Digital Thinking and Beyond!
  6. Measuring the Pace of Change in the Fourth Industrial Revolution
  7. How Digital Thinking Separates Retail Leaders from Laggards
  8. To Bot, or Not to Bot
  9. Oils, Bots, AI and Clogged Arteries
  10. Artificial Intelligence Out of Doors in the Kingdom of Robots
  11. How Digital Leaders are Different
  12. The Three Tsunamis of Digital Transformation – Be Prepared!
  13. Bots, AI and the Next 40 Months
  14. You Only Have 40 Months to Digitally Transform
  15. Digital Technologies and the Greater Good
  16. Video Report: 40 Months of Hyper-Digital Transformation
  17. Report: 40 Months of Hyper-Digital Transformation
  18. Virtual Moves to Real in with Sensors and Digital Transformation
  19. Technology Must Disappear in 2017
  20. Merging Humans with AI and Machine Learning Systems
  21. In Defense of the Human Experience in a Digital World
  22. Profits that Kill in the Age of Digital Transformation
  23. Competing in Future Time and Digital Transformation
  24. Digital Hope and Redemption in the Digital Age
  25. Digital Transformation and the Role of Faster
  26. Digital Transformation and the Law of Thermodynamics
  27. Jettison the Heavy Baggage and Digitally Transform
  28. Digital Transformation – The Dark Side
  29. Business is Not as Usual in Digital Transformation
  30. 15 Rules for Winning in Digital Transformation
  31. The End Goal of Digital Transformation
  32. Digital Transformation and the Ignorance Penalty
  33. Surviving the Three Ages of Digital Transformation
  34. The Advantages of an Advantage in Digital Transformation
  35. From Digital to Hyper-Transformation
  36. Believers, Non-Believers and Digital Transformation
  37. Forces Driving the Digital Transformation Era
  38. Digital Transformation Requires Agility and Energy Measurement
  39. A Doctrine for Digital Transformation is Required
  40. Digital Transformation and Its Role in Mobility and Competition
  41. Digital Transformation – A Revolution in Precision Through IoT, Analytics and Mobility
  42. Competing in Digital Transformation and Mobility
  43. Ambiguity and Digital Transformation
  44. Digital Transformation and Mobility – Macro-Forces and Timing
  45. Mobile and IoT Technologies are Inside the Curve of Human Time


Kevin Benedict
Senior Analyst, Center for the Future of Work, Cognizant
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Subscribe to Kevin’s YouTube Channel
Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility
Join the Google+ Community Mobile Enterprise Strategies

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

PowerMap has been enhanced with a New Radius and Bulk Action Tool

powermap 300x225 PowerMap has been enhanced with a New Radius and Bulk Action Tool

PowerMap subscribers rejoice! The solution has been enhanced to include a brand new tool to make it even easier for users to manage and communicate with records in their CRM based on location. Allow us to introduce the new Radius and Bulk Action Feature.

PowerMap subscribers will now see a “Region/Radius” and “Actions” section in the configuration panel within the solution. From here users can perform a series of actions for the records encompassed either in the default region view or within a defined radius distance.

Let’s say your company is hosting a conference in New York City and you want to send out an email inviting all of your contacts that are in the area. In the past you would have to go through the manual process of running an advance find and entering the cities and states for the records you would like to include in your marketing list. Now you can easily send an email or create a marketing list without leaving PowerMap.

ezgif.com video to gif 6 PowerMap has been enhanced with a New Radius and Bulk Action Tool

To do this, simply select the “Define Radius” option and move the blue radius marker to a specific location on the map, for this example we used New York City. Next enter the radius distance, in miles, that you would like to include. You will then see a list of available actions for the pins in the designated area. These actions include: sending an email, assigning records to a CRM user, and adding records to a new or existing marketing list.

Want to check out the latest PowerMap feature for yourself? Download the latest version of PowerMap to get started! If you’re not currently using PowerMap , download the solution today and start your FREE 30 day trial.

Happy CRM’ing!

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PowerObjects- Bringing Focus to Dynamics CRM

Turn insight into action using Microsoft Flow and Power BI

Today, I am happy to announce availability of the Power BI data alert connector for Microsoft Flow. By combining the power of Power BI data alerts with the hundreds of actions available for Flow, we’re making it easier than ever to go from insight to deep, meaningful action.

Microsoft Flow is a SaaS offering for automating workflows across the growing number of applications and services that business users rely on. You can set up Flows to take care of the important, repeating tasks that take place daily in your organization. For example, you can create a Flow to text you via SMS when your manager sends you an e-mail marked as  “high importance.” Or, automatically create a to-do item in Wunderlist when a customer e-mails your support line.

Data alerts are a recently released Power BI feature, which allow you to be notified whenever a tile on your dashboard meets a particular criteria. For example, you can set up an alert to send a push notification whenever tile “Daily Deliveries” > 10000. With this release, we are adding the Power BI data alert connector to Flow. This means that from a Power BI data alert, you can now trigger actions in dozens of other popular apps and services. Send an e-mail to a Security Group with the value of the alert. Post to a Slack channel with a link to the tile. Create a card in Trello based on the alert name. The list of possibilities is expansive, and it’s only getting bigger – new connectors are being added to Flow every week.

Get Started with Power BI and Flow

Ready to get started? What follows is a tutorial walkthrough for setting up your first flow. In this basic example, we’ll send out an e-mail to a broad audience whenever a Power BI data alert is triggered. You could imagine using a similar Flow to notify your support team whenever incident volume spikes.

Firstly, go to Power BI and set up a data alert if you haven’t already. If you need help, you can find the documentation for that process here.

With the alert set up, go to Flow, and sign in with your Work or school account.

Once you’re signed in, go to “My Flows” in the top left, and create a blank Flow by clicking on “Create from blank.”

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The first thing you’ll want to do is create a trigger, which is an event which sets the Flow in motion. Search “Power BI” in the box titled “Search for more triggers”, and select the Power BI data alert option which shows up in the dropdown.

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Next, select the name of the alert that you’d like to use to trigger the Flow.

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Now, you’ll want to add an action to be performed when the Flow is triggered. In this case, we’ll add an action to send an e-mail. Click the “+ New step” box below the Power BI trigger to start creating a new option. In the search box, type “Outlook” choose the Outlook “Send an email” action.

Note: this tutorial assumes that you have an Exchange Online mailbox. If not, you can also try using the SMTP action, which allows you to send e-mail to any SMTP server.

Now, you can populate the fields of the box as you would with any email. Keep in mind that the mail will be sent from your account.

Also, notice that when you click into any field in the e-mail action, a box appears on the right, which allows you to add information from the data alert to the e-mail. For the Power BI data alert trigger, this information includes:

  • alertTitle: the name of the Power BI data alert
  • alertThreshold: the threshold at which the alert is triggered
  • isAlertTriggered: whether or not the alert was triggered – notice that this will always be True if the Power BI data alert is your trigger
  • tileURL: the URL to the tile on which the alert was set up
  • tileValue: the value of the tile at the time when the alert was triggered

47cb8158 f1f6 47d5 8af6 d2ea6d224979 Turn insight into action using Microsoft Flow and Power BI

Once you are satisfied with your e-mail, select Create Flow in the top bar to create your Flow, and you’re done!

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The next time this data alert is triggered, the Flow you just configured will activate, sending the e-mail that you configured to your target audience.

What’s next?

For more ideas on Flows, check out the Flow templates page to see a gallery of the most popular ideas. We’ve also added several Flow templates with the Power BI connector, including the one featured in the tutorial above.

Also, stay tuned to the Power BI blog, as we’ll be releasing something new Flow connectors in the weeks to come.

Have an idea for another way that Power BI can connect to Flow? Head to the Power BI UserVoice and cast your vote to make your voice heard.

Made a cool Flow? Share it with the community! Either post in the comments below, or in the Power BI forums. Who knows, your Flow might even be featured in the next Power BI Flow blog post!

Documentation links

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Microsoft Power BI Blog | Microsoft Power BI

On This Day In Comedy… In 1977 ‘A Piece Of The Action’ Was Released By Warner Bros.!

On this day in comedy on October 7, 1977 ‘A Piece of the Action’ was released by Warner Bros.

Directed by co-star Sidney Poitier, this crime comedy is his third pairing with Bill Cosby in the trilogy that started with Uptown Saturday Night followed by Let’s do it Again.   This entry is more serious in tone and less in humor.

