Friday, February 22, 2019

Making sense of XRM, PowerApps and some other acronyms (CDS, CDM, …)

With the July 2018 update of Dynamics 365 (9.0), Microsoft released an interesting architecture update to Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement where they separated the “core” features of the platform and the various business modules (Sales, Customer Service, Marketing, Field Service, etc…). This separation of the “core” platform features allows not only Microsoft Business Applications to leverage the platform capability but also third party providers and ISVs.

The term XRM  was used in the past to describe the ability to built business applications with minimal development effort (relying on configuration and customization) on top of the Dynamics CRM platform. These applications allowed you to model business entities and their relationships (xRM or any Relationship Management) and keep track of this information in a database without having to develop everything yourself. With the platform separation, we can now finally think about XRM and CDS in the same way (check out Yes, XRM is the new Common Data Service (2.0) by @Jukkan for more information).

From a solution architecture perspective we can see a number of main building blocks in the schema above:
  • Common Data Service (CDS)
  • Power Platform
    • Power BI -  interactive data visualization platform 
    • PowerApps – allows you to build canvas driven apps and model driven apps. Canvas driven apps  are apps that you can build using  a drag and drop design interface without requiring a developer - especially very productive to built mobile/tablet applications. Model driven apps also allow you built business applications without requiring a developer but unlike canvas apps you don’t have full control on the user interface but with additional functionality such as process support, full extensibility, etc … This was previously referred to as the xRM capability – sometimes also referred to as CDS for Apps. Initially PowerApps was a completely separate platform but with the Spring 2018 update Microsoft decided to merge the two different platforms. Read PowerApps Spring Update – if you want to get your heads around the new CDS for Apps and to understand how everything seems to finally come together. Definitely also subscribe to the PowerApp blog to keep up to date on the fast pace at which this platform is evolving. Microsoft is on a weekly release schedule for PowerApps which is also visible in the Released versions of Microsoft PowerApps
    • Flow  - an easy to use workflow and integration platform. A power-user can use this platform. Programming skills are not mandatory . With over 250+ connectors and a huge number of templates, Microsoft Flow allows you to automate your daily work.
  • Azure – Microsoft’s cloud platform powering all of the above. The Power Platform as well CDS for Apps also have built-in capabilities to integrate with a lot of Azure building blocks – an interesting read on this topic is

I had a number of interesting conversations with Microsoft about the Microsoft Power Platform when attending the Microsoft Fasttrack bootcamp for solution architect in January 2019 which convinced me that this is not something that you can dismiss as a Microsoft Dynamics partner. The future toolkit for customization and extending Dynamics 365 CE will be PowerApps and Flow. But it seems that non-Dynamics partners are amongst the first movers to take a large part of this new market opportunity. As a Dynamics 365 partner (or consultant) take a look at Why Microsofts Power Platform is one of its biggest bets for 2019 which explains where Microsoft is moving to and how they plan to leverage the data captured in the Power Platform/CDS to provide more actionable insight - see

"The true value of Microsoft Business Applications platform is the ecosystem it resides in, the 
AI signals (internal and external) that enrich it, and the overall 
outcomes it creates for your business."

Background information: