Query Dynamics 365 / CDS Data With SQL

ByRob Peledie

Query Dynamics 365 / CDS Data With SQL

So fairly recently Microsoft announced the ability (in preview) to query CDs data with SQL – as opposed to Fetchxml as we have been used to with online.

I will write up a fuller discussion of this, once I have had a proper play, but there were some issues with setting this up, so I put together a short (ish) video to walk through the steps.

ByRob Peledie

Consuming an Open API and JSON in Power Apps – 101

It’s been a while since I wrote anything too technical, and I’ve had a chance during this lockdown to brush up on some stuff I haven’t really played with in Power Apps,  so  thought I would look at something a little different….. connecting and consuming an Open API, and consuming the results in a Power App. 

Before I get started, there is also a video to go with this article

 There are plenty of open API’s you could use to have a play around, but I decided to use the one from CoinGecko, which gives lots of options for real time Cryptocurrency prices. You don’t need to sign up to it, and there’s no authentication required, which makes life easier if this is your first venture.

If you navigate to the CoinGecko API site, you’ll see the complete list of options, and get a chance to test out your requests right there. For example the first, and most basic is to ping the api.

So for the example we’re going to build, let’s keep it nice and simple. A Power App that retrieves the current prices for Bitcoin in 3 currencies, then allows you to choose your preferred currency, your holding, and show your live value.

Firstly lets create the Flow that gets the data from the CoinGecko API. Go to flow.microsoft.com and log in. Once logged in, go to your flows and click New –> Instant – from blank

You’ll then get the opportunity to choose your trigger, and in this case we want to choose PowerApps, as an action in our PowerApp will call the flow and API

Once you’ve clicked create, your flow will open, and the PowerApps trigger will be shown as the first step

Before we go any further, lets just step through the process that we’re going to do. This is the finished flow

So if we break it down in to simple steps……. The Power App calls the flow. this then uses the HTTP action to call the API. The JSON results are Parsed, and the Responses captured.

This then gives us the resulting data to be consumed in the Power App.

So let’s break it down. Firstly that HTTP Step. If I open up that step this is what you’ll see

So the Method we’re going to use here is GET – because we’re getting data! Seriously though, if you want to know more about these methods, then check out this.

So the URI is where we form our request, and in this case it’s a really simple request for the Price of Bitcoin in 3 currencies – USD, GBP and EUR.

Since theres no Authentication for this API, we can easily see if this request works by posting that URI in a web browser

So the results you see there are in a JSON format. We now need to Parse them, and break them down in to their parts so we can consume and use them in a readable format.

Here we add the Parse JSON action.

So firstly you’ll see that we want to pick up the Body as Content – that’s the payload or data we are retrieving. The Schema may seem a little daunting, but there’s a neat little trick here……. “Generate from sample”

In this, we can just paste in the returned data that we got before in our test with the URL, and the flow will just generate the schema for you!

Finally we just add the Response action, and you’ll see it’s almost identical to the Parse – just with the addition of the status code of 200 which effectively means OK. This then allows the response to be consumed in your Power App

So, that should be your flow created. Don’t forget to name it and save it. Next let’s create a simple Power App and consume that data. 

Go to make.powerapps.com and create a new Canvas app from blank. The first thing we’ll do is add a button – for this simple example the button is going to call the flow which in turn calls the CoinGecko api. I’ve just renamed mine to “Update Prices” .

Now there’s a few things we want to do in order to grab those prices. In the formula box I have added the following

ClearCollect(getrates,GetCoinGecko.Run())

I’m not going to go into all the details of this but essentially we are creating a collection, calling it “getrates” and the data that feeding it is coming via the flow we previously created (Mine is named “GetCoinGecko”

If you want to check your flow is working, just check your collection

I have also added a few labels….. 3 to identify the currency, and 3 to hold the data we pull back

so far then we have a mechanism for getting the data from the API via flow, and triggered by the button. it’s being stored in the collection. We now have to show it in the label fields.

In the formula for the label for GBP I have added the following

First(getrates).bitcoin.gbp

This formula calls the first record in the collection and in this case the GBP value and displays it

Repeat for the USD and EUR data, and there you have it!

Have a play…… why not add a drop down and option to put your holding to show your value (I wish I had 100!)

