Image: Lisa Hornung/iStockPhoto

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced that you would no longer need a Dynamics 365 license just to let someone see business information from Dynamics 365 — as long as they’re doing that in Teams. The Context IQ capabilities announced at Ignite make more sense of that licencing change, and more features to take advantage of the information in Dynamics 365 keep appearing in the Power Platform, with the latest showing up in Power BI.

The announcement said that “Dynamics 365 users can invite any Microsoft Teams user within the organization to view and contribute to customer records at no additional licensing cost.”

The actual specifics of the licensing change were tucked away in a comment on the Dynamics blog: “With this announcement, we are entitling all paid Microsoft Teams users with ‘Team Members‘ level access to Dynamics 365, allowing Teams users to read Dynamics 365 data and [take] action upon designated scenarios. These new connected experiences between Dynamics 365 and Teams will make it easier for Teams users to access Dynamics 365 records but only from within Microsoft Teams.”

That makes sense, because the people who need the full set of Dynamics 365 features will already have access to it: This is for people in other departments who don’t need to work in Dynamics (and would probably prefer to stick to the tools they know, whether that’s Teams or Power BI) but do need to have access to the information that’s there — or to be available to Dynamics 365 users who need more information about the products they’re selling or supporting.

SEE: Microsoft Dynamics 365: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Information and expertise

Starting sometime in early 2022 (between Q1 and the end of 2022 for different features), Teams and Dynamics 365 will be much more interconnected, in a more granular way than just pinning a link to Dynamics to the Teams list of apps.

You’ll be able to see business records and manage tasks in Dynamics 365 Commerce from Teams, put a dialer in Dynamics 365 so you can make a Teams call from the same UI that tells you which customer you need to call or pull up Dynamics 365 Sales data in a Teams meeting, and either way the action items from the call will end up in Dynamics, along with stats for how the call went. (Expect that integration in early 2022 if you don’t already see it in preview.)

Share a Dynamics 365 record in a Teams meeting and everyone can update it.
Image: Microsoft

That’s probably most useful to existing Dynamics users, as is being able to use the Microsoft Graph to see that in Dynamics 365, a colleague you’ve never spoken to has done a deal like the one you’re trying to set up and grab them on Teams for some advice without opening a different window. The Context IQ feature will already suggest relevant people in Dynamics 365 Sales, Dynamics 365 Customer Service and Dynamics 365 Field Service.

Context IQ isn’t a new product; it’s just what Microsoft is calling the AI features that help you collaborate between Dynamics, Teams and other Office 365 tools without losing your train of thought because you have to jump between applications or manually copy information around.

But being able to reference Dynamics 365 data in a way that brings the full context of that data with it will be useful for cross-team collaboration with people who would never open Dynamics themselves.

This connected information is based on Microsoft’s Fluid framework, which shows up in Office 365 and Dynamics 365 as something called Microsoft Loop. (Think of this as giving someone context, keeping them in the loop and delivering on all those other aspirational business phrases.)

When you paste a link to a Dynamics 365 record into Teams chat, it will show up as a card where colleagues can read or update the record, or you can pop out a Teams chat window from wherever you are in Dynamics. The updateable card that shows up in teams is a Loop component so it will show up in Outlook as well if you email the link to a record rather than dropping it into a chat (although Loop components can also be tasks, lists or notes).

Rather than copying the link to the Dynamics record manually, you can get it with an @mention in Outlook or Teams, which uses a new Context IQ feature in Editor (which is becoming much more than a spelling checker).

Use an @mention to refer to a Dynamics 365 sales opportunity in a Teams chat and the Loop component fills in all the details.
Image: Microsoft

Someone in sales can @mention a deal they’re working on in an email to someone in the company legal team and have that pull in all the information about the deal — how the deal is progressing, how much revenue it could bring in, whether the customer has a history of buying from you and paying their bills on time or needing a lot of hand-holding and field service — so the lawyer working on the contract, has all the context they need to understand whether the request is urgent and why, as well as what clauses to include or what advice to give the sales team.

It’s not all about sales. Employees can use Teams to check how much holiday time they have left or to book a day off by talking to a chatbot that connects to Dynamics 365 Human Resources.

Vacation information in Teams live from Dynamics 365 HR with the option to have a bot book your time off.
Image: Microsoft

The engineers who designed a product might not want to join a customer sales call, but they can use Teams to add troubleshooting steps to the Dynamics record for a customer support request or chat with the service engineer while they’re working on the problem (who might be using a HoloLens with a Dynamics 365 Guides app built with Power Apps, or just Teams on their phone).

Instead of sending email back and forth, engineers and service technicians can chat through Dynamics and Teams.
Image: Microsoft

This kind of cross-team collaboration is particularly helpful not just when the product designers are in the office and the support engineer is on the customer site but between co-workers who might be working remotely. Further down the line, Dynamics 365 results will also show up in Microsoft Search alongside PowerPoint slide decks and information from SharePoint libraries; you can already see Dynamics 365 information when you search through SharePoint, Bing or the Office site, and that will be in private preview for searches in the newly improved Teams search bar sometime in 2022.

SEE: How to work from home: IT pro’s guidebook to telecommuting and remote work (TechRepublic Premium)

See Dynamics in Power BI today

Other Dynamics 365 integrations are coming a little faster.

The data in Dynamics 365 is stored in Dataverse using the Common Data Model, which knows about common business data types like contacts, accounts, orders, invoices, discounts and so on, as well as relationships between them, like the fact that your contact for an account is a person who works for the organization represented in Dynamics as an account record. Add your own data types, such as a focus group, and you define the relationships, like focus group participants, the project the focus group is about or the report that gets created.

The Common Data Model covers common business data types and more specialized knowledge about specific industries.
Image: Microsoft

Dynamics 365 has tools and workflows for using all that data, including business rules and processes and specific products like Dynamics 365 Customer Insights. But you can also analyze it in Power BI or use it to build Power Apps and Power Automate workflows (and Microsoft recently increased the number of requests Power Platform and Dynamics 365 can handle per day).

If you want the field support staff visiting a customer to be able to see delivery dates or the status of the customer’s support contract, a Power App can look up that information from Dynamics 365. Or you could use a Power Automate workflow to drive a form on your website that lets a customer check their credit limit and request an increase, which assigns a support ticket to the same team; when they approve or decline it, the workflow could automatically send the customer an email. More of this kind of integration is being built into Dynamics 365.

Power BI can now automatically create a set of visualizations to help you find insights in Dynamics 365 data. Click Visualize This View in Dynamics 365 to get a temporary report (it lasts only an hour at the moment) with visualizations that highlight interesting data. The feature is currently in preview, but later you’ll be able to save the report to a Power BI workspace if it’s useful enough to refer to frequently.

Dynamics 365 can call Power BI to create a report with the interesting data shown automatically in visualizations.
Image: Microsoft

One of the promises of Dynamics 365 is that it will put an end to data siloes, whether that’s between what used to be separate CRM and ERP systems by making them modules in Dynamics 365 or using Azure Communication Services to power customer service calls.

Collaborative applications might be something Microsoft builds or a custom app you make for yourself in the Power Platform.
Image: Microsoft

Exposing Dynamics 365 data in other tools is part of that. As General Manager of Business Applications at Microsoft, Brenda Bown told TechRepublic last year, it’s about breaking down data barriers and “making sure that our customers have access to all their data.” What we’re seeing initially are useful point integrations that you can put together for individual processes that work best if you already use multiple Microsoft services. But as with Loop, this is part of a longer term vision for bringing the systems of record, engagement and intelligence that Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform represent with the collaboration tools where organizations actually get work done.