Understanding How the Common Data Service, Power Platform and ClickDimensions Connect
At the core of every platform and system is data. How that data is modeled, stored, accessed and utilized is key to a successful application. It is vital that all applications can speak to each other in the same language, that there is some logic there to ensure proper communication and that a layer of security is implemented to ensure the data is accessed accordingly.
When the Microsoft Power Platform was built, these key necessities were top of mind and with the introduction of the Common Data Service (CDS), business applications have taken that next step into the future.
Let’s take a closer look at the data layer that is the backbone of the Power Platform. It would be easy to think of the Common Data Service as just a relational database, but it actually consists of three components: entities, logic and security.
Each time a new environment is created, a new instance of CDS is generated along with a pre-defined set of entities (tables) and fields (columns). This standard data schema is called the Common Data Model (CDM) and the entities generated within the initial instance of CDS are called the core entities. These core entities are commonly used record types that Dynamics users are familiar with such as contacts and accounts. The CDM can be thought of as the base language of the platform and allows applications to easily communicate. An account in Power BI is the same thing as an account in Power Apps. It also means that communication between different instances is made easier since they are all following the same data model.
The CDS is not just a relational database with a pre-defined data set. It also comes with some built-in logic that will be familiar to Dynamics users, such as business rules. These allow data to be validated in real time in line with certain requirements. They also can serve as guidance to an end user by displaying messages guiding them on what needs to be done before saving a record. Other logic such as real-time workflows and actions also come as part of the CDS logic package.
When I think of logic, I almost always think of another key component of the Power Platform – Power Automate. Power Automate allows us to automate multiple different types of processes across the entire Power Platform and beyond. Because Power Automate is built on top of CDS, we can use it to communicate between other parts of the Power Platform. As an example, Power Virtual Agents can call a Power Automate flow to retrieve a specific record from the CDS based on a user’s input. Power Automate can then be used to update a record in CDS which appears in a Power App. Power Automate can be thought of as the glue that connects the Power Platform together.
Dynamics users will be familiar with the idea of security roles and business units. The Common Data Service follows this security model and that means that out of the box, security is easily configured. The CDS also allows us to lock down fields and record sharing, in the same way as Dynamics.
Now that we have a base knowledge of what the CDS is, we can start to break down the Power Platform even further. As we saw earlier, the Power Platform consists of four key components: Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate and Power Virtual Agent. Power Apps can be broken down further into two different types: canvas apps and model-driven apps. Canvas apps are often thought of as something that would be user facing – like an app for requesting a device. It should have one sole purpose and should be designed with user experience as a priority.
A model-driven app is data driven. In fact, as Dynamics users, we are very familiar with model-driven apps. Take Dynamics 365 Sales as an example. Its purpose is to store data about the sales process and provide the end user with enough data to assist with the sales lifecycle. In fact, all Dynamics first-party apps (Sales, Customer Service, etc.) are all model-driven apps – you’ve been using the Power Platform all along! In fact, installing one of these apps just adds more entities to the Common Data Model.
So now that we understand a little bit about CDS and the Power Platform – how does ClickDimensions fit in?
ClickDimensions and The Power Platform
Within the Power Platform, we also have Dynamics 365, Office 365, Azure and other apps and data. Because we have now learned that Dynamics 365 first-party apps are model-driven apps, we can also state that ClickDimensions is a model-driven app.
When the ClickDimensions solution is installed, it adds its schema, or data model, into the CDS. Once it’s added to the CDS, it can now be accessed across the entire Power Platform! We can now do things like use Power Virtual Agent to ask a prospective buyer on your website for their email address. Power Automate can then take that input and create a lead record in the CDS for that person and add them to a marketing list for new Leads.
From here, this could kick off a campaign automation that nurtures all new leads added to the previously mentioned marketing list. All because CDS and the Power Platform connects the data points together, and because ClickDimensions is built natively in Microsoft Dynamics.
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