Tag Archives: Solution

The Solution to Point Solutions: How Two Asset Management Firms Broke the Mold…and We’re Glad They Did

CRM Blog The Solution to Point Solutions: How Two Asset Management Firms Broke the Mold…and We’re Glad They Did

by Tom Berger, Vice President, Financial Services

Regardless of your area of financial services, your business software needs to accommodate and support what you do and how you do it. To that end, it seems like a point solution would make sense. Or would it?

While a point solution might work as though it was designed for your business, it comes with notable drawbacks. While the convenience of an “out-of-the-box” solution might seem attractive, the trade-off is loss of extensibility, support, integration, and future scalability.

At AKA, we see this with many of our clients. They have a point solution that’s maxed out and can no longer meet their needs, or they’ve reached the conclusion that their options are now either a point solution or an open platform like Microsoft Dynamics 365.

As you might guess, we’re proponents of Dynamics 365. But there are some compelling reasons for this. We have worked with many firms that chose to go with Dynamics 365, and they do not regreat the decision.

To be clear, there are businesses that prefer a point solution: Pre-built, easily deployed, and not requiring a great deal of involvement from you during planning and implementation. If you want someone else to “just deal with it,” a point solution could be right for you.

However, if you have specific, purpose-driven processes, goals involving growth and expansion, the desire to take full advantage of emergent technology, or the possible need to integrate or merge with other business-critical systems, a point solution is likely not the answer. While it might be an easy fit at first, it will bring with it a lot of difficulty in the long run.

But let’s hear it from a customer’s point of view. Following are stories of two firms that recently broke out of the point solution mold.

(H2) A Leading Institutional Asset Manager Sets the Stage for Growth and Expansion

In this case, the institutional asset manager was dealing with a point CRM that could no longer keep up with business. Notably, the team dealing with client requests, onboarding, new accounts, and terminations was growing at a rate that the old system couldn’t handle.

The firm’s sales team faced the same type of issues.

They needed a solution that would support multiple strategies and allow them to work together. They also needed advanced reporting capabilities that the old system was unable to provide, which translated to a lack of information on their own products as well as the potential for client difficulties.

So, they chose Dynamics 365. Why? It’s not designed specifically for financial services. However, what this firm realized was that an open platform—implemented with the right partner behind the wheel (yes, us) allowed them to put all these challenges to bed. Completely. Why? Extensibility. They found that an open platform does not make you conform your business to the software; the software should be able to conform to how you run your business.

(h2) A National Intermediary Breaks Down Silos and Uncovers New Opportunities

This firm had a big job. They wanted to combine three lines of business: private client, institutional, and intermediary business. These areas were separated by two systems. Essentially, the private client business was shoehorned into one CRM system, along with the institutional business. The other CRM system was being used as intermediary software, data provider, and data aggregator. This forced the sales team to work in two CRM systems, which created havoc. Clients were duplicated in the two systems, and contacts were not being tracked in the same place, which meant that clients were often contacted by different people trying to sell them the same product.

Visibility was a serious issue as well. No one was able to see the big picture—the overall relationships with a client—in one system. They had to do research in two systems, reconcile the information, and put it in a meaningful format before they could have a conversation with the client. Reporting and roll-ups of AUM (all done in Excel), managing marketing efforts effectively—all of these operational problems and more were the result of silos caused by the fact that no single point solution could address their needs.

By choosing an open platform, they were able to completely eliminate those silos, bringing all that critical information together under one roof—and taking advantage of new features and integrations with complementary solutions like ClickDimensions.

Why Are Open Systems like Dynamics 365 Winning?

So, the question that comes to mind is, why are systems that were built specifically for financial services being replaced by open systems like Dynamics 365? Here are some very compelling reasons:

Reason #1: Flexibility and Extensibility

As the two previous case studies point out, open platforms do not force you to do things their way. Even something as simple as naming a field the way you want to name it can make life easier, and point solutions don’t allow that. Now, multiply that by a thousand when you think about complex business processes.

Reason #2: Customizability

This is a “Part 2” to Reason #1—and it does NOT mean having to deal with coding! No single product can do everything you need right out of the box. Each business is unique, so to get your solution exactly where you want it might require some configuring. With open platforms like Dynamics 365, that’s not an issue. Microsoft provides toolkits for developing, customizing, and your solution. Dynamics provides a business rule engine, process bar, field-level security, workflows, access to a full software developer kit, which provides you with the flexibility to give you exactly what you want. Oh, and Microsoft Certified Partners (like AKA) are experts not only in the technology, but in your industry. So, remember the point I made earlier about point solutions being “easier” in that you don’t have to deal with customizing? I take that back. With Dynamics 365 and AKA, you still come out on top.

Reason #3: Investment in the Product/Speed to Market by the Manufacturer 

Point solutions simply do not have economies of scale like Microsoft and other open platform providers, so they don’t have the dollars to put into research and development. It’s only natural that you will get THE latest and greatest—Cloud, mobility, machine learning, and so on—from a company that has the money and resources to keep that ball rolling, and rolling fast.

And speaking of investment in the product…the latest release of Microsoft Dynamics 365 really taps into the power of Machine Learning and AI. You can learn more in our webcast, What’s New in Dynamics 365 – 2017 Update.

Reason #4: Availability of Third-party Products/Ease of Integration

This someone relates to point number 1. Third-party providers like ClickDimensions are much more likely to work on integrations with a Microsoft product for two reasons: there is more opportunity because of a larger customer base, and modern, open platforms make it much easier to integrate. The same goes for integration with Microsoft Office/Outlook and other productivity tools.

Reason #5: Support and Security

This is where being a heavy hitter like Microsoft really benefits you. They have the resources to provide 24/7 support, 365 days a year. They’ve been doing this for a long time and have many customers to keep happy. Let’s just say they have this in the bag. The same goes for security; they must adhere to very stringent standards (read more at the Microsoft Trust Center)—particularly when it comes to the Cloud. They have invested millions of dollars and have teams of hundreds of professionals that focus exclusively on ensuring their products and customers are secure. Point solutions providers do not have these resources.

At the end of the day, the choice comes down to this: Do you want “convenience,” which will limit you both now and in the future? Or do the possibilities and opportunities presented by an open platform intrigue you enough to learn more? We believe it’s worth a look—and once you’ve seen what you can accomplish, you’ll make the right choice. And if you’re on a point solution now, talk to us. We have experience migrating customers like the two firms we talked about here, and we can help you, too.

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CRM Software Blog | Dynamics 365

The Importance of a Social CRM Solution

gettyimages 628489906 The Importance of a Social CRM Solution

Social CRM, or a tool designed to seamlessly integrate the use of a customer relationship management tool with social media channels. This can take the form of many different things, such as the ability to engage in social media through a software solution, respond to customer complaints through a solution in real-time, or simply leverage and analyze social statistics through a CRM database. No matter what you’re using it for, social CRM has a lot of potential. Below, we’ll take a look at some great ways businesses (and especially small businesses) can utilize a social customer relationship management system to maximize their sales, marketing, and customer service efforts.

Enhanced analytics

Let’s start with the least obvious benefit of a social solution: better data. Did you know that having a social customer relationship management solution means you can get access to highly-detailed insights and metrics about your customers? We’re talking demographics, preferences, interests, buying behavior, and more. With that kind of data, your sales reps will be able to better understand their target audience and deliver an accelerated sales process by focusing on the leads that are authentic and carry a high probability of sale.

Collecting all of this social-centric data can also help out another major department in your business. Marketing is always looking for new metrics and ways to narrow down a target audience. Social data about your prospects and customers is just another tool which can be analyzed and manipulated into a highly-targeted and highly-effective marketing campaign.

Be in-the-know socially

Your customers are on social media, so, why aren’t you? There’s a strong chance your prospects and customers are already on social channels talking about your brand and your products, so what are you waiting for? With a social CRM solution, you’ll be able to listen in to what the customers have to say about your company’s product and if they would like to have any changes made to it. They’ll share their likes and dislikes as well. Social CRM will give you the chance to develop products your customers have been hoping to see from your business, even before they talk to you about it. Your sales reps can also take advantage by knowing the buzz words of the industry or by hearing what prospective customers are really looking to get out of your product/services.

