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

Embed Power BI Dashboards in CRM For Dynamics 365 With Just One Click

So, you have some really amazing and insightful dashboards in Power BI (like the one below) based on your data you have in CRM for Dynamics 365, and you use them regularly to see what’s going on with your business, institution, facility or wherever that you work.

image shows a dashboard with three charts in power bi.

 

Ideally, you would want to have these dashboards in CRM so that you have access to all these valuable insights in just one place. But how would you go about doing it?

Enabling and embedding Power BI dashboards in CRM is literally just a click away.

Go to System Settings (under Settings->Administration) and open the Reporting tab. Under that tab, set “Allow Power BI visualization embedding” to Yes.

image shows System Settings window  in CRM for Dynamics 365. The image shows that clicking the "Reporting" tab and setting the option "Allow Power BI visualization embedding"  to Yes enables power bi dashboards in crm.

 

Uhhhh that’s pretty much it.

Now, if you go to your Dashboards and click the chevron next to “New” , you will see a new option for “Power BI Dashboard”.

in the dashboards area, a new option "Power BI dashboard " is displayed when the chevron next to the "New" button is clicked.

Note: Make sure to click the chevron to get this option. Clicking the New button  defaults to creating the traditional CRM dashboard.

When you select that option, you will see a dropdown that will show you all of your dashboards in Power BI. Choose the one you want displayed in CRM. Click Save.

Note: Make sure to check the “Enable for Mobile” checkbox if you want to access this dashboard in your Dynamics 365 mobile app.

a new dialog shows all the dashboards in power bi in a dropdown. The user chooses which one they want embedded in this dashboard.

 

That Power BI dashboard is embedded in CRM now!

Power BI dashboard shown embedded in a CRM dashboard.

Questions? Let me know!

Product Recommendations in CRM For Dynamics 365 Using Machine Learning

If you are a company that sells various products and/or services, and you use CRM for Dynamics 365 for your selling operations, it’s highly likely that you use the Product Catalog, and also link up your products for cross selling opportunities. If you haven’t linked them yet, there’s good news – machine learning can do it for you! Based on patterns that it finds in historical sales transactions, CRM, with the help of the Recommendations API, can now provide product recommendations to cross sell for your sales people as they pursue opportunities.

Have you manually linked up your products for cross selling in CRM already?  There’s good news. You don’t have to keep doing it anymore! Why? See above.

But how does this all work?

Here’s the basic premise:

  • You have historic transactions that consist of products that have been sold by your sales team. Many of these products are cross sold, which means that if one product was being considered, at least another product was recommended in that sales opportunity as well.
  • There may be ways for you to look at historic data and see which products are more successful than others, but there is no easy way to see which products are recommended as cross sell products during a sales opportunity when a certain product is being considered.
  • That’s where machine learning comes in. The Recommendations  API looks at all of your historic data, and finds patterns of recommended/cross sold products. Then it rates those products.
  • Based on those ratings, you create your recommendation model. For example, when I am selling product A, recommend other products to cross sell. (Duh!) However, these recommended products  must have a rating greater than, let’s say 0.5 (ratings are between 0 and 1).  A higher rating means the recommended product has been in many historic “won” transactions.

Product Recommendations

Note: You will have to connect Recommendations API to CRM before proceeding. Read this article first.

When you go in to Product Recommendations in CRM for Dynamics 365 (Settings->Product Catalog), there are certain things you’ll see – In the Details area, perhaps the most important field is the “Minimum Recommendations Rating”. This is the rating that is generated by the Recommendations API when it looks at our historic data. Here, we are saying that we want only those products to be recommended for cross selling that have a score of at least 0.50. Anything below it will not be recommended.

 

Digression: This is what the ratings look like in case you are wondering:

Let’s come back to the Recommendation Model.

 

Basket Data Entities

These are the entities for which historic data is present. By default, three are included – Opportunity,  Order, Quote. You can add your own as well.  Here, you can also tell the Recommendations API to look at very specific set of historic transactions. For example, we can set a filter that makes the  API look at only Won Opportunities in the last 12 months. (double click the Opportunity line item in the subgrid below)

Recommendation Entities

These are the entities for which recommendations are available. They also default to Opportunity, Order, Quote.

 

As you get more historic data, you can build various versions of your recommendation model. To do so, set your Minimum Recommendations Rating (see above) and click Build Model Version.  This is where the algorithms start learning from your historic data, find cross sell patterns, and rate products.

Note: The build will take a while. I only had sample data and it took 6 minutes to complete the version build.

