If you’ve jumped onto the Microsoft Flow bandwagon, you know already how easy it is to create them. Did you know that you can also export them from one environment, and import them into another? The process is straightforward (As it should be!) but there are a few things you need to keep in mind to make the export and import successful.
First, let’s look at the two environments. In the environment below (let’s call it Environment A), I want to export the first Flow into a different environment, where it doesn’t exist yet.
The second environment (let’s call it Environment B), where it needs to be imported, looks like this (sans the RSS/LinkedIn Flow).
Now, in order to export from A, we will click on the three ellipses on the desired Flow, click Export, and choose Package (.zip).
You would think that selecting that option just downloads a .zip file for you. Instead, it brings you to a different screen where you give the package a name, and an optional description. At the bottom, notice the “Import Setup” column.
The Import Setup for the Flow defaults to Update. What it means is that it assumes this Flow exists in Environment B already, and that it will just update it with any changes it may have. Click Update, and choose “Create as new” so that a new Flow is created in B. Click Save to exit the screen. Finally click Export to download the .zip package file.
Now, go to Environment B. Go to My Flows, and click “Import”, and upload the .zip package.
Here, notice the red ! next to the Flow and connectors required. Even though in our Export process, we had setup the “Import Setup” to Create New, it still defaults to Update. Click Update, change this to “Create New”, and Save. Now notice the red ! disappear.
For the connectors, click on them one by one. If a Connector exists already, it will show it to you in a list from where you select it. If it doesn’t exist, it will ask you to create it (by clicking “Create new”).
After you click Save, and take care of the Red ! for the connectors, click Import. A successful import shows the following screen with green check marks.
After the import is done, you will see the new Flow in your new environment, already turned on!
When we hear about business intelligence tools like Power BI, the first thing that comes to mind is reporting. Typically, we associate “business intelligence” with reports and analytics that help people make decisions, and generally speaking, these “people” are internal users at an organization (sales people for example), their managers and/or leaders who are responsible for the growth and direction of their respective teams, departments, business units or the entire organization. But why can’t this same intelligence be shared with their customers so they can make decisions for themselves too?
Power BI’s ability to expose reports and dashboards externally (on a website; in an email) can be extremely insightful for the audience that has access to it. Any organization, not for profit, agency or establishment that deals with/has data can make meaningful reports for its customers so they can make their own decisions.
Let’s look at an example.
Let’s say we are a “Yelp” like organization that provides recommendations to our customers on what to do when they go to a certain city. When someone visits a new place, let’s say lower Manhattan, they would want to know places for dining (different kinds of food), shopping, nail salons, night clubs, post offices, and visitor centers, among many other places. To find these recommendations, they like to come to our website, find out what’s around them in their new city, and then decide what they want to do, and where they want to go. What’s the easiest way to expose this information to our website, especially if we have all this data in our CRM?
With Power BI, you can create graphical dashboards/reports with such information really quickly, and embed them on your website. In this example below, we see four components – (1) a map that shows physical location of all sorts of establishments in lower Manhattan, (2) a couple of lists that lets the user choose a primary (eating, shopping, nightlife) and secondary (Indian, Italian, fast food; chocolates, cigars, cars; club, bar) category, (3) a third list that shows the actual names of location, and (4) the last list that shows the address of selected location.
(Note: This is fully functional embedded Power BI report – play with it!)
At first glance, as a visitor coming to the website, I have a few first impressions:
1. Looking at the map, I know I have several options in the lower Manhattan area. The legend also really quickly tells me what kind of options are available.
2. The four lists tell me that I have the ability to really drill down/ narrow down my choices. I like that I have the options and sub-options (dining->type of food, for example).
3. Totals: I know that I have 764 options to choose from. (As I drill down, I also notice that these totals change to reflect the available options for a given primary or secondary category)
There are a few options I have here as I start interacting here.
1. I can either zoom in and out on the map, and start clicking specific locations. The lists on the left update with information on what exactly that location is. Just bringing my mouse on a location pops up for more information about it.
(Note: Interacting with this map on an iPad or iPhone does not bring up the popup)
2. Or, I can start drilling down on the lists to the right. I will start with the Primary category, then choose secondary, and then find a location I want to go to. Doing so will also tell me the exact location on the map, and also the address of it on the last list.
3. I don’t always have to start with the Primary category. I can start wherever I want, and still find the results I am looking for. For example, I can start with the Secondary category, and look for ice cream options available in the area. In our example, there is only one, and by looking at the results, I know exactly where it is.