This time the duo are thieves.  Everything is rolling along fine in the world of high class robbery until a retired cop (James Earl Jones) lets them know he’s got the goods on them and it’s time to talk.  His conversation consists of keeping his mouth shut and not sending them up the river in exchange for doing him a favor.  He wants them to volunteer their time at a community youth center and help the local kids get their acts together.  Naturally they don’t want to do it.  Naturally the kids give them a hard time and naturally they all end up liking each other in the end.  The difference in this case is the kids had to help the two crooks get out of a jam from an old heist that also caught up with them.  ‘

With a soundtrack by Curtis Mayfield A Piece of the Action also featured Denise Nicholas, Tracy Reed, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Ja’net Dubois.

By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton


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The Future Of Wholesale Distribution: Using Data To Drive Action

Some moments are so instantly, indelibly etched into pop culture that they shape the way we think for years to come. For virtual reality (VR), that moment may have been the scene in the 1999 blockbuster The Matrix when the Keanu Reeves character Neo learns that his entire life has been a computer-generated simulation so fully realized that he could have lived it out never knowing that he was actually an inert body in an isolation tank. Ever since, that has set the benchmark for VR: as a digital experience that seems completely, convincingly real.

Today, no one is going to be unaware, Matrix-like, that they’re wearing an Oculus Rift or a Google Cardboard headset, but the virtual worlds already available to us are catching up to what we’ve imagined they could be at a startling rate. It’s been hard to miss all the Pokémon Go players bumping into one another on the street as they chased animated characters rendered in augmented reality (AR), which overlays and even blends digital artifacts seamlessly with the actual environment around us.

For all the justifiable hype about the exploding consumer market for VR and, to a lesser extent, AR, there’s surprisingly little discussion of their latent business value—and that’s a blind spot that companies and CIOs can’t afford to have. It hasn’t been that long since consumer demand for the iPhone and iPad forced companies, grumbling all the way, into finding business cases for them.

sap Q316 digital double feature1 images1 The Future Of Wholesale Distribution: Using Data To Drive ActionIf digitally enhanced reality generates even half as much consumer enthusiasm as smartphones and tablets, you can expect to see a new wave of consumerization of IT as employees who have embraced VR and AR at home insist on bringing it to the workplace. This wave of consumerization could have an even greater impact than the last one. Rather than risk being blindsided for a second time, organizations would be well advised to take a proactive approach and be ready with potential business uses for VR and AR technologies by the time they invade the enterprise.

They don’t have much time to get started.

The two technologies are already making inroads in fields as diverse as medicine, warehouse operations, and retail. And make no mistake: the possibilities are breathtaking. VR can bring human eyes to locations that are difficult, dangerous, or physically impossible for the human body, while AR can deliver vast amounts of contextual information and guidance at the precise time and place they’re needed.

As consumer adoption and acceptance drives down costs, enterprise use cases for VR and AR will blossom. In fact, these technologies could potentially revolutionize the way companies communicate, manage employees, and digitize and automate operations. Yet revolution is rarely bloodless. The impact will probably alter many aspects of the workplace that we currently take for granted, and we need to think through the implications of those changes.

VR and AR are related, but they’re not so much siblings as cousins. VR is immersive. It creates a fully realized digital environment that users experience through goggles or screens (and sometimes additional equipment that provides physical feedback) that make them feel like they’re surrounded by and interacting entirely within this created world.

AR, by contrast, is additive. It displays text or images in glasses, on a window or windshield, or inside a mirror, but the user is still aware of and interacting with reality. There is also an emerging hybrid called “mixed reality,” which is essentially AR with VR-quality digital elements, that superimposes holographic images on reality so convincingly that trying to touch them is the only way to be sure they aren’t actually there.

Although VR is a hot topic, especially in the consumer gaming world, AR has far more enterprise use cases, and several enterprise apps are already in production. In fact, industry analyst Digi-Capital forecasts that while VR companies will generate US$ 30 billion in revenue by 2020, AR companies will generate $ 120 billion, or four times as much.

Both numbers are enormous, especially given how new the VR/AR market is. As recently as 2014, it barely existed, and almost nothing available was appropriate for enterprise users. What’s more, the market is evolving so quickly that standards and industry leaders have yet to emerge. There’s no guarantee that early market entrants like Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Samsung’s Gear VR, and HTC’s Vive will continue to exist, never mind set enduring benchmarks.

Nonetheless, it’s already clear that these technologies will have a major impact on both internal and customer-facing business. They will make customer service more accurate, personalized, and relevant. They will reduce human risk and enhance public safety. They will streamline operations and smash physical boundaries. And that’s just the beginning.

