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Build a Mobile Data Sync Experience for Dynamics CRM with Azure App Service

Publicado em 23 julho, 2015

Program Manager, Azure Mobile Services
Today, we’re excited to announce the Azure Mobile Connector SDK for Dynamics CRM Online in partnership with the CRM team. Using this integrated solution, developers can:
  • build native and cross-platform iOS, Windows, and Android apps that work offline and sync data with Dynamics CRM Online.
  • use Dynamics CRM Online for customer data, taking advantage of rich analytics, social insights, and integrations with Office 365 and Skype.
  • run rich backend logic in Azure App Service, augmenting data operations, federating across multiple data stores, handling conflicts, sending push notifications, authenticating users with Azure Active Directory, and enjoying a great Dev/Ops experience.

Why mobile data sync?

Smartphone users have come to expect that their most critical apps will work offline, even when it’s mostly a matter of convenience. For some apps, offline sync is not just convenience -- it’s critical to business productivity. Lack of network connection can be more than just frustrating, it can mean a lost sale. It can mean an unhappy client. It can mean apps that aren’t used, in favor of pen and paper! We’ve seen that many business apps lack this critical offline sync functionality, mainly because it’s a fundamentally harder problem than the kinds of sync we see in consumer apps. It’s one thing to be able to synchronize data that’s owned by one person (such as your mail history), but it’s quite another to handle data that’s shared by multiple people -- who may be editing from a mobile device, a browser, or even a traditional desktop application.

Enter Azure Mobile

Fortunately, Azure Mobile provides a lightweight -- yet fully customizable -- offline sync feature for iOS, Windows, and Android, as well as cross-platform frameworks like Xamarin. In partnership with the Microsoft Dynamics CRM team, we've just released the Azure Mobile Connector SDK for Dynamics CRM Online. This release includes two SDKs, one for Azure Mobile Services and one for the Mobile Apps feature of App Service: Learn more about Azure Mobile Apps and improvements relative to Mobile Services. Once Azure Mobile Apps is Generally Available, we will offer a seamless migration from Mobile Services to App Service so that you can take advantage of the new features. We also offer a pre-built app that you can use as a starting point for your custom solution: Azure Activity Logger. Learn more about this sample and other Dynamics CRM mobile app samples and templates released today, as part of the updated Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobile SDK.

Try it out

Try out the tutorial for setting up the Activity Logger pre-built app. You should either use an existing Dynamics CRM Online tenant, or sign up for a free trial. The tutorial will walk you through the steps to provision an Azure Mobile backend and configure it with Azure Active Directory for delegated access. Then, you also configure the pre-built iOS client with AAD. Delegated access means that when users log in to the client app and make changes, CRM will record the actions as being done by that user. This is often very important for auditing and security reasons, and it also makes it easier to collaborate with colleagues and see who is making updates.

Case study: building employee apps with Azure Mobile and Dynamics CRM Online

Ignia, a consulting company based in Australia, found Azure Mobile offline sync to be a big productivity win. They recently built several employee-facing apps for a global mining company. Using Azure Mobile Services and Microsoft Dynamics CRM online, the mining company is successfully in production with one of the apps and in the pilot phase for the others. Ignia used Xamarin.Forms to build great apps across iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, maximizing the amount of shared code between the platforms. Elliot Wood, the team lead and architect for these mobile apps, said the choice of Azure Mobile Services and Xamarin.Forms was easy, given the requirement to support both offline sync and multiple client platforms. He added that “Mobile Services worked like a turnkey solution for us and I continue to recommend Xamarin.Forms and Azure Mobile Services for any cross platform mobile application.” These apps include:
  • Safety Procedures: uses push notifications and offline sync. Workers can easily access safety documents which are securely stored offline on mobile devices. The app replaces a huge binder of paper documents!
  • Hazard Reporting: field workers take photos and record voice notes, even when there is no network connectivity. The reports are saved to a backend database and sent to a supervisor who can take action.
  • Field Leadership: for planning and completing field tasks, workers and contractors collaborate with a custom mobile app that connects to Dynamics CRM. This replaces the need to go to a terminal to report status on tasks and leverages the rich reporting and analysis features of Dynamics CRM.

Summary

The new Mobile Services Connector SDK for Dynamics CRM Online makes it much easier to build custom mobile apps for CRM Online with built-in offline sync functionality. With multi-platform mobile client SDKs, developers can build great native experiences against a shared backend service. To learn more: