Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Find other accounts near an address

I have a customer in NYC that we are helping to implement Field Service using Dynamics 365 (online). One of their hot issues is making it easy for them to find all other accounts near a given location, so I started thinking about the problem.

One of the features built into that solution is geocoding, so that all account addresses get a geocode. If I could use SQL queries, I would be able to use a native SQL query to find all addresses near a given point. As far as I know, the FetchXML syntax does not do those kinds of queries.

To narrow down the problem space a bit, my client only works in the NYC area which makes things a bit easier because we can simplify the variables: We don't need to worry about the curvature of the Earth over long distances, or the distance between longitudes for a given latitude. I am going to simplify this a bit more. If I ignore the fact that a radius around a point is the best representation of what is nearby, and I use a rectangle which is good enough for my clients purposes, then the query is super simple because now I just need compare the current Lat/Long with ones that are between "+" or "-" a difference in order to define the rectangle.

Lets say, from a given Lat/Long, we need to know who is inside a vicinity of  1 square mile. That means we are interested in all locations that are roughly 1/2 mile North, 1/2 mile South, 1/2 mile East and 1/2 Mile West from the current point.

Each degree of latitude is 69.99 miles apart.
At 40 degrees latitude (NYC), the longitudes are 53.08 miles apart.

Therefore, 1 mile is about (keep it simple):
1/69=0.0145 degrees of latitude
1/53=0.0189 degrees of longitude

So if we search for all addresses that are within one square mile, then we are looking for a Lat/Long that fall within the range of the
current location +/- half the 1 mile area.

So if we are at this location: 40.61938 Lat, -73.91799 Long, then we are looking for all addresses where the latitude is:

40.61938-(.0145/2)=40.61213 and 40.61938+(.0145/2)=40.62663 (up to 1/2 mile South and 1/2 mile North of us)

And the longitude is:
-73.91799-(.0189/2)=-73.90854 and -73.91799+(.0189/2)=-73.92744 (up to 1/2 mile East and 1/2 mil e West of us)

and in Advanced Find, would look like this:

Remember, because NYC is in the western hemisphere, the longitude is negative.

Ultimately my goal is to take this kind of query, build it into a JavaScript on a form and populate a map with the points. But that is a blog for another day.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Why use Azure to extend Dynamics 365?

What are some good use cases for building logic for your Dynamics 365 using Azure?

1. Inconsistent workload demands
Have you started using the Dynamics 365 portal? It is pretty cool, but if you have waves of people hitting the web site and making updates, and you have numerous plugins and workflows running, you may find that your system can be sluggish if not outright slow. By moving some of your plugins and workflows to an Azure service, you can mitigate some of the effects of the portal. Consider using Azure Functions.

2. Offloading batch processes
Are you an association that needs to update 100k membership records at the same time, or generate 20k invoices on the last day of the month? You shouldn't even try to do that with workflows or your users coming after you with torches and pitchforks. Just like #1 above, you could have an on-demand service running in Azure to do the dirty work without seriously impacting your users. Consider using a Cloud Service that you can deploy, run, then shut down.

3. Scheduled jobs are not easily managed within D365
You want a system update to run at 5PM every Friday? I dont think you can do it in D365 without writing some plugin code and a workflow, but Azure has an OOTB solution for that. Take a look at Azure Logic Apps. You can schedule them to run at a specific time.

4. You are moving to D365 from an on-premises environment that uses SQL Stored Procedures
You have some SQL queries and views you use to support reporting systems. CRM has a feature to replicate an entire entity to an Azure SQL database. You want to push updates back? That is a bit more tricky, but perhaps you can manage it with Azure Logic Apps or Azure Functions.

5. Plugins and workflows in D365 have a timeout limit of 2 minutes
Yep, trying to update more than a few records in a single plugin is detrimental to your employment. In one case, I found that a client had created a bunch of small plugins, but what the developer(s) didn't realize is that they had created a chain of plugins that was over 1500 lines of code and periodically failed from time to time, depending on the current server load. The worst part was that there was no way to re-trigger the plugins because they were designed to work only with a Create event message, and the code did not support idempotent transactions, so you could only run it once and hope it worked the first time. Consider using an Azure Cloud Service, Web Job, Service Fabric, or Function, depending on what you are trying to accomplish.

6. Consolidate Business Logic 
Perhaps you have several places in your system that do the same thing, like processing a credit card. If you put the logic in a plugin, it is not easily accessible to your web site (yes you can do it, but it is not a good user experience). You could use a WebJob that works with both CRM and your web site.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Dynamics 365 (CRM) Unknown Report Version: 9.0 problem

Just a quick post on a nasty problem that caused me some grief, and my solution to fix it.
I am using Visual Studio 2017 with the recently released Dynamics 365 Report Authoring Extension. I wanted to customize the Dynamics 365 (aka CRM Online) Invoice report, so I went to the reports and downloaded the Invoice and Invoice Sub-Report RDL files. I knew that these reports would have SQL queries so I quickly set up a VS 2017 BIDS report project, and put the RDL files in there. I spent some time converting the SQL to FetchXML, and when I tried to save it, got the error message "Unknown Report Version: 9.0" and could not save the project.

I read several blogs that suggested manually tweaking the RDL source code and tried a few of those but it just caused more problems. I read that someone had a similar problem with RDLC files and they used VS 2015 to open and then save the original files before opening them in VS 2017, so I tried going back to one of my old VS 2012 environments where I had BIDS installed, opened and saved the RDL files in there, and them moved them to my 2017 development environment, and I now I can make my changes and save the work.

Please note, if this is your first time creating D365 reports with VS  2017, be aware that the RDL file you start with is not what you will publish to CRM. You must build your report project, then navigate to the Bin folder under your project and get the RDL files from there to publish in D365. The reason is that the report Project allows you to target different versions of SQL server.

Monday, April 17, 2017

View of views

Are you trying to find all the views that relate to the Account entity? Check this out! You can use Advanced Find to search for views. Here is how:

Open Advanced Find and choose “Views”

In the search criteria, choose FetchXML as the field you want to search and give it the schema name of the entity you are looking for:


This will result in all the system views that involve the Account entity. The FetchXML field holds the names of all the entities that the view touches. How do you find the schema name for an entity? Open your default solution and look at the entity “name” field.


I was initially looking for ways to document an existing system and then started thinking about ways I could generate some governance over the views in the system, but that will be a future blog post. Sadly, this will not help you find personal views, and unfortunately, you cannot export the results from the Advanced Find directly into Excel – I had to use the report builder to export the views into a format I could include into my documentation. But it can be helpful if you are about to perform major surgery on an undocumented system.