CRM 2016 – Default CRM mobile app works fully offline and the limitations of previous offline versions

You can only make sense of the online world by going offline and by getting the wisdom and emotional clarity to know how to make the best use of the Internet. Pico Iyer

I was investigating accessing CRM functionaity offline, once you have requirements for CRM data and functionality to work offline, it narrows down your options.  Microsoft Dynamics CRM has some good mobile solutions with offline capabilities, I chose to look at
  • CRM for phones and tablets (awful name Microsoft)
  • Resco

The default CRM 2016 mobile app (called CRM for phone and tablets) has draft functionality, I wasn’t sure how useful it was, Resco on the other hand has full offline capabilities. Would the draft functionality be enough but during my internet search investigation and trying it out,  I came across two articles which said CRM 2016 fall release has full offline capabilities, I get to that at the end.  First let me tell you a story….

Hosk Dev Story

I wanted to learn about the functionality in Microsoft Dynamics CRM mobile app – MACA.  You can read about it’s limitations and functionality but I find it’s hard to understand how the important of limitations until you are trying to do something.

It’s often here you find Deadends, which I have written about before

CRM 2013 – Why wasn’t an updated Custom workflow used by CRM?

Deadends

Learning how the CRM works, helps diagnose future problems and avoid making similar mistakes.  The CRM developer centre is a great resource to help navigate the CRM SDK.

CRM developers benefit from learning the CRM SDK and CRM Developers should always start with the CRM SDK, understanding how it works and its quirks.

The better you understand how CRM works the fewer error/mistakes and dead ends you will make.  Dead ends can waste time because

  • Create a customization
  • find it doesn’t work
  • Remove customization
  • Have to create another customization

CRM is the framework sitting on top of languages JavaScript and .NET,  you need to learn CRM as well the programming languages.  This explains why .NET developers struggle with CRM development

I hadn’t really used CRM mobile app much, I had quickly assessed and compared it to Resco and found Resco has tons of functionality and the Microsoft Mobile app has a long way to catch up but Resco costs money and Microsoft give the mobile app for free.  You can find the pricing for Resco here

Resco pricing

Could I use a form to collect data on a mobile device and based on certain answers show/hide fields.  I remembered back to my CRM 2015 customization and configuration exam (Hosk Tips on passing) learning about business rules and this was exactly what they were made for, to work on the mobile application.

I started a CRM 2016 trial,  created a new custom entity, added some fields.

Created the field as two options – have you used Dynamics CRM

Created 5 two options for the version

If you clicked no – it hid 5 fields with the versions

If you clicked Yes 0 it showed the version fields

  • CRM 4
  • CRM 2011
  • CRM 2013
  • CRM 2015
  • CRM 2016

I don’t count before CRM 4, as you can tell from Rise of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

I was using Windows 8, so I downloaded the app and was testing it on my laptop (yes trying to be clever and avoid having to download it on my Iphone)

I found they weren’t working in my windows 8 version but do work on iPhone.  morale of the story, don’t use windows 8

Business rules aren’t the only option, I think Javascript works in a limitated way, check out the page Customize CRM for phones and tablets for your customisation options

if you haven’t used CRM for phones and tablets then it’s best to start here

I managed to blunder my way through it but setting up the Mobile (note A CRM Administrator has to enable Mobile offline),  this page walks you through it, if you are using a CRM trial ignore the bit about mobile offline configuration, it won’t work or do anything because the new CRM 2016 full offline capabilities only work with an production or sandbox instances not trails

CRM Offline – Draft mode

when you go offline, most things stop working and it comes to an odd halt and the message pops up on the side saying Offline.

You can create some new entities but no lookups work, I suddenly realized most records have lookups this makes the whole draft functionality not nearly as useful as I imagined.  If you were creating an opportunity, you could fill in opportunity fields not link it to any contacts or accounts, products, even if they already existed.