(1) filter through a plethora of options
(3) make their own decisions,
We didn’t do any fancy design work, nor did we write any sort of script to create this report. All we really did was create this report using drag and drop features, and publish it to Powerbi.com from where we got the embed code that goes on our website.
Note: Speaking of fancy – you be the judge of the aesthetics of the report here. I like the way I have designed this report (:D) but the Power BI “designer” definitely gives a lot of options to work on the aesthetics of the report.
“Business intelligence” doesn’t always have to be about and for internal users. Using Power BI, we can churn out data in a meaningful manner that can be used by our customers for their specific needs. Also, these reports can be created effortlessly, without the need of a developer or a traditional report builder. The tool is extremely flexible and user friendly, and empowers business users by giving them the ability to server their customers with utmost ease and finesse!
Slight twist(!): Once the report/dashboard is ready, it can definitely be used by internal users too for their own purposes. Remember, dashboards in Power BI can be shown in Dynamics 365 with literally just a few clicks, so, internal users could just be in Dynamics 365 and access this information without having to switch to Power BI. The same report could be accessed in the mobile app in which users can annotate, and share their thoughts with others. And to take things things to a totally ridiculous level, you can even access certain type of information from these dashboards on your Apple Watch (GASP!!)! (And you thought your Apple Watch was good for just counting steps? :))
Data Source: Data.gov
Since we live in a connected world now, we expect access to information all the time, wherever we may be. Luckily, our smartphones, being an extension of ourselves, make sure that we get information as and when we ask for it. Having said that, smart watches, the extension of our phones, and thus of us, have made accessing information even quicker and easier. (You knew that already, didn’t you?) With just a flick of our wrist, and perhaps a press of a button, we get a quick glance of what we are looking for.
The Apple Watch has many functions, and you are perhaps familiar with almost all of them, or at least the ones that you care for. However, did you know that you can display information from your Power BI dashboards on your Apple Watch? No need to pull out your phone out of your pocket, open the Power BI app, and finally open the relevant dashboard to look for information. (That’s way too much effort! :))
How to Make It Happen
If you have the Power BI app on your iPhone, the Apple Watch will automatically get installed on your watch. However, that doesn’t mean that all of your dashboards are automatically available on your watch also. If you open the Power BI app on your watch, this is the message you’ll get:
Which means that you need to sync the dashboards you want on your watch from your phone. This is how you sync a dashboard:
In your iPhone Power BI app, open the dashboard you want to sync, and press the three dots/.
When you do that, you get a pop up menu. The last option on that menu is “Sync with watch”. Just select that option, and your dashboard will be on your watch!
Once synced, this is what it looks like on the Apple Watch.
Keep in mind that (as of now) the Apple Watch Power BI app is only going to show you numbers and KPIs – basically, anything that’s not a visualization. If you sync a dashboard that contains only visualizations, you will get this message:
Digression: If you know anything about me, you know that I am always looking at ways people with disabilities would access an app or feature.
For many people with disabilities, accessing information on their phones can be tedious and cumbersome. The Apple Watch can be a very good way for them to look at numbers very quickly with minimal effort. Blind people or anyone with hand tremors or motor skills issues can use Siri to open the app and then use the crown to scroll through the tiles. They can also enable VoiceOver (Settings->General->Accessibility->VoiceOver) on their watch so Apple Watch could read information from the tiles to them when they tap on the watch screen. This video shows how VoiceOver can be turned on, and then used, along with Siri, to open Power BI, and go through each tile with minimal effort.
Awkward note: I start showing things at around the 1 minute mark in the video below, so if you are weirded out by my incredibly beautiful yet hairy arm, it’s okay to look away for the first minute. 🙂
Obviously the Power BI app for the Apple Watch is not meant to get detailed insights, but if you are always looking for the latest “numbers”, whether before entering a meeting, while eating lunch at the cafeteria, during commute to and from work, or while stressing about work at home or social situations because you haven’t embraced inner peace yet, this app can work wonders and save you some time & effort, without interrupting the current task you are focussed on.
If you are a long time user of CRM (for Dynamics 365), you’ve probably noticed that there are lots of new ways now of displaying and comprehending information. With Power BI’s out of the box integration with CRM, it is so easy to bring in additional visualizations to get more perspectives and insights. Gone are the days of dashboards that consisted only of static pie and bar charts. Not that anything’s wrong with looking at traditional pie and bar charts! In fact, in many cases, simple visualizations are much more effective than flashy “cool” controls, but there are times when information presented in a different format may trigger newer ways of processing information, and in turn, help us with better decision making.
