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Driving Business Processes Using Dialogs in Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Posted by Derik Bormann on Oct 11, 2013 4:59:00 PM

Microsoft Dynamics CRMBefore we start, I know that dialogs are not a new feature, as they were released with 2011. However, as I go around the country teaching classes and assisting with Microsoft Dynamics CRM projects, I am shocked to see how many organizations are not taking advantage of the Dynamics CRM deployments. It seems as though many organizations have a lack of understanding on what they are, how they work, and what they can be used for in the application. This month I want to provide some insight into dialogs, especially because I see them as something that will really compliment the new Business Process Functionality coming with CRM 2013.

First, let’s talk about what dialogs in CRM are and how they are useful. Basically, a dialog is a wizard that you can create to assist users step-by-step through a business process. For example, if your company sets up a new account in CRM and some critical information is missing, the person responsible for capturing that data can launch a dialog that will list the specific fields that data is missing from. There is no need to open the actual record and to try to locate the missing information. Dialogs can also be handy in the call center. You can use them as scripts to guide reps though conversations with customers, and the dialog can trigger other dialogs based on the client’s answers, requests, or objections. 

Dialog and Workflow Differences

There are a few differences that you should be aware of when working with dialogs. The biggest difference is that unlike workflows, which can be tied to specific events in CRM, dialogs have to be manually initiated by a user on the record you want to work with. This is commonly done by using the run dialog button on the ribbon. It could also be done by adding a custom button to the ribbon to provide one-click access or, in some cases, tying them to the system user entity to assist in record creation. Below is a table that outlines some of the key differences between workflows and dialogs in CRM. 

Workflows (WF)

Dialogs

Background Process:  Interacts with CRM entities directly.

Interactive Wizard: Entity interaction is based on user driven processes.

Executes under the security context of owner of the Workflow.

Executes under the security context of the user who initiates the Dialog Process.

Can be either Auto-started or user started.

Can only be initiated by user.

Supports triggers: (Create, Delete, Update, Etc.)

No support for triggers.

Can initiate child workflow processes. Child Dialogs cannot be launched via a workflow.

Can initiate both child workflows and child Dialogs.

Microsoft Dynamics CRMDialog Basics

Before you design a dialog, let’s talk about some of the basics. Dialogs are processes that are designed the same way as workflows. (Navigate to Settings – Processes) The Dialog editor is basically the same as the Workflow editor, but includes additional features specific to dialogs. One of the additional features in the Add Steps dropdown is the Page step. Page is where you create the screens that will act as the interaction points to guide the user through the dialog. On the page design screen, you add prompt and responses to query the user and capture their responses. Pages can have one question or multiple questions based on your needs, but each page requires at least one prompt and response. The responses captured can be stored in the instance of the dialog to update entity information or even passed to other dialogs that need the information.  

Another feature unique to dialogs is Query CRM Data. Query CRM data works very similar to Advanced Find. Let’s say you have just gotten a new lead that lives in North Dakota, and you want to assign a rep to the lead that works in that region. You can use the query CRM data to populate a drop down box that only includes CRM users located in North Dakota.   

Dialogs also can include Input Arguments or Variables. These help to capture information within the dialog that can be used as it proceeds. For example, a call center might have a dialog that drives the direction of a support call based on a client’s answers to questions. When a new call dialog is initiated, the rep may capture basic information about them (name, address, contract number, etc.) and then ask them a question to determine the nature of the call. Based on how the client answers the questions, a different dialog is launched that contains specifics for that path. This process can continue until the call is resolved. As each of the different dialogs is launched, input arguments in the new dialog can store values from the previous dialog. That way they can be used in the current one to evaluate items or update data. This concept of child dialogs are a great tool because they provide the ability to centralize dialog logic, and can break up complex dialogs to make them easier to manage. Another nice feature of child dialogs is the ability to link them back to themselves to allow various inputs of information.   

