Create Records In CRM For Dynamics 365 By Pressing A Physical Button! (Using Flic & Microsoft Flow)

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.

Benefits

So what are some benefits of automation tools like Microsoft Flow, especially when they are combined with smart buttons like Flic?
  1. It makes initiating a process or action much easier and convenient.
  2. It encourages people to follow the process because everything is already automated.
  3. It brings convenience to your employees with disabilities because just pressing a button performs various tasks for them.

The Flow

This is what my Microsoft Flow looks like. Easy peasy!

Explore:

Flic

Microsoft Flow

Microsoft Dynamics 365

Automate Your Business Activities With Microsoft Flow (using a combination of Facebook, Excel, Email, Dynamics CRM, and other productivity tools)

In an every day office setting, we go through many routine activities. Interacting with several entities like emails, social media, task lists, project planning etc. are so ingrained in us that we just consider them to be ways of life. In most cases, we are using a combination of these entities, sometimes in a sequence, to accomplish greater tasks. As one gets involved more in these greater tasks, a desire for automation arises at some point –  it doesn’t matter whether you are a small or large business. The complexity and occurrence of the tasks may be different, but the desire to reduce manual effort  exists across all sorts of businesses.

What do we mean by automation though? An extremely simple example would be getting an email notification when someone posts on our Business’s Facebook page. Maybe we want that person to become a lead in our CRM automatically so we could start a lead nurturing program. How about when someone emails us a file, it gets extracted and stored in a OneDrive folder so every team member now has access to it? There are definitely tools available to automate these processes, but they come at a cost. For small businesses though, spending on automation tools may not be an option. But what if a broader platform is provided to them that is not only free but also works very well with almost all the products they use on a daily basis? Wouldn’t it be nice to have smarter processes in your business that will make it easier to get notified, create records automatically on certain triggers, extract files from emails, insert rows into Excel for data analysis, create task lists, convert to text to audio where needed?  As you can see, these are tasks that we are used to doing every day. In most cases though, we do all of this manually.

Microsoft Flow is a new web based service that strives to do just that – automate activities that we perform every day. These activities can be based on various triggers/actions/conditions;  can be in a sequence, and can interact with social media, productivity tools (like Email, Excel, OneDrive, SharePoint),  planning tools (like Project, Wunderlist), translation tools (translating to various languages, text to speech), and various other technologies and products that we use on a regular basis. By using Flows, we can not only automate tasks but also increase productivity, improve collaboration, speed up communication, and save time.

Let’s look at a very simple example to see Flows in action. Let’s say you are a small, web design shop. You have not more than 5 people in your company, and you also occasionally collaborate with other freelancers. You have a blog where you post weekly updates about your company and your services. The weekly blog is posted to Facebook every Monday. Someone, a prospect, who is researching web design companies, is intrigued by your blog post on Facebook and writes a question on your page. Wouldn’t it be nice if you got an email notification when someone wrote on your Facebook page? If your coworker is blind or has visual impairment, the Facebook posts can also be converted to text to speech and emailed to that person. Typically, you would want to not only just answer their question but also have them as a prospect in your CRM for nurturing purposes.  While you answer the question, how about this status message gets directly entered into Excel so your social media person could report on that information?

Let’s see how we can automate these two processes using Microsoft Flow. The first activity, which is automating posting our blog to Facebook regularly, is short and sweet. (Video length: 44 seconds)

The next step of activities are initiated when someone, who presumably likes what we post on our Facebook, posts something on our wall, showing interest in our services. This is when we insert the Facebook message and other details automatically into Excel (beneficial for reporting and analysis on our social media activities), convert that message to audio and email it to someone within the company, and enter the person who posted on Facebook as a Lead in Dynamics CRM.  Let’s see how all this is done in a Flow. (Video length: 10:52 minutes)

So, let’s fast forward a bit – the prospect liked your messages, and after a little bit of nurturing – a few emails, phone calls, and appointments, they sign up for your services (and thus become a client), and the project starts. During the project, there is a lot of email exchanges that happen between you and the client. The client sends you files that are to be used by other members of your team and also the freelancers throughout the duration of the project. Would you forward that email to everyone involved so they all have the files? Or would you extract that email attachment into a One Drive folder that all team members have access to? In either case, you have to manually take some action. How about the file is extracted automatically without you having to worry about it ? If you are collaborating with various people, you would also create tasks in something like Wunderlist. How about those project tasks are created automatically as well?

The Flow below shows how all that is done. (Video length: 7:29 minutes)

 As you can see, you can automate various activities, often times in a sequence to enhance collaboration between team members, improve communication, save time, and alleviate human error. What we see above is just the tip of the iceberg. With some planning, you can get some really cool “Flows” running, that will enhance your days at work, and help you achieve more!

Note: Microsoft Flow is still in preview. I had a few inconsistent results while testing but those should be taken care of when it comes out of preview.