ByRob Peledie

PowerApps PCF Controls

For those that don’t know, we now have the capability to create custom controls for model-driven apps (as of time of writing, we are just about to get all this goodness for Canvas apps as well!!)

So what is it, and what can we do with it? 

Use PowerApps component framework to create custom components in model-driven apps to provide an enhanced user experience for the users to view and work with data in forms, views and dashboards. 

So what sort of things can we create?

Well how about instead of a number field to show probability of Opportunity closing, you have a slider?

Or perhaps instead of a standard view of contacts, you have this:


Shout out to Natraj Yegnaraman   and his Contact Card PCF Control

You can start to see the countless use cases for this sort of flexibility. And when this is available for Canvas apps (September/October 2019) the potential for creating is boundless.

Now, to be 100% upfront and honest here, this isn’t a ‘drag n drop’ exercise. This is going to require you to have some development experience. There are some great articles and videos that might help you get started – and I’ll list them at the end.

There is also and awesome resource – The PCF Gallery. Here you’ll find some examples of what people are doing, and as is normal in this great community, it’s free to use and share.

Links

ByRob Peledie

Common Data Model Vs Common Data Service

I thought I would put together a short explanation of Microsoft’s Common Data X conventions, and specifically what the meaning and differences are between CDM and CDS.

One of my drivers for this is that I didn’t fully understand it myself, or at least I find it difficult to articulate the definitions, and there’s surprisingly little about the connection between the terms….

So let’s start off with the “official” definitions of both

Common Data Model


The Common Data Model is a declarative specification, and definition of standard entities that represent commonly used concepts and activities across business and productivity applications, and is being extended to observational and analytical data as well. CDM provides well-defined, modular, and extensible business entities such as Account, Business Unit, Case, Contact, Lead, Opportunity, and Product, as well as interactions with vendors, workers, and customers, such as activities and service level agreements. Anyone can build on and extend CDM definitions to capture additional business-specific ideas.

Common Data Service


Common Data Service lets you securely store and manage data that’s used by business applications. Data within Common Data Service is stored within a set of entities. An entity is a set of records used to store data, similar to how a table stores data within a database. Common Data Service includes a base set of standard entities that cover typical scenarios, but you can also create custom entities specific to your organization and populate them with data using Power Query. App makers can then use PowerApps to build rich applications using this data.

There we go…… thats clear Isn’t it?………….

Still doesn’t feel like a clear explanation, so let’s try again…..

I think the clue to understanding this is in the last word of both expressions – Model and Service

A Model provides a framework, or architecture that standardises something….. so for example you might use the expression 
“the project became a model for other schemes” to infer that other projects will be based on this. 

So in this context, the Common Data Model is a standardisation of data concepts.

On the Microsoft GitHub page for CDM, you can find the poster below, which I think really explains the concept


The Common Data Model standard defines a common language for business entities covering, over time, the full range of business processes across sales, services, marketing, operations, finance, talent, and commerce and for the Customer, People, and Product entities at the core of a company’s business processes. The goal of CDM is to enable data and application interoperability spanning multiple channels, service implementations, and vendors. CDM provides self-describing data (structurally and semantically), enabling applications to easily read and understand the data.

I think that starts to focus our understanding a little better.

Now, if you really want to dig in to the Schema, and get a good understanding, then you can use the CDM Entity Navigator to drill in to it

So…….. How does CDS fit in to this? Well as with CDM, let’s look at the last word – Service.

If we view the CDM as the standard of entity schema, then the CDS is the mechanism for enabling you to build that data.

To put its simply……if you were to spin up a new environment of CDS here, then it would build it based on the CDM schema, and supply you with some of those standard Entities and relationships defined in the CDM Schema, but the actual data etc would be provisioned or managed by the Service…CDS.

Hopefully the above has helped to explain the difference between CDM and CDS and how they fit in to the landscape.

ByRob Peledie

AI Builder In PowerApps – Business Card Reader Example

So a few days ago (Early June 2019), Microsoft started to roll out previews of the AI Builder in PowerApps.

What is AI Builder?

