Monday, November 09, 2015

Using Microsoft Power BI Desktop to build Dynamics CRM Online reports Part 4

This is the fourth part in a series of blog posts about Power BI and Dynamics CRM Online.
In this part we will look at how you can publish reports and share and collaborate on your reports and dashboards within Power BI. Before you can publish Power BI artifacts from within Power BI Desktop you need to be signed afterwards you can publish your Power BI artifacts in one click.

If you are working with multiple Power BI/Office 365 tenants don’t forget to sign out and sign in again with the correct credentials (unfortunately I haven’t found a way yet to see with which user identity I’m signed in on Power BI Desktop).

After you have published your report and created a dashboard you can share and collaborate the published information using three different techniques:
  • Sharing dashboards and tiles
  • Office 365 groups (Power BI Pro License required)
  • Organizational content packs (Power BI Pro license required
It is however important to understand that all users will see the same data (except for connections to on-premise Analysis Services datasets where you have the possibility to define security at a more fine grained level). See Power BI Security for more details (TODO tekst toevoegen)
The next figure gives a great overview of the different techniques but I will elaborate the different techniques later on.

Sharing dashboard and tiles
It is important to understand that shared users must belong to the same Office 365 tenant (no external sharing foreseen) and should have signed up for Power BI. Sharing a specific tile is only possible from within the Windows mobile app (see screenshot below). The dashboard owner can allow others to reshare, review shared access and stop sharing with specific users at any time. When a dashboard owner changes a dashboard, the changes become immediately available to all shared users.
For a detailed walkthrough take a look at Share (and unshare) a dashboard from Power BI

Office 365 Groups
Support for Office 365 Groups in Power BI is only available with the Power BI Pro license. The person who creates the group will also become the owner of the group and is able to manage memberships and promote other users as admin. You should only use Office 365 Groups with edit permissions if you trust the different members since they will all be able to create, update and delete the group content.

For more details take a look at Groups in Power BI. It is also important to understand that Office 365 Groups are not something specific to Power BI but that is an essential building block which is part of Office 365 (See Find help about groups in Office 365) and that the concept of Office 365 groups is being leveraged by the Power BI team (although the integration is still rough on the edges – see Power BI’s odd integration with Office 365 Groups). Some features like the ability to using a group’s OneDrive for Business also require you to have both Office 365 and Power BI licenses assigned to the different users.

Organizational content packs
Content packs are made discoverable in the Content gallery and can be made available to the entire organization, members of a security group, members of an Office 365 Group or specific individuals. Unlike sharing where dashboards and reports are read-only, members can unlock and personalize content packs. Updates made to a content pack will apply automatically to non-personalized content and users who have personalized content, will be notified that a new version is available and get the updated pack without losing the personalizations (they will have both versions).

For more details take a look at Organization content packs: an introduction

Monday, November 02, 2015

Quick Tip: forcing use of Lync/Skype Web App to join a conference

Recently I had some issues joining a conference call hosted by a customer – every time the Skype full client tried to open it gave me an access denied error. Luckily somebody suggested to use the Lync web client instead so I used the workaround described in Forcing use of Lync Web App to join a conference and it actually worked.

To force connecting to a Lync meeting using the Lync Web App instead of the Lync(Skype) full client, open a web browser window, copy & paste the URL for joining the meeting that you received and append the following string to the URL  "?SL=1"


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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Using Microsoft Power BI Desktop to build Dynamics CRM Online reports Part 3

This is the third part in a series of blog posts about Power BI and Dynamics CRM Online – for the previous posts check out the links listed below:
In this section we will explore how you can define relationships between different tables as well as how you can use the map control in Power BI. This example is based on the Traviata CRM for Insurance Carriers which provides a solution tailored to fit the unique processes of CRM users in the insurance industry. The Traviata CRM solution extends the standard CRM metadata model and supports both a direct and indirect sales model for insurance policies. A customer can purchase an insurance directly our using a broker (typically work with multiple insurers) or an agent (people who work on behalf of the insurance company). 

In this example I will outline how you can track insurance sales and show sales on a map using the address of the insurance broker. The base table to use is the SalesOrderSet which contains all sold insurance products. Next we need to know which channel was used to sell the product, the SalesOrderSet contains a field rdiac_Intermediary.Id which contains the identifier of the intermediary for which the details can be found in the AccountSet.

In PowerPivot for Excel you could create relationships by dragging a link from one table in your model to another – in Power BI Designer you should use the “Manage RelationShips” button in the ribbon – next you define the type of relationship in the dialog window – by selecting the field in the source table and next selecting the field in the destination table. Afterwards we do the same to show the types of intermediary (broker or agent).

The AccountSet table contains a city field and a country field which can be used to show data on a map, but to make the geocoding of CRM records more accurate I added a separate custom column “Location”, which contains a concatenation of the City and Country Field.

So now we can start designing the report – let’s drag the “Location” field and the “Yearly Premium” field on the design canvas. By default it will show in a table format but can you switch to “Map” format by selecting the map icon. I expected the values to be plotted nicely on a map but the Belgian city names where not recognized. It is essential that you tell Power BI that the new column contains a text value which can be used as input for geo-encoding – this can be done by specifying the data category: city (See Data Categorization in Power BI)

After applying this change, I also added the intermediary type (Agent or Broker) to the legend so that we can distinguish between the different intermediary types. I noticed that on the map all of the dots had the same size which was not really what I expected since the size should be bigger, the larger the value. But when I looked at the data set I noticed that the location was blank for a large number of brokers which kind of skewed the representation so I added a page filter to filter out the brokers which have no location. I also added a slicer to make it easier to filter revenue by year. I was surprised that you can’t create a horizontal slicer – please leave a comment on “Create different slicers” if you think this would be an interesting feature.


Thursday, October 08, 2015

Understanding non-interactive users in Dynamics CRM Online

A non-interactive user is a user account in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online that will only be used for programmatic access to CRM (using the web services layer) such as as for integration with an ERP system or other LOB systems. A non-interactive user can not use the user interface. You can create up to  5 free non-interactive user accounts in Dynamics CRM Online.
The benefit of doing so is that non-interactive users do not require a license. Go to Settings>Security>Users – on the Administration tab, you will see the Access mode for a specific user – in Dynamics CRM Online you will see the 3 different types of access modes.

Non-interactive users are apparently something specific for Dynamics CRM Online – if you open the same screen in Dynamics CRM 2015 – you don’t see the non-interactive access mode option.

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Renewed as SharePoint MVP for 2015–11 times in a row

I must admit that I was surprised that I got renewed as SharePoint MVP (For those who don’t know what a Microsoft MVP is check out ) for the 11th time in a row on October 1st. The last couple of months I have been working – and also blogging - mostly on  Big Data and advanced analytics solutions, Dynamics CRM and Office 365 in general. But I’m still proud to be part of such a great community of MVPs who got renewed (Welcome nearly 1000 New and Renewed MVPs!)

After 10 years on the board of BIWUG – the Belgian SharePoint User Group ( ) – I also said farewell as an active board member but I’m convinced that Andy, Elio, Gerrit,Ben, Bram, Jim and Thomas will continue to make it worthwhile for all of the 800+ Belgian members of BIWUG. Don’t forget to register for the next BIWUG session on October 29th about Azure AD Authentication and Developing SharePoint Online applications using PAAS building blocks.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Using Microsoft Power BI Desktop to build Dynamics CRM Online reports Part 2

In the previous post I showed a very simple example of how you can create a report in Power BI Desktop – in this post I will show you how to extend this simple example. First we will create a new dataset based on Opportunity data in Dynamics CRM Online but we will add extra columns by specifying them in the oData query https://[yourtenantname]$select=CustomerId,EstimatedValue,SalesStage Next we will expand the columns in the same way that we did in Part 1.

If you have worked with Dynamics CRM you will probably know the concept of an Option Set (a.k.a pick list) – which allows to list a set of available choices for a specific field. Dynamics CRM will store the integer value (not the label) within its database. SalesStage is an example of such an Option Set and you notice that the integer value is also exposed in the OData query.

