Even with the best will in the world, objects that we own or operate will sometimes break down completely. In these occasions, after typically spending an inordinate amount of time attempting to resolve things ourselves, we refer to others who have the expertise and ability to provide a fix. Often, this will come at a price and, depending on the nature of the issue and how it’s ultimately resolved, you will walk away happy as Larry or anything but.

Dynamics 365 for Enterprise (D365E) applies very much to the scenario illustrated above. As an application system developed and, in most cases, hosted by Microsoft, you will occasionally come across issues that cause the application to be inoperable or prevent you from carrying out a specific task. In these instances, we generally need to raise our hands and get someone from Microsoft involved to help out. The routes available to do this can vary, meaning you have to consider carefully which option is best for your business.

In this week’s post, we will take a closer look at the different support offerings that are available to D365E customers, what you get as part of each one and the pros/cons of each offering. If you are currently in the process of evaluating which support option is best for you, then this post will (hopefully!) leave you much better equipped to determine the best option for your /organisation.business

Standard Support

All subscriptions on Office 365 include access to Standard Support, generally amounting to the ability to open support requests on the portal and getting assistance to resolve issues with a particular application/service. D365E is no exception to this rule, and organisations can be comforted in knowing that they are covered from a support perspective the second after they purchase their subscription. However, unless you already have dedicated expertise within your business on how to operate the application, do not expect this service to be an effective hand-holder through your early days with the application. The priority level for Standard Support requests is low and will generally be routed to Microsoft affiliates as opposed to dedicated support professionals within Microsoft itself. Nevertheless, Standard Support does provide you with the ability to get your critical issues with D365E resolved.

Pros

  • Included in your subscription.
  • Guaranteed resolution for all break/fix issues.

Cons

  • Responses are only guaranteed within 24 hours of first raising the case.
  • Support provision can generally be lacklustre and cumbersome to deal with.

Enhanced Support

For smaller businesses, often the cost of obtaining more streamlined support provision for internal applications can be prohibitively expensive. Enhanced Support attempts to try and overcome this by providing a very cost effective means of putting in place a 2-hour SLA response time for any support requests raised involving D365E. This is definitely a huge improvement over what is offered as part of Standard Support. If your business has made a firm commitment not to align yourself with a Partner, then I would strongly recommend looking at Enhanced Support to keep you afloat while using D365E.

Pros

  • 2 hour response time guaranteed for all service requests.
  • Grants access to CustomerSource, an online repository of training resources to help you brush up on your D365E expertise.

Cons

  • As a paid offering, each user in your organisation will require the appropriate add-on subscription to ensure compliance. The additional cost (amounting to a few extra £’s per month) will, therefore, need to be factored into your monthly budget.
  • Provides in-hour support only, with no guarantee of a response/action outside of normal business hours.

Professional Direct Support

Professional Direct Support is best geared towards medium to large size organisations or those that require the peace of mind of having speedy responses to any problems. The 1 hour SLA represents the pinnacle response time that Microsoft customers can receive and the offering is also enhanced further via access to a dedicated person within Microsoft who will look after you and ensure your requests are being dealt with effectively. Unlike Enhanced Support, you also have explicit access to 2nd line support professionals within Microsoft, with a commitment towards priority escalation to engineers when a serious problem is identified. Professional Direct Support is the best support offering to go for if you place significant value within your D365E investment and want to align your support provision very closely with Microsoft.

Pros

  • 24×7, 1 hour guaranteed response for all of your issues
  • Access to a Service Delivery Manager within Microsoft, as a point of contact for all support requests and to provide ongoing review of your support experience.

Cons

  • Costs an additional £6.80 per month on top of your existing D365E subscriptions
  • Cannot be relied upon to provide in-application support (e.g. entity customisations, plugin development etc.)

