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A Peak into DevOps with Dynamics 365

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This blog aims to discuss three essential tools of Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement / CRM and the functions they serve in the DevOps process. However, before we introduce these three magic tools, we are first going to understand what DevOps and Dynamics CRM are, independently and together.

What is DevOps?

The term DevOps was coined more than a decade ago by Patrick Debois. He combined two business terms, “development” and “operations,” to come up with this widely acknowledged business philosophy. DevOps represents an ideology that believes in bringing about change in the IT industry by adopting agile and lean processes in the “context of a system-oriented approach” – as Gartner puts it.

In layman’s terms, DevOps is an ideology that focuses on improving collaboration between the operations and development teams. DevOps uses various technologies to ensure a dynamic infrastructure from a life cycle perspective. The DevOps umbrella spreads over processes, ideologies, and culture, along with a mindset that aims to shorten the overall software development life cycle (SDLC). By incorporating multiple automation features, DevOps tries to speed up operation and development processes like feedback, fixes, and updates, ensuring that a culture of efficiency is prevailing.

How Does DevOps work?

DevOps is described as a culture, and like all cultures, it has adopted many practices within itself. However, like all cultures, there are a few “norms” that remain stagnant. The following capabilities are native to all DevOps cultures adopted:

  • Collaboration
  • Automation
  • Continuous Integration
  • Continuous Delivery
  • Continuous Testing
  • Continuous Monitoring
  • Rapid Remediation

The basic idea that DevOps has promoted is to employ agile functionality in the people first, then in the process, and then in the product. For the purpose of this blog, we are mostly focusing on the process element of DevOps and seeing how Dynamics 365 CRM tools are helping empower the process of DevOps further.

What is Dynamics CRM?

CRM basically stands for customer relationship management. Dynamics is Microsoft’s Business Applications product line of ERP and CRM software. The aim of this software is to improve interactions between customers and clients by ensuring that users can track sales leads, investigate marketing activities and agendas, and focus on actionable data using one robust platform.

Dynamics 365 is a customizable solution that is designed to meet business needs. Companies can opt to select a stand-alone application that fits their needs or opt for multiple CRM tools that work as a powerful unified solution.

Why go with a CRM solution?

Employing a CRM software in your company will do wonders for your profitability by streamlining administrative processes in each department. CRM software ensures that you have a positive relationship with your clientele. An integrated CRM software helps focus on growth opportunities, increasing revenue, and retaining customers quickly.

  • Enhanced Marketing Strategies
  • Workflow Productivity
  • Efficient Data Analytics
  • Unified View of all Operations
  • Positive Customer Relationships
  • Ease of access
  • Streamlined Invoicing
  • Scalable CRM Solutions

Dynamics CRM and DevOps

For a software development process to be considered successful or agile, it is essential to ensure that it has a short development lifecycle and has a faster time to market ratio. DevOps adoption allows companies to achieve an effective and agile software procedure.

Dynamics CRM, despite its many benefits, comes with specific challenges, particularly when it comes to consistency in integration and deployment (CI/CD process). There are many companies that are utilizing DevOps for CRM to enhance their agile cycle velocity. This helps them ensure maximum value is delivered through new CRM features.

The Three Microsoft SDK Tools:

The tools that I will be discussing today are prepackaged with Microsoft Dynamics Software Development Kit, aka Microsoft SDK. These tools are:

  1. SolutionPackager.exe
  • This tool is used to deconstruct a Dynamics 365 compressed solution file (reversibly) into multiple XML files and other files so that a source control system can manage the data.
  • A CRM solution is compressed into multiple files when we export it. However, each file is crammed with a lot of content. For tracking purposes, we need to keep our records well-structured under source control.
  1. Configuration Migration (DataMigrationUtility.exe)
  • This tool is used to move configuration data and user data between Dynamics 365 instances and organizations.
  • Please Note: Configuration data is not the same as end-user data.
  • The configuration migration tool also uses the data’s GUID. Some people often confuse GUIDs as being the same across various CRM instances. This is not the case, and it is vital to keep a note of this.
  • For example, if you have a workflow that refers to some data, it is using GUID of that very data. On the other hand, if you have the same data in two CRM instances, the GUID will not be the same. Hence, they will not work.
  1. PackageDeployer.exe
  • This tool, as the name suggests, is simply for deploying packages in Dynamics 365.
  • For those of you, who do not know what a package is the following information will be helpful:
    • A package may be comprised of one or several Dynamics 365 solution files.
    • It contains CSV files or exported configuration files that are extracted from the Configuration Migration tool.
    • It has a custom code that can run prior to the package being deployed, during deployment, and even after it.
    • An HTML page that can be displayed both at the end of the beginning of the process

All these tools have a significant impact on agility and functionality. It increases process efficiency and allows for an efficient procedure life cycle that is time and cost-efficient.

There we have it. The three magic tools that help organizations implement DevOps in their processes through agile functionality and automation. It is important to note that this is one single side of DevOps and Dynamics 365 that we have explored. There is a lot more to these concepts, both independently and together, that we are going to explore further with time.

Conclusively incorporating a DevOps culture in company practices, procedures, and norms will help the company maximize its potential and reap gains to its fullest.

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