Ultimate Guide to Unified Interface

Microsoft’s intention behind the Unified Interface, was to bring a feeling of consistency to their bundle of customer relationship management applications available in of Dynamics 365. These applications, from a licensing point-of-view, were referred to as the Customer Engagement plan or bundle and included Sales, Marketing, Customer Service and Project Service Automation. Today, customers can license these applications individually with a ‘per app’ license. Microsoft announced the deprecation of the legacy web version of Dynamics 365, and it’s a good idea for your organization to be planning for this transition. In this post, I’ll provide an all-encompassing rundown of Unified Interface, including the new features and benefits it offers, the applications that come with it, and how to transition your team to the new interface.  

Caroline Mayou

Caroline Mayou

Introduction to Unified Interface

Note: This blog post was last updated on September 30th, 2020. 

Dynamics 365 Home Unified Interface applications

What the Ultimate Interface Guide Covers

What is Unified Interface and why does it matter now?

The Unified Interface is most fundamentally explained as the continuation of what you’ve referred to as the Customer Engagement applications. The Dynamics 365 legacy deprecation that was announced in September of 2019 is Microsoft’s way of pushing people to the cloud. Unified Interface applications that have been released so far include CRM Hub, Sales Hub, which are both Dynamics 365 Sales based applications. Customer Service Hub was also introduced as a child of Dynamics 365 Customer Service. Microsoft will continue to introduce applications build with Unified Interface and has announced that this is their future.  

The Unified Interface offers a much more user-friendly experience for existing and new Dynamics 365 users. It uses responsive web design to harmonize the way users access data and interfaces with Customer Engagement applications and features. The most important feature of the Unified Interface is that it allows users to access the sales, marketing, customer service and field service applications from anywhere and across all devices.  

So why should your organization suddenly be concerned with Unified Interface? As mentioned above, Microsoft deprecated the legacy version of Dynamics 365 CRM in September of last year. Microsoft also announced that companies should be using Unified Interface only before October 1st, 2020 (pushed to December 2020 as part of April 2020 announcements). Moving to the Unified Interface will impact businesses that are not prepared with a transition plan.  This guide can help your team better understand system requirements, resource planning, time allocation and user-adoption for your transition to Unified Interface.  

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Unified Interface and Dynamics 365

Currently, unless you’ve already taken the steps to transition to the Unified Interface, your legacy ‘Dynamics 365-custom’ application will still be visible. You can remove this and show only the new model-driven apps (I.e. Sales Hub, Customer Service Hub, Field Service Hub, Team Member applications, etc.) 

Come October 2020, you should have a goal of 100% user-adoption of the new model-driven apps and stop working out of the legacy version application completely. 

How to plan for Unified Interface Deployment

Whether you write the plan alone, or with a partner, it’s important to be aware of the different steps needed before deploying a transition to the Unified Interface. I will outline a few of the items Microsoft encourages organizations to consider before beginning a deployment process:  

Step 1: Complete Environment Discovery

Having an idea and visual of your organization’s environment is essential to the rest of the activities we will go through. If you already have an understanding the number of users, groups, teams and the business units in your environment, great. If not, work on identifying those data points- specifically the data points or ‘entities’ that you would like to bring into the Model Driven Apps (Sales Hub, Customer Service Hub, etc.) I encourage you to work with your Dynamics 365 partner to identify your current data storage limitations and requirements. At the end of this stage, create a business requirements analysis to go over your expectations for a service level agreement (SLA). Make sure to be specific about your security and privacy policies. An environment discovery should take quite a bit of time if done thoroughly. Understand that this analysis will guide any future steps you take in trasitioning to Unified Interface. Refer to this question set, for a list of considerations during this stage.  

Environment Discovery considerations

  • Is there enough overlap in between customers and contacts across business units to be able to work in the same data?  
  • Is the existing security policy in place sufficient? 
  • Are there any areas of a Model-Driven App that need additional security modifications? 
  • Can you scale the current security model you have in place if the business were to grow? 

Step 2: Review security roles

Unified Interface reflects inside of model-driven apps built on the Microsoft power platform. Though model-driven applications are built in the same environment and using the same CDS, the applications in Dynamics 365 (so not Power Apps) use role-based security. The base-level security room I recommend using and copying is ‘Common Data Service User’. This security role gives the user access to model driven apps, but no sales or customer service related entities, leaving it neutral and open to creating department specific security roles.  

