If you manage, create or simply maintain Dynamics 365 solutions, whether in the cloud or on-premises, read on. This post will transform the way you design and architect these applications.
Dynamics 365 is a powerful CRM/ERP product from Microsoft, and one that many people use regularly. We're going to cover three main areas where you'll be able to unlock significant improvements when working with Dynamics 365:
• Productivity Gains
• Risk Mitigation
It is cumbersome, slow and expensive to manage complex business decisions (rules and policy) when they are directly coded into the applications. That’s because business analysts cannot author them and, as importantly, cannot update them when rules change, however trivial the change is. For example, in a loan approval process, adding new ceilings at which a loan approval requires different levels of approval.
Recognizing this limitation, Progress Corticon, a no-code business rules system, enables business experts, not coders, to create, automate and maintain business decisions thanks to its model-driven rules development capabilities.
With Corticon, Dynamics 365 programmers simply integrate by calling REST decision services and acting on the results, without having to understand how the business rules came to that conclusion. For example, sending an email to confirm approval of the loan, however complex the decision was to decide on the approval.
This will simplify your projects as you are now able to remove hard-to-maintain code or not write that code in Dynamics 365 in the first place.
Now your business specialists can quickly maintain rules and add new ones. There is no long turnaround time. You also avoid “lost in translation” misunderstandings of the requirements between business specialists and coders.
In addition, you are now capable of authoring, testing and delivering your business rules without prior integration to Microsoft Dynamics. In other words, you can start your business rules implementation and testing immediately and work towards full system integration at a later stage.
Risk Mitigation for the Business
Since these decision services are all managed in a single place, you will now be able to easily share business decision logic with all applications across the enterprise, thus getting more agility and better separation of concerns.
Rules are put under Business Control
There are additional benefits with this separation of concerns that we are seeing at quite a few of our customers when the development is outsourced to a provider. As the rules are centralized in a single repository and developed, documented and tested by the business independently of the provider, it becomes much easier to switch to another development provider for additional cost reductions because:
• The amount of code that has to be transitioned is greatly reduced.
• The remaining code is easier to transition and understand by Dynamics 365 software developers as it deals with integration and is Dynamics 365 specific.
How is all This Possible?
Many of these benefits have been possible with previous releases of Corticon, however with the Corticon 6.1 release, we optimized many aspects of the integration capabilities with Dynamics. In particular, we now have a unique and very innovative full CRUD no-code data access from the decision service to MS Dynamics 365 to completely enable business specialists to own rules and policies.
So, what magic did we come up with to allow no-code access to Dynamics 365 data from rules?
In a nutshell, we have added:
1. A driver to connect to Dynamics 365
2. A tool to automatically create the data model (Vocabulary) out of Dynamics 365 entities and attributes
The new driver uses the Dynamics 365 Common Data Service Web API. It’s an API based on OData that implements all CRUD operations, allowing you to query data as well as update data directly from rules execution.
• MS Dynamics 365 on-premises and in the cloud
• Both NTLM and OAuth authentication (NTLM is commonly used with Dynamics on-premises)
The net benefit is to make Dynamics 365 data available like any other data source in Corticon with just point and click configuration and absolutely no coding for connecting, querying or updating data. This makes the business expert productive right away, without requiring new training or new knowledge.
Although integration is still realized by making REST calls, it is now entirely up to the rules to decide what additional data are needed for processing and what data need to be updated. This truly enables a simple service contract between the business analyst and the Dynamics 365 programmer — it is one of a service where the REST call simply returns the result of the decision service after complex decision-making process (decision services typically implement hundreds to thousands of rules and require access to enormous amounts of data in order to compute an outcome). For example, whether the loan is approved is a simple outcome. And in this example, the programmer might just have to update the UI showing a green light.
Additionally, in Corticon 6.1, we have added a tool to automatically create the data model (vocabulary) from various data sources.
This makes it a trivial operation to expose the proper entities and their fields to the business expert writing the rules. This again boosts your productivity as you will very easily be able to access the many Dynamics 365 entities and attributes (at last count, a basic install has 423 entities and the Contacts entity contains 232 attributes!).
The Cost of Manually Coding Everything
In conclusion, when creating or customizing Dynamics 365 applications, it can be tempting to write all the business logic in code. However, you will soon find out that the code is expensive to write and to maintain because business decision services implement hundreds or sometimes thousands of rules. Also, you will find out that the requests for changing this code accumulate faster than the programmers can handle and sometimes these requests are misunderstood, creating additional delays and frustration.
Now, thanks to Corticon, the only no-code business rules management system on the market for integrating with Dynamics 365, you can enable business specialists to directly author and maintain these business rules, giving you a boost in productivity as well as improved agility, and freeing your programmers for more important tasks. Feedback from customers indicates the rule development cycle is reduced by up to 90%, resulting in saving thousands of programming hours.
As business specialists can quickly maintain rules, you get better customer satisfaction.
Thierry Ciot is Software Architect at Progress on the Corticon Business Rule Management System.
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