No one is going to like draft functionality, it’s not really a feature, more of a fudge around.

The good news was business rules worked perfectly in offline mode.  I haven’t used business rules for a while and creating business rules is really easy (in comparison to workflows) and the If and else functionality makes it easy to create rules to show and hide fields.  I remember when you had to create two separate business rules CRM 2013 – Business Rules work in pairs because the condition is AND and not IF.

These are the actions business rules provide

business rule actions

I wanted to compare the draft functionality in the CRM for phones and tablets to Resco’s offline mode.  I created the same functionality using Resco and it worked perfectly and offline.  Every time I use Resco I find the Woodford framework intuitive and easy to use.

I was able to create a form and add business rule type things on there without looking up how to do it.  As a mobile development platform Resco is excellent and Microsoft have quite a way to go to catch them up.

Current Limitations for CRM 2015 and CRM 2016 initial release

  • You cannot set lookup fields.  All lookup fields are disabled in offline mode.  This sounds like a minor problem but it’s a massive headache and something Microsoft need to resolve quickly
  • In offline mode you can only create new records.
  • You cannot edit existing records.  This is extremely annoying.

This page has some limitations

While disconnected, you can only create standalone records or associate records to those that are available for offline access on your device. For example, you can create an opportunity for an account only if that account was created before you went offline, and if it’s available for offline access. You can’t create an opportunity for an account while offline if you also created the account while offline.

Not all entities are available in the mobile client, you can look here to see the list but you will notice

Quotes, invoice, resource and lots of others cannot be enabled.  Custom entities can be enabled.  I assume it’s because some of the forms have been modified by Microsoft so the default behavior isn’t the same or maybe they are not in the new form types.

There is also a list of entities which are not modifiable which you can find here.

The non entities can be a show stopper because if you want quotes or another default entity then you cannot use the Default CRM mobile application.

New CRM for phones and tablets has full offline capabilities

An interesting thing happened whilst searching for information about the draft mode, I found in CRM 2016 full offline capability should be available.  You can’t access it through a trial instance, this is always a bad sign when you are trying to assess how it works, it’s limitations and how you can use it.

It makes it really difficult to demo it because you have to go through your Microsoft contact to get a trial environment.

I read this article saying full offline sync is available for CRM 2016 in the fall release

New Offline experience with Mobile Dynamics CRM App

but it wasn’t working in my trial, I then found this article – Configure mobile offline synchronisation for CRM for phones and tablets

  • At least 5 Professional CRM Online licenses OR
  • At least 1 Enterprise CRM Online license
Note

Keep the following in mind when enabling mobile offline synchronization:

  • You need to make sure the licenses are assigned to a user before you can enable mobile offline synchronization. CRM won’t recognize the licenses if they’re not in use.
  • Mobile offline synchronization isn’t available for Trial, Preview or sandbox CRM organizations.
  • Offline drafts mode (the existing offline experience) will continue to be available for all users if they aren’t using the new offline capabilities.

How does the new CRM 2016 offline capability work

The article Configure mobile offline synchronisation for CRM for phones and tablets mentions Azure and it got me wondering

How did offline capability work with Azure (a cloud based solution).

This article explains it in details – configure Mobile offline synchronisation for CRM for phones and tablets

When you sign up to use Mobile Offline capability it downloads a local database to your phone.  The CRM mobile app will sync the data periodically to an SQL Azure database using Azure cloud services.

I believe the reason you have to enable this functionality is some people might not need it but also there is a privacy notice because Microsoft will store a copy of your data in their SQL Azure database and you need to give permission for that (e.g. enabling).  This sounds like Bing maps which are turned off by default – CRM 2016 – Bing maps not appearing

This is a great improve for the default CRM mobile app, particularly when you think Microsoft give the CRM mobile app for free and now it works offline.

