The Microsoft Dynamics 365 Basic Glossary

As a way to bridge the gap between the business and technical side of things, we offer this glossary of terms for the organizations that will be working to deploy Microsoft Dynamics 365. It’s important to have a common set of understood terms when working with an in-house technical team, or a Microsoft Dynamics 365 consultant to deploy your custom solution.

Why?  Because confusion can arise when one person’s “entity” is another’s “table” in a database – as one simple example. If you have any suggestions of important terms we missed that would be useful in this context, please feel free to add to the comments section of this post!

  • Module – a module in this system is a grouping of functionality and is visually expressed as a tile in the navigation. For instance, the “Sales” module consists of a number of “entities,” that support Sales functionality, such as the Lead, Opportunity, Quote and Order entities.
  • Entity – an entity in this system is a type of data and can also be thought of as a table in the database, for the more technical. Examples of entities are Lead, Contact, Account, Opportunity, Case – and many others.  Generally, entities are provided with a tile in the navigation, and clicking on the tile provides a default “view” of records.
  • View – a view is a list of records, with columns, of a certain type (an entity). Each entity in the system has a default view, but there can be many views, including personal, custom views. Since views are lists of data the definition of the view is the filtering criteria. Example of views:
    • “My Contacts” – all of the contacts in the system that are active and owned by the current user
    • “Active Leads” – all leads in the system that where Status = Active
    • “Inactive Accounts” – all accounts in the system where Status = Inactive
  • Record – a record is a single instance of an entity. For example, if you have a person in your database named Phil Collins, the “record” of Phil Collins would be found by clicking on Contacts, and then selecting the row in the view with the name Phil Collins.  All of the information in the all of the fields on the Phil Collins record make up that record.
  • Field – a field is a single piece of information about an entity. Fields have “types”, such a “text”, “whole number”, and “date” to name just a few. A typical field is “First Name” for a person. It’s important to understand types of fields, since data integrity and reporting rely heavily on correct types of fields.
  • Form – a form is the screen of a single entity record. When you click on the name of a record, or anywhere in the light blue row of a record in a view, the screen changes to show the form of the record, which contains all of the fields on the form. It should be understood that fields can exist in the database and can be searched on, but not appear on a form.
  • Advanced Find – the ad-hoc query system in Microsoft Dynamics 365 is known as “Advanced Find” and allows the user to find data based on criteria directly on an entity as well as related to an entity. The results of the query can be saved as a view and can also be easily exported to Excel. It’s also possible to add columns from related entities to the output of the view, providing the relationship to the entity is “N:1”
  • Report – there are several reporting options in Microsoft Dynamics 365 – there is the Report Wizard, which allows users to create summarizing and grouping reports, there is an API which allows SQL Service Reporting Services reports to be created using FetchXML, and there are Power BI reports and dashboards that can be created. In addition, it’s possible to use modern versions of Excel which support Power Query and Power Pivot, along with “OData” authentication to visualize data from Microsoft Dynamics 365.
  • Workflow – in Microsoft Dynamics 365, there is a Process feature which allows for the use of a “workflow” engine to automate processes in the system, generally based on changing data. Workflows are used in this way to create automatic notifications based on created or changing data, as well as the updating and creation of entity records to streamline operations.
  • Business Process – with the Process feature, there is also the ability to create visual, chevron-based “Business Process Flows” at the top of entities. The default state of the application provides one at the top of the Lead and Case entities. These business process flows can be created and edited freely to support specific data-driven business processes.
  • Activities – in Microsoft Dynamics 365, activities refer to a specific type of entity which generally features a start date/time, end date/time, and which appear in special Activity Menus throughout the system. The most common Activity type entities are Task, Phone Call, Appointment, Email, and Service Activity, although there are more, and it’s also possible to create completely custom Activity type entities.
  • Specific Entity Definitions – there are a few entities that are key to the system, but which have names that may not work across all industries. The good news is that you can change the name of almost all entities if you need to, as well as specific messages in the system that refer to them. Here are the most common entities as they are named by default:
    • Contact – used to track a Person.
    • Account – used to track an Organization.
    • Lead – used to track a potential Customer (Contact or Account)
    • Opportunity – a time-based (when?), revenue based (how much?) representation of potential business with a Customer.
    • Case – a service request, ticket for a Customer.
    • Quote, Order, Invoice – three separate entities that represent the stages in the sales process, and which contain revenue numbers.
    • Product/Price List Item – an item or service for sale, with a price.