The new Unified Interface for Dynamics 365 introduces enhanced capabilities that provide an improved experience for all Customer Engagement users. For those who might be unfamiliar with “Customer Engagement” branding from Microsoft, it is essentially a bundle of customer relationship management applications available under one user license. They include Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Field Service and Project Service Automation. Previously, these were packaged under the name “Dynamics CRM”. Microsoft sells the applications individually for customers that do not require the full suite of capabilities. In this article we will refer to Microsoft Dynamics Customer Engagement and Customer Engagement Applications.
This article focuses on the top five questions customers ask about the Unified Interface for Customer Engagement and looks at some of the new and exciting enhancements we saw with the release in April.
1. What is the Unified Interface for Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement?
Before we get ahead of ourselves, we need to answer the burning question on many customers minds – what is the Unified Interface for Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement?
The Unified Interface is a new user experience and interface for Dynamics 365 that uses a responsive web design to harmonize the way users access data and interact with Customer Engagement features across all devices, browsers and individual applications. A major benefit of the Dynamics 365 cloud platform is the ability to access and update records from any device, anywhere. In the past, customers had to be familiar with different interfaces for web, mobile and Outlook. The Unified Interface now ensures consistency across all device types, making the experience familiar and seamless. The Unified Interface also improved performance for Customer Engagement apps by ensuring that users get to the pages they need efficiently and that they load and refresh data quickly.
Microsoft’s goal was to make the Unified Interface the definitive client for Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement solutions. The focus was on providing an enterprise class experience for all users, regardless of the type of screen, orientation, or the application it’s being accessed from. Examples of common experiences across devices include:
- Similar form experiences to update and view your records.
- Interactive dashboards across all devices to view your information and drill into it.
- Reference Panel is now available to be used with all entities supported in Unified Interface.
- Accessibility improvements.
The entire Dynamics 365 platform is shifting towards a responsive web experience that will ultimately result in the sunset of the classic browser client and mobile apps. According to Microsoft, Unified Interface apps are the only apps supported on phones and tablets for Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement, version 9.0. When a user logs into the above org, they will only see the Unified Interface apps on their apps landing page.
2. How is Microsoft rolling out the Unified Interface?
Microsoft has set the Unified Interface as the default experience for a reason. With each new release we’ll see more and more of the features only being available on the Unified Interface as it is now the standard interface for all future updates.
This doesn’t mean that customers are no longer able to use the classic web interface and mobile app. However, it does mean that it will become increasingly important for customers to start making the transition across to the Unified Interface as Microsoft begin to phase out the legacy interface. It’s also beneficial for customers to adopt the Unified Interface as it will ensure that all users are privy to new features.
Microsoft are rolling this out in a strategic way that gives customers plenty of time to make the transition. We would expect at least 6 months’ notice but suspect it could be sooner, as they might decide the cutoff point is October in line with the next major release.
Most of the core functionalities of sales and customer service have moved to the Unified Interface experience. However, some of the features that are not yet on Unified Interface can now be accessed in the Unified Interface client.
The following features are not yet present in the Unified Interface but can be enabled for display as legacy dialogs in the Unified Interface through the hybrid experience.
- Advanced Find
- Bulk edit
- Merge records
- Record sharing
- Audit History
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3. What are the features of the new Unified Interface?
In April Microsoft released enhancements to the Unified Interface that addressed some of the most pressing feedback from customers. We’ve listed some of the top new features we think customers should be getting excited about.
According to Microsoft, the most requested enhancement for the Dynamics Customer Engagement user experience is improved navigation. The new Unified Interface addresses these issues by making significant changes to the site map. One of the biggest changes is the expansion of the sitemap itself, with less deep nesting of data and simplification of information architecture, making it far easier for users to move within the application and quickly find the functions they need. The Unified Interface also offers a simplified instant access, bringing users’ most recent page visits and pinned items right to the top.
Business Process Flows
Business process flows are among the most important capabilities in the Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement platform because they empower organizations to dramatically improve efficiency and visibility within key functions like sales or customer services. Business process flows have been improved to work seamlessly on all browsers and device types. Users can now simply click a business process stage to access the relevant field.
Not only that, you can also dock the business process stage on your screen to drive efficiency and stay focused at the task on hand.