A good run through of the new functionality with pictures here

Useful links for CRM mobile

Why Resco acquiring CWR’s mobile CRM is important

Price Is What You Pay, Value Is What You Get

Warren Buffett

 

One large purchase for Resco, one big leap for Microsoft Dynamics Mobile space.

Interesting press release from Resco announcing they had taken over CWR’s mobile line of business which includes

  • Technology
  • Customers
  • Partners

You can read the whole press release – Resco acquires CWR mobile CRM activities

Who are Resco?

Resco are one of the leaders in mobile software and it’s product Resco Mobile CRM is a mobile solution for IOS, Android and Windows.  They have been in business for 16 years have 1200+ corporate customers and 50000 licences users.

If you unfamilar with Resco and it’s mobile application this video will give you an introduction

Resco offer a free trial to try their mobile app here

If you want to learn more about Resco, they have an interesting about page 

Who are CWR Mobile?

The CWR Mobile about I have learnt CWR Mobile have been in the mobile business for 10 and in CWR was named Microsoft’s Partner of the Year for Mobility Business-to-Business Applications in 2011.

CWR Mobile’s product is called CWR Mobile CRM, you can read the functionality of the product here.  Watch the video below

Why did Resco buy CWR Mobile CRM assets?

The first thing we should clarify what has happened

It takes ownership of the entire CWR mobile CRM portfolio including its technology, customers, partner activities and responsibilities

Resco have purchased the technology, customers and partner activities, which includes around 11000 users.

Resco and CWR Mobile are the two biggest ISV’s, so instead of of Resco competing against CWR mobile it can now focus on improving the product and competing against Microsoft mobile application which is now it’s main competitor.  There is a great quote in the press release

“CWR has been in a healthy competition with Resco for several years, where both solutions had their specific pros and cons. From now on, customers, resellers, and integrators can buy one unified solution via one software company: RESCO,” says Cyril Vonken, CEO of CWR Mobility.

 

Now Resco has two different solutions to offer to customers and can share resources and possibly some development in the future.

Msdynamicsworld has written an insightful article on the topic

Resco to Acquire CWR Mobility’s Assets, Consolidating Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobility Space

At the bottom of the article it has a good quote from Resco COO Ivan Stano

“Our ambitions go beyond the Microsoft Dynamics CRM world now,” he says. “Based on our unprecedented position in Dynamics, we are actively approaching the remaining top three CRM providers (Oracle, Salesforce, SAP). We see Resco as a complete mobile strategy for businesses no matter what their back-end systems are. This is our top priority after the take-over.”

 

It raises an important question, with fewer competitors will Resco spend more time focusing on creating mobile applications for other CRM systems?

Why it’s important

My first experience of mobile applications integrating with CRM was using FieldOne where the mobile application plays an important part in the overall solution.

I saw how effective a mobile application can be for service management but it’s likely mobile devices will be incorporated in more projects going forward.  Location was a problem in projects, functionality available in mobile devices means this is an opportunity to capture or consume data with  location data.

The FieldOne application allow service engineers to update jobs and schedulers in the office could react to these updates in real time, reroute other engineers and use the live information.

You can read my initial thoughts on FieldOne in the article below.

FieldOne – Mobile app thoughts, problems and solutions

Mobile applications will play a bigger part in CRM solutions, more customers will want mobile devices to consume and update data in Microsoft Dynamics CRM.  Mobile applications will improve and industries who have mobile workers will

It’s important for a Resco to push Microsoft to improve their own mobile application. It makes for an interesting relationship between Resco and Microsoft,  Resco is a gold partner and have worked with Microsoft for many years.

Resco offers some great functionality in it’s mobile application which

  • signing for items
  • updating CRM
  • uploading pictures
  • work offline
  • consuming data

Resco were mentioned by Leon Tribe article as a company to make Microsoft Dynamics even more awesome!

Four Acquisitions To Make Dynamics CRM Awesome

Will the purchase of CWR Mobile CRM make Resco more or less appealing for Microsoft to purchase?  It will certainly make them more expensive.