Streamlined communications internally

Effective, cohesive communication is at the core of a well-run business. Social CRM can actually play a role in making communicative efforts throughout your organization a more streamlined process. With a social solution, everyone in your business can be on the same page with technology and access to customer records and social histories. This cross-departmental accessibility can be extremely useful when various departments need to collaborate and access the same real-time data. It can also help reduce any confusion that may arise when teams from various locations are trying to access or change the same information.

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Announcing the Power BI solution template for Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Field Service

Today we are pleased to announce the release of the Power BI solution template for Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Field Service. This template includes a set of reports designed for field service professionals. The solution template offers a very fast guided experience to create compelling reports on an extensible, scalable, and secure architecture and can be customized as needed. This means that instead of spending your time on plumbing, you can instead spend it on extending and customizing the solution template to meet your organization’s needs.

You can learn more (or even install) from AppSource here: https://appsource.microsoft.com/en-us/product/web-apps/microsoft-powerbi.pbisolntemplate_d365fldsrv.

Here’s a small sample of the Field Service reports available in the latest solution template with information about open and completed work orders:

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See the solution template page on Microsoft AppSource to install, interact with a sample report and watch a short video.

Like the Dynamics 365 Project Service Automation solution template, the Field Service template uses the Dynamics 365 Data Export Service to replicate data from the Dynamics 365 instance to a Microsoft Azure SQL Database store in a customer-owned Microsoft Azure subscription. The Data Export Service is a free add-on and the template can be provisioned by a Dynamics 365 administrator in just a few minutes. Once you’re done, all changes in your Dynamics 365 records are automatically updated in the Azure SQL database in real-time and available to your Power BI reports. Azure Analysis Services, an optional feature, can be included for especially challenging workloads.

Give it a try and please let us know what you think. You can reach the team by e-mailing us at PBISolnTemplates@microsoft.com or leaving a comment on the Power BI Community page for solution templates.

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Overcome 3 Challenges Faced by Professional Services Firms with a Specific CRM Solution

CRM Blog Overcome 3 Challenges Faced by Professional Services Firms with a Specific CRM Solution

The flexibility of a CRM solution such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 allows you to turn it into the heart of your organization’s operations. You can then use it as the entryway from which all your activities can be completed. It can also integrate a solution specifically designed for your industry, allowing you to complete all your tasks from a single interface that’s intuitive, familiar and user-friendly. With a solution that incorporates their specific business rules and needs, professional services firms can overcome several of the challenges they encounter daily.

1. Have only one version of the truth across your organization

One of the challenges that many professional services firms must face is the utilization of non-integrated applications and Excel spreadsheets. Result: resources don’t always have access to the latest information or the most recent version of a document, which can lead to discrepancies regarding facts or activity status. By centralizing all your information with a specific solution integrated to your CRM system, not only do you ensure access for resources across your entire organization, you also offer them complete visibility on all aspects of your business.

As such, your mandates, invoices and WIPs, as well as customer activities and all communications exchanged with them, can be accessed from a single source updated in real time. The associates have increased visibility on their mandates and their clients, as well as on their complete history and profitability. By having all this data on hand, they can also better serve their clients, exceed their expectations and ensure their satisfaction.

2. Shorten your invoicing cycle

Maintain the balance between finances and operations by leveraging the flexibility of your CRM system and the control of your ERP solution. With a complete, bidirectional integration, information is transferred from one system to the other in real time. This not only avoids constant back-and-forth communications between your associates and the accounting team, but it also eliminates manual data entry and reduces the risk of errors and double entries.

Various invoice templates can be used and combined from the CRM, then transferred to the accounting system. This allows you to create invoices that meet all your clients’ criteria and that fit the requirements of the different services offered by your organization, while also adapting them to your organization’s branding. Lastly, having access to your financial data in real time means that you can invoice faster. This way, you improve your cash flow while also reducing the risk of write-offs and bad debts.

3. Optimize the utilization and productivity rates of your resources

By using workflows to automate certain process, you can facilitate your associates’ tasks and activities. For example, they can be notified to approve the budget when a new mandate is created. Among the specific functionalities of our solution, a resource planning tool also makes it possible to view easily the resources that are currently assigned and those that are available to work on new mandates. This tool thus makes it possible to optimize resource utilization and better plan hiring. Lastly, the solution allows you to budget the potential for billable hours per resource per month and to track them throughout the year.

One last challenge that many professional services firms must face is the difficulty of staying on top of technological trends to meet the constantly evolving needs of their clients. Scalable and flexible, the Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform makes it possible to catch up on this technological lag, while a specific solution such as JOVACO’s accounting solution improves efficiency and performance across your entire organization.

By JOVACO Solutions, Microsoft Dynamics 365 specialist in Quebec

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CRM Software Blog | Dynamics 365

Bringing more text analytics to the Bing News Solution Template

We are excited to announce support for ‘bring your own entities’ for the Bing News solution template! The Bing News template allows brand managers to find articles most relevant to them by filtering on sentiment, trending topics as well as entities like locations, organizations and people (learn more about the Bing News template).

One of the most common feature requests we received was the ability to define your own list of words and use that to slice your data. A product manager may want to e.g. create a list of products or company names and use that to discover and read relevant articles. Read on to find out how you can incorporate your own entities into the news template today!

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Setting up the Solution

Navigate to our installer to get started with setting up the Bing News template. Upon reaching the entities page you are now given the option of bringing your own entities. Selecting ‘Yes’ will take you to the entities definition page.

You can define entities in two ways – either by uploading your entities or inputting entities directly inside the experience. In this example, I am setting up a solution that will help me find articles related to the Microsoft brand. I have defined a list of Microsoft products I want to follow. I choose to upload entities and point the installer to a CSV on my computer.

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This auto populates my ‘Product entity’ which I can now customize by tweaking the list as well as changing the icon and color associated with it.

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I can now continue adding as many entities as I would like. In this example, I have added another entity for other tech companies I may want to track in conjunction to Microsoft:

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Once I am happy with all the new entities I have created I can click ‘Next’ and carry on setting up the solution.

The end result

Once the template is set up, you can start exploring your reports! You will notice that the Overview page now has both the out of the box entities (like Location) along with your newly added entities (in my case Products and Tech Companies). Selecting something like Google from the companies list will show me all the articles that mention Microsoft and Google together, for whatever date range, news category or sentiment type I am interested in.

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Customizing your entities

Once your template is set up you can always go back and add new entities or modify the current ones. Currently this can be done by directly modifying the “userdefinedentitydefinitions” table inside your Azure SQL database.

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Try it out & let us know

Go ahead and check out the Bing News solution template. You can try out an interactive sample report, watch a demo video or just go ahead and set things up! The team is always interested in any thoughts or feedback – you can reach us through our alias (pbisolntemplates@microsoft.com) or by leaving a comment on the Power BI Solution Template Community page.

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Announcing the Power BI Solution Template for Azure Activity Log Analytics

Today we are excited to announce the release of the Power BI solution template for Azure Activity Logs. This template provides analytics on top of your Activity Log in the Azure Portal. Gain insight into the activities performed by various resources and people in your subscription. Get started with historical analysis on your last 90 days of Activity Log data, and let an Azure SQL database accumulate these historical events in addition to incoming events.

Getting Started

The first part of our experience is an installer that guides you through setting up a solution template. We prompt you for Azure credentials and ask if you would like to use a new or existing Azure SQL database to store your Activity Log data. All that is left to do now is hit Run, wait a few minutes for the pipeline to get set up, and download a Power BI Desktop file that comes with pre-defined reports.

