Monthly Archives: October 2019

Readonly = impression, FieldSecurity = impression + access restrictions, Plugins = controlled changes

 

Why is it not enough to make a field readonly on the form if you want to secure your data from unintended changes?

Because there are at least 2 simple ways to unlock such fields:

1. Level up extension from Natraj Yegnaraman

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/level-up-for-dynamics-crm/bjnkkhimoaclnddigpphpgkfgeggokam

Here is how read-only fields look before you apply “God Mode”:

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Then I apply the “God Mode”:

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And I can happily update my read-only field:

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Which is absolutely awesome when I am a system administrator trying to quickly fix some data in the system, but it can become a nightmare from the data consistency standpoint if I am either not a system administrator or if, even as a system administrator, I am not really supposed to do those things.

2. When in the grid view, you can use “Open in Excel Online” option

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“Read-only” is how you mark fields on the forms, not what really applies to the server side/excel/etc. So, once you’ve updated the records in excel, you can just save the changes:

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Of course you can also export/import, but “online” is the quickest in that sense.

What about the field-level security, though?

It does help when the user in question is not a system admin:

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-platform/admin/field-level-security

“Record-level permissions are granted at the entity level, but you may have certain fields associated with an entity that contain data that is more sensitive than the other fields. For these situations, you use field level security to control access to specific fields.”

Is that good enough? This is certainly better, but it does not help with the opportunist system admins who just want to deal with the immediate data entry problem. They will still have access to all the fields.

Is there a way to actually control those changes?

Well, strictly speaking you can’t beat a system admin in this game. However, you might create a synchronous plugin, or, possibly, a real0time workflow to run on update of some entities and to raise errors whenever a user is not supposed to modify certain data.

Would it help all the time? To some extent – a system admin can just go into the environment and disable a plugin. Of course that’s a little more involved, and that’s the kind of intervention not every system admin would be willing to do, but still. However, for the most critical data you could, at least, use this method to notify the system administrator why updating such fields would not be desirable. Which is, often, part of the problem – if there is a read-only field and no explanations of why it is read-only, then… why not to unlock it, right? But, if a plugin throws an error after that with some extra details, even the system admin might decide not to proceed. Technically, you might also use a real-time workflow for this(just stop a real-time workflow with “cancelled” status), but it might be difficult/impossible to verify conditions properly in the workflow.

Anyway, those are the options, and, of course, in terms of complexity, making a field read-only would be the easiest but it would also be the least restrictive. Using field level security would be more involved but would restrict data access for anyone but for the system administrators. Plugins might give even more control, but that would certainly be development.

Trying out Microsoft bot technologies

 

I got a little different idea for the month of October, and it is not directly related to the PowerApps development, but it depends on what I can do with the bots. So, naturally, I’ve been trying Bot Framework, Virtual Agent, and may need to try Virtual Assistant samples.

If this interests you, carry on readingSmile

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First of all, Bot Framework is in the core of any “agent/assistant/bot” technology from Microsoft. However, the way I see it:

  • Bot Framework is the underlying technology
  • Virtual Agent is a self-driving vehicle
  • Virtual Assistant is a Formula 1 car

And, of course, you can always develop your own bot from scratch directly on top of the Bot Framework.

Either way, let’s talk about the Virtual Agent in this post.

First of all, Virtual Agent is a Dynamics/PowerApps-connected technology. You can easily utilize Microsoft Flow directly from the Virtual Agent (but you can’t do much more in terms of “development”… which is how PowerPlatform often is – it’s a “low code”/”no code” platform in many cases)

Then, it’s in a preview. Don’t start posting questions to the community forum in the first 10 minutes after you’ve created a trial through the link below:

https://dynamics.microsoft.com/en-us/ai/virtual-agent-for-customer-service/

Wait till you see the confirmation:

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Until then, you will see what can probably be described as “deployment work in progress” – some areas will be working, but others won’t. For example, all the buttons to create new topics or new bots will be greyed out and unavailable.

Either way, here is what I wanted to make my virtual agent do:

  • Wake up – easy to do, just need to define some trigger phrases. That said, the agent does not seem to recognize a trigger phrase if it’s even slightly different
  • Greet the visitor – not a problem, it’s just something the bot needs to say
  • Take the answer and get the name

 

This last ones seems simple, but it actually requires a Flow. The user might say “I am…”, “My name is…”, etc. However, all I can do in the agent designer is take that answer into a variable and use “is equal to” condition in the expressions:

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Which is not quite what I need since I’d rather knew the visitor name. Hence, I need to call a Flow through what is called an “action” in the Virtual Agent to try to parse the answer. Actually, there is a demo of a similar Flow here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joXCzvi38Fo&feature=youtu.be

That’s overly simplified, though, since I need to parse the user response to remove “I am…”, “My name is…”, etc.

This is where I quickly found out that error reporting between Flows and Virtual Agent may still need some work because, once I had my Flow created and added as an action to the bot, I started to get this:

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If I could only see what’s wrong somehow? Apparently, the Flow was running ok:

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Turned out that was just a matter of forming HTTP response incorrectly in the Flow:

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The agent was expecting “VisitorName” since that’s how the parameter was named in the schema, but the flow was returning “Name” instead. In the absence of detailed error reporting it’s always the simplest stuff that you verify last, so took me a while to figure it out – was a quick fix after that.

In the end, it was not too complicated, and, apparently, this relative simplicity is why we’d want to use a Virtual Agent:

 

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From there, if I wanted this agent to run on my own web site, there is an iframe deployment option. Basically, as I mentioned before, this is all in line with the low-code/no-code approach.

And, because of the Flow integration(which, in turn, can connect to just about anything), the possibilities there are just mind-blowing. We can use a virtual agent to:

  • Confirm site visitor identity by comparing some info with what’s stored in Dynamics/PowerApps
  • Help site visitors open a support ticket
  • Provide an update on their support tickets
  • Surface knowledge base articles from Dynamics
  • Help them navigate through the phone directory
  • Search for the special offers
  • Etc etc

Besides, there is a Flow connector for LUIS, and I could probably add intent recognition and do other cool stuff using Flows:

https://flow.microsoft.com/en-US/connectors/shared_luis/luis/

 

I would definitely stick to trying it more, but I really wanted to integrate my bot with speech services, and, since this feature is not available yet (as per this thread: https://community.dynamics.com/365/virtual-agent-for-customer-service/f/dynamics-365-virtual-agent-for-customer-service-forum/358349/does-dynamics-365-virtual-agent-for-ce-support-voice-bot), will be moving on to the Bot Framework and Virtual Assistant for now.

Which means leaving the familiar PowerPlatform domain. Let’s see what’s out there in the following posts…

 

Lookups behavior in Wave 2 – recent items, wildcard search, magnifying glass button, etc

 

I am wondering how many of us have missed this post:

“Preview for usability enhancements to lookups in Unified Interface”

https://powerapps.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/preview-for-usability-enhancements-to-lookups-in-unified-interface/

I certainly did. So, to summarize, here is what’s happening now when you are clicking that magnifying glass button in the lookup field:

  • If “recent list” is enabled for the lookup, you will see recent items only
  • If “recent list” has been disabled through the configuration, you will see nothing (there will still be “new <record>” link though)
  • If you try typing “*” and clicking the magnifying glass after that, you will get nothing as well (there seem to be a bug when using “*” on its own)

 

If you wanted to bring up the list of records (not the “recent” records), there seem to be two options:

  • When in the lookup field, while it is still empty, push “enter” button
  • OR enter some text to search for and push “enter” or click the magnifying glass button(for example, “T*123” would work fine… as long as it’s not just “*”)