Other Dialog Considerations

While dialogs can go a long way in assisting your organization’s business process, you do want to take some time to carefully plan out how they will be used. They are very useful, but so are the regular forms in CRM. Don’t overdo it. Remember that dialogs should act as a compliment to the forms that you already have in the system. You also want to consider the users that will be executing the dialogs. Since dialogs run as the user initiates them, their security role in CRM needs to allow them the privileges to do the actions the dialog is attempting. Insufficient permissions will cause an error message informing the user that they cannot accomplish that task. Make sure you test dialogs sufficiently before you publish them to an organization.

Dialogs are a great tool to enhance the user experience and assist in capturing data in CRM. If you would like more information on how to use them, please contact a NetWork Center, Inc. Account Executive. We have a variety of training options available to assist you in creating, deploying, and managing Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

 Contact NetWork Center, Inc.

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Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Managed Services, Filtering

Better Endpoint Protection: Hardware Firewall Security

Posted by Tyler Voegele on Aug 26, 2013 11:15:00 AM

Every business needs a firewall or some form of protection from external threats. Firewalls can protect from external, malicious users, network infections, and packet flooding attacks from reaching the internal resources of your network. They can also prevent your users from connecting to things that may harm the network.

With all kinds of hardware security technology out there, it can be a little challenging to choose which device is right for you. When thinking about upgrading or strengthening your security at the Internet facing part of your network, there are several things to take into consideration.

Firewall TypesSecurity Technologies

There are three types of firewalls: stateless packet filtering, stateful packet filtering, and application-layer firewalls. Each of these provides filtering at different levels within a network. Packet filtering firewalls allow only packets to pass, which are allowed as per your firewall policy. Every packet has information contained inside, such as its source, destination, port ranges, etc. Each packet passing through is inspected and the firewall then decides to pass it or not. The packet filtering can be divided into two parts: stateless and stateful.

Stateless:

If the information about the passing packets is not remembered by the firewall, then this type of filtering is called stateless packet filtering. Every packet that passes through this type of firewall is handled on an individual basis by the set of rules that were set up manually. Previously forwarded packets belonging to a connection have no bearing on the filter’s decision to forward or drop the packet.

Stateful:

If the firewall remembers the information about the previously passed packets, then that type of filtering is stateful packet filtering. The packet filtering firewalls inspect these TCP or UDP packet streams to allow or deny them. Stateful packet filtering firewalls also monitor the state of a connection and gather the information about it. With this intelligence, the firewall can not only make decisions based on the defined rules but also make decisions from prior packets that have passed through it.


Application-Layer

Application-layer firewalls, or proxy-firewalls, do not just look at the packet data; they also look at the actual data that is being transported between the application-layer. They know how certain protocols work, such as HTTP and FTP.  Since they are application-aware and inspect the contents of the traffic, you are able to block specific content such as websites, viruses, or software. They can then look to see if the data that is in the packet is valid for specific protocols, and if it is not, it can be dropped.


Other ConsiderationsSecurity Technologies

The first thing to ask yourself when you are deciding on a firewall is what are you are trying to accomplish. Whether you want a firewall that handles stateful-packet inspection, or a firewall with extra features such as IDS and IPS built in, there are options for them all. You will want to clearly identify what is important to you and figure out where the bulk of your security needs lie. With so many different options for firewall technologies, there are also a lot of features to think about. Below are just a few features that are worth considering:

  • Monitoring and Reporting

  • Spam Filtering

  • High Availability

  • URL Screening

  • Anti-Virus

  • Bandwidth Sizing

  • Layered Security

  • Remote Connections

  • Physical Interfaces

  • Intrusion Detection

  • Intrusion Prevention

  • Web Caching

When you compare the costs of different firewalls, you also need to take into account any of the extra costs associated with the features that you will want to implement. If you choose a firewall with specific features and capabilities, there can sometimes be an extra fee in licensing.

If you're in the market for a new firewall, take some time to identify the needs you are looking for. Firewalls are still one of the best ways to protect yourself from any threats to your network, and with so many options you can do almost anything. If you have any questions or want to know more about firewall security, please contact NetWork Center, Inc. 

Contact NetWork Center, Inc.

Topics: NetWork Center Inc., Network Security, Security, Protection, Security Technologies, Firewall, Filtering

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