Working with a Partner

Partners are perhaps a natural choice for medium to large size organisations who cannot afford to have the dedicated expertise in-house to manage their D365E deployment, but are looking for a cost-effective way of having this knowledge at their disposal. Dynamics 365 partners are plentiful, and many of them can prove to be a lot less daunting to deal with day-to-day compared with Microsoft directly. They will likely have lots of combined expertise across different areas of the product and will be able to tailor a support offering that suits your requirements more neatly than Microsoft can. The key thing to remember when choosing your partner is to ensure that they have an Advanced Support for Partners (ASfP) or Premier Support for Partners (PSfP) agreement in place with Microsoft. Why is this important? By being enrolled within one of these offerings, the partner has the ability to log support requests relating to your subscription with enhanced routing/SLA’s in place, meaning your request will be dealt with faster – in some cases, a 1-hour response is guaranteed for critical issues. The partner will also, arguably, be in a much better position to support you more generally, as both of these schemes afford ample opportunity for the partner to keep up to speed with everything that is happening with D365E.

Pros

  • Excellent resource to have in place for in-application issues (i.e. problems that don’t require escalation to Microsoft).
  • Low month-on-month investment, anywhere from £200-£700 or more per month, depending on the size or your organisation.

Cons

  • For any issues that require customisation/developer expertise to resolve, expect some punishingly expensive day rates for the work; in some cases, I have seen prices going up to £950 a day for a junior consultant(!!)
  • Does not benefit from any of the above offerings to help you as a business maximise your investment in D365E. You will be reliant solely on your partner of choice to provide this as part of the service (if in fact, they do at all).

Conclusions or Wot I Think

The myriad of support options presented as part of this post are very much designed to cater for organisations of different sizes, agendas and visions of how they see their D365E system at a strategic level. The list is by no means exhaustive too, as enterprise organisations can look at Premier Support as well. As this kind of support offering would generally involve provision for multiple Microsoft/Microsoft Online Services products, I have deliberately left it out this list, due to it very much being “overkill” for supporting a single application. What you are left with as part of this list is arguably 3 viable support options that can be recommended depending on which boat you are sitting in:

  • If you are a small business with sufficient technical expertise in-house, then the Enhanced/Professional Direct Support options are best.
  • If you are a larger organisation looking to very closely align yourself with Microsoft and are confident in your in-house technical ability, then Professional Direct Support is the one for you.
  • If you are a business of any size and very much don’t want to worry about managing and supporting your D365E system, then the Partner route is a very sensible approach.

The implication with all of the above is that the Standard Support option is not one that I would recommend you have in place. Whilst you can be assured that your critical issues will ultimately get looked into and resolved, you may find yourself waiting days and weeks for a resolution and not necessarily be afforded the most technically accomplished support professionals to assist you in resolving your case.

Welcome to part 4 of my 5 part series looking at the practical implications surrounding the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the context of Dynamics CRM/Dynamics 365 for Enterprise (CRM/D365E). The series looks at how some of the features within this application can assist you in your journey towards GDPR compliance. This week’s post will be jumping across to an arguably underrated aspect of the application – Bulk Record Deletion and how it be used to satisfy your organisation’s data retention policy.

All posts in the series will make frequent reference to the text (or “Articles”) contained within Regulation (EU) 2016/679, available online as part of the Official Journal of the European Union – a particularly onerous and long-winded document. If you are based in the UK, you may find solace instead by reading through the ICO’s rather excellent Overview of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) pages, where further clarification on key aspects of the regulation can be garnered.

As we get started, here’s a question for you: Do you know how long your organisation holds personal data for before it is deleted?

Most organisations that you speak to may struggle to provide an answer to the above question. The tendency is very much towards holding data for an indefinite period, with this approach typically being borne out of a lack of understanding of legal/contractual requirements, a result of a genuine oversight or as a necessary evil. The problem with any of these justifications is that, as well as falling foul of GDPR, it more than likely also is a contravention of your countries existing data protection legislation. In the UK, for example, Principle 5 of the Data Protection Act 1998 states clearly that “Personal data…shall not be kept for longer than is necessary…”. Despite being quite broad in its interpretation, it can be inferred very clearly that organisations should be aware of how long all of their data is held for and to have the appropriate documentary evidence to support this, via a policy or similar.

The existence of this principle demonstrates one of the areas where GDPR does not differ greatly from the Data Protection Act 1998. Article 17 covers all aspects concerning when and how data should be removed, under the broad principle of the “right to be forgotten”:

The data subject shall have the right to obtain from the controller the erasure of personal data concerning him or her without undue delay and the controller shall have the obligation to erase personal data without undue delay where one of the following grounds applies:
(a) the personal data are no longer necessary in relation to the purposes for which they were collected or otherwise processed;
4.5.2016 L 119/43 Official Journal of the European Union EN
(b) the data subject withdraws consent on which the processing is based according to point (a) of Article 6(1), or point (a) of Article 9(2), and where there is no other legal ground for the processing;
(c) the data subject objects to the processing pursuant to Article 21(1) and there are no overriding legitimate grounds for the processing, or the data subject objects to the processing pursuant to Article 21(2);
(d) the personal data have been unlawfully processed;
(e) the personal data have to be erased for compliance with a legal obligation in Union or Member State law to which the controller is subject;
(f) the personal data have been collected in relation to the offer of information society services referred to in Article 8(1).

To summarise, this means that organisations should remove information pertaining to data subjects when:

  • There is no further requirement to do so, either contractually or legally (i.e. they are no longer required to as part of a statutory instrument)
  • The subject has withdrawn their consent
  • It has been identified that data is being held which is at odds with an organisations policies or primary business activities

Article 5 extends this further by making it clear that data which you are unable to keep sufficiently accurate should be “erased…without delay”. To avoid this scenario would require the need to regularly contact the data subject concerned to verify their details are correct. One of the major “get out of jail free” cards that GDPR provides surrounding data retention is in instances where the data will be used as part of “archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes..” (Article 5). The scope of this is, as you can tell, rather limited and most non-governmental organisations/businesses may struggle to demonstrate their data archiving is in line with these broad principals.

The importance of ensuring a clearly defined and structured process for the removal of customer data, therefore, becomes a paramount concern under GDPR. Investigating and defining your organization’s data retention periods is an exercise that should be carried out if it has not been done so already. Once implemented, we can then turn to a component within CRM/D365E to automate and streamline the actual process – the Bulk Record Deletion feature.

In a nutshell, this feature is a really efficient means of deleting large amounts of predefined data within CRM/D365E. Administrators of the application will most often work with them when attempting to reduce the storage footprint of a CRM/D365E instance, via the removal of completed System Job records and other superfluous record types. The ability to define filter criteria, re-occurrence settings and to send out email notifications upon completion of a job, make them an excellent candidate to consider when streamlining your internal processes surrounding data retention.

For example, let’s assume your business has implemented a data retention policy that states Contact entity data that has not been updated or changed within 12 months should be deleted from the system. Setting up a Bulk Record Deletion Job within the application to assist with this task is remarkably straightforward, as the step-by-step guide below indicates:

  1. Within the application, navigate to Settings -> Data Management on the Sitemap and click the icon to navigate to the Data Management page:
  2. On the Data Management page, click on the Bulk Record Deletion icon to open the All Bulk Deletion Systems Jobs view. Once this has loaded, click on the New icon:
  3. The Bulk Deletion Wizard will open a pop-up window. Click Next on the first screen to move to the Define Search Criteria window. Modify the settings as follows:
    • Look for: Contact
    • Search Criteria: Modified On Older Than 365 Days

An example of how this looks can be seen below:

   

  1. Click Next when you are ready to navigate to open the Select Options page. Give the Bulk Record Deletion Job a descriptive name and then ensure that the following settings are configured:
    • Specify whether the Job should run immediately or in the future. It is recommended to schedule Jobs out of peak hours to prevent any performance detriment to other users.
    • Ensure that the Run this job after every box is ticked and then select an appropriate time period. I would recommend 30 days.
    • Ensure that the Send an email to me… box is ticked. You can also (optionally) specify additional email recipients, but note that these have to be valid application users (i.e. not any other email enabled entity such as Contact, Account etc.)

The screenshot below indicates how this should look. Click Next when you are ready to proceed:

  1. The final step in the wizard gives you the opportunity to review all configured settings. Press Submit to create the Job in the system and, if specified to start immediately, begin running it in the background. You can also navigate to the Recurring Bulk Deletion System Jobs view at any time to review the current status of a job, check to see when it is next scheduled to run or even modify its properties to suit your requirements:

 

The example above is a simplified one but could be extended further in conjunction with other features in the application to suit specific requirements. For example:

  • Create a custom entity to store contractual/statutory data retention limits and link these to your common entities within the application via a 1:N relationship. Once selected when a record is created, you can then define a workflow with a wait condition that updates a Two Option custom field on the entity as a flag for a Bulk Delete Job to remove from the system.
  • Using a custom field on your entity to indicate that a customer has expressed their “right to be forgotten”, define a workflow that sends a customer confirmation that their details will be removed from the system within 30 days and then use this same field as a flag for a Bulk Record Deletion Job.
  • Define a workflow that sends an email to owners of records that have not been modified within a set period (i.e. are inaccurate), prompting them to speak to the customer to update their details. Records that are not updated would then be deleted, using a Job similar to the one above.