 

FieldOne – Mobile app thoughts, problems and solutions

“IT IS NOT THE PAST THAT MATTERS BUT THE FUTURE.”
Varun Ravikumar

FieldOne is a service management solution built into the core CRM product, a key part of the FieldOne solution is the mobile app.  FieldOne Sky mobile app takes the CRM functionality out of the office to where the field agents are working, keeping the office and the field agent in sync.

See it in action here

Microsoft Dynamics CRM has made dramatic improvements in mobile functionality in it’s own mobile app to provide a rival excellent Resco mobile CRM App.  Resco functionality is slightly ahead of Microsoft CRM mobile application at the moment.

Built on Resco CRM Mobile App

The current mobile application is built using Resco mobile CRM app, this functionality is included when you buy an Enterprise license (things are always changing). The mobile app is a key part of FieldOne, Resco  didn’t want to give free access to the excellent Resco CRM mobile app.

To include FieldOne Sky mobile app, you are not allowed any non FieldOne functionality.

When I opened the mobile application I got an error saying

Customization contains an entity that is not allowed

The reason for this error is you had to pay for mobile access but now it is free with the caveat of no non FieldOne data or functionality available in the mobile app.

To get you FieldOne mobile application working you have to remove all sales entities from the woodford mobile solution, which can take a bit of trial and error to work out what to remove.  This great blog post by Neil Parkhurst lists all the entities not allowed

FieldOne Sky – Customization contains an entity that is not allowed

The other common error you might get is SA.NoUserData error,  another temporary error whilst FieldOne merges its code with the default CRM code.

I blogged the solution to this problem in the post

CRM 2016 – FieldOne – windows emulator SA.NoUserData error

How to test Mobile functionality

When I wanted to test the FieldOne mobile application I instinctively chose the Windows emulator.

The reason for is I haven’t got use to using Windows 8 and downloading apps on my laptop computer, in my mind apps live on phones and tablets.

Microsoft uses apps on Windows computers will be the same as on phones and tablets, which should encourage developers to create them.  The reality is if I’m on my laptop I don’t want to run an app, I want to run either the full program or browser based app and use the benefits of my laptop.

Apps run best on touch screen devices and offer a cut down version of an application on a laptop, it doesn’t make a great experience.   One of the reasons there are not many apps, the main reason is the target market of Windows devices is smaller than Apple and Android.

To test the FieldOne mobile application don’t use the emulator I believe it‘s not going to be updated and possibly removed and it might not be the same as the other mobile applications.

I have tested the mobile app on my personal android device, it works, I tested it on my Windows 8 laptop, full screen is annoying but it works well.

The future for FieldOne Mobile

FieldOne is integrated with the core Microsoft Dynamics CRM so it makes sense FieldOne will be developed in the default Microsoft Mobile application.

It will take time to match the functionality offered in the Resco FieldOne application but with time and will you can do achieve great things.

My first experience of Resco CRM mobile is it’s a great application and made mobile development is easier than I had imagined.

Here is an interesting interview with Ivan Stano, chief operating officer (COO) of Resco.net, Inc

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Still Rich Ground for ISVs, Partners, Says Mobile Solutions Vendor

You can get a free 30 day trial for Resco and I recommend you try it, it’s good fun.

CRM with internet of things

Seeing FieldOne mobile in action, shows me Microsoft Dynamics CRM working with a mobile application.

When I have looked at the CRM mobile application before the functionality was limited and I didn’t see many convincing business cases for mobile applications working with CRM.

I believe mobile applications will become more common and along with Azure apps and Azure Service bus there will be increased integration with Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

The FieldOne service mobile sky application will give many people an introduction to the effective mobile applications working with CRM and give people something interesting to think about.

The out of the box CRM mobile application has improved functionality and offline capabilities, the tools are there and ready to go, don’t be surprised if you find yourself working on a CRM mobile application in the near future.