Beyondsoft Calendar Visualization
One of the controls that was recently introduced in the custom visual store is Beyondsoft’s Calendar visualization. This is one of the simplest yet extremely useful controls that can visually provide important information on how busy (or not) your days are. From your dataset, it looks at one date field (date a sale was made, for example), one measure field (revenue, for example), and a bunch of tooltip fields. What’s unique about this visualization is that it takes into account the highest and lowest values for a given month, and shades the background color from light to dark. The higher the value for a given day is, the darker the calendar day is.
You see what I mean? In one quick glance, you can tell that the 2nd, 9th, 11th, and 19th, were super busy. In fact, 19th was the busiest. Also, the first half of the month was the busier than the second half.
Here’s another view:
The gray in this month’s view indicates no numbers. Another way of seeing that the beginning of the month, we had no business (GASP!), but then it picked up on the 21st, and got really busy by the end of the month.
How Do You Create It?
First, you add the Beyondsoft Calendar visualization from here.
Once you have it, drop the visualization on the canvas, and add your date and measure fields.
Next, set the colors for the “spectrum” under the Format tab.
Feel free to change other formatting values, but essentially, your calendar visualization is ready!
Who Is It For?
- Well, it’s for everyone. Here are some examples I can think of.
- Businesses that track daily sales. A bike shop, coffee shop, restaurant, etc.
- Businesses that process orders per day. Print shops, for example.
- Not for profits that work with clients and are required to work on cases on a daily basis.
- A disability resource center that provides accommodations and prepares Braille, captions or other services to its disabled clients.
- Organizations that work with volunteers, and need to track daily volunteers hours.
- Speaking of volunteers, seeing how busy certain days of the month get, this calendar can provide insights into when an organization should get volunteers to take care of busy/seasonal periods.
The Best Part
You use this visualization in a Power BI dashboard which can be displayed in CRM for Dynamics 365! You don’t have to go to Power BI to look at this information. Here’s my Power BI dashboard displayed in Dynamics 365.
Quick Additional Note
This visualization shows only one month’s (the first month in your dataset) data. In order to go through other months, create a slicer and use it with this calendar.
Does this visualization excite you? How do you plan to use it? Let me know in the comments below!
Have other questions about Dynamics 365? Drop me a line!
In the Power BI mobile app, Annotations are what let you write hand written notes on a Power BI graph, and share with others. Why would you want to do that?
- To ask a question about a certain territory or product.
- To give kudos to someone within your team.
- To come up with a plan of action based on certain trends you are noticing via a Power BI report/ graph.
- To let others know that their attention is needed.
- Sometimes, you just want to ask someone a simple question, and waiting for a weekly meeting to happen so you could ask that question may not be a viable option.
Annotating is simple. All you do is click the “Pencil” icon on the top right, and start writing.
This short video below shows how quick and easy it is to not only write note, but also share annotations with others.
This is especially helpful if you are using the free version of Power BI because just recently Microsoft made sharing available only to Pro users.
Note: The sharing via Annotations uses the mobile OS’s native sharing mechanism. Essentially, it is taking a screenshot and letting you share it via email, text messaging, and other apps.
One of the events I thoroughly enjoy, and look forward to every year is the MayDay parade. An event that not only acts as a major confluence of art, music, and dancing, but also touches upon various social and political causes that affect the local community, country, and the world. It is incredible to see so many people working so hard, and coming together to raise awareness through art. Just like me, there are thousands more who await this day every year.
I have been going to the parade for four years now, and I plan to not stop going in the future! Big crowds of like minded people congregating for this parade gives me hope that many of us are keen on learning about what’s going on around us – low wages, police brutality, global warming, barrel bombing, 9/11 conspiracies, to name a few – and plan to do whatever we can to make some positive impact in our lives.
You will see some galleries below of photos from each year’s MayDay parade. One thing you will probably notice is that although these photos are capturing the social messages and the getting together of the local community, they also focus on specific individuals, the role they play as part of the parade, and their interactions with others in their immediate surroundings.
I hope you like these photos.
MayDay Parade May 7, 2017
MayDay Parade May 1, 2016
MayDay Parade May 3, 2015
MayDay Parade May 4, 2014
You have many customers who you see on a daily basis. Typically, these customers call your office, speak to the front desk person, and get an appointment scheduled. The front desk person has access to all of your employees’ calendars, and they go through the requested employee’s calendar to find an available slot. While that’s happening, there’s another person waiting in line (on hold) to get their appointment booked. Oh, and also, the appointments can only be booked between 8 AM and 4 PM- during office hours (while your human front desk person is available to take calls).
What if you could let your customers schedule their appointments themselves without having them to call the office? How convenient would it be for them (and you) to schedule an appointment any time of the day? It would be a relief too for people who don’t like talking on the phone. (like me!)
