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  • 5 insights on how to connect experiences with customer data platforms

    If you're familiar with customer data platforms (CDPs), you may know that they provide a unified view of individual customer records. It's a tool every marketer needs, but what role should your CDP play in helping to improve customer experiences?

    We sat down with Sheryl Kingstone of 451 Research, a part of S&P Global Market Intelligence to learn more about getting the most value from a CDP across the customer journey, covering topics ranging from leveraging AI and machine learning in the customer data strategy to data privacy and security. Here are five takeaways we learned from our conversation:

    1. Be data-centric: Customer experience is the new differentiator and unified customer data is what helps manifest better experiences. CDPs bring together behavioral and transactional data and enable businesses to deliver mass personalization to their customers.
    2. Operate in real-time: CDPs must deliver real-time insights as it is even more essential than ever in today's world where a digital experience has become essential to reaching customers. Experiencenot pricing or productsis going to be the future, according to Kingstone. Having the right information to engage and connect with customers with automated, real-time actions will be essential during COVID-19 and beyond.
    3. Learn from machine learning: AI and machine learning are core components and differentiators of CDPs. When applied to the customer journey, AI and machine learning enable organizations to scale and provide each customer a unique journey with contextually relevant experiences.
    4. Build on a trusted platform: Trust and security are non-negotiable priorities for all organizations, and those priorities must extend to CDPs. Data fidelity must be maintained, and data stored must be secure. Kingstone notes that consumers are becoming less trusting of businesses and are concerned about how they are using data.
    5. Think the entire stack: CDPs should connect across the marketing technology stack to ad platforms, marketing automation tools, CRM systems, and data analysis tools to drive actions and meaningful business outcomes across the customer journey. It’s about using new technologies that are empowering IT and line of business and enhancing the customer journey across sales, service, marketing, and commerce.
    Microsoft Customer Insights is a self-service customer data platform that empowers every organization to unify and understand customer data to derive insights that personalize experiences and processes.

    Kingstone's insights on choosing a CDP? “It’s all about the power of the platform. Don’t look at features, functions, and use cases. Look at what the platform can do for you. Can it connect the data within your organization, and can it scale and support your resources on demand? It’s all about the data and the insights that put the people and the processes together that are going to be the platform of the future.”

    Watch the webinar

    The post 5 insights on how to connect experiences with customer data platforms appeared first on Microsoft Dynamics 365 Blog.

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  • Gartner positions Dynamics 365 Field Service Magic Quadrant Leader

    Field service technology is transforming quickly, evolving at an accelerated pace, and that evolution is significantly impacting how we work, what we work on, and how we best serve our customers. As technology speeds forward creating greater efficiencies, it is also pushing cutting edge technologies into the mainstream. These technologies not only streamline processes and reduce costs, they also differentiate a service organization from the pack. It is these differentiators that have elevated Microsoft Dynamics 365 Field Service as a driving force within the field service community.

    On that note, we are thrilled that Gartner has positioned Microsoft as a Leader in its 2020 Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management. Positioned as a Visionary in 2019, this new, improved position as a Field Service Leader reflects our ability to execute and completeness of vision. Products evaluated include: Microsoft Azure IoT (Hub and Central), Microsoft Power Platform (Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate, and Common Data Servicenow Microsoft Dataflex Pro), and mixed-reality (Microsoft Dynamics 365 Remote Assist).

    1. Azure IoT Hub and Azure IoT Central. With the addition of Azure IoT Hub or Azure IoT Central, field service is transforming the costly traditional break-fix model to a proactive and predictive service model. By combining IoT diagnostics, scheduling, asset maintenance, and inventory all on the same platform, field service organizations (FSOs) can reduce downtime by diagnosing problems before customers are even aware there is an issue. Connected Field Service lets you address issues faster by remotely monitoring devices, and the service data can help in making better decisions around dispatching technicians with the right experience, availability, and location to the customer.
    2. Power Platform including Microsoft Power BI, Microsoft Power Apps, Microsoft Power Automate, and Microsoft Dataflex Pro. For starters, Power BI provides intuitive data visualizations, Excel integration, and customer data connectors so you can achieve the best results. The next generation Field Service mobile app is built on the Power Platform, empowering technicians with an easy-to-use mobile experience to view assigned jobs, record work performed with photos and video captures, bar code scanning, and digital signatures. Plus, it affords access to information when visiting remote destinations without internet connectivity. Power Automate can be easily integrated to create flows to improve process automation and Microsoft Dataflex Pro lets you securely store and manage data used by business applications. App makers can then use Power Apps to build rich applications using this data.
    3. Mixed reality apps including Microsoft Dynamics 365 Remote Assist. Mixed reality is a combination of realitiesaugmented, virtual, and real world, where the user can interact with all views. It's safe to say that mixed reality is creating not just ripples, but a tsunami of change within the field service landscape since the advent of COVID-19. FSOs face unique challenges balancing the health and safety of technicians while maintaining business critical functions and continued support of customer needs. Dynamics 365 Remote Assist leverages mixed reality to access information and experts from anywhere, contact-free, by using Microsoft HoloLens and Android or iOS devices. Onsite workers can share real-time views of a repair, share knowledge and related documents, and perform inspections and audits to help accelerate the process.

    Dynamics 365 Field Service capabilities

    Many of the field service capabilities Gartner highlighted are pivotal in providing world-class customer care. Microsoft pioneered cutting edge technologies that have led to the development of rich features that empower technicians and increase productivity, optimize resources, and enhance customer satisfactiontogether helping FSOs quickly realign operations to strengthen business continuity while building resiliency within a changing economic landscape.

    A shining example is NAVCO, an electronic security system provider, who needed to improve responses to service requests to meet strict SLAs. Receiving hundreds of thousands of service requests each month, NAVCO chose Dynamics 365 Field Service. Leveraging its resource scheduling feature, NAVCO streamlined its service request and routing process, gaining a clearer view of individual jobs. Now NAVCO resolves customer service requests with an average of 1.1 trips. Its dispatch team easily manages incoming issues, and customers have greater visibility into their service requests by using the customer portal.

    Dynamics 365 Field Service capabilities are mapped to three distinct pillars: proactive service delivery, resource scheduling, and ensuring technician success. In April, our release wave 1 provided enhancements that aligned to these pillars. We debuted new feature capabilities and offered a preview of AI-based suggestions for IoT alerts and incident types, and shared ongoing enhancements to resource scheduling and optimization capabilities. We also demonstrated our commitment to further invest in proactive service with Azure IoT and shared a deeper alignment with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management.

    What's ahead for Field Service

    We're not done by a long shot. We're continuing to enhance this leading end-to-end field service solution, further transforming field service organizations from a state of reactive to proactive with built-in predictive modes. But that's just the beginning. We're also broadening the possibilities of additional business models such as outcome-based service or "anything-as-a-service."

    With the release wave 2 coming this October, we're continuing to add intelligence to Dynamics 365 Field Service including a new dashboard for monitoring key KPIs. We're creating the ability to automatically send customers work order satisfaction surveys using Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Voice. FSOs will have the ability to quickly capture and accurately calculate work order completion metricseven metrics like a Broken Promise %. Furthermore, we're aligning additional enhancements to FSO business outcomes:

    • Proactive service delivery. Asset hierarchy and functional location, productivity enhancement for complex entities such as work order, and extended integration with Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management.
    • Resource scheduling. Optimizer embedded in next-generation schedule board, predictive technician travel time based on traffic patterns, and enhancements for skills-based matching and travel outside working hours.
    • Technician success. A new mobile app based on Power Apps enhancements, a technician locator for end customers, and virtual onsite inspection capabilities.

    Ahead of the curve

    Most field service organizations typically consist of a "boots on the ground" labor force making service calls and often ordering much needed parts and rescheduling site visits to complete the repair. But FSOs are transforming and this business model is changingand it's changing for the better. FSOs are evolving into profit centers by redefining their business model to a proactive service delivery, supported by leading edge solutions like Dynamics 365 Field Service, with rich features that optimize resources and empower technicians to succeed.

    We're delighted to be positioned as a Gartner 2020 Magic Quadrant Leader for Field Service and are committed to bringing you the best field service application imaginable. You can depend on Microsoft Dynamics 365 to help reduce customer downtime, drive insights for new products and services, and turn your service cost centers into profit centers.

    Learn more:

    Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product, or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner's research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

    The post Gartner positions Dynamics 365 Field Service Magic Quadrant Leader appeared first on Microsoft Dynamics 365 Blog.

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  • Verify hash function changes after update to Dynamics 365 Finance 2020 release wave 2

    In Dynamics 365 2020 release wave 2, the hash function for the dimension framework in Dynamics 365 Finance has changed. This change may cause breaks in your production and test code in some scenarios. This blog post explains how to inspect your code for impacted patterns and provides guidance about how to validate this functionality after you upgrade, to help you avoid potential issues.


    One of the changes in 2020 release wave 2 includes hash functionality updates to tables used by financial dimensions. The hash function, known as SHA1, is being deprecated in all Microsoft products. The reason for this change is that SHA1 has been proven by researchers to be susceptible to collision attacks.

    The financial dimensions framework in Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance has always used SHA1 to generate hash keys. This was not for cryptographic purposes, but instead used for quicker hash key lookups. Because SHA1 has been proven to allow collisions, we need to move away from SHA1 to a more reliable algorithm.