You can test your model also by clicking “Test Recommendations”. Choose a product, and a version. Click “Show Results”. This will show you a sample of what products will be recommended if a certain product is being considered in an opportunity.

If you see recommended products with scores attached, it means that you have an up and running recommendation model!

Note: I want to quickly talk about “Precision”. Precision represents the frequency with which sales people pick suggested products.  Higher the precision, the better. Try multiple models over a course of time and see how the precision changes. I have 0 because I have very minimal data in my demo org.

Now, let’s see the recommendation model in action!

First, though, let’s look at some older opportunities we have won so that we can see what the product recommendations will be based on. In the past, whenever we’ve sold the Southridge Laptop 19W Xq980 laptop, we have also cross sold a few more products with it.

Historic opportunity 1:

Historic opportunity 2:

Now, let’s see what our recommendation model recommends to us when we create a new opportunity for the same laptop. After adding the product, we click Suggestions.

And this is what we get. (We want recommend products with a score > 0.50)

From these suggestions, you can pick whatever you want and update your opportunity with more products!

Advantages

So what are we really doing here besides making suggestions easier for our sales team? After all, we could set these recommendations manually anyway in CRM, right?

First of all, you are utilizing your historic transactions to determine what really sells. Not only that, you are also scoring the effectiveness of each product when it comes to cross-selling. Just that infuses good confidence in your salesperson to include more products in their opportunities and ultimately bring in more revenue.

Second, it automates the whole process, which means that your analyst or customizer, who painstakingly set up all those product relationships (and probably ended up with arthritis from all those mouse clicks) doesn’t have to keep doing it manually anymore. Instead, with all the time saved now, they can probably learn a new skill to help you with your business operations.

Third, piggybacking on the first advantage listed above – if there are products that have lower rating, you can probably think of retiring them or getting them from a different manufacturer.

So, give Product Recommendations a shot, and see how well it works for you! Remember, this is still a preview so don’t screw around with it in your production environment! 😉

Enabling Machine Learning in CRM For Dynamics 365

The machines are taking over!

We hear a lot about how machine learning is being used in many applications, and CRM for Dynamics 365 is no exception to that sentiment. There are several features in CRM for Dynamics 365 that utilize Microsoft Cognitive Services – a very powerful set of tools/APIs that use the power of machine learning. For Example:

– Keyword matching, similar cases, topic analysis, and knowledge article suggestions, require a Cognitive Services Text Analytics connection.

– Automatic product recommendations while creating opportunities and adding opportunity products requires a Cognitive Services Recommendations connection.

So, does that mean in order to use automatic product recommendations, keyword matching, automatic knowledge article suggestions, etc., we need to integrate Microsoft Cognitive Services with CRM for Dynamics 365?

Correct.

Before you do that though, you would want to enable the “Product Recommendation” and “Text Analytics” previews in your settings first. (Yes, they are still previews)

Go to Settings->Administration->System Settings, and click the (last) Preview tab.

Under Preview, set “Cross-sell Product Recommendations Preview” and “Text Analytics Preview for Case Topics analysis, Suggest Similar Cases and Suggest Knowledge Articles” to Yes.

 

Next, go to http://portal.azure.com and login with a Microsoft Id.

Once in, we will be looking for two specific Cognitive Services APIs – Recommendations and Text Analytics. Let’s start with Recommendations API.

Note: Calls to these APIs are not free. Having said that, Microsoft gives you 5,000/10,000 etc. calls per month for free depending on what API you choose. If you are likely to exceed these calls, Microsoft will prompt you to upgrade to a paid account.

Recommendations API

In the Azure portal, click the “+” button on the top left corner-> select “Intelligence + analytics” in the next pop up menu, and then Cognitive Services APIs (preview).

On the next “Create” screen, give the service a name, choose Subscription (start with Free), choose API type “Recommendations API (preview)”, Pricing tier f0, and create a resource group. Click Create.

On the next screen, you will see a bunch of tabs to the left. Under Overview, make note of Endpoint, then choose Keys. When you do, you will see a couple of keys to the right. You will use one of these keys to connect this Recommendations service to CRM for Dynamics 365.

Now head to CRM for Dynamics 365. Go to Settings-> Administration->Azure Machine Learning Recommendation Service Configuration.

Fill in all the self explanatory fields. In the “Azure Service URL” field, enter the Endpoint that you noted above. In “Azure Account Key”, enter one of the two keys from the Keys section above.

Save and Test Connection. Once successful, click Activate.