Behind the scenes, the solution template spins up a total of three Azure Services:

  1. An ‘Event Hub’ that streams the Activity Log events in near real-time to Stream Analytics
  2. A ‘Stream Analytics’ job that processes the Activity Log events in near real-time and inserts the data into SQL
  3. An Azure SQL database which comes with a pre-defined schema for your Activity Log data

As soon as the solution template is spun up, the streaming pipeline awaits new activities, and you should almost immediately see data appear inside your Power BI reports.

Architecture diagram:

Azure Activity Log, Event Hub, Stream Analytics, Azure SQL, Power BI

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Administrative Page

The “Administrative” page provides a high-level overview of your Activity Log data. View trends in events over time, or leverage cross-filtering and drill-down capabilities to get specific with your data. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) here compare percentage of successful calls and number of failures over the last 7 days versus the 7 days before that. An example use case on this overview page allows you to find which user on your subscription is causing the most Stream Analytics events over the past 2 weeks.

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Failures Page

The Failures page offers deeper insight into failures on your subscription. Observe week over week changes in the aggregate number of failures and percentage of failures. Choose a specific operation such as Update SQL server; from the table on the left, and drill down to learn exactly what failed.

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User History Page

The User History page allows for deeper analysis on a per-individual basis, where you can observe which resource groups an individual is most active in, or compare successful versus failed operations over time. An example use case here is to view a caller’s activities and impacted resources from the past week, or to find which resource group is responsible for the spike in a caller’s failures yesterday afternoon.

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Service Health Page

The Service Health page showcases any Azure Service Health announcements that may be relevant to you. Here, you can filter service health events by region, impacted service, type, and status. Peek at the summaries of your filtered service health events in the Snippets Browser custom visual, or click into the tiles for more details. This page can assist in diagnosing an issue – for example if you notice a spike in failures on the Failures page, head on over to the Service Health page and check to make sure the uptick is not related to some Azure service outage your region.

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Stream Analytics also supports a real-time flow to a Power BI streaming dataset. Unfortunately we could not automate this step for you due to authentication restrictions, but we have provided clear documentation on how you can set up a real-time streaming dataset.


Give it a try and please let us know what you think. You can reach the team by e-mailing us at PBISolnTemplates@microsoft.com or leaving a comment on the Power BI Community page for solution templates.

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The Importance of a Healthcare CRM Solution

gettyimages 537315268 The Importance of a Healthcare CRM Solution

Data, specifically accurate data is never more crucial than for those in the healthcare industry. Healthcare professionals rely on this information to personalize the treatment of patients, communicate more effectively between hospital staff and patients, and to ultimately make the patient’s experience one that’s effective and of high quality. That being said, it’s not an easy task. Healthcare systems and providers are dealing with a plethora of patients and information—they need a solution in place to help organize all of this. That’s where customer relationship management (CRM) software comes into play. Below, we’ll dig into some of the important facets of a healthcare CRM solution and why providers need to consider implementing one.

Personalize patient care

It doesn’t matter what industry you work in. If you’re working with customers, whether they’re clients or patients, you need to treat them with personalization. If not, they’re going to go elsewhere, and your retention will fail. It’s that simple. In the healthcare field, this has never been truer. If patients feel like they’re being treated like everybody else, and they’re not feeling unique to their doctor or their physician, they’ll look elsewhere.

With a CRM solution in place, healthcare providers have yet another tool at their disposal to help keep track of and retain their valuable patients. Rather than relying on outdated spreadsheets or another inefficient method, they rely on a centralized hub of information, able to be updated in real-time and accessed from anywhere. This level of flexibility and personal care is exactly what separates quality health centers from poor ones, and it’s the biggest reason healthcare providers need to consider investing in a CRM solution.

Manipulate and visualize data

So, you’ve got all of this data being collected. What are you doing with it? If you’re just collecting data and locking it away for safe keeping, there’s really no point. Take advantage of the influential data you’re collecting through the use of a CRM tool. Customer relationship management solutions have built-in reporting tools designed for this exact purpose: to help you make sense of the numbers. You can also create charts, graphs, and other visually-pleasing reports to share across your department, ensuring everyone can understand the data being shown.