    To find a new algorithm, we analyzed many non-cryptographic and cryptographic scenarios. We considered the following factors:

    • Amount of data that can be compressed: The data stored in a hash key is composed in a hash message. The hash message for DimensionAttributeValueCombination is built by combining the DimensionHierarchy hash key and hash keys for each DimensionAttributeValue record. DimesionAttributeSet hash keys can be as large as 12 segments. This makes it possible to compute a message that is very large. As a result, we chose an implementation known as SpookyHash. Because SpookyHash can take in an input string and compute a unique hash key, it's able to handle very large hash message inputs.
    • Storage size: We were interested in storage size because we already had a fixed field of 160 bits where the existing SHA1 hash message is stored. To lessen the impact to customers, we wanted to be sure that an upgrade was not necessary in order to upgrade older data to use a new field. Because the storage size of SpookyHash fit into the existing hash key fields, this was a good match.
    • Performance of hash generation: The performance of hash generation was also an important factor. We did not want to degrade performance by switching from SHA1. We found that SHA256 was 15% slower than SpookyHash. SHA1 was between 2.9 to 3.7 times slower.
    • Non-cryptographic function: Another major consideration was that we prefer to use a non-cryptographic hash function so that it will never be confused with a cryptographic scenario.

    Patterns in your code

    After your code is updated to the new release it will generate Ledger dimensions, Default dimensions, and Dimension enum sets with a new hash key. Data from before the upgrade will be computed with SHA1 and data after the upgrade will be computed with SpookyHash. This means that when the Dimension APIs calculate a hash key for an older dimension combination or set, it will create a duplicate new combination or set. This combination will have a different record ID and a new hash value that is different than the original. The two dimensions will look the same according to the display value. Over time, all new combinations will be created in the new format. In the meantime, you may encounter the following issues in your production and test code.

    • Direct SQL generation of hash keys. There is no easy way to generate a SpookyHash key in SQL Server, however the easiest way is through X++. Any code that generates a hash key from SQL Server will no longer generate the correct hash keys. Dimension copy/self referencing dimensions is a set of code that relied on this. We moved that code to call the same hash functions as the rest of the dimensions framework. If your code utilizes SQL Server hash key generation, then it needs to be converted to use our hash APIs.
    • Any code that expects certain records to be returned can switch its order. We found areas in production and test code that relied on a specific, implied order being returned from tables such as GeneralJournalAccountEntry when joined to the DimensionAttributeValueCombination table. If your code has a dependency on implied ordering, you may need to adjust it to ensure that you get the expected records.
    • Direct manipulation of dimensions tables. Access to dimension framework tables should only be done through approved APIs and you should never directly manipulate a dimension framework table. Tables that start with DimensionAttribute are meant to be immutable and should only be maintained by the dimensions framework. If you have code in tests or production that violates this, you need to change or remove this code as soon as possible. Tests should use dimensions APIs properly to ensure they do not break with changes. This also ensures that you are properly testing what you intend to test.
    • Code that queries ledger dimensions by display value. This is common in tests and potentially in custom partner code, where records returned may be the wrong dimension. With the new hash function, the older, outdated record might be returned instead of finding the new hashed record. As a best practice, it is never safe to look up ledger dimensions by display value because duplicate DisplayValues may exist. If your code needs to use this method, be sure to properly look up each record ID of each backing entity value and use the denormalized fields on DimensionAttributeValueCombination to do this lookup. This is because a main account could exist in multiple charts of accounts, or a dimension value such as customer could exist in more than one ledger and thus have different records. Because the data in DimensionAttributeValueCombination is not removed by company, but the values within are, it is important that your code finds the correct records for the companies you're in. Failure to do this will result in corrupted dimension data.
    • Code that expects RecId's of dimensions or default dimensions to match. Any code that expects RecId's of dimensions or default dimensions to match will fail because an old hash RecId may not match the new one even if they are the same. This is common in tests. To address this for LedgerDimensions, we added a helper in LedgerDimensionFacade called AreEqual(). This will allow your code to check if two dimensions are the same, even if they have different RecIds due to the hash change.

    In conclusion, the hash function for the dimension framework has changed in Dynamics 265 2020 release wave 2, potentially causing breaks in your production and test code in the above scenarios. Carefully inspect your code for the patterns discussed in this blog. Also spend time validating this functionality after you upgrade, to avoid potential issues.

    If something is not covered here or if you have questions, leave us a comment. We will keep this post updated when new patterns are discovered.

    The post Verify hash function changes after update to Dynamics 365 Finance 2020 release wave 2 appeared first on Microsoft Dynamics 365 Blog.

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