Cleveland Clinic: Healing from the Next Room

Medicine is already testing the limits of learning with VR and AR.

sap Q316 digital double feature1 imageseight The Future Of Wholesale Distribution: Using Data To Drive ActionThe most potentially disruptive operational use of VR and AR could be in education and training. With VR, students can be immersed in any environment, from medieval architecture to molecular biology, in classroom groups or on demand, to better understand what they’re studying. And no industry is pursuing this with more enthusiasm than medicine. Even though Google Glass hasn’t been widely adopted elsewhere, for example, it’s been a big success story in the medical world.

Pamela Davis, MD, senior vice president for medical affairs at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, is one of the leading proponents of medical education using VR and AR. She’s the dean of the university’s medical school, which is working with Cleveland Clinic to develop the Microsoft HoloLens “mixed reality” device for medical education and training, turning MRIs and other conventional 2D medical images into 3D images that can be projected at the site of a procedure for training and guidance during surgery. “As you push a catheter into the heart or place a deep brain stimulation electrode, you can see where you want to be and guide your actions by watching the hologram,” Davis explains.

The HoloLens can also be programmed as a “lead” device that transmits those images and live video to other “learner” devices, allowing the person wearing the lead device to provide oversight and input. This will enable a single doctor to demonstrate a delicate procedure up-close to multiple students at once, or do patient examinations remotely in an emergency or epidemic.

Davis herself was convinced of the technology’s broader potential during a demonstration in which she put on a learner HoloLens and rewired a light switch, something decidedly outside her expertise, under the guidance of an engineer wearing a lead HoloLens in the next room. In the near future, she predicts, it will help people perform surgery and other sensitive, detailed tasks not just from the next room, but from the next state or country.

Consumers are already getting used to sap Q316 digital double feature1 images3 The Future Of Wholesale Distribution: Using Data To Drive Actionthinking of VR and AR in the context of entertainment. Companies interested in the technologies should be thinking about how they might engage consumers as part of the buying experience.

Because the technologies deliver more information and a better shopping experience with less effort, e-commerce is going to give rise to v-commerce, where people research, interact with, and share products in VR and AR before they order them online or go to a store to make a purchase.

Online eyewear retailers already allow people to “try on” glasses virtually and share the images with friends to get their feedback, but that’s rudimentary compared to what’s emerging.

Mirrors as Personal Shoppers

Clothing stores from high-end boutiques to low-end fashion chains are experimenting with AR mirrors that take the shopper’s measurements and recommend outfits, showing what items look like without requiring the customer to undress.

Instant Designer Shows

Luxury design house Dior uses Oculus Rift VR goggles to let its well-heeled customers experience a runway show without flying to Paris.

Custom Shopping Malls

British designer Allison Crank has created an experimental VR shopping mall. As people walk through it, they encounter virtual people (and the occasional zoo animal) and shop in stores stocked only with items that users are most likely to buy, based on past purchase information and demographic data.

A New Perspective

IKEA’s AR application lets shoppers envisage a piece of furniture in the room they plan to use it in. They can look at products from the point of view of a specific height—useful for especially tall or short customers looking for comfortable furniture or for parents trying to design rooms that are safe for a toddler or a young child.

Painless Do-it-Yourself Instructions

Instead of forcing customers to puzzle over a diagram or watch an online video, companies will be able to offer customers detailed VR or AR demonstrations that show how to assemble and disassemble products for use, cleaning, and storage.

The customer-facing benefits of VR and AR are inarguably flashy, but it’s in internal business use that these technologies promise to shine brightest: boosting efficiency and productivity, eliminating previously unavoidable risks, and literally giving employers and managers new ways to look at information and operations. The following examples aren’t blue-sky cases; experts say they’re promising, realistic, and just around the corner.

Real-Time Guidance

A combination of AR glasses and audio essentially creates a user-specific, contextually relevant guidance system that confirms that wearers are in the right place, looking at the right thing, and taking the right action. This technology could benefit almost any employee who is not working at a desk: walking field service reps through repair procedures, guiding miners to the best escape route in an emergency, or optimizing home health aides’ driving routes and giving them up-to-date instructions and health data when they arrive at each patient’s home.