According to the Documentation (and it’s worth bearing in mind, that because this is in preview mode, the documentation may change), AI Builder is:


“A new Power Platform capability that allows you to easily automate processes and predict outcomes to help improve business performance. AI Builder is a turnkey solution that brings the power of Microsoft Artificial Intelligence through a point and click experience. Using AI Builder, you can add intelligence to your apps even if you have no coding or data science skills.”

As it stands right now, this is in preview, and you have to enable it in your PowerApps settings.

For this quick article I thought I would go through a really simple example of scanning a business card, and then creating a new Lead record in Dynamics 365.

Just worth saying at this point, that while the following example is simple, it does show a really good use of AI and Microsoft’s Cognitive services. OCR or Optical Character Recognition, has been around for many years, but in the example below, the AI is doing more than just converting an image in to text….. it’s then analysing that text and making a decision as to what it is…. so looking at a word, and deciding it is a first name as opposed to a last name or company name. Putting that sort of power in our hands is awesome, and will get better and better!

To start with, create a new Canvas app in PowerApps, and use the Phone layout. If you have enabled the AI Builder Preview, then you should see the options in the insert menu

AI Builder

Choose the Business Card Reader option. This will place the Business Card Reader component on the Screen

The Business Card Reader currently can extract the following if a Business Card is detected:

  • CleanedImage: The image after processing where the business card appears cropped and enhanced from the original image.
  • CompanyName: The company name in the business card, if found.
  • Department: The organization department found in the business card, if found.
  • Email: The contact email found in the business card if any.
  • FirstName: The contact first name in the business card, if found.
  • FullAddress: The contact full address in the business card, if found.
  • FullName: The contact full name in the business card, if found.
  • JobTitle: The contact job title in the business card, if found.
  • LastName: The contact last name in the business card, if found.
  • OriginalImage: The original image before processing.
  • Phone1: The first phone or fax number detected in the business card, if found.
  • Phone2: The second phone or fax number detected in the business card, if found.
  • Phone3: The third phone or fax number detected in the business card, if found.
  • Website: The website detected in the business card, if found.

I decided just to keep things nice and Simple for this demo, so just included the following fields that I would use to create a new Lead in Dynamics 365:

  • Company Name
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Email Address

I also included a text field that I would map over to the Description field in Dynamics (I’ll show you later how I configure the Microsoft Flow to concatenate the Company Name – Last name for the Topic on the Lead record.

The fields I added were Text Input fields, so If I needed to change anything on the captured Data I could.

The formula for each field just references the Business Card Reader Component Name and the field, so for Company Name it was

BusinessCardReader1.CompanyName

After you have completed these steps, Save and Publish your app. If you’ve followed all the steps above, then you should be able to open the App, Take a photo of a business card and after processing, retrieve the data in to the fields.

So the next stage is to grab that data from our app, and use it to create a new lead.

For this we need to trigger a flow from a button on our screen. I added a Button and called it “Submit to D365”

Once the Button is on the screen, it needs to trigger a flow, which we’ll create next. In the Action Tab of PowerApps, choose Flows, then click Create a new flow. This will open up the Flow designer, which should already have the connector to your PowerApp (Thus inheriting that the button will trigger it)

So in the image above, you’ll see that I have added the “Create a New Record” Action in the flow, and chosen the Org Name and Entity – Lead for this example.

What you’ll also notice is that In the right hand side, there are currently no fields available, but instead have the “Ask In PowerApps” option. This is so that the flow can grab the relevant fields from the App. So If I Choose the Last Name field in the Create a Record Activity then Ask in PowerApps, it will return a holding field for reference:

You’ll also see in the image above that I have concatenated some fields for the Topic.

Once you’ve done this….. Save your Flow and go back to the App. 

In the App, highlight your Submit button, and use the following formula

PowerAppsbutton.Run(Createanewrecord_LastName,Createanewrecord_CompanyName,Createanewrecord_Email,Createanewrecord_FirstName)

So this is launching the flow and grabbing the data from the APP

NOTE: Worth noting here, that you’ll need to change the names of the fields on the app to match the names above and in the flow – so add the Createanewrecord_ prefix)

If all looks good, you should have no red crosses, and your formula looks like this

So after that, Save and Publish you App and give it a go!

ByRob Peledie

365Knowledge YouTube Channel Update

It’s been a number of years since 365Knowledge posted any videos on YouTube, so I thought it was time we started again.

