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Microsoft Dynamics 365 Navigation
It’s important to understand how to navigate through the system. Now that you understand the definition of views and forms, you can better understand how to locate those important sets of data. As you shall see, there are two fundamental methods of navigating, and therefore using the system. These are not mutually exclusive by any means, and all users should be familiar with both approaches.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 features a top-bar, hierarchical style of navigation, as shown in figure 1 below. This bar is accessed by clicking on the top bar, which reveals a set up “drop-down” tiles that represent various modules where information is contained in the system.
Figure 1 – Module Tiles in Microsoft Dynamics 365
What tiles show in this level of navigation depends on the versions and choices you have made in your trial or your purchase. The three modules above (Sales, Service, Marketing) are what are seen if you have a version that supports both the Sales and Service modules. (Marketing comes with Sales.) The next level of navigation is what you see when you click on any one of the tiles shown above. Figure 10 below is a set of tiles presented when the Sales module is clicked.
Figure 2 – The Sales module navigation
Clicking on any icon will display the default view of the entity that is represented by the icon – such as Accounts, Contacts, Leads, etc.
The presentation of tiles for modules and icons for entities is referred to and controlled by the “Sitemap” which, from a technical perspective, is an XML document, which is editable. There are two methods by which the sitemap can be edited:
- Include the sitemap as a component in a solution, export the sitemap, edit the XML and import the sitemap.
- Use the Sitemap Designer, which is a PowerApp that Microsoft created to visually edit the sitemap using a drag and drop interface.
While it could be argued that a user has more ability to control the finer aspects of presentation when using the first method, we predict that most Administrators of Microsoft Dynamics 365, technical or otherwise, will elect to use the Sitemap Designer since it is quite simple and accomplishes the most common needs. Figure 3 below is a screen shot of the designer itself. Figure 3 – the new “Sitemap Designer” available in Microsoft Dynamics 365. This tool features drag and drop capability.
For those that are curious about what the Sitemap consists of, below is a snippet from a sitemap XML file that governs some of the tiles that are shown in this post. Please note that the colored text represented in this screen shot is available when using Notepad ++, a text editing tool popular with developers. Figure 4 – a snippet from the Microsoft Dynamics 365 sitemap XML file that is included in the default solution.
Please see other blog posts in this series for specific instructions how to use the PowerApp tool to edit the Sitemap.
View Navigation and Filtering
Once an entity icon is clicked and the default view appears, the user can further navigate in the following ways:
- Change the view using the View Selector as described earlier
- Filter the view in place using the “funnel” icon to set filters as shown below Figure 5 – Applying selectable filters to all columns in a view
Clicking on any of the small black triangles next to the column names will provide the ability to filter based on a specific type of data. For instance, using the filter as shown above would allow a user to filter the list by “Specific Owner” by clicking on the selector next to the Owner column. At this point, the user will have found the record they wish to open and has used the menu navigation method to find that data. The last step is to simply click on the Name of the entity, if it is available in the view, or double-click between any column on a record row in the view. This will open the form for the specific record in question.
Based on the number of steps shown above that the Microsoft Dynamics 365 user must execute to navigate to a record, and considering the sheer number of modules and entities represented, no one should be surprised that instead of using the menus and tiles to navigate to data in Dynamics 365, users often elect to create and use dashboards as a means of navigation. The advantages of using dashboards to find and navigate to important information are:
- Up to six entities can be represented on a single page
- Records can be presented using views or charts
- Dashboard components can be drilled into to filter visually
- Dashboards are entirely customizable, so that users can decide what information to see and how to see it
Since the user will most likely use a dashboard of their own design, much of the searching for specific types of data is saved, and the dashboard can be pre-filtered to show only the sets of data and visualizations that the user is most interested in. This saves time in navigation.
Figure 6 – A typical User-focused Dashboard
In figure 6 above, we see that a user has created a dashboard that presents their activities in the upper left, sorted by due dates. Opportunities and Leads assigned to this user is presented as well, with some graphical information to help the user focus on accounts and opportunities of importance. To navigate to the data behind a given dashboard component, the user can click the middle icon in the component as shown below.
Figure 7 – Snapping out a dashboard component
Clicking on this icon will present the graphic from the component, along with the underlying data that makes up the graphic, in the form of a view. Figure 8 – A dashboard component snapped out with the underlying view
The graphic can be used to filter the view. For instance, clicking on any element of the component, such as the blue part of the funnel above, would present only the opportunities that are in the stage “Qualify.” It’s important to understand that both the Chart Selector and the View Selector can be used to change the chart and view. This provides a wide array of visualizations, all of which are filterable through interaction. Considering the fact that many different types of charts can be created against any number of views, and you can see that dashboard navigation can be far more efficient than hunting for a single record using common navigational features.