I am creating a series of blog posts that collectively are designed to help anyone preparing for the Microsoft Power Platform + Dynamics 365 Core exam. (aka MB-200) In this post I will look at concepts around email integration.
There is a section of the MB-200 skills measured statement which covers implementing integrations, within this you will find a several references to email integration. As part of your revision you’ll need to ensure you have covered all of these;
Email Integration Overview
Frequently a key reason companies implement a “CRM” system is to store all customer interactions in one place. Therefore it is no surprise that with Dynamics 365 (and with all common data service apps) email integration is a key feature. It will be common for organisations to want to view their emails in context of an account, contact, opportunity or case. Or almost any entity for that matter!
We use server-side synchronization to keep emails synchronised between CDS and our email server (commonly Exchange but not always). Server-side synchronization happens automatically as emails are sent / received. Server-side sync is extremely easy to configure with Exchange online but don’t forget the Exchange on-premise and other hybrid architectures are supported. Including integration with other POP3/SMTP email servers. (Such as Gmail etc.)
Note: In addition to emails server-side synchronization can also include appointments, contacts and tasks.
When working with email users have three key ways they can interact with Dynamics 365 and other CDS apps. (I will cover these in greater detail in a future post! This post will concentrate on the setup of your server profiles and mailboxes.)
Dynamics 365 App for Outlook – a zero foot print App which is deployed centrally by a system administrator which offers a modern user interface. The App for Outlook easily allows us to integrate with Outlook. The App for Outlook works with the full Outlook client, web client and even from an Outlook app on a phone.
Dynamics 365 for Outlook add-in (classic client) – a full client installed on the desktop that works with Microsoft’s Outlook client. This offers full access to CDS data within the Outlook client. Including features such as offline access.
Email in the Unified Interface – Users can also interact with emails directly from their Dynamics 365 app.
Email integration enables users (and queues) to send and receive email in and out of Dynamics 365, plus integrating with exchange allows appointments, contacts and tasks to be synchronized. It is important to be aware that not all features are mandatory, you could for example only configure outgoing email and opt not to synchronize appointments.
Some common uses of email integration include;
- Outbound emails. Either sent directly from Dynamics 365 users to contacts, accounts (etc) or automatically via workflow.
- Updating contacts, appointments and tasks between Dynamics 365 and Outlook.
- Inbound emails into Dynamics 365, including automatically taking emails into queues. (e.g. support emails into a support queue.)
- Record creation rules to convert inbound emails into entities. Such as creating a case from an inbound email.
- Tracking of emails from Outlook into Dynamics. (For example sales “conversations” tracked against an opportunity.)
- Support for mobile devices.
Email Synchronization Options
There are several options for integrating email with Dynamics 365, including using the Dynamics 365 Outlook add-in and server-side synchronization.
Server-side synchronization is the recommended approach. It allows CDS and Exchange to communicate with no additional client software or server processes.
Server-side synchronization is a required component if you wish to enable folder tracking, auto-capture or email engagement features. (Meaning I recommend testing server-side sync for your MB 200 revision, as you’ll want to be able to test all of these email features.)
I don’t recommend you use the Outlook add-in for email integration! But if you did configure it, users are required to be logged in for sending / receiving emails. (With Outlook loaded and the Outlook add-in configured.)
Server-side sync does not require the users to load Outlook or any client software! As the name suggests, all of the processing is done on the server meaning the user does not have to be connected to a client.
Note: Even when using server-side sync you could still opt to use the Outlook add-in as it provides access to all CDS data within Outlook. But we do also have the Outlook App which additionally supports web client and mobile options.
Configuring Server-side Sync
Three steps are involved in configuring server-side synchronization;
- Configure system settings.
- Configure the server profile.
- Define and configure mailboxes for users / queues.
When in the Power Platform admin center you can find options for all of these steps in the settings for your environment.
The settings option lets you define your email configuration. Including setting defaults for newly created mailboxes and many other options. As part of your exam preparation it is worth going over this screen to be aware of the key options available.
Tip: Notice the “synchronization method” section in settings. It maybe common that most users have the same settings, so defining the defaults here will help make the process of creating new users easier. It is also possible to open an existing mailbox and use the apply default settings option.
