Dynamics 365 CRM System Administrator How To Guide: Getting Started with Solution Management

Dynamics 365 CRM System Administrator How To Guide: Getting Started with Solution Management

We’re launching a new series of tips and tricks directed at arguably the most important person using your Dynamics 365 CRM system: the System Administrator! Many of us who don the “System Administrator” crown at our organizations are absolute CRM unicorns. We tend to hold many roles in the organization. Often times, System Administrators are thrust into the role with little or no training. Perhaps you were a super user. Perhaps you work in Marketing and inherited CRM for the Sales team. Perhaps you work in IT and are more technically-minded. Regardless, there are countless paths. But here you are! CONGRATULATIONS! You are a CRM Unicorn (aka System Administrator).

You are a CRM Unicorn.
You are a CRM Unicorn.

There are many tasks assigned to a System Administrator. We could spend years going through each of them. This blog could become a giant book, which as everyone knows – is way too long for a blog. We will begin instead by highlighting a few of the tasks you will use often that make a big impact for your users.

Let’s start off with a fun topic: working with solutions and how to get started with solution management! This is essential to master to make changes in your environments, and it is a little different in On Premise systems than Online systems which uses Power Apps. You’ll see Online or On Premise pulled out when things are different – follow the best path for your org.

BONUS TIP! If you eventually need to get any Microsoft Certifications done (like the MB-200), make sure you know the difference between managed & unmanaged and when Microsoft thinks you should use each.

Managed or Unmanaged? Why is that such a hard question and why does it matter in Solution Management?

Ah, time for a classic debate in the Dynamics 365 world: should you use managed or unmanaged solution files? I’ll let Microsoft answer this one:

“A managed solution is a completed solution that is intended to be distributed and installed. An unmanaged solution is one that is still under development or isn’t intended to be distributed. When the unmanaged solution is complete and you want to distribute it, export it and package it as a managed solution.”

Microsoft documentation on solution management

Resources to learn more

Here are the official Microsoft documentation details for On Premise Dynamics 365 systems: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365/customerengagement/on-premises/developer/introduction-solutions; and the documentation for Dynamics 365 Online / Power Apps: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/powerapps/maker/common-data-service/solutions-overview.

Now that this is cleared up, let’s move on to the important stuff…

Creating a New Solution File in Sandbox System (On Premise Customers)

1. The first thing you’ll need to do is navigate to your Sandbox system.
2. Navigate to Settings and select Solutions.

Navigating to Settings, then Solutions in CRM

3. In the All Solutions section, click the New icon.

Adding a new solution file for On Premise customers.
Adding a new solution file for On Premise customers.

4. A new window will pop up, which is where you can build your solution file. You’ll need to add the following details:

  • Display Name: Describes what is being added.
  • Name: Auto-generates based on what you enter in Display Name.
  • Publisher: Make sure you’ve set up your own unique publisher and select that here.
  • Version: Use your own internal versioning number here.
  • Configuration Page: I almost always leave this blank
Best Practice Alert! It’s an excellent idea to add details to the big Description box in your Solution! If you’re tracking enhancements in a ticketing system like Jira, Slack or even Dynamics 365, enter that ticket here so you know what’s included in your change.
BONUS: If you do it while you add things to your solution file, it makes writing release notes that much easier!

5. Once you have completed step 4, click Save at the top of your solution file.

Creating a New Solution File in Sandbox System (Online Customers)

1. Go to make.powerapps.com and head to your Sandbox system.
2. On the left-hand side, slect Solutions (circled in red below).
3. At the top, click + New Solution (highlighted below).

Adding a new solution file in PowerApps for Online customers.
Adding a new solution file in PowerApps for Online customers.

4. A panel will open on the right-hand side where you can enter:

  • Display Name: Describes what is being added.
  • Name: Auto-generates based on what you enter in Display Name.
  • Publisher: Make sure you’ve set up your own unique publisher and select that here.
  • Version: Use your own internal versioning number here.
  • More options: expand to add Configuration page and description if desired.
Adding solution file in PowerApps

5. Finally, click the Create button at the bottom.

Adding Existing Components to a Solution File

Now that you have built a Solution file, you can start adding things like that need to be updated or changed. Common requests you’ll want to put into a solution file might be:

  • System views that need columns added, removed & changed.
  • Add a new field.
  • Adding new system views.
  • Adding options to existing option sets.
  • Changing a form.
  • Building a new Model-Driven App.
  • Writing a new or editing an existing workflow.

This list is hardly exhaustive – it’s just the most typical requests a System Administrator tends to get on a fairly regular basis. The below screenshots come from an On Premise system. Online customers will be using Power Apps, but can toggle back to the Classic Solution Designer as you prefer (and for some things, you will have to move to the “old” version).

Important! You cannot add components to a Solution until it has fist been saved. If you’re not seeing the screen shots we show below, you probably haven’t clicked Save in your Solution first.

Step by Step for On Premise Customers

  1. In your Solution file, above the white box of Solution components (which is currently blank), click the Add Existing button, then select your component (in this example, we want to add an Entity)
Adding an existing Entity to a Solution file.
Adding an existing Entity to a Solution file.

2. Highlight the row of the entity you want to add, then click the red OK button at the bottom (in this example, we are adding Opportunities).

Select your components
Classic solution designer: Select your components

3. In most cases, you will want to uncheck the boxes highlighted in yellow below (unless you need to edit entity metadata or truly want to include all assets in your solution file).

Best Practice Alert! You only want to include the assets you are working on. For example, if your requirement is to add a value to a global option set, the only thing you need to add is that single option set. There is no need to add an entire entity. This decreases potential room for error.
Select assets

4. Select your assets by picking and choosing what you need to include. Change tabs as needed (Forms, Views, Charts, etc.)

5. The next screen you will see is the Missing Required Components screen. If you are certain the missing components exist in your target (Production) system, you can safely ignore this message. If those components are NOT in your target system, you will need to go back to the solution and follow steps 2-4 above to add them to the file.

Missing Required Components screen
Missing Required Components screen

Now, your solution file should have the assets you added in the previous steps. It should look something like this:

Solution file with components

Step by Step for Online Customers

1. In your new solution file, click +Add Existing at the top of your screen, then select from the available components:

Adding existing components to a solution in PowerApps

2. In this example, we have selected Entity. Select the entity or entities you would like to add, then click Next at the bottom.
3. Click the purple text to Select components (you will need to repeat this for each entity you have added to your solution file).

Select components

3. Select your assets by picking and choosing what you need to include. Change tabs as needed (Fields, Forms, Relationships, Business Rules, Views, etc.). Click Add at the bottom. Repeat for each entity.

4. When you have finished, click Add at the bottom.

What’s Next with Solution Management??

TONS MORE! Stay tuned for our next article where we continue working with Solution Management tips, tricks and how to’s! If you need or want more help getting up to speed, shoot me an email at heidi@reenhanced.com. I’m happy to help point you in the right direction!

Heidi Neuhauser
Posted on:
Heidi is Director of CRM Projects at Reenhanced. With more than a decade of experience in CRM, she has a wide variety of industry and product knowledge working with organizations of all sizes (from small non-profit organizations to Fortune 100 companies) to implement and rescue CRM and train end users. Heidi is a Microsoft Certified Professional with numerous Microsoft CRM Certificates and a CRMUG All-Star.
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