New Field Controls
Microsoft has made significant changes to many field controls in the platform. There is now the ability to map a URL field and show a preview of a website or page that is related to a specific record. Users can also embed videos to provide a richer customer experience for sales teams and field people that are constantly on the go. One other update that we really like is the auto-complete control that filters an item list as you type, making it easy as pie to select the relevant value from a drop-down list!
One of the most prevalent changes users will see in the platform is the new dashboard enhancements. The dashboard is now embedded across all device types including mobile, making it possible to access wherever you are. Power BI dashboards can now be accessed from within Dynamics 365 on a mobile device.
The new enhancements offer additional features that the original dashboard didn’t provide. Interactive dashboards in the new Unified Interface allow you to access dashboards specifically to the entity or area that you’re working in. New visual features enable you to display charts that act as filters on the entire dashboard. Users can easily interpret data and list their preferred views before drilling down further.
4. How should we prepare for migration to Unified Interface?
Earlier in this article we explained that Microsoft are rolling out the Unified Interface with the intention to make it the definitive client for Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement solutions. This is critical to re–emphasize because it’s highly important to prepare your organization for a migration before Microsoft make the Unified Interface mandatory and cut off the legacy interface. It’s important to be prepared as this change could take place as early as October and it’s not as simple as a few visual adjustments!
The Unified Interface can be applied to Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement customers who have version 9.0 onwards. Organizations that are ready to make the switch to the new Unified Interface are recommended to test it against a sandbox environment before rolling it out in production. As is the case with all major updates to enterprise software platforms, the Unified Interface is a paradigm shift for Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement applications and customers need to be prepared to update their solutions to work with it properly. Testing is a fairly straightforward and standard process in Dynamics 365, but it has to be done properly. Organizations that wish to attempt the test and rollout themselves can follow the steps outlined at the bottom of this article.
The reason for testing in a sandbox environment before rolling out the new Unified Interface to production is to ensure that your unique configuration of platform capabilities will operate as expected without inconvenience to end users. Because some features and capabilities have been reorganized, certain customizations may need to be adapted to the Unified Interface and organizations will need to ensure they understand how the resulting solution is configured. Testing across different device types including computer and mobile browsers, and Outlook, is also recommended.
A few key insights we have learned from testing the new Unified Interface deployment are:
- Forms still work in the same way the only difference is that they will have an updated look and feel about them.
If you have any questions or would like support with the upgrade to the Unified Interface, then please contact us.
5. How do we apply the new Unified Interface to Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement?
Before you make this application, it’s important to apply the changes to your sandbox first and conduct a thorough validation of your business processes before applying to your live environment.
Step 1. In CRM, navigate to Settings > My Apps:
STEP 2. Click “Create new App”:
Step 3. Input the following information:
- Name: Enter a unique name for the app.
- Unique Name: The unique name is automatically populated based on the app name that you specify. It is prefixed with a publisher prefix. You can change the part of the unique name that’s editable. The unique name can only contain English characters and numbers. Note: The publisher prefix is the text that’s added to any entity or field created for a solution that has this publisher.
- Description: Type a short description of what the app is or does.
- Icon: By default, the Use Default App thumbnail checkbox is checked. To select a different web resource as an icon for the app, clear the check box, and then select an icon from the drop-down list. This icon will be displayed on the preview tile of the app.
- Use existing solution to create the App: Select this option to create the app from a list of installed solutions. When you select this option, Done switches to Next on the header. If you select Next, the Create app from existing solution page opens.
- Choose a welcome page: This option allows you to select from the web resources available in your organization. The welcome pages you create can contain information that’s useful to users, such as links to videos, upgrade instructions, or getting started information. The welcome page is displayed when an app is opened. Users can select Do not show this Welcome Screen next time on the welcome page to disable the page, so it doesn’t appear the next time the app starts.
STEP 4. Input the following information:
- Select Solution: select a solution from which you want to create the app. Note: By selecting “Default Solution” when you add a site map, the components that are associated with that site map are automatically added to the app.
- Select Sitemap: Select “Site Map” or any custom site map you may have created.￼
STEP 5. When the app designer opens, click “Validate” in the top-right corner:
Step 6. If you do not get any errors after validation, click “Publish”:
Step 7. After publishing, navigate back to your CRM, click the first dropdown arrow from your navbar, and select the app you just created:
With your app created, you’re good to go. Congrats!
Got more questions? Talk to an expert to find out how we can help you upgrade to the new Unified Interface and achieve workable solutions for your CRM needs.