Interestingly, although I had neglected the channel, the 6 videos had a total watch of over 13,000 views which is small in comparison to most channels, but still quite a number.

So……………Watch this space!

ByRob Peledie

Create Dynamics 365 Records From Azure Service Bus Queue – Via Logic App

I wanted to put together a solution where an external system could send a JSON payload through an Azure Service Bus Queue, and a new record created in Dynamics 365.

There are no doubt better, or at least different ways to approach a scenario like this, but I wanted to brush up on some skills, so thought it was a nice use case, and one I will be needing soon for integrating an external Oracle system.

So, basically this is the running order of steps:

  • Create Azure Service Bus Queue
  • Create Logic  App
  • Test (Using Postman to send JSON messages)

So, nothing too complex, but just thinking about this sort of scenario a few years ago (not that many to be fair), would have required a fair amount more development skills, but pretty well all of the above can be achieved in a codeless manner. As I have said before, “Don’t use a Sledgehammer to crack a walnut”. I have also tried to add some links to useful references within this blog.

So firstly, setup an Azure Service bus, and make sure you note the Primary Connection string, Queue name, and primary key.

If you’re planning on using something like Postman to test, the you’ll need to create a SAS Key

Open up a Cloud Shell and use the following to create a SAS Key.

You’ll need the Service Bus URI and the Queue Name, as well as the policy name and Key.

[Reflection.Assembly]::LoadWithPartialName("System.Web")| out-null
$URI="myNamespace.servicebus.windows.net/myEventHub"
$Access_Policy_Name="RootManageSharedAccessKey"
$Access_Policy_Key="myPrimaryKey"
#Token expires now+300
$Expires=([DateTimeOffset]::Now.ToUnixTimeSeconds())+300
$SignatureString=[System.Web.HttpUtility]::UrlEncode($URI)+ "`n" + [string]$Expires
$HMAC = New-Object System.Security.Cryptography.HMACSHA256
$HMAC.key = [Text.Encoding]::ASCII.GetBytes($Access_Policy_Key)
$Signature = $HMAC.ComputeHash([Text.Encoding]::ASCII.GetBytes($SignatureString))
$Signature = [Convert]::ToBase64String($Signature)
$SASToken = "SharedAccessSignature sr=" + [System.Web.HttpUtility]::UrlEncode($URI) + "&sig=" + [System.Web.HttpUtility]::UrlEncode($Signature) + "&se=" + $Expires + "&skn=" + $Access_Policy_Name
$SASToken

To test the Service Bus Queue I used Postman. You can add a number of useful Postman collections for Azure from Ludvig Falck on GitHub

There’s a few steps then in Postman to setup the parameters, Headers and Body (I just setup a really simple JSON payload as you can see).

Parameters

Add queueName as a Key and the queue name as the Value

Headers

For the Headers, you’ll need the SAS key you generated earlier.

Body

For the body, I just used a really simple payload

{
"email":"me@me.com"	,
"first":"John",
"last":"Smith"
}

Once this is completed, you should be able to hit “Send” and see the message being created in the Azure Service Bus Queue

Next step is to grab that message from Service Bus, and use it to create a Record in this case.

I decided to use Logic Apps as opposed to Flow, just to keep everything in Azure (although technically it’s all in Azure, but you get what I mean).

So this is the basic flow:

It’s pretty easy to follow. When a message is received in the Queue, grab it, Parse the JSON, use the data to create a record, then complete that message in the Queue.

One thing to bear in mind is that the JSON payload will need to be decoded to then be used in the creation of a Dynamics Record. In the “Content” field of the Parse JSON action, add this expression:

decodeBase64(triggerBody()?[‘ContentData’])

You’ll also need to add the JSON Schema. For the example Payload I used this:

{
    "properties": {
        "email": {
            "type": "string"
        },
        "first": {
            "type": "string"
        },
        "last": {
            "type": "string"
        }
    },
   
}

Once this is all done, Save the Logic app and Run it. If you’ve followed all the steps, sending a JSON payload from Postman should create a record in Dynamics.

ByRob Peledie

Count File Rows with PowerShell

Very quick post (more so I don’t forget how to do this!)

Had a CSV file which I knew had a lot of rows!….. more than excel could handle to open, so I wanted to know the exact number, but without opening.