Also notice that you can configure server-side sync to only process emails for approved users and queues. This is the default and the reason why all mailboxes (by default) must be approved before being tested/enabled.
You will also find an Email tracking option (shown below). Here you can enable folder tracking and define other email tracking options.
The next step is to create an email server profile. Importantly this is a step which is completed automatically if you are using Dynamics 365 online and Exchange online. (Meaning you may be able to skip this step!) It is possible to have multiple email server profiles, in that scenario mailboxes will be linked to an appropriate server profile. This might be useful when migrating from one configuration to another. Or possibly simply done to create logical groupings, maybe all the user in the south are on one profile and the north on another. This logical grouping might be useful as error messages from all the mailboxes associated with each profile are rolled up.
Mailbox records get created when users or queues are created. These can be amended to govern what type of email synchronization is required for each individual mailbox. Mailboxes must be approved and tested / enabled for them to operate.
FYI, occasionally an email alert may force a permanent error and then the mail box would need to be re-approved / re-tested.
Notice that the synchronization method on the mailbox can be set for “incoming email”, “outgoing email” and “appointments, contacts and tasks”. For example, incoming email might be handled by server-side synchronisation, whilst appointments remain on Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Outlook.
Also, importantly the method can be set to none. Say you wanted to block all outgoing mail from a particular mailbox that could be done.
Also notice that a mailbox can be a forwarding mailbox …
Often each user will have dedicated mailboxes, so that each user has an individual email address. (and mailbox configuration.)
With a forwarding mailbox large numbers of users can be configured to link to one forwarding mailbox. One mailbox is configured as a forward mailbox; then multiple users forward their mail to that mailbox for tracking into CDS.
The advantage being there is only a need to configure one mailbox but the disadvantage being you sacrifice the ability for users to individually send emails from Dynamics 365 / CDS Apps.
In a call center you could configure everyone to use a forwarding mailbox. This would work because in this scenario synchronization of individual appointments, contacts and tasks is not essential. But in a sales environment, each field sales person would probably need a personalized view of their contacts and appointments. Meaning a forwarding mailbox would not be appropriate for them.
Note: Don’t forget that a mixed deployment is possible. With some users working with a forwarding mailbox and others having individual mail accounts.
Test / Enable Mailboxes
With each mailbox you will need to approve then test / enable each mailbox before it will operate.
From the mailbox (or after selecting multiple mailboxes in a view) you will first need to use the “Approve Email” option.
Once you have an approved mailbox it must be tested / enabled. To do this simply click the “Test & Enable Mailbox” option. The process takes a few seconds, so wait then refresh the screen. You should see the incoming email, outgoing email and appointments, contacts and tasks status fields change to “Success”. From time to time a failure may occur! If this happens you can view the failures in the alerts option.
if you happen to get a failure one common reason is a problem with the synchronization method. Typically you may need to check / change this and re-test the mailbox.
Server-side sync monitoring
Monitoring email usage will be an important administration task to ensure smooth running. Whenever an error occurs an alert event is triggered and can be seen at an email box or server profile level. These can be for information, warning or errors. There is also a server-side sync dashboard available, this gives details of how many boxes are healthy and how many have continuous or warning errors.
Additionally in the Power Platform admin center you will find the analytics option. Within the analytics option under Common Data Service you should find a mailbox usage area. Here you will find loads of charts regarding the number of mailboxes and their usage.
On each mailbox we have an alerts option, any errors, warnings and information alerts connected with processing messages for this mailbox can be found here. You can see below that I have opened my mailbox and shown the alerts option. Admins will find this option extremely useful when trying to diagnose issues with a particular mailbox.
Sometimes it may also be useful to go to the mailbox and select “Download Mail Details”, this will give full details of the configuration of that mailbox. For example, If you ever have cause to raise a support ticket concerning a mailbox proving these details with the ticket might prove useful!
In this post I hope I have introduced the key concepts connected with configuring the email server and mailboxes. In a future post I will build on this information and cover email clients. Keep in mind that hands on usage is important for your revision …. I therefore encourage you to create multiple mailboxes as part of your revision! Enjoy …