It is also important to note the addition of several other new security roles that come with Unified Interface model-driven apps. I mention this because of the most common issues with transitioning to the Unified Interface, is users not having proper access to the model-driven applications. Remember that a model-driven app is a separate application. This means that your old security roles can’t simply be modified, because every user that has that security role will be granted access to the applications.

These news ‘app-access’ security roles, help conquer this obstacle. For example, a user with the new security role ‘Field Service App Access’ will have access to the Field Service model driven app that has Unified Interface. Following the same example,  a user with ‘Sales, Enteprise App Access’ would have access to the Sales Hub and/or CRM Hub model-driven applications. 

It is also important to remember that app access and data access are two different things that should be kept separate when configuring security. Just because a user is granted app access, does not mean that they have been given access to data points. 

Step 3: Find system-adoption leaders

Decide on a group of users in your organization that will help move the migration or transition along. These users should be exemplary feature users, and should know the benefits of the system well. When it comes to user adoption, studies show that indicating key influencers in your industry can help drive ideas forward.  

Step 4: Create a Sandbox environment

Note: If you are currently working with a Microsoft partner, please inquire about transitioning to Unified Interface before creating a SandBox environment of your own.  

If you currently have an existing test environment, make sure you deploy the Unified Interface inside of it first, before taking it to your production environment. One of you have moved your Sandbox to Unified Interface only, explore the applications and relate the new features to your organization’s day-to-day operations. In this stage, try to identify functional gaps that could block your users from adopting the new interface. For example, you may find that Sales is divided into a ‘Pre Sales’ and ‘Sales’ phase. In one phase, sales representatives are manually entering leads from a tradeshow and qualifying them. Once the lead has been qualified (presales) and becomes a contact, a member of the sales team contacts the individual (the sales phase). You could conclude that in this example, the users in question could benefit from having two separate model-driven applications, for each part of the sales process. The goal here isn’t to over-complicate. Instead, it’s to simplify processes and drive collaboration in the organization.  

By testing functionalities in the system, you’ll be able to find error patterns that call for re-working. For example, when transitioning our own environment to the cloud, I found that a work flow running on the case entity was bugging because of a mis-assigned security group. This was disrupting users and not allowing them to assign and/or save records. The sooner you can identify these errors, the sooner you can resolve them and ensure they don’t happen after go-live.  

Step 5: Re-work the applications while monitoring use

If you find that users aren’t using areas of an application, remove them. You can also use this time to rework any integrations or compatibility issues across the system. If you have design decisions that date back to the legacy version and you find them to no longer function, make sure to review and update them. You should also make sure to review your application design changes across the different devices used in your organization.  

During the environment discovery, we reviewed our organizational goals. Using the metrics that support your goal, look over and try to begin to measure the business impact of the changes you’ve made when transitioning to Unified Interface. For example, if your goal is around user adoption, you could use sessions per user as a metric to monitor. I made a note of our organization goals by defined goal and by metric in an excel sheet. I will be monitoring metrics for each goal at 30-60-90 days and re-evaluate form design from there. The beauty of model-driven apps is the ability to change the application with little time and effort.  

Step 6: Release management

In this stage, you’ll decide on how to introduce Unified Interface to your organization and users and build a release plan. During this phase, you may want to consider: 

  • Releasing Unified Interface by role or department to help with user adoption 
  • Remove the legacy web client access once each user has been trained. Remember that both the legacy app and Unified Interface applications can run in parallel but it is not an optimal long term solution (in terms of user adoption) After October 20th, 2020, your users will need to be fluent in the use of Unified Interface when the legacy Dynamics 365-custom application disappears.  
  • Continue providing ongoing updates and testing new features in the sandbox environment 

Define Unified Interface system requirements

Unified Interface (model-driven apps), can be accessed using web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, or Apple Safari. Users can also work in model-driven apps through their mobile by using a browser on the mobile device or by using the application ‘Dynamics 365 for phones’Make sure that your team’s desktop and mobile-device browsers and apps are up-to-date 

You can leverage the capabilities of your favorite Office applications inside of model-driven apps. If your organization is aiming for full Office 365 integration with Dynamics 365, you’ll need the Office 365 Enterprise E3 license or later. PSTN calling and conferencing both require the Office 365 Enterprise E5 license.  

Driving Unified Interface user adoption

The key driver to successful user adoption, is how changes are presented to users in an organization. If you’re currently using Dynamics 365, your users currently have access to the Unified Interface. For example, Dynamics 365 Marketing already uses the Unified Interface as its default. However, some applications, like Dynamics 365 Sales, have both the original (legacy) web interface available. New application will always use the Unified Interface, so it’s important to let your users know that this design is the new standard.

