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BPFs on steroids – Using Dynamics Business Process Flows to Implement a Fully Guided Lifecycle of a Record

This is a guest blog post from Dmitri Riz, the director of InfoStrat's Microsoft Dynamics Practice.

We are all familiar with Business Process Flows (BPF) in Dynamics 365 – they’ve been around for a while. The set of chevrons at the top of the single record form typically represents major phases in the record’s lifecycle.
The problemWhen starting a new project, we usually end up designing and building a set of BPFs for the most important records in our system. However, one of the first questions we often hear from users after the new project goes live is “Is there a way to hide BPF area of the form?”. The real-life usage of BPFs sometimes falls short of the promise to make users' lives easier by guiding them through a business process. The reason many users often fail to see much utility in BPFs is that a typical BPF is weakly connected to actual processes users go through when working with data and often fails to serve as an enforcer of institutional rules. A purely visual g…

InfoStrat Releases New Versions of Grants Manager Plus

This month InfoStrat released new versions and new editions of Grants Manager Plus to help grantors track the entire grant life cycle, from funding sources to awards, reporting, and closeout. This blog will feature a future post which provides detail on new features, but here are highlights:
New process flows for grants which pass through to sub-recipients and those which do notPlanning tools for top-down planning of spending based on action plansEnhanced payment validation rulesMilestone-based payment gatesUser interface improvementsPortal enhancements for Dynamics portal such as improved navigation for multi-page application formsDeeper project management functions such as budgeting New editions combine features appropriate to specific grant programs: Disaster recovery grants such as HUD CDBG-DR and FEMAVictim services grants such as VOCA, VAWA and SVAPPublic safety grants For more information on grant management and Microsoft Grants Manager Plus, see my posts:

5 Ways to Ensure Compli…

Internal Training Sessions at InfoStrat

One of the biggest challenges for IT services companies like my company InfoStrat is to stay current with the latest product releases and to keep learning new things even while we are engaged with demanding projects on behalf of our clients.
For this reason, we have created multiple ways to collaborate and share with one another.  This week we are conducting internal training sessions to allow a forum for our consultants to share what they are doing, the problems they are solving, and new things they have recently learned.
I thought that some of my readers might be interested in the topics that we cover, so here is a partial list of presentations from our agenda: Understanding Microsoft FlowBuilding a configurable framework for a complex website using Azure Service Fabric and SitecoreWorking on Agile projects with large offshore teamsCollaboration with Microsoft TeamsCreating advanced form navigation on Microsoft Dynamics Portal to allow skipping to specified sections in a long formUs…

Professional Direct Support for Microsoft Dynamics 365

Microsoft offers several premium support options in addition to standard technical support for Dynamics 365 subscribers.  One of the newest is Professional Direct Support.  This plan is available for customers with 20 or more users.

This support plan offers faster (one hour) response time and access to not only break/fix resources but help with " light advisory, upgrade and release readiness, case wellness, enhanced service incident
handling, and escalation assistance".

For more on Dynamics support options, start here.

See also Enhanced Support for Dynamics 365

5 Pitfalls in Choosing Cloud Business Software Such as CRM

Choosing a business software package such as Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, SAP or Oracle is a daunting task, and the process can lead you astray in making the best decision for your organization.

There is no shortcut to finding the right product.  Choosing the best selling or fastest growing software product does not guarantee you will be successful in your company with that product.

Software categories are complex, and many products are geared toward specific industries or to companies of a certain size.  If a small company tried to implement a product such as SAP enterprise resource planning which is successful with large global companies, it could easily find itself overwhelmed and the implementation price could exceed annual company revenue.  On the other hand, a large company with global subsidiaries, complex tax rules, and high number of users and transactions would not likely be successful with QuickBooks.

One of the approaches to choosing software is to create a list of des…

MVP is Not Just for Startups

One of the key goals for startups is to release their products quickly, which has lead to a minimum viable product (MVP) approach.  Speed to market is so important that it's better to release a product before all the desired features are present so you can capture market share and use customer feedback to help you prioritize the introduction of new features.

The challenge of the MVP approach is to determine what "viable" means.  If you launch without sufficient features, your product may fail to attract any customers, or disappoint your first customers. But if you wait, competitors are likely to step in with their own offerings.

The MVP concept is not only applicable to startups and commercial companies that are selling products, but also to internal software projects for companies, government agencies, and non-profits.  Too often I have seen scope creep add to the feature list of a software product and delay launch dates for weeks or months.

Using MVP principles, your …

Enhanced Support for Microsoft Dynamics 365

Microsoft offers customers a range of support services, from standard support included with software licenses and subscriptions, to Premier support which can included dedicated onsite staff. 

Dynamics 365 customers can also purchase something in-between - Enhanced Support for Dynamics 365, geared toward small businesses who do not purchase Premier support.  This support offering provides many support and training benefits as listed below:


The price is only $5/user/month which makes it one of Microsoft's most affordable plans. 

You can order Enhanced Support for Dynamics 365 on the Office 365 admin portal.  Full instructions on ordering subscriptions are available here.

New InfoStrat Blog Launches

InfoStrat has launched a new blog devoted to technical answers and tips.  These will be on software topics including custom development, CRM, Dynamics 365, Azure, Adobe, Sitecore, SharePoint and other products. 

Stay tuned for frequent additions to the new InfoStrat blog. 

I will continue to post my observations and insights on software and related topics on this blog.

Azure Service Fabric: Understanding Microservices

Microsoft Azure Service Fabric helps developers build applications based on microservices to allow better scalability, faster deployment and upgrades, reduced resource costs and enhanced management capabilities.

Microservices is the latest stage of the trend to divide applications into component parts.  This trend leads to separation of the user interface, business logic, storage and other elements that make up an application.  It has been manifest in shared libraries and technology layers, and created greater mobility and scalability of applications.

A monolithic approach to application development contains all its functionality and is typically scaled by adding more instances of physical or virtual services.


Microservices take this logic much further.  They ideally are autonomous and interact with each other through well defined protocols.  Microservices may be developed in many programming languages and run in many environments, but they are compatible with each other because of s…

User Stories for Grants Manager Plus

My company InfoStrat offers government software solutions, and our most popular has been Microsoft Grants Manager Plus, based on Dynamics 365.  I receive inquiries on this solution from around the world, and the most common questions include how long it will take to implement and how much will it cost.

User stories which describe your grant program and business processes are essential to determine the scope of the project and create accurate estimates for an implementation.  User stories are descriptions of a process from the point of view of a user role.  They do not include technical details of the implementation but they capture business rules and data elements that are tracked for a specific scenario.

To create user stories for Grants Manager Plus, first identify how many grant programs you offer.  Do different programs have distinct business processes or track different data?  If they use the same processes and data, you can create fewer user stories.  Often our clients have som…

Microsoft Azure for Recovery Sites and Failover

Whether you are operating your servers on premises or in the cloud, a cloud service like Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud Platform are ideal for supporting recovery of sites in case of hardware or communications failures.  If your servers are primarily at your data center, having additional servers at that facility may not help your users if access is cut off due to a natural disaster or other event.  Recent floods in North Carolina and South Carolina remind us of how infrastructure can be vulnerable to weather. 

Microsoft Azure provides you a resource for building failover and maintenance sites which will be up and running even when your data center cannot be.   Microsoft offers technical documentation and videos that take you through the steps of establishing recovery sites.


These techniques are based on several failover scenarios, including these:

FailoverSourceTargetAzure to AzureAzure regionAzure regionVMware to AzureConfiguration serverAzurePhysical machines t…

DevOps for Microsoft Dynamics

Much has been written about how Microsoft Dynamics may be used to create software solutions using configuration to replace extensive coding needed for traditional software development.  This "low code" approach can save time and reduce costs for building and implementing business solutions for some scenarios.

At the same time, development tools and processes for "low code" are not as mature as those for most software development, especially for large and complex projects with multiple developers.  The tools are catching up and Dynamics implementers and administrators are adopting best practices for rolling out Dynamics solutions.  One of the most important of these approaches is DevOps. The goal of DevOps is to shorten the time between software iterations by integrating development and operations processes.  One of the chief ways to accomplish this goal is through automation of the software build and deployment processes.

Last weekend I attended a session on DevOp…

Microsoft Dynamics Customer Service Best Practices

By Ayesha Mirza, senior consultant at InfoStrat
One of the key initiatives of customer service is to make tasks easier for both the customer and customer service agents. Customers want to find information and customer service agents have the need to process, absorb and promote information requests in order to provide an adequate customer experience.
Streamlining this flow of information requires planning and a robust platform such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 to bridge the gap between the customer experience and agent activities.
This post describes our approach and best practices to consider while implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Service. ·         Strategy – Plan out your implementation from the start. Define purpose, scale, budget, baselines, promotion, delivery, maintenance and escalation methods prior to kick-off. This will aid in clarifying internal and business expectations and help keep costs and schedule as projected. The approach can be defined …