Application features, such as the one discussed in this week’s post, really start to come into their element when you combine them with other tools found within the application. With this in mind, I would encourage you to roll up your sleeves to see what you can “cook” up 🙂

Thanks for reading! Be sure to check out the other posts in this series if you haven’t already using the links below. Part 5 next week will look at Subject Access Requests and how these can be processed more efficiently using CRM’s/D365E’s Word Template feature.

Part 1: Utilising Transparent Database Encryption (TDE)

Part 2: Getting to Grips With Field Security Profiles

Part 3: Implementing & Documenting A Security Model

This is part 3 of a 5 part series, where we take a closer look at the practical implications the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has upon organisations/businesses in Europe and some of the ways Dynamics CRM/Dynamics 365 for Enterprise (CRM/D365E) can assist you as part of the transition. Last week, we saw how Field Security and Field Security Profiles can be utilised to protect sensitive data categories, complementing any existing security model you may have in place. In this week’s post, we are going to discuss the concepts that will enable you to utilise CRM’s/D365E’s security features to their fullest extent, as well as how this can be documented.

All posts in the series will make frequent reference to the text (or “Articles”) contained within Regulation (EU) 2016/679, available online as part of the Official Journal of the European Union – a particularly onerous and long-winded document. If you are based in the UK, you may find solace instead by reading through the ICO’s rather excellent Overview of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) pages, where further clarification on key aspects of the regulation can be garnered.

Before we jump in further, let’s set the scene by looking at the importance of security and documentation towards achieving GDPR compliance

Article 5 of GDPR clearly states that all personal data must be “processed in a manner that ensures appropriate security of the personal data, including protection against unauthorised or unlawful processing…using appropriate technical or organisational measures“. This principle is embellished further by Article 24, which states:

Taking into account the nature, scope, context and purposes of processing as well as the risks of varying likelihood and severity for the rights and freedoms of natural persons, the controller shall implement appropriate technical and organisational measures to ensure and to be able to demonstrate that processing is performed in accordance with this Regulation. Those measures shall be reviewed and updated where necessary.

The final sentence links in nicely with the requirements for clearly auditable and documented processes under GDPR (more on this shortly). Finally, Article 25 – which is subtitled Data protection by design and by default – places a clear onus on Processors to implement systems that “ensure by default personal data are not made accessible…to an indefinite number of natural persons“. In summary, clear thought and effort must be borne out to ensure that application systems not only restrict access to personal data on a “need to know” basis but also that these systems are reviewed and updated regularly; with, invariably, documentation forming an important bedrock towards this.

The need for clear documentation under GDPR is emphasised further over multiple articles in the Regulation:

  • If you are processing data on behalf of a controller, you must only do so based “on documented instructions from the controller” (Article 28).
  • Organisations can opt to become “GDPR accredited” to demonstrate compliance with the regulations (Article 24, 25, 28, 32 & Section 5). Such accreditations will likely require sufficient documentary evidence to successfully attain.
  • In situations where data is being transferred “to a third country or an international organisation“, all “suitable safeguards” must be clearly documented (Article 30 & 49).
  • All data breaches must be clearly documented (Article 33).

To summarise, it can be inferred, but not definitively said, that the documentation of security models and user access to data is a broad requirement to satisfy compliance with the Regulations. By comparison, sufficient organisational security measures, both physical and technical, are mandatory requirements under GDPR.

With all this in mind, let’s take a look at the four cornerstones of CRM/D365E security and some of the things to think about from a GDPR perspective: Users, Teams, Business Units and Security Roles

Users

There are no prizes for guessing what this is 🙂 Like with any application system, Users in CRM/D365E are the mechanism through which you log on, interact with and access partial or whole areas of the application. Users utilise the existing identity provider, Active Directory. The benefits of this are that a consistent end user experience can be assured from a login perspective (enhanced further via the implementation of Single Sign On solutions) and there is less management required within CRM/D365E. This is because key information will be synchronised from your Active Directory accounts, such as job title, email address and telephone number. Users begin to come into their element when used in conjunction with the three other “cornerstones” mentioned above, so will be referenced again shortly.

Key GDPR Takeaways
  • Users of your CRM/D365E should be reviewed regularly to verify that access is still required to information within the application.
  • As Users do technically contain personal data relating to employees, all sufficient measures should be taken to ensure that the data that is held within them is kept up to date (Article 5).
  • Appropriate organisational security measures should be put in place to ensure Users are protected against malicious access (e.g. scheduled password resets, multi-factor authentication etc.).
Teams

Teams provide a mechanism for grouping together multiple users under a clearly defined label. For example, you could have a Team called Sales Team that has the account manager Users Bob, Alice and Steve as members. There are two types of Teams that can be setup in the application – Owner Teams, which operate much the same way as a Users (e.g. records can be assigned to them) and Access Teams, which provide specific permissions/access to records. More information about both types can be found on this useful MSDN article.

Key GDPR Takeaways
  • Structuring Teams correctly in conjunction with Security Roles can provide a more streamlined means of managing appropriate levels of access for teams, departments or other groups within an organisation. This is due to the fact that Security Roles can be assigned to Owner Team records, similar to Users.
  • Access Teams require a much higher degree of ongoing management, as you will need to constantly review their membership to verify that only approved Users are members.
  • Reports can be quickly generated for records that are owned by a Team and/or which Users are part of a particular Access Team record via the applications Advanced Find feature. This can assist greatly in satisfying any ongoing documentation requirements.
Business Units

Getting to grips with how Business Units operate can be one of the major challenges when first learning about CRM/D365E. They provide a means of segregating data within your instance so that only Users that are part of a particular “unit” can interact with the records that most directly concern them. Business Units can be best understood and utilised when thinking about your organisation in the following terms:

  • Business Departments
  • Subsidiaries/Parent Companies
  • Regions

Taking the third of these examples, you could, therefore, look at having a “root” Business Unit, with “child” Units for each region that your organisation operates within. Users can then be moved into the appropriate Business Unit for their locality and, as a consequence, only have access to Account records that are situated within their location. Business Units are anything but an exhaustive subject, so I would strongly recommend reading up on the topic separately to gain a fuller understanding of what they are.

Key GDPR Takeaways
  • Business Units provide an effective means of satisfying Article 5’s requirements for data protection “by design and by default”.
  • Remember that Users may still be able to see records that do not exist in their current Business Unit if they have been assigned a security role that gives them Parent:Child or Organization privilege on the entity in question (more on this in the next section).
  • Each Business Unit will also have a corresponding Team created for it. These can be utilised to segregate out security permissions in a more centralised manner, as discussed above.
Security Roles

The most important cornerstone of security within your CRM/D365E instance and the “glue” that holds all other components together, Security Roles define the permissions for every feature and entity within the application, giving you the opportunity to fine tune access privileges on a granular basis. For example, you can grant a user permission to read all records within their current Business Unit, but only allow them to modify records that they directly own. Privileges are structured very much in line with how Business Units operate, with each individual permission (Read, Create etc.) having the following “levels” of access:

  • No Access
  • User Level – Can only perform the specified action on records owned by the User.
  • Business Unit Level – Can only perform the specified action on records within the same Business Unit as the current User.
  • Parent:Child Business Unit Level – Can only perform the specified action on records within the same or all child Business Units as the current User.
  • Organization Level – Action can be performed against any record on the system.

The potential is limitless with Security Roles and, if mastered correctly, they can satisfy a lot of the problems that GDPR may bring to the table.

Key GDPR Takeaways
  • Microsoft provides a number of default Security Roles out of the box with the application and it may be tempting to utilise these directly instead of modifying or creating new ones specific to your needs. I would caution against this, particularly given that the roles may end up having excessive privilege levels on certain record types and could, by implication, fall foul of several articles within GDPR.
  • Similar to how Teams can be used to represent teams or departments within an organisation, Security Roles can be best utilised when they are broadly structured to provide the minimum level of privileges needed for several Users or more. This can also reduce any a headache when it comes to documentation of these roles as well.
  • New versions of the application (which come out twice each year) generally introduce new functionality and – as a result – new permissions required to successfully utilise them. Assuming you are updating your application in line with Microsofts recommended approach, these opportunities can be the best time to review your existing security roles, to verify that they are current and do not contain incorrect privileges.

