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Optimising the Dynamics 365 App for Outlook

So, you’ve pushed the Dynamics 365 App for Outlook to all your users. They can now track emails from Outlook into Dynamics and surface information about Dynamics records directly in Outlook, change those records etc. They’ve all got the Dynamics 365 pane showing in Outlook and everyone is happy.

All good then, job done.

Well……., not exactly.

When Microsoft introduced the Dynamics 365 for Outlook (I’ll just call it the ‘App’ from now on for brevity), it was very much a ‘take it or leave it’ add on. You got what you got and that was that. Well that’s all changed. These days you have considerable scope to optimise it to your specific needs.

Read on to see what you can do.

Which entities to include in the App

Firstly, you can decide which entities (i.e. record types, such as Account, Contact or Opportunity) to show in the App. There are some which will be included by default, some of which you may want to remove. You may also want to add custom entities.

The list of entities available in the App acts as a master list, and all the other parts of the app use that list and show a subset of entities from that list. For example, when setting regarding for an email or appointment in the App, it will show any entities included in the App and are enabled for activities:

Similarly, when showing the entities available for Quick Create in the App, it will show any entities which have a Quick Create form, have Quick Create enabled on the entity and are included in the App:

You may decide for example that you are not interested in seeing Knowledge Articles in the App. Fine, just go to ‘My Apps’ in ‘Settings’ in Dynamics 365 and open the App designer:

Select the ‘Knowledge Articles’ entity and ‘Remove’:

Publish the App, and just like that, it’s gone from the ‘Regarding’ list of entities and the Quick Create entities in the App in Outlook:

      

 

Which views to show in the App

When you are setting an email or appointment as regarding a Dynamics record in the App, and you filter by the list of entities, you can select which view to use. Below I’ve filtered the list of entities by Account, and as you can see there is a ‘Change View’ option:

When I select it, I get this:

And that’s just the out of the box views. Once you add in custom views, this list can get very large. Screen real estate is at a premium in the App, and a simple user experience is key, so it can be useful to remove some of these views. Again, in the app designer, just select the views for the entity you want to change, untick ‘All’, select the views you want and save and publish:

That’s a much more manageable list.

Set the data which shows for ‘Recipients’

When you receive or send an email from CRM, all parties in the ‘From, ‘To’ or ‘CC’ fields in the email are listed in the App under the ‘Recipients’ section:

You can scroll through these and see information for them from Dynamics, if they are in there:

     

The fields in the yellow highlighted section are the first 3 fields from the ‘App for Outlook… Card’ forms. As you can see, the records above are an Account, Contact and lead respectively.

The fields in the red highlighted section are the ‘App for Outlook.. Quick View’ forms. These ones may have subgrids on them, showing other records related to the recipient, e.g. Opportunities for the Account. It’s worth noting that this form only shows the field or subgrid if it’s populated with data.

Both these forms are fully customisable in the same way as any other form is in Dynamics. If you decide that you are not using a field which is in the standard form, you can simply change it.

Also worth noting that the ones in the Card forms, i.e. the yellow highlighted sections above, don’t have labels in the App, so it is extra important to pick fields which you use, and where the data shown makes it clear what field it is.

The Sitemap

Firstly, a disclaimer. According to Microsoft, updating the sitemap for the App for Outlook is not supported. However, I’ve not had any issues with it. However, as it’s not supported, amend it at your own risk.

If you select the Home icon from the command bar, you get taken directly to the 'Dashboard'. This is a bit of a misnomer. It doesn’t look like any other dashboard. Here’s an example of what you see on the ‘Dashboard’:

It’s just the basic information about the email or appointment you have selected from the email folder or calendar.

If you select the Menu icon next to the Home icon, you are taken to this:

You have recently viewed items, which show any pinned or recently viewed records and views for any entities included in the App.

You then have ‘Home’ area, with the ‘Activities’ group under it and the ‘Dashboards’ entity under that.

If you look at the sitemap in the App designer, it looks like this:

So, it’s just the normal sitemap structure, same as any other Dynamics App. You can add components to this sitemap in the same way as you would add components to any other Dynamics App:

Now the sitemap in the App looks like this:

I even added in an icon (albeit not a very good one) for the Customer Area. Also, perhaps 3 areas is too much as it means you have to now scroll to get to the Service area. It may have been better with 3 groups so they fit vertically on the app screen. You get the idea though.

So, I can now browse these entities, picking views and records, amending records etc:

Which charts, interactive dashboards, and business process flows to show

If you customise the sitemap in this way, or if you select any recently viewed views in the App, you can bring up charts and Interactive Dashboards to show in the App:

Personally, I think the chart functionality in the App is limited due to the size of the App. I do think that Interactive Dashboards can be useful. Below I’ve shown example of showing a chart or an interactive dashboard:

          

The Interactive Dashboard has the advantage of allowing you to click on one of the tiles and see the records underneath. The chart doesn’t.

So, I’d recommend not including any charts in the App, but including an Interactive Dashboard for each entity in the App.

For business process flows, even if the BPF entity is not made available in the App. when you create the record in the App, the BPF will still allocate to the record, you just won't see it in the App for Outlook. This is very counterintuitive, therefore I recommend enabling all BPFs in the App for Outlook. Having said that, I don’t find them particularly useful in the App, as the screen size is very small, but it’s still good to know which BPF has been added to the record:

You include or exclude charts, interactive dashboards and business process flows in the app designer, same as any other App:

Summary

So, the things to consider when deploying the App are:

  • Which entities to include
  • Which views to include
  • The data to show for ‘Recipients’
  • What to include in the Sitemap
  • What charts to include
  • What interactive dashboards to include
  • What business process flows to include

Personally, I like to follow a minimalist approach when deploying the App, so I tend to take more components out of the App than I add in. However it does vary case to case.

It’s also worth noting that since the App is available on mobile devices as well, any optimisations you make will apply there too.

I appreciate there is a lot to unpack here. In my experience, the success of the App is very much tied to ease of use, so this optimisation is vital. I hop this blog helps you with a successful launch of the App in your company.

Happy CRMing everyone!

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