There are two ways of getting the labels back for the Option Set – one is simply using “Replace Values” function from Power BI. The other option, is a more dynamic method using the PickListMappingSet as outlined in Gotchas when using Power Query to retrieve Dynamics CRM Data – Part 2 – here is a brief summary of the steps:
  • Retrieve the PickListMappingSet and  expand the ColumnMappingId column
  • Duplicate the PickListMappingSet and rename it to SalesStage (given it the name of the Option Set makes the whole more understandable)
  • Filter the ColumnMappingId.Name column to only include SalesStage values

  • Finally merge the values of the SalesStage data source with the OpportunitySet data source by selecting Merge Queries (in the Combine section). You will probably notice that not all of the rows can be matched – this is because some of the records contain null values – you should decide up front what how you are going to clean up your data for these types of input errors. Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that option sets that you create yourself are not exposed in the PickListMappingSet – so this requires you to do “Replace Values”. You can vote on Connect for Make user created option sets also available through the PickListMappingSet odata table

  • After the merge a new column is added of type “Table”, click to expand and keep the “SourceValue” column

Finally, I grouped the columns on CustomerId and SalesStage, sorted by estimed revenue and filtered to keep the top 50 rows. Next I used a simple bar chart to display the data – I also played around with the colors of the data labels – also check out the references listed below for some helpful links about color formatting.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Using Microsoft Power BI Desktop to build Dynamics CRM Online reports Part 1

A  couple of weeks ago I wrote a posting about Combining Dynamics CRM Online and Power BI Preview but since then a lot of exciting things have been released and announced. One of these things is the fact that Power BI Designer has been rebranded to  Power BI Desktop and a lot of new functionality has been added.. Power BI Desktop basically ties together Power Query, Power Pivot and Power View in a standalone application, removing the constraint of having to use Excel 2013 to design visualizations but it also extends the existing functionality quite significantly.
The first thing that you need to do when you want to build reports is to get at the data – Microsoft Power BI Desktop support a huge number of data sources but the one I’m interested in is Dynamics CRM Online.

The Dynamics CRM Online data source actually uses the CRM OData endpoint, to find the exact url go to Settings>Customizations>Developer resources, it should look something like https://[yourtenantname] . I also encourage you to install Dynamics XRM Tools 2015 since it contains an OData Query Designer tool which is quite useful.

The first step you need to take is deciding which columns you will be needing in your data model.  I strongly recommend you to remove the columns up front by specifying in the OData query which columns you need. This will decrease the volume to be processed by Power BI desktop and it easier to do this up front. So if you want for example to show the top opportunities based on estimated revenue – you can use the following query.

You will notice that the actual values are not being displayed – this is because both CustomerId and EstimatedValue contain complex values, which you can expand by clicking the expand icon in the column header.

Since we only need aggregated data (not the individual opportunities) for the different top customers, we are going to group the data by CustomerId and sum the estimated revenue.

Afterwards you can limit the data by only retrieving the top 20 rows.

Finally we need to visualize the data on a report. In editing mode, we will drop a bar chart control on the designer surface and define the data elements which needs to be displayed

Power BI Desktop also has a wide variety of display options that you can configure for your visualization such as the different options for X and Y axis (show labels, start and end values), colors to use for the data labels, which display unit to use for the data labels(including precision). One thing that I’m still missing though is the option to show the actual values instead of using display units for values below 1.000.

Finally to make your report available to other users you will need to publish it. You either have the option to publish it to Pyramid Analytics Server ( an on-premise alternative for which was announced end July ) or to


Fixing Windows 10 installation error : We couldn’t create a new partition or locate an existing one

Last week I installed Windows 10 on an Acer Iconia Tab W500 and I encountered an error while trying to create a new partition. The Iconia Tab does not have a DVD drive so the easiest way to start is by creating a bootable USB with the Windows USB/DVD Download Tool – next you will need to boot off this USB drive and you will see the Windows 10 installation screens appear.

