Around one year ago Microsoft introduced the capability to access CRM Online data via Power Query, one of the client side components of the Power BI suite. More precisely, the capability to authenticate with the already existing CRM OData feeds via Office 365 credentials was introduced into PQ, which then allowed us to use CRM Online as one data source in our Power Pivot data models driving Power View visualizations. No Dynamics CRM specific feature had really been developed, but it was the first step on the road of unlocking the cloud data from the analysis limitations that the previous tools (CRM charts & dashboards, SQL Server Reporting Services reports with Fetch XML queries) had imposed on CRM Online customers.
There was a lot left to be desired still. Building reports from the raw OData feeds can be a cumbersome process, since no built-in tools existed for filtering the amount of data pulled from the entity tables. Also, not all the components needed in basic reports, such as optionset labels, were available to be retrieved dynamically from the OData feed. The biggest gap, however, has been the inability to automatically refresh the reports published onto Power BI portal, which means that each report end users would have needed to perform this refresh manually. As a result, Power BI has so far not been a something that I would have suggested to CRM Online customers as a company wide reporting solution, since it’s mainly been suitable for fairly advanced CRM power users building their own reports via Excel 2013.
The Next Generation of Power BI
Just before Christmas Microsoft announced the new Power BI Public Preview, which has a number of impressive looking enhancements to the service offering:
- Power BI Dashboards
- Power BI Designer application
- Apps for iPad and iPhone
- On-premises SQL Server Analysis Services support
Include in this announcement was also the statement: “In addition to the existing seamless connection with Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, with today’s release customers can also connect to their data in Salesforce, Zendesk, Marketo, SendGrid, and GitHub with many more to come in the months ahead.” Upon first read, it was easy to interpret it as “nothing new for you Dynamics CRM folks out there right now, better luck in the next update!” This, however, isn’t the case.
When browsing through the new support site for Power BI I came across a posted idea on supporting Dynamics CRM as a data source, and a very recent comment from a Power BI product manager that the new Public Preview actually included native support for Dynamics CRM. Here’s the article where you can find the exact steps needed for connecting your Power BI Preview instance to Dynamics CRM. As this Preview is only available in the US for now, I decided to spin up a new CRM Online trial org from across the pond and try it out.
What’s in Store for Dynamics CRM Cloud BI?
After going through the process of enrolling for the Power BI Public Preview program with my Office 365 US trial tenant, I completed the steps for connecting to CRM Online. This really is quite a simple process with not too many options. You only have to dig up the OData feed URL from your CRM Online instance. After you’ve added this Microsoft Dynamics CRM app into your Power BI environment, the data retrieval process will start uploading your CRM Online records from one cloud to another. [Read more…]