That’s it. You are now ready to start building your Product Recommendations in your Product Catalog. (More on that later)

Note: It is possible that your connection to the Recommendations service may not be successful at the first go. If one key doesn’t work, try the other. You may even want to regenerate the keys if you keep getting connection failure errors.

Text Analytics API

Well, you know the drill. Do what you did above in the Azure portal. This time, when you create a new  service, you will choose Text Analytics API.

Back in CRM, go to Settings ->Administration->Azure Machine Learning Text Analytics Configuration, and do what you did above with the Endnote and Key.

Now you are ready to create “Advanced Similarity Rules”. (More on this later)

That’s it!

Thanks for making it this far! Hopefully this article gives you an idea of how to get started with the basic building blocks of enabling machine learning for CRM for Dynamics 365.

Question or comments? Let me know.

Tide: An App That Helps Me With Concentration & Focus

I’d be lying if I said that I am not going through a lot of stress these days. In the last two weeks, I have seen myself not very motivated to do things that I love to do – write, read, explore. In order to distract myself from all the stress, and to sort of get my concentration & mojo back, I decided to explore technology a little more than I usually do, and dive into the world of apps – apps that will possibly help me regain focus, and be more consistent with all the things I do. Maybe they will help me get even more creative, relaxed, and productive.

Is that too much to ask for from apps?

Tide

I am not the guy who listens to music when I am writing. I typically require peace and quiet around me for that, and that’s why I don’t like going to coffeeshops to write. My personal heaven is a library or my own apartment, at 5 in the morning. The pin drop silence early in the morning works wonders for me – no  traffic outside, no loud beeping of garbage trucks reversing and maneuvering to get to the dumpster, no chatter from people around me.

A week or so ago, I discovered Tide in the app store. The concept of Tide is simple – it has a few sounds that you listen to while working on things. Nothing more, nothing less. Apparently, it helps you stay focused. It had good reviews and ratings.

My apprehension immediately kicked in because of reasons mentioned above. However, I decided to give it a shot. It’s a free app after all – what have I got to lose?

The app has five sounds you can choose from – Forenoon, Rain, Forest, Muse, and Cafe. Forenoon is basically the sound little waves make when a boat glides through water. Muse is soft, relaxing piano music. The rest are self explanatory.

I cannot explain what really happened, but when I tried this app, by starting with Muse, I immediately got hooked. I was astonished by how instantly effective Muse was. I immediately had razor sharp focus, and forgot about everything else around me. I was calm. Not distracted at all. I gave it a few more listens (while writing and researching for my blog), and felt the exact same focus. In fact, I have written a couple of  posts for Assistive Technology Blog now while listening to it, and I am listening to it now as I write this post. The app uses Pomodero technique that set the timer to 25 minutes (by default) and provides 5 minute breaks after each 25 minute cycles.

Based on my experience with Tide the last few days, I will go as far as to say that I am slowly getting addicted to it!

The interface is minimal – it has a calming photo in the background, a round, sleek countdown timer, and an inspiring quote. If you care about statistics, it also keeps track of how focused you were each day, and gives you weekly, monthly numbers etc.

I will try the other sounds soon (probably) but I think I’ll definitely avoid Coffee Shop. That’s definitely not my cup of tea.

If you struggle with staying focused on things, or generally need some white noise/ background noise to stay calm, I highly recommend this app.

Image Gallery:

Download Tide here.

Hate Crime Statistics Right After US 2016 Election Results

After the huge spike in hate crime right after the 2016 election results in the US, I decided to keep track of what kind of hate crime was being committed  across the US, and where. The dashboard below, based on articles from various news sources, and stories by individuals on Facebook & Twitter, should be able to provide you with some statistics around what’s been going on around the country.

I was looking for a data source that would update periodically but I couldn’t find one, so I compiled all the data manually. I read articles and stories, and put them all in one csv. For that reason, this is not a complete list, and I am way behind. As of 11/22/2016, I only have 30 data points, although according to Southern Poverty Law Center, the count is over 700.

Disclaimer: This dashboard comes with all sorts of disclaimers. I trust the articles from various news sources but the personal accounts from Facebook have been taken at face value. If I find out that any of those personal accounts are false, I will remove it.

This dashboard, by no means, shows all reported/unreported hate crime. I have been manually compiling all this data (as and when I find them/someone shares with me) so I am super slow. I am hoping that I will be able to spend some time on it regularly and keep it updated.

This dashboard is interactive. Click on the dots on the map or charts to drill down on information. Hover over charts to see more.

Tip: Click the diagonal arrow at the bottom right corner to enlarge the dashboard.

Source csv file can be found here.

 

 

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.