Eliminate duplicate data entry

Again, another factor that’s most crucial to the healthcare industry. If you’re entering vital patient information into a database, including care and financial records, you must be able to ensure you’re doing it accurately. Entering duplicate information into the database may impact the quality of the care the patient receives and can have major negative impacts later on down the road.

Being such a major concern for this industry, it’s only common sense to consider a software solution which would help eliminate it. It’s true: customer relationship management software has deduplication functions in place to ensure the data being entered into the system is accurate and unique.

There you have it! If you’re interested in learning more about how CRM can benefit your business, please contact us today.

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Customer Spotlight: Virtual Fracture Clinic Presents Their Dynamics 365 Portal Solution

The Virtual Fracture Clinic worked with PowerObjects to implement Dynamics 365 and deploy a robust CRM portal to manage patient needs. Since then, they have become leaders in the space for a prime example of digitizing the healthcare system. Recently, VFC participated in Microsoft Dynamics Days and presented and demonstrated how the team uses digital technology to re-design as service, placing the patient at the heart of the model.

Happy CRM’ing!

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PowerObjects- Bringing Focus to Dynamics CRM

Announcing multiple language support for the Twitter solution template

Today we are excited to announce that the Twitter solution template for brand and campaign management now supports 15 languages for sentiment analysis. There are 4 supported languages – English, French, Spanish and Portuguese as well as 11 preview languages ranging from Dutch to Russian to Turkish (you can check out the full list).

Twitter template recap

The Twitter template is an end to end brand and campaign management solution that a user can set up in just a few clicks. It allows product, marketing or brand managers to understand what topics are trending on Twitter, to identify influencers and critics as well as recognize and respond to negative tweets. The solution emerged as a collaboration with Microsoft Research and uses sophisticated custom visuals and advanced analytics to drive better insights.

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Sentiment analysis

Behind the scenes, the Twitter solution template leverages the Microsoft text analytics cognitive service which can be used to analyze things like sentiment, key phrase extraction and topics. Once a user sets up the template they can immediately consume insights delivered by this service through the Power BI report. This includes understanding dips and peaks in sentiment across time as well as identifying positive/negative hashtags or authors. Thanks to the latest update, these insights can now be discovered in a total of 15 languages.

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Try it out & let us know

Go ahead and check out the updated Twitter solution template by visiting our page. You can play around with an embedded sample report that tracks Power BI, or watch a video that walks you through each report page. Finally, you can set things up by clicking the Get It Now button. Please give it a go and let us know what you think of the changes. You can reach the team by e-mailing us at PBISolnTemplates@microsoft.com or leaving a comment on the Power BI Community page for solution templates.

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Auditing Automatically Disabling with Unmanaged Solution Deployment in Dynamics 365

Recently while attempting to view audit data I was surprised to see that values in the “New Value” column had been replaced by a weird symbol, which can be seen in the screenshot below. I found that it was a common problem which would occur when auditing had been turned off. After checking and confirming that auditing was still enabled, I decided to look into this more.

image thumb Auditing Automatically Disabling with Unmanaged Solution Deployment in Dynamics 365

Through further investigation, I found that auditing can automatically be disabled and then re-enabled when a managed solution is deployed. From here I checked when the entity level auditing had been disabled and tried to match that date and time with a solution import. By doing this I found that it was disabled when a solution was imported, but this solution was unmanaged not managed.

It turns out that the issue is caused by not ticking the ‘Include entity metadata’ checkbox when deciding which entity assets to add to a solution. While deploying the solution without that checkbox ticked CRM attempts to revert the entity settings back to their default.

image thumb 1 Auditing Automatically Disabling with Unmanaged Solution Deployment in Dynamics 365

In the example below, the custom entity did not have auditing enabled when it was created so its default setting for auditing is for it to be disabled. When deploying this entity in a solution without that metadata box ticked, CRM temporarily disables the auditing, as this was the default, then re-enables it, because that is its current state.

image thumb 2 Auditing Automatically Disabling with Unmanaged Solution Deployment in Dynamics 365

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