Quickly Generating Documentation of your Security Model

To assist you in gaining a “bird’s eye” view of your users and their access privileges, the application provides a means of achieving this – the User Summary report:

This report has been tucked away inside the application from many years, a fact that can be attested to below with its rather archaic look. Regretfully, it hasn’t received any love or attention as part of recent updates 🙁

Having said that, the report does have some nice features:

  • It can be configured to run on a specific Business Unit, thereby providing a more closely defined list of the Users/Security Roles.
  • Can be exported to PDF, Excel and other common file formats.
  • Provides full information about each User, including their job title (make sure you are populating this field on your Active Directory first to ensure this appears!).

If you have never run the report before, then I would strongly recommend that you check it out to determine whether it satisfies your documentation requirements around GDPR.

Hopefully, this post has given you a good flavour of what can be achieved within the application to fully build out a suitable security model within CRM/D365E. In next week’s post, we’ll look more carefully at the implications GDPR has surrounding data retention and how the Bulk Delete feature can be configured to automate this process. In the meantime, be sure to check out the other posts in the series if you haven’t already using the links below:

Part 1: Utilising Transparent Database Encryption (TDE)

Part 2: Getting to Grips With Field Security Profiles

This is part 2 of a 5 part series, where we take a closer look at the practical implications the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will have upon your organisation and some of the ways Dynamics CRM/Dynamics 365 for Enterprise (CRM/D365E) can assist you as part of the transition. Last week, we took a look at the database encryption feature within the application and why you should devote some time to understanding how it works. The primary focus of this weeks post is how an organisation can ensure that highly sensitive data categories are only made accessible to authorised individuals only.

All posts in the series will make frequent reference to the text (or “Articles”) contained within Regulation (EU) 2016/679, available online as part of the Official Journal of the European Union – a particularly onerous and long-winded document. If you are based in the UK, you may find solace instead by reading through the ICO’s rather excellent Overview of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) pages, where further clarification on key aspects of the regulation can be garnered.

Introduction – Sensitive Data Categories, their meaning and practical implications

We saw as part of last week’s post the importance encryption plays as a “reasonable” step that any well-established organisation should have implemented to safeguard themselves against the risk of a data breach. The implications of a data breach are covered more in-depth under Articles 33, 34 and 35 of the regulation. The key takeaway from this is that encryption is by no means a silver bullet, and you must instead look at a complementary range of solutions to mitigate the risk and impact of a data breach.

Although not technically a form of encryption, Field Level Security can be seen as an apparatus for providing encryption-like functionality on a very granular basis within your CRM/D365E deployment. Whilst implementing them does broadly conform to the specifications as set out in Article 32 of GDPR, they do also provide a means of satisfying some of the requirements set out in Article 9, which states clearly:

Processing of personal data revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, or trade union membership, and the processing of genetic data, biometric data for the purpose of uniquely identifying a natural person, data concerning health or data concerning a natural person’s sex life or sexual orientation shall be prohibited.

Unless one of the following conditions apply:

  • The data subject has provided consent to record the data or has placed the details into the public domain.
  • The data needs to be processed as part of a specific line of legitimate business (employment, social security, social protection law, not-for-profit foundation/association, medical care, public health purposes or as part of scientific/historical research).
  • The recording of such personal details is required to protect the vital interests of the person concerned.

Many of the organisations listed above may already be using CRM/D365E as their primary business system and, as a consequence, will be storing the types of information referenced above. Whilst this is surely a legitimate case of data processing, issues may arise, for example, when it comes to which persons within the organisation can see and access this data; a medical doctor/nurse accessing a patient’s health information is appropriate, but surely a receptionist or IT support personnel viewing a patient record has no fair interest in viewing this information. Having appropriate controls in place to protect against these types of scenarios become a primary concern under GDPR, and Article 30 enshrines this further by requiring organisations to clearly document and implement processes that define individuals access to personal data:

Each controller and, where applicable, the controller’s representative, shall maintain a record of processing activities under its responsibility…[including] the categories of recipients to whom the personal data have been or will be disclosed including recipients in third countries or international organisations;

To summarise, therefore, by piggybacking upon the very robust security model contained within CRM/D365E, Field Level Security can very quickly be implemented to ensure that users of the system only see the information that is relevant to them as part of their role, without disrupting the entire end-user experience in the process.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at how straightforward it is to begin working with Field Security, by following the steps outlined below:

  1. Identify the field(s) that need to be secured from being accessed by a specific group of users. Navigate to the field(s) properties and verify that the Field Security option has been set to Enable. For this example, we are going to use the Primary Contact field on the Account entity:
  2. Within the Customizations area of the application, select the Field Security Profiles option on the left-hand bar and then click on New to create a Field Security Profile:
  3. On the New Field Security Profile window, specify a name and an (optional) description value for the new profile and press the Save button:
  4. Once saved, you can then begin to configure the two most important aspects of the profile – the permissions that are granted to secured fields and the Users/Teams in the application that they apply to. In this example, we are going to restrict the Primary Contact field from step 1) so that users who are part of our Account Executive team role cannot view, update or create a record with a value in this field. To begin with, click on the Teams button and then click on Add to find and select the Account Executive team role:
  5. Next, click on the Field Permissions icon and double-click the Primary Contact field on the list. Verify that the Allow ReadAllow Update and Allow Create options are set to No:

Now, when we log into the application as a user who is a part of the Account Executive role and navigate to a sample record on the system, we can see that the field in question has been obfuscated. We have no way of seeing, changing or otherwise interacting with the value contained within this field:

Fields that are impacted in some way as a result of Field Security can always be clearly distinguished by the key icon on the top left of the field name. This can prove useful in helping users to understand their current levels of access and in troubleshooting why a user cannot read or modify a particular field.

So what have we learned about Field Security Profiles and how they conform to GDPR? Here’s a quick summary of the key points:

  • Demonstrates that sensitive data information is stored with “appropriate security” in place (Article 5)
  • They can be used as a tool for storing and controlling access to sensitive data types (Article 9)
  • Provides a mechanism to demonstrate compliance with the relevant articles of GDPR, should the organisation be subject to an Audit as a Data Processor (Article 28)
  • Can be seen as an appropriate technical safeguard in the protection of both non-sensitive and sensitive data types (Article 32)
  • Could be used as documentary evidence (or the basis thereof) that covers the documentation requirements for data processing (Article 30)

Thanks for reading! As part of next’s week post, we will take a deeper dive into CRM/D365E’s wider security model and the importance of documentation in the context of GDPR.

I was recently involved in deploying my first ever Office 365 Group. I already had a good theoretical understanding of them, thanks to the curriculum for the Business Applications MCSA, but I had not yet seen how they perform in action. The best way of summing them up is that they are, in effect, a distribution group on steroids. As well as getting a shared mailbox that can be used for all communications relating to the group’s purpose, they also support the following features:

  • Shared Calendar
  • SharePoint Document Site
  • Shared OneNote document
  • Shared Planner

In a nutshell, they can be seen as an excellent vehicle for bringing together the diverse range of features available as part of your Office 365 subscription. What helps further is that they are tightly integrated as part of the tools that you likely already use each day – for example, they can be accessed and worked with from the Outlook desktop client on and Web Access (OWA) portal.

Given that this feature is a very Office 365 centric component, the natural question emerges as to why an exam for Dynamics CRM/Dynamics 365 for Enterprise (CRM/D365E) would want to test your knowledge of them. Since the release of Dynamics CRM 2016 Update 1, you now have the option of integrating Office 365 Groups with the application, to provide a mechanism for easily working with groups from within the CRM/D365E web interface, effectively providing a “bridge” for non-CRM/D365E users who are using Office 365.