First you have to select the language to install, time and currency format and keyboard input. Next click install now. At this point you have the option to upgrade your existing OS or do a clean install – I selected Custom: Install Windows Only (advanced) since I did not need to keep the existing files and applications.

Next you need to decide where you are going to install Windows 10.

I removed both partitions I had but when I tried to create a new partition I got an error “We couldn’t create a new partition or locate an existing one.  For more information, see the Setup log files”. Workarounds such as removing the extra SD card or unplugging the USB stick did not resolve the issue. Luckily the steps detailed in this blogpost Error: "We couldn't create a new partition or locate an existing one. For more information, see the Setup log files." when you try to install Windows 8 (CP) are still valid for Windows 10.
  1. Close the setup window and select “Repair>Advanced Tools”
  2. Go to the command window
  3. Start DISKPART.
  4. Type LIST DISK and identify your SSD disk number (from 0 to n disks).
  5. Type SELECT DISK <n> where <n> is your SSD disk number.
  6. Type CLEAN
  8. Type ACTIVE
  10. Type ASSIGN
  11. Type EXIT twice (one to get out of DiskPart, the other to exit the command line tool)
Afterwards just reboot and start the setup again – you will now be able to use the newly created partition.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Tips and tricks for using search in SharePoint 2013

As I outlined in About intent, recall, relevance and precision of search solutions building a good search solution is quite difficult. In this post I will focus on on what content publishers and content “searchers”  can do to make search in SharePoint 2013 work more efficient.
Content publishers – I want my content to be found:
  • Use meaningful file names and titles for the documents that you add in SharePoint, by default SharePoint will show the filename (also check out Understanding title information shown in SharePoint 2013 search results and how to make it work better ) – use “_” (underscores) when you want to combine multiple words in the filename.
  • Use Promoted results to push results to the top of your search result page based on specific keywords which are used within your organization. You can use the search logs as a starting point but you can also do a survey amongst your users to see which are documents to look for on a daily basis.
  • Add metadata ( also referred to as document properties or attributes of a document). Metadata allows an author to attach supplemental information to a document without touching the actual contents of the document. When you use a file system you typically also have this kind of “meta-information” available such as Created Date, Modified Date, Author etc… A file system however does not allow you to add extra additional metadata to documents and that is why people will revert to creating a folder hierarchy where the folder names are used to describe the documents. SharePoint provides an alternative by allowing you to add metadata which can be used to sort, group, filter, etc… documents stored in a document library (Take a look at Using folders in SharePoint document libraries : some guidance and tips  about metadata and folders in SharePoint). But the metadata does not only apply to browsing and views of documents but it will also be used in SharePoint search to determine relevancy and push documents higher in search results.
  • Publish documents which are relevant to a lot of people near your root site. Document location, file types, authoritative pages, and content language are things you can manipulate to improve a document’s relevance. The URL depth is quite important – the more slashes “/” (deeper in the site structure) in the URL of a document, the less valuable it is considered to be. The click distance between the document and what is called an authoritative page is also important. By default the home page url of your SharePoint site is considered to be an authoritative page but you can configure this yourself – (See Configure authoritative pages in SharePoint 2013)
Content searchers - I am looking for content using search:
  • Use AND and OR as well as other search operators to limit or expand your search results. Always use capitalizations when using these operators – otherwise they will be ignored.
  • Use wildcards to search for documents – you can add a “*” at the end (but not in the beginning). In SharePoint 2013 you can even search for everything by just entering * in the search box. Next you can use the refiners and sorting to limit the results.
  • Use property searches to search for documents of which you know a name in the title or the filename. If you search for “filename: holiday*” it will search for all documents with holiday in the filename. You can also search for specific types of documents by using filetype – e.g. filetype:docx searches for all word documents
It is also important to keep in mind that it is quite easy to completely tailor the user experience of the SharePoint search center to make it look exactly as the user wants so check out the links below. But sometimes simple things such as the steps recommended -  SharePoint 2013 Search: removing the junk from your search trunk – already yields great results.