Picture the following scenarios:
- Dentist’s office: New and existing patients call all the time to book appointments.
- Auto body shop: Customers need an appointment to get work done on their cars.
- Educational institution: Students need to schedule a meeting with their teachers, professors, advisors.
- Not for profit organization: You work with victims of abuse. Your clients would like to meet with their case managers when they need help.
- Bike shop: Your current customers want to schedule an appointment for a tune-up. New customers want to come to the shop to look at bikes.
- Wealth Managers/ Tax Consultants: Your clients want advise on how to manage their wealth; need to meet with you so you could help them file their taxes.
You see what’s happening here? We are surrounded by businesses/establishments that require us to meet with them in person to get our work done. As an institution that caters to the needs of others, it is our responsibility to make things more comfortable and easier for our customers. For starters, we can let our customers schedule their own appointments!
Exit light. Enter Microsoft Bookings.
If you are an Office 365 customer, especially Business Premium, you may have seen a new product called Microsoft Bookings in your suite. You can use this product to easily set up self-scheduling for your customers. Here is what it does:
- Provides a web interface for your customers that they can use to schedule their appointments with either specific employees in your office or anyone (random selection). It finds available time on your employees’ calendars and lets customers schedule appointments in those slots.
- Lets you set work days & hours for the business and individual employees so that customers don’t schedule anything outside of those days and hours.
- Lets you setup all services you offer. Customers can pick the service they want to schedule an appointment for.
- Sends confirmation and reminder emails to both employee and customer.
- Allows cancellation and rescheduling of appointments.
- Provides a calendar view of how busy your employees are.
Who is it for?
- Definitely small and medium sized businesses. Businesses that may not have the resources to implement a full fledged scheduling portal. Microsoft Bookings is a straightforward solution for them to help their customers with self scheduling.
- Smaller groups/departments within larger companies that don’t have self scheduling on their portals yet. These groups can use Microsoft Bookings as an interim solution until their company moves to an enterprise-wide platform.
- Not for profits/ educational institutions. Anyone who wants to schedule meetings with their clients/students/parents.
What it doesn’t have (yet)
Currently, Microsoft Bookings operates as a standalone solution. However, since it is an Office 365 product, we should see it integrate with Dynamics 365, and Microsoft Flow in the near future. An appointment in Microsoft Bookings will most likely be able to sync to CRM for Dynamics 365 or have Microsoft Flow create a record in Dynamics 365. Having said that, you can
definitely use “Automatic Record Creation and Update Rules” now to create records in CRM based on notification emails you get from Microsoft Bookings. That would ensure that you could start a bunch of workflows that can perform several actions for you related to (pre/post) appointment.
This is one solution you should definitely try if you are seriously considering providing your customers with the ability to book their own appointments. It’s possible that in the future, as your requirements get more complex, Microsoft Bookings may not be the right solution for you anymore, and that’s when you can migrate to something else. (Or maybe Microsoft will keep adding more features to it!)
At the time of writing this article, Microsoft Bookings is available with the Business Premium edition of Office 365 and will roll out to other plans soon.
Check It Out!
Want to see how it works? I created a demo page that has self scheduling for a fake bike shop. Check it out!
If you are ready to get started, you can check out some tutorials here.
What if your customers could just literally press a button to solve their problems? Picture the following scenarios:
– Your clients, who use your products or services, are having trouble with them. Something’s not right! They press a button and immediately get a call from your support staff.
– You run a coffee shop or a restaurant. You notice that you are low on supplies (Coffee beans? Beverages? Ketchup?). You press a button which sends an email to your supplier telling them to restock supplies.
– You run a roofing company. Your staff is up on one of the roofs fixing things. Once they are done, they press a button that creates a record in CRM, notifying office staff that the job has been completed.
That would be pretty awesome, right? (no? aww okay :/)
In case you didn’t know, Microsoft Flow can now be triggered by “Flic” – a physical button that connects to various services like Uber (to order a cab), Sonos (to control music), and Philips Hue (to control smart bulbs) to name just a few.
With Flic now working with Microsoft Flow, we can use this combination to create records in CRM for Dynamics 365, and perform various actions. For example, in the video below, I show how a customer, whenever they have an issue with our product or service, can just press Flic once, which will create a case record in our CRM.
- It makes initiating a process or action much easier and convenient.
- It encourages people to follow the process because everything is already automated.
- It brings convenience to your employees with disabilities because just pressing a button performs various tasks for them.
This is what my Microsoft Flow looks like. Easy peasy!