You may be pleased to hear that the steps involved in getting setup with Office 365 Groups in CRM/D365E are remarkably straightforward. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get up and running with this feature within your business:

Microsoft provides a managed solution that contains everything you need to get going with Office 365 Groups, and this is made available as a Preferred Solution. These are installed from the Dynamics 365 Administration Center by navigating to your instance, selecting the little pen icon next to Solutions and clicking on the Office 365 Groups record on the list that is displayed:

Click on the Install button and then accept the Terms of Service – as Office 365 Groups creates an intrinsic link between your CRM/D365E and Office 365 tenant, it is only natural that data will need to be shared between both, so there are no major concerns in accepting this:

The solution will take a couple of minutes to install, and you can safely refresh the window to monitor progress. Once installed, the Settings sitemap area will be updated with a new button – Office 365 Groups:

Clicking into this will navigate you to the Office 365 Groups Integration Settings page, which allows you start configuring the entities you wish to use to utilise with Office 365 Groups:

For reference purposes, the default out of the box entities that can be used with this feature are as follows:

  • Account
  • Competitor
  • Contact
  • Contract
  • Case
  • Invoice
  • Lead
  • Opportunity
  • Product
  • Quote
  • Sales Literature

You may be wondering if it is possible to enable additional entities for use with Office 365 Groups. At the time of writing, only the system entities recorded above and custom entities can be used with Office 365 Groups.

Now that we know how to get CRM/D365E setup for Office 365 Groups, let’s look at how it works when set up for the Account entity:

Going back to the Office 365 Groups Integration Settings (if you have closed it down), click on the Add entity button to enable a drop-down control, containing a list of the entities referenced above. Select Account and, when you are ready to proceed, click Publish all to enable this entity for Office 365 Groups functionality:

For this example, the Auto Create button is left blank. I would recommend that this setting is always used, so as to prevent the creation of unnecessary Office 365 Groups, that may get named incorrectly as a consequence (you’ll see why this has the potential to occur in a few moments).

Once enabled, when you navigate to an existing Account record, you will see a new icon on the Related Records sitemap area:

After clicking on this, you are then asked to either Create a new group – with the ability to specify its name – or to Search for an existing group. The second option is particularly handy if you have already been using Office 365 Groups and wish to retroactively tie these back to CRM/D365E:

For this example, we are going to create a new group. The process can take a while (as indicated below) so now may be a good opportunity to go make a brew 🙂

Leaving the screen open will eventually force a refresh, at which point your new group will appear, with all the different options at your disposal:

With your group now up and running, you can start uploading documents, configure the shared calendar and fine-tune the group’s settings to suit your purposes. Here are some handy tips to bear in mind when using the group with CRM/D365E:

  • Just because the group is linked up with CRM/D365E doesn’t mean that you have to be a user from this application to access the group. This is one of the great things about utilising Office 365 Groups with CRM/D365E, as standard Office 365 users can join and work with the group without issue. The only thing you have to remember is that the Office 365 user has to have the appropriate license on Office 365 – as indicated by Microsoft, any subscription that gives a user an Exchange Online mailbox and SharePoint Online access will suffice.
  • Remember that the ConversationsNotebook and Documents features are not in any way linked with the equivalent CRM/D365E feature. For example, any Conversation threads will not appear within the Social Pane as an activity; you will need to navigate to the Office 365 Group page to view these.
  • Utilising Office 365 Groups as an end-user requires that you have the appropriate security role access. If you do not, then you may be greeted with the following when attempting to open an Office 365 Group within the application:

That’s right – a whole heap of nothing! 🙂 To fix this, you will need to go into the users Security Role and ensure that they have Organization-level privilege on the ISV Extensions privilege, as indicated below:

Conclusions or Wot I Think

Office 365 Groups present a natural choice when working as part of large-scale teams or projects – especially when they are internally based. They can also be a good fit for when you wish to liaise with 3rd party organisations, thanks to the ability to grant Guest access to external accounts. Having the ability to then tie these groups back within CRM/D365E is useful, but I do wonder whether they are a good match for all of the record types that Microsoft suggests in the list above. Certainly, Account records are a justifiable fit if you are working with an organisation to deliver continuous services or multiple projects. I doubt highly, however, that you want to go to the trouble of creating a shared document repository for a new Lead record right from the bat – particularly if your CRM/D365E deployment is more focused towards B2C selling. You may be tempted to over-excitedly roll out Office 365 Groups carte blanche across your CRM/D365E deployment, but I would caution against this. Don’t forget that the creation of a new Office 365 Group will result in additional overhead when managing your Exchange Online mailbox lists and SharePoint sites, as well as having long-term storage implications for the latter. Acting prudently, you can identify a good business case for enabling specific entities for use with Office 365 Groups and ensure that you manage your entire Office 365 deployment in the most effective manner possible.