Just like Dynamics 365 is built utilizing a Common Data Service, the Unified Interface applications also use a CDS. The applications are model-driven applications built on PowerApps. The applications share a CDS for their data storage. Unified Interface is just the name of the design and interaction across all access points and devices.

Unified Interface Licensing

There are several ways of approaching licensing as it relates to model-driven apps and Unified Interface. It’s important to note that a user can gain access to the Power Apps service through the assignment of an Office 365 and Dynamics 365 plan that includes Power Apps service. It is also important to note that Administrators and Makers do not need a Dynamics 365 license. You could, for example, have a PowerApps per user license and be a maker of Dynamics 365 apps, as long as a user in your environment has a Dynamics 365 application license. 

To access SalesHub and CRM Hub, you would need a Sales application license, as these model-driven apps are based on the Sales application. The same logic extends to the Customer Service Hub where a Customer Service application license is needed. A Dynamics 365 Sales application license comes with access to PowerApps, and as mentioned, access to the model-driven apps discussed in this guide. According to Microsoft’s February 2020 Dynamics 365 Licensing Guide, as long as as you are operating in the same environment that contains the Dynamics 365 Application License, the following supports the Dynamics 365 Enterprise Applications Licenses: 

Team Member Licensing Changes April 2020

The limits that come along with Team Member licensing have shifted over the last year. For example, in the last year, Team Member licenses were revoked write privileges to the account entity. Today, Microsoft has announced that Team Member licenses are going to be enforced starting April 2020. So what does this all mean? Well, new security roles are being deployed, and application access must be decided on. 

Let’s start with the new role titled ‘Sales Team Member’. This role includes the core entities sales reps should have access to like Contacts, Activities, Accounts, Notes, etc. The major entities have read only access. I believe only activities and notes and write. This role will be enforced. 

The second part to these changes is that Microsoft will also be enforcing the Team Member apps. There is a Customer Service Team member app and a Sales Team Member app. These may look similar to the model-driven apps we covered previously, like Sales Hub or Customer Service Hub, but they are very different. The most obvious difference, is the access level. 

In terms of actions you can take, Microsoft recommends that you grant your “Team Member License” users access to ONE of the TWO applications, and pair it with the relative security role. Remember to add any customer entities you may have to both the security role and the application, or your users will not have access. If you need to grant your ‘Team Member License’ users access to more than 15 custom entities, change the license to a PowerApps license.

Remember that the Team Member license is reserved for users who need limited access to a system in order to get their job done. This could be someone who spends 90% of their time working in Sales but may need to also monitor the support services for the account they manage. This user could be given a Team Member App license. 

PowerApps Per App Licensing

‘PowerApps Per App’ licensing was a concept introduced by Microsoft in July of 2019. The PowerApps Per App license solved the customer issue of paying for apps they didn’t need. For example, one could have a Customer Engagement Plan license and not use the Field Service application. With a Power Apps Per App plan, a user can run two applications in Power Apps for $10/user/app/month. This license is extremely helpful for companies who have just begun using PowerApps. The company can grant licenses to users as they deploy applications in PowerApps. This also works well for users who don’t need access to first party apps and restricted entities.

PowerApps Per User Licensing

The ‘PowerApps Per User’ plan is an alternative Power Apps plan that lets users run unlimited applications based on PowerApps for $40/user/month. 

Unified Interface Frequently Asked Questions

1). Do ISV partners know and are they compatible?

ISV partners were notified of the transition to Unified Interface when it was announced in September of 2019. To make sure that your ISV is compatible, please contact them directly. If not currently compatible, ISV’s should be able to provide you with a timeline regarding their Unified Interface compatibility.

2). Will I have to re-train my entire team?

One of the key selling-points for transitioning to the Unified Interface is the minimal retraining involved. All of your customized business logic will transfer over and remain unchanged. The biggest push in terms of retraining will be around some of the new features available, including the new navigation, and the over-all look and feel of the revamped interface. If during the transition your organization chooses to retract or add functionalities, your team may require further training to adopt these new features. 

3). Will customizations transfer to Unified Interface?

In short, yes. Your organization won’t have to re-build any customizations. You may however, find yourself inspired to make changes to your existing customizations once you see some of the new features available in Unified Interface. 

4). What if I’m a current On-Premise customer looking to move to the cloud? 

If you are a current On Premise customer looking to move to the cloud, it is imperative that you plan your transition to Unified Interface while migrating to the cloud. If you complete the transition and migration simultaneously, your users will have a better shot at adopting the new features UI has to offer. For more information on incorporating a transition to Unified Interface in your cloud migration, please speak to a member of our team

5). When should I make the transition to Unified Interface?