Linking to the Hidden

AR technology will be able to display any type of information the wearer needs to know. Linked to facial identification software, it could help police officers identify suspects or missing persons in real time. Used to visualize thermal gradients, chemical signatures, radioactivity, and other things that are invisible to the naked eye, it could help researchers refine their experiments or let insurance claims assessors spot arson. Similarly, VR will allow users to create and manipulate detailed three-dimensional models of everything from molecules to large machinery so that they can examine, explore, and change them.

Reducing the Human Risk

VR will allow users to perform high-risk jobs while reducing their need to be in harm’s way. The users will be able to operate equipment remotely while seeing exactly what they would if they were there, a use case that is ideal for industries like mining, firefighting, search and rescue, and toxic site cleanup. While VR won’t necessarily eliminate the need for humans to perform these high-risk jobs, it will improve their safety, and it will allow companies to pursue new opportunities in situations that remain too dangerous for humans.

Reducing the Commercial Risk

sap Q316 digital double feature1 images5 The Future Of Wholesale Distribution: Using Data To Drive ActionVR can also reduce an entirely different type of operational risk: that of introducing new products and services. Manufacturers can let designers or even customers “test” a product, gather their feedback, and tweak the design accordingly before the product ever goes into production. Indeed, auto manufacturer Ford has already created a VR Immersion Lab for its engineers, which, among other things, helped them redesign the interior of the 2015 Ford Mustang to make the dashboard and windshield wipers more user-friendly, according to Fortune. In addition to improving customer experience, this application of VR is likely to accelerate product development and shorten time to market.

Similarly, retailers can use VR to create and test branch or franchise location designs on the fly to optimize traffic flow, product display, the accessibility of products, and even decor. Instead of building models or concept stores, a designer will be able to create the store design with VR, do a virtual walkthrough with executives, and adjust it in real time until it achieves the desired effect.

Seeing in Tongues

At some point, we will see an AR app that can translate written language in near-real time, which will dramatically streamline global business communications. Mobile apps already exist to do this in certain languages, so it’s just a matter of time before we can slip on glasses that let us read menus, signs, agendas, and documents in our native tongue.

Decide with the Eye

More dramatically, AR project management software will be able to deliver real-time data at a literal glance. On a construction site, for example, simply scanning the area could trigger data about real-time costs, supply inventories, planned versus actual spending, employee and equipment scheduling, and more. By linking to construction workers’ own AR glasses that provide information about what to know and do at any given location and time, managers could also evaluate and adjust workloads.

Squeeze Distance

Farther in the future, VR and AR will create true telepresence, enhancing collaboration and potentially replacing in-person meetings. Users could transmit AR holograms of themselves to someone else’s office, allowing them to be seen as if they were in the room. We could have VR workspaces with high-fidelity avatars that transmit characteristic facial expressions and gestures. Companies could show off a virtual product in a virtual room with virtual coworkers, on demand.

Reduce Carbon Footprint

If nothing else, true telepresence could practically eliminate business travel costs. More critically, though, in an era of rising temperatures and shrinking resources, the ability to create and view virtual people and objects rather than manufacturing and transporting physical artifacts also conserves materials and reduces the use of fossil fuel.

The strength of digitally enhanced reality—and AR in particular—is its ability to determine a user’s context and deliver relevant information accordingly. This makes it valuable for monitoring and managing employee behavior and performance. Employees could, for example, use the location and time data recorded by AR glasses to prove that they were (or weren’t) in a particular place at a particular time. The same glasses could provide them with heads-up guided navigation, alert employers that they’re due for a legally mandated break, verify that they completed an assigned task, and confirm hours worked without requiring them to fill out a timesheet.

However, even as these capabilities improve data governance and help manage productivity, they also raise critical issues of privacy and autonomy (see The Norms of Virtual Behavior). If you’re an employee using VR or AR technology, and if your company is leveraging it to monitor your performance, who owns that information? Who’s allowed to use it, and for what purposes? These are still open legal questions for these technologies.

Another unsettled—and unsettling—question is how far employers can use these technologies to direct employees’ work. While employers have the right to tell employees how to do their jobs, autonomy is a key component of workplace satisfaction. The extent to which employees are required to let a pair of AR glasses govern their actions could have a direct impact on hiring and retention.

Finally, these technologies could be one more step toward greater automation. A warehouse-picking AR application that guides pickers to the appropriate product faster makes them more productive and saves them from having to memorize hundreds or even thousands of SKUs. But the same technology that can guide a person will also be able to guide a semiautonomous robot.

The Norms of Virtual Behavior

VR and AR could disrupt our social norms and take identity hacking to a new level.

The future of AR and VR isn’t without its hazards. We’ve all witnessed how distracting and even dangerous smartphones can be, but at least people have to pull a phone out of a pocket before getting lost in the screen. What happens when the distraction is sitting on their faces?

This technology is going to affect how we interact, both in the workplace and out of it. The annoyance verging on rage that met the first people wearing Google Glass devices in public proves that we’re going to need to evolve new social norms. We’ll need to signal how engaged we are with what’s right in front of us when we’re wearing AR glasses, what we’re doing with the glasses while we interact, or whether we’re paying attention at all.

More sinister possibilities will present themselves down the line. How do you protect sensitive data from being accessed by unauthorized or “shadow” VR/AR devices? How do you prove you’re the one operating your avatar in a virtual meeting? How do you know that the person across from you is who they say they are and not a competitor or industrial spy who’s stolen a trusted avatar? How do you keep someone from hacking your VR or AR equipment to send you faulty data, flood your field of vision with disturbing images, or even direct you into physical danger?

As the technology gets more sophisticated, VR and AR vendors will have to start addressing these issues.

To realize the full business value of VR and AR, companies will need to tackle certain technical challenges. To be precise, they’ll have to wait for the vendors to take them on, because the market is still so new that standards and practices are far from mature.

sap Q316 digital double feature1 images6 The Future Of Wholesale Distribution: Using Data To Drive ActionFor one thing, successful implementation requires devices (smartphones, tablets, and glasses, for now) that are capable of delivering, augmenting, and overlaying information in a meaningful way. Only in the last year or so has the available hardware progressed beyond problems like overheating with demand, too-small screens, low-resolution cameras, insufficient memory, and underpowered batteries. While hardware is improving, so many vendors have emerged that companies have a hard time choosing among their many options.
The proliferation of devices has also increased software complexity. For enterprise VR and AR to take off, vendors need to create software that can run on the maximum number of devices with minimal modifications. Otherwise, companies are limited to software based on what it’s capable of doing on their hardware of choice, rather than software that meets their company’s needs.

The lack of standards only adds to the confusion. Porting data to VR or AR systems is different from mobilizing front-end or even back-end systems, because it requires users to enter, display, and interact with data in new ways. For devices like AR glasses that don’t use a keyboard or touch screen, vendors must determine how to enter data (voice recognition? eye tracking? image recognition?), how to display it legibly in any given environment, and whether to develop their own user interface tools or work with a third party.

Finally, delivering convincing digital enhancements to reality demands such vast amounts of data that many networks simply can’t accommodate it. Much as videoconferencing didn’t truly take off until high-speed broadband became widely available, VR and AR adoption will lag until a zero-latency infrastructure exists to
support them.

For all that VR and AR solutions have improved dramatically in a short time, they’re still primarily supplemental to existing systems, and not just because the software is still evolving. Wearables still have such limited processing power, memory, and battery life that they can handle only a small amount of information. That said, hardware is catching up quickly (see The Supporting Cast).

The Supporting Cast

VR and AR would still be science fiction if it weren’t for these supporting technologies.

The latest developments in VR and AR technologies wouldn’t be possible without other breakthroughs that bring things once considered science fiction squarely into the realm of science fact:

  • Advanced semiconductor designs pack more processing power into less space.
  • Microdisplays fit more information onto smaller screens.
  • New power storage technologies extend battery life while shrinking battery size.
  • Development tools for low-latency, high-resolution image rendering and improved 3D-graphics displays make digital artifacts more realistic and detailed.
  • Omnidirectional cameras that can record in 360 degrees simultaneously create fully immersive environments.
  • Plummeting prices for accelerometers lower the cost of VR devices.

Companies in the emerging VR/AR industry are encouraging the makers of smartglasses and safety glasses to work together to create ergonomic smartglasses that deliver information in a nondistracting way and that are also comfortable to wear for an eight-hour shift.

The argument in favor of VR and AR for business is so powerful that once vendors solve the obvious hardware problems, experts predict that existing enterprise mobile apps will quickly start to include VR or AR components, while new apps will emerge to satisfy as yet unmet needs.

In other words, it’s time to start thinking about how your company might put these technologies to use—and how to do so in a way that minimizes concerns about data privacy, corporate security, and employee comfort. Because digitally enhanced reality is coming tomorrow, so business needs to start planning for it today. D!

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.


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