PowerShell to the rescue:

$lines = 0
$fileReader = New-Object IO.StreamReader 'NAME_OF_YOUR_CSV.csv'
while ($fileReader.ReadLine() -ne $null)
{
	$lines++
}
$fileReader.close()
echo $lines

Result for me….. after a short while 🙂 4,366,151

ByRob Peledie

Fun with Microsoft Flow, What3Words and Flic Button

There’s some really cool IOT stuff going on, and its getting easier to get involved and have a go.

I thought in this blog I would have a play with a couple of tools and see what we could do. Hopefully it’ll inspire you to have a go and improve!

For this article I am going to use:

  • Microsoft Flow
  • What3Words 
  • Flic

Before I go any further, lets just have a quick overview of these tools.

Microsoft Flow

Microsoft Flow is a tool that can integrate cloud-based apps and services so they interact with each other seamlessly. According to Microsoft, this cloud-based tool improves efficiency and productivity by enabling virtually anyone in an organization to automate many tedious and time-consuming business tasks and processes without developer intervention.

What3Words

what3words provides a precise and incredibly simple way to talk about location. We have divided the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares and assigned each one a unique 3 word address.

Flic

Flic Buttons are a Smart Button that can be linked to a number of services. The button can be programmed to perform actions via an app or a hub, and can even trigger Microsoft Flows

I know with the Flic button a message with your coordinates can be sent, so I was interested to see if we could Parse that message through Microsoft Flow, run it through the What3Words API then action something with the results.

The resulting flow takes looks like this:

So lets run through it.

Theres a couple of things you need to do with the Flic button to set this up. 

In the Flic App on your phone or other device, you need to setup your connection to Microsoft Flow, and its really important that you choose to send location data:

Once this is done, log in to Microsoft Flow and create a new flow from Blank. You will then be able to add a Flic button as a trigger – the first time you do this, you’ll need to add your Flic account as a connection. You’ll then get to choose which button and which action

Next add an HTTP action. If your connection to Flic is successful, then you’ll have the output from the button press as options to feed in to your HTTP (in this case it is to access the What3Words API ( this is assuming you have already signed up to the What3Words API here and have an API key.

So here we have added the What3Words URI, and as you’ll see added the output from the Flic button as the coordinates. You’ll also need to add your API key as shown in the URI after &Key= and in the Value field.

Once this is completed, the returning JSON needs to be Parsed, so add the Parse JSON action. 

For the Schema, I used the “Use Sample Payload” option and the example on the What3Words Documentation here but just in case, here it is:

{
    "country": "GB",
    "square": {
        "southwest": {
            "lng": -0.195543,
            "lat": 51.520833
        },
        "northeast": {
            "lng": -0.195499,
            "lat": 51.52086
        }
    },
    "nearestPlace": "Bayswater, London",
    "coordinates": {
        "lng": -0.195521,
        "lat": 51.520847
    },
    "words": "filled.count.soap",
    "language": "en",
    "map": "https://w3w.co/filled.count.soap"
}                           

Finally, for this example I took the Parsed data, and added it to an email, but you could just as easily create a record in Dynamics 365 etc

And that should be it! If all works you’ll get lots of lovely ticks on your flow, and an email with your 3 word location, and a link to the map:

The possibilities are endless with these sort of tools. The whole process took less than an hour, and the only “Code” was the JSON payload that I copied and pasted!

Have a go.

ByRob Peledie

Microsoft AZ-900 Certification

I’m pleased to say I have just passed the AZ-900 exam.

Although my main area of expertise is and always has been Dynamics 365 (CRM), I find myself getting more and more involved with the wider Microsoft Business Solutions Ecosystem, and that includes Azure. 

Whether its Logic Apps for workflow, or Service Bus for integration, I find most weeks I’m delving in to Azure.

For those thinking of taking the exam, I have to say I didn’t find it too difficult, and there are so many resources available to make sure you’re up to speed.

As a starting point, it’s always worth checking out the  details of what you’ll be examined on. for AZ-900, the details can be found here 

If you want some great training, and have a limited budget, I cannot recommend Microsoft Learn highly enough – Partly because it’s free, but mostly because it’s awesome! and getting better almost daily.