Most existing Customer Engagement customers have already made the switch to Unified Interface in their production environment. Per the Unified Interface Playbook that Microsoft published, it is encouraged to first test in a sandbox environment before moving to production. If you have not started the transition, we recommend drawing out a plan for your move right away. 

6). Is the Dynamics 365 legacy deadline a fixed date or will it move again?

Dynamics 365 will move away from the legacy web client by December 1, 2020. This date was extended due to COVID-19 and the delays it caused in businesses. Avantiico recommends running testing as soon as possible in order to understand the effort this will mean for your company. Contact Avantiico today to help you create a plan for the move to Unified Interface. 


7). What happens if I don’t move my environment to Unified Interface in time?

If you don’t take part in the recommended testing and move to Unified Interface and continue to use the legacy web client, Microsoft will automatically transition the environment to Unified Interface after December 1st, 2020. They will run this process by geographic location like they have traditionally done with update cycles. Microsoft will send an email with the tenant transition date. There should be no downtime during the transition process. 

Dynamics 365 Unified Interface Known Issues

At this point, most companies have transitioned to Unified Interface in their production environments. Of those who have, many have shared some of the obstacles or issues they have come across in Unified Interface. If your organization has not yet enabled Unified Interface Only mode, you can refer to this list in preparation of your transition, to identify which components may be at risk of breaking, which are no longer available, and how you will address this in your plan.

Steps to Transitioning to Unified Interface
Steps to transitioning to Unified Interface as outlined in Microsoft's Playbook

Deprecation of Web Client Application (Legacy Version)

The most obvious obstacle in the transition to Unified Interface is the eventual deprecation of the legacy web client version of the Dynamics 365 App (listed as custom in the system by default). Most of your users are used to working out of this application. The biggest training gap will be helping users identify where the features they use on a day-to-day basis now live. Most of this seems obvious (i.e. cases live in Customer Service Hub and opportunities live in Sales hub), but some may have trouble deciphering entity locations without the legacy app. 

Concept of Entitlements In Customer Service

In 2017 Microsoft announced the deprecation of the Contracts entities. A new entity called Entitlements has appeared in an effort to provide more control over the type and amount of support a customer is entitled to receive. The Entitlements entity replaces Contracts, Contract Line Items and Contract Templates inside of Dynamics 365 Customer Service. The new entity can track dates a customer is entitled to support, as well as capacity (i.e. you could stipulate a max number of cases handled or max support time). In 2019 the Contracts entity was still available and many are continuing to use Contracts to track their customer agreements. It’s important to note that the legacy Contracts entity is not available and not supported in Unified Interface. 

To migrate your organization’s use of entities (Contracts to Entitlements), you’ll need to configure your fields, custom views, existing workflows, business rules, and reports as needed. Once this is complete, you’ll be able to migrate your data to the new entity. 

Unable to Create Entities In Unified Interface

When I moved our own organization to Unified Interface, one of the first feedback points I heard from users was the inability to create a case. Minor issues right? *sarcasm* It turns out this wasn’t an issue with the Cases entity itself. It was actually a problem with several of the entities. Because Unified Interface was introduced for tablets and mobile devices, the entity needed to be enabled for mobile (Originally set as read only for mobile). Once enabled, my users were able to create entities without issue. 

You’ll want to click on the gear icon, select ‘Advanced Settings’ and then select Customizations. From there, you’ll click on Customize the System. The legacy solution explorer will open and under ‘Components’, you’ll expand ‘Entities’ and then find the specific entity that is appearing as read-only (or not letting you create on). On the general tab of that entity, under ‘Outlook & Mobile’, un-check the box that says ‘Read-only in mobile’. 

Can't Access Settings Because of Deprecated Legacy App

When you make the transition to the Unified Interface Only mode you’ll notice that the legacy application is no longer available. So how do you get to settings? Most of your settings will be available in the Power Platform Admin Center or the Dynamics 365 admin center. You can also click the gear icon and click ‘Advanced Settings’ to see the settings area in the classic UI rendering. 

Sales Pipeline Chart ordering is different in Unified Interface

In the legacy web client, the sales pipeline chart is displaying by using the value of the associated category option. In Unified Interface, the stages are displayed alphabetically. Since the pipeline phases are prefixed with whatever order is defined in the Stage Category option set, the pipeline displays according to the category option sequence (i.e. 1, 2, etc.)

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