Embedding A Power BI Tile in A PowerApps App For Rich Analytics On The Go

The one thing that Microsoft’s business application platform does is create an amazing amalgamation of things brought from various sources. PowerApps, makes rapid development and deployment of mobile business apps easily achievable. What it also does , very beautifully and easily, is bring in very rich analytics and insights from Power BI, Microsoft’s business intelligence solutions that makes reporting and decision making a breeze.

If you have a lot of visualizations in Power BI, you can easily add them to your PowerApps app with literally a few clicks. Let’s see how.

In Your PowerApps canvas, go to the Insert menu option and select Controls. Scroll to the bottom of the Controls list to find Power BI Tile. Click that option to add it to the app canvas.

Once the tile is on the canvas, another pane opens up that asks you to choose a workspace, dashboard and a tile from that dashboard to be displayed in the PowerApps Power BI tile.

Set those values, and hey, your Power BI tile is now embedded in your PowerApps app! You can add as many Power BI tiles as you’d like.

 

Bringing It All Together

PowerApps has its own visualizations capabilities but they are extremely limited in what they can do and display. The ability to bring in Power BI tiles so easily gives access to very rich analytics. This also lets PowerApps developers use visualizations created by someone else – possibly someone on the data side who understands analytics needs of users better than the developers.

Embedding Power BI Tiles in PowerPoint Slides

Power BI is obviously a great tool to display and discuss analytics. It lets you create dashboards and reports with various types of visualizations that give you insights on various aspects of your establishment. But what if you are presenting a PowerPoint deck to an audience and want to include your Power BI analytics in your session? Exiting PowerPoint and opening Power BI is, of course, always a possibility, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could display your Power BI analytics right in a PowerPoint slide?

(sing the following lines to the tune of Enter Sandman by Metallica)

Exit: Press escape to get out of PowerPoint and open Power BI in a browser window

Enter: an add-in for PowerPoint called “Power BI Tiles”!

Power BI Tiles is an extremely easy to use, third party add-in for PowerPoint that lets you display your Power BI reports and dashboards in your PowerPoint slides. With just a few clicks, it brings in all the insights from your Power BI goodness into your PowerPoint so your audience could be mesmerized without you having to awkwardly press escape to exit PowerPoint and switch to a browser to display your Power BI dashboards!

Watch the following video to see how easy it is to embed Power BI tiles in a PowerPoint slide. I made this video on a (late) Saturday night at my partner’s father’s house while everyone was sleeping – hence the awkward whispering!

Two New Charts for Unified Interface in Dynamics 365

With the Unified Interface becoming more and more prominent in Dynamics 365, what with the Spring Release ‘18 announcing that there is a Unified Interface app for every module, it is time to start exploring this brand new interface in a little more detail, as well as new components (like newer charts as you’ll see below) that come with it.

In this post, we will look at charts. How do you access charts in the Unified Interface? Notice how there is nowhere you can click to the right of a view to bring in a charts pane.

Well, you click on the “Show Chart” button on the top left!

And guess what happens next? Yes, the charts pane shows up..to the left of the view!

Now, you can start selecting different charts on this pane.

Note: At the time of writing this post, the Unified Interface doesn’t let you create personal charts.

Two New Charts for Unified Interface: Doughnut and Tag

Unified Interface also has two brand new charts that the web interface doesn’t – doughnut and tag.

I, personally, am not a fan of pie charts and there are several others out there who don’t. If you like Doughnut charts better than pie (or are just a fans of it), the Unified Interface lets you create them! If you open any entity in a solution and go to charts, you will notice two charts – doughnut and tag.

The doughnut chart is very similar to a pie chart. Add legend entries and categories to this chart just as you would to any other chart.

Notice how it doesn’t show a preview of the chart.

After saving and publishing, this is what it looks like in the Unified Interface.

Similarly, the Tag chart lets you create tags with a count, sum, average, min or max in parentheses.

 

Just like the Doughnut chart, Tag chart does not provide a preview either.

Once published, this is what it looks like in the Unified Interface.

One thing to remember is that at the time of writing this post, these two charts are only available for the Unified Interface. Switching to the Web Interface does not display these charts.

 

App Designer In Dynamics 365 Makes Creating Views Easier, Quicker And More Fun!

If  you haven’t looked at the “App Designer” in Dynamics 365 yet, you immediately should. The App Designer totally changes the way we approach designing views, dashboards,  charts, and even the sitemap!

The app designer makes creating and editing various components of your CRM a piece of cake. Not that it wasn’t easy to create them before! The App Designer makes everything more intuitive and faster – it saves a bunch of clicks that traditionally can be a tad bit annoying, especially if you are creating several views, charts, dashboards etc.

Let’s look at how you can use the App Designer to create a new System View.

App Designer

In order to get to the App Designer, go to Settings-> My Apps under Application.

The My Apps area shows you all the “apps” you have access to. Think of an app as the traditional Sales, Customer Service, Field Service, etc. modules. Choose the app you want to add a view to, click the ellipses on the top right corner of that app, and select “Open In App Designer”.

 

In the App Designer canvas, you will see a list of all entities, along with blocks that are labeled Forms, Views, and Charts. On the top, you will also see the Site Map for this app, as well as dashboards.

Clicking on  “Views” for a certain entity will show a list of all system views available on the right. What’s nice about this list is that it categorizes all the views so you know what kind of views are available, and how many. Let’s go ahead, and create a new view by clicking “Create New”.

 

The next screen shows you a canvas with three areas. The top lets you set filters the way you normally do. In addition, you also see what the view looks like right below it. By default, it has one column but you can add as many columns to your view from the list of fields to the right (under Components).

There is also a “Search” box you can use to look for a specific field, in case you have hundreds of fields on your entity. Here, we searched for fields that have the text “phone” in them. From the results, we dragged and dropped “Main Phone” to add as a column to our view.

After adding as many columns as you want (or vice versa), start setting your filters. You will notice that as you add more filters, your search results below update instantly. This is different from how it is with the “traditional” mechanism where, when creating system views, you do not get to see what the results look like unless you publish it and go to the view directly.

This short 40 seconds video shows the process. Notice how the results below change as the filters are added on top.

Once you are satisfied with this view, go ahead and give it a name – either right under “Columns” or under Properties. Then Save it.

Bada-bing-bada-boom! Your view is now ready. Go to Accounts, and look at your System Views. This new view will be in that list now.

This is what it looks like in the Unified Interface.

 

Modifying Views

Making changes to columns is super easy too. As you increase and decrease the column width, you can see the results right there and then. Drag and drop columns to rearrange their orders.

 

Conclusion

As you can see, the App Designer brings a refreshingly new, versatile, quick, and easier way of creating views. This makes creating views much more fun, and saves a bunch of clicks, time, and ultimately frustration.

Exporting Microsoft Flow From One Environment And Importing To Another

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.

 

Export DONE.

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!

Using Power BI to Provide Recommendations To Website Visitors

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.


Essentially, what we are doing here is providing the information that we house to our visitors, and enabling them to
(1) filter through a plethora of options
(2) self-serve,
(3) make their own decisions,
(4) post a photo on Instagram of the food they ate with the hashtag #bliss

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.

Conclusion

“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

Quick Tip: Using Annotations in Power BI To Add Notes

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?

  1. To ask a question about a certain territory or product.
  2. To give kudos to someone within your team.
  3. To come up with a plan of action based on certain trends you are noticing via a Power BI report/ graph.
  4. To let others know that their attention is needed.
  5. 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.

Image Gallery:

 

 

Set Up Self Scheduling For Your Customers With Microsoft Bookings

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.
  • Others!

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.

Conclusion

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!)

Availability

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.

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!