The latest version of Excel contains a Get External Data menu option for linking the workbook to an OData data feed. Knowing that Dynamics CRM 2011 and 2013 both provide an OData endpoint, this would seem like a great option for retrieving data from a CRM Online based system for reporting purposes, since direct database connections aren’t available in the cloud. Unfortunately, if you try to enter the CRM Online OData URL as a feed link, you’ll get this error message:
“We can’t use the data from this feed.” Bummer. The reason behind the error messages is that Excel and PowerPivot have not been able to support the authentication mechanism required for accessing the CRM Online OData feed. There is a workaround that you could apply if you’ve got the CRM Outlook client installed on the same machine, as described in this video by Ed Martinez, but in general using PowerPivot for CRM Online reporting has been quite restricted.
Power BI December 2013 Update
Last summer Microsoft announced the preview program for Power BI, their cloud based business intelligence suite, containing tools for publishing reports in Office 365. The Power BI umbrella also covers client side components, including Power Pivot (now spelled as two separate words apparently) and Power Query, that bring new capabilities to Excel. To get an understanding of the features included or under development, I encourage you to watch this Power BI demo from WPC 2013, which definitely deserves the Coolest Tech Demo of 2013 trophy if you ask me.
The latest December 2013 Update for Power BI announcement mentions the following enhancements:
“Power Query can now connect to more data sources:
- Sybase IQ
- Dynamics CRM Online“
Hey, that last part sounds great! So, what does it mean in practice for us CRM people? Well, the Power BI Preview subscription still doesn’t provide the option to provision a CRM Online instance for the same Office 365 instance, so there’s not that much new things visible on the cloud side yet if you spin up a preview org. On the client side, however, there is now an updated version of Power Query Preview for Excel 2013 that gives us the possibility to finally connect to a CRM Online OData feed directly. Let’s explore that in more detail. [Read more…]