Amazon Echo: A Great Internet of Things (IoT) Device

Amazon Echo

Off and on, you may have heard or read about Internet of Things (IoT). In the coming years, it is supposed to be a new phenomenon (it actually already is) that will make everything much easier and convenient for everyone. But what does it mean? What exactly is it, and how would it help people with disabilities?

Let’s start with the basics – What is Internet of Things? In the simplest of terms, it means that you, as a person, control everything around you (yes, everything!) through the internet. What that also means is that you don’t have to physically access an object to make it do something.

Let’s simplify this a little more further.

Let’s say you have a set of lights in your bedroom – one is a bulb in the ceiling and the other is a bedside lamp. When you go to bed, you physically reach the switch on the wall to turn off the ceiling light, and do something similar with the lamp as well (push a button on it to turn it off). In the morning, when you wake up, you push the button on the lamp again to turn it on, then stumble into the bathroom and look for the light switch, turn it on, and do your business. Everything after that (morning coffee, for example) requires a manual interaction with specific devices also.

With Internet of Things, everything is automated. Before going to bed, you either tell a “smart” device – “turn off all lights”, use an app on your phone, or make a gesture towards a smart device that it understands as a “turn off all lights” signal. When you wake up in the morning, you can have your bedroom lamp and bathroom lights turn on automatically at the same time. Half an hour later, coffee would be ready.

The basic idea here is that everything around you is connected to the Internet – from your lights in the house to your garage door to your car. With voice commands, mobile apps or gestures, you can set up a sequence in which everything you need readies itself without you having to manually interact with them.

Sticking with our example above – after you drink your morning coffee, you ask a device what the weather is like, what the news headlines are for today, and when the next bus is arriving at your nearest bus station. That device will answer all of your questions without you having to open up your other devices (computer, tablet, phone) to find those information.
Makes sense?

There are several companies that have made lots of amazing innovations in the IoT world. One of those innovations is Amazon’s Echo – a little, innocuous looking device that just sits in a corner, but does so many unbelievably powerful things. As a user you can just speak to It and ask it to perform certain actions, and it will do it for you in a jiffy.

What kind of things can it do though?
1. To begin with, it can tell you the weather and traffic conditions. (“Alexa*, what’s the weather like?”, “Alexa what’s the traffic like?”)
2. Read Kindle and Audible books to you, and play music for you. (“Alexa, play the Kindle book ‘Be Here Now'”, “Alexa, play ‘The Beatles’)
3. Look up events and appointments on your calendar and let you know what your day looks like. (“Alexa, what does my day look like?”)
4. Help you go to the movies by finding the nearest theater and local timings. (“Alexa, where is Deadpool playing?”)
5. Find local businesses and restaurants. (“Alexa, what time does the nearby pharmacy close?”)
6. Add items to your shopping list and also re-order previously ordered items from Amazon with just one voice command. (“Alexa, reorder laundry detergent”, “Alexa add coffee filters to my cart”)
7. Helps you keep track of important tasks. (“Alexa, put ‘file taxes’ to my to-do list”)
8. Control all lights and other devices around your house. (“Alexa, turn on light 1”, “Alexa, turn off the TV”)
9. Control your thermostat. (“Alexa, set my bedroom temperature to 68”)
10. Play games, order an Uber ride, order a pizza from Dominos!
11. Lots and lots of other things!

*Amazon Echo is always listening for the keyword “Alexa”. If you start a sentence with Alexa, it knows that it is directed towards it (her?).

This video should give you a good understanding of how a person with disabilities can use Echo/Alexa at home.

Automation, in general, is a big victory for the regular consumer in terms of convenience. However, it brings a much bigger convenience and independence factor to people with disabilities, especially anyone who is blind, in a wheelchair, paraplegic, bed ridden because of a spinal cord injury, or doesn’t have good motor skills. It saves them a lot of time and energy by not making them interact with other devices that they may not have skills for or are unable to use them because of various disabilities. The only device they interact with is Echo, through voice, and it provides them with the results and information they are looking for instantly, and thus, saves them a lot of trouble. A person in a wheelchair doesn’t have to try to reach a light switch that’s in an awkward corner of a room, a person with not good motor skills doesn’t have to flip through pages or operate an e-reader to read their books, and a blind person doesn’t need to navigate a website on an electronic device to order a pizza anymore.

Automation through Internet of Things doesn’t only have to be at home. A device like Alexa can be installed by an employer at work as well so that employees with disabilities can be more comfortable in their work environments. A device like Echo is not expensive ($179), and it just makes the ability to provide accommodations an inherent part of the system, and not an afterthought.

This is just the beginning though. The kind of features Amazon keeps adding to Echo is mind boggling, and very exciting to say the least. Keep watching the IoT space to know about more innovations and automations for people with disabilities!

Image Source: Amazon

This post first appeared here.