Business Process Flow Vs Dialogs in Microsoft Dynamics CRM #MSDynCRM #CRM2013

Process Enablement in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 is achieved through a number of capabilities including Business Process Flows, Dialogs and Workflows in Dynamics CRM 2013.

When is best to use Business process flows and when best to use Dynamics CRM dialogues is a dilemma that many CRM consultants and developers face.

This post gives a simple comparison table between Business Process Flows Versus Dialogs in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013

Point of Comparison Business Process Flows Dynamics CRM Dialogs
Session  Mostly for Multi-Session processes but could work for Single Session ones  Single session capture only.
 Wizard  Using process to reproduce all fields on a form is not recommended approach Misses opportunity to highlight key outcomes that should be addressed  Yes. Dialogs are perfect for a wizard based process.
 Guidance or Control

 Guidance.

BPF are intended to guide a user through a process, not to control them. Strict compliance is not well served by Business Process Flows.

 Control.Dialogs are intended to provided a structured strictly controlled processes. Strict compliance is better served by Dialogs
 Linear Information Capture Where there are significant linear information capture processes, then dialogs or forms work well, and provide better mechanisms for this type of information capture.  Dialogs can be useful for information capture if the information is to be used across multiple entities.
 Tracking  Tracking of stage in a processReporting/ management awareness of state of business TrackingQuick insight to user on initial access  You can’t stop a dialog half way through, close it and then re-run it from where you stopped. Business process flows can via current stage and state tracking.
 Complex Processes Guidance Yes. Particularly cross entity and cross person, where mistakes can occur during the
hand offs between parties.Support for infrequently used or inconsistently performed processes, where mistakes are more likely to occur through lack of familiarity
 Yes as well. Dialogs can provide help, tips and guidance text throughout each page of Dynamics CRM dialog.
 Training Business Process Flows can assist by supplementing training.It can be used to support new processes before they are well understood by staff.Used to roll out new or changed processes, minimising need for explicit training Training material or sessions.  Not really. Dialogs are not a good approach for training users or for users who are not familiar with processes.

In summary, Business Process Flows and Dialogs are both equally powerful process enablement capabilities of Dynamics CRM. However, BPFs are more for guidance, multi session, tracking of process status. Business process flows provide the ability to show the current stage of a process allows user to rapidly see where a process is up to, for example reviewing a deal and seeing what has been completed to date. It can also be used to show related information easily e.g. the originating lead for an ongoing opportunity. BPFs are also good for ensuring key steps in a process aren’t missed providing consistent checklist for steps that need to be completed as part of the process. It also provides guidance through complex process flows and can be used for Training.

A Dynamics CRM Dialog on the other hand, is a single session Wizard Form, strictly controlled process which can be used in capturing completely linear information similar to forms but across multiple entities.

Hope this post gives some guidance on the difference in use of Dynamics CRM business Process Flows and Dialogs in a readable comparison table. Please note that this post has used content, text and information published as part of Microsoft’s Process Enablement White Paper (Download Here)

Create an image from a .vhd disk on Microsoft Windows Azure – error VHD is already registered with image repository

This post discusses how to create an image from a VHD file of a VM you have on Windows Azure to re-use it with other VMs and also shows a resolution to the issue/error: “xxx.vhd is already registered with image repository as the resource with ID xxx” on Windows Azure management portal.

I have a nice windows azure virtual machine with its .vhd drive that I managed to get to an excellent state with all my software installed, configured and working smoothly. I wanted to make this VHD as an Image in my Windows Azure cloud account so that I can create multiple virtual machines (VM) based on the same VHD disk. Here is what I did:

First, I did a sysprep on this nice VM as follows: On the Virtual Machine, Open command prompt as an administrator and navigate to your C:\Windows\System32\Sysprep folder. Then run the Sysprep.exe file. Make sure the generalise option is ticked and select “quit” instead of “shut down” in the actions after sysprep (There is a known issue that happens sometimes when you select shutdown).

Once this is done, I have shut down my VM, went to my Windows Azure management / Control Panel (http://manage.windowsazure.com) and selected the VM and then deleted it. Make sure you select the option to delete VM and retain / keep the VHD hard disk files attached to this VM. This will only delete the Virtual Machine but will keep the VHD virtual disks for you.

Following that, if you go and try to create an image for ths VHD file, you will probably get the error: “xxx.vhd is already registered with image repository as the resource with ID xxx” from Windows Azure. This issue will mostly because the VHD file is still allocated to the disk that was created for the VM (which is now deleted). You will now need to go to Virtual Machines under your Windows Azure Control Panel, click on “disks” tab (you should have Virtual Machines, Images and Disks tabs there). Click on the disk that is allocated to the VHD file and delete it. Make sure you choose to keep and retain the VHD file. This VHD file is still kept in your storage section on Windows Azure.

Now that the disk and the VM are both deleted, you can go to Images tab under Virtual machines and select create image, point to the VHD file and create your image. Make sure you select the tick box: yes I have sysprep my VHD.

You now have an image that you can use to create as many Virtual machines as you want based on it. You just need to go to the Virtual Machines tab and click on create virtual machine and select your VHD from the Gallery.

There are other issues where the disk and the VM are deleted and you are still unable to use the VHD file. In this case, a Windows Azure explorer software may be needed to connect to your Windows Azure cloud account and release the VHD as it is probably still in lease (a lease on the blob) and there is no lease ID specified (because the VM and the disk are deleted). Here is an article explaining the resolution to this issue:

http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/windowsazure/en-US/7381ea0e-0443-4b33-aa12-ba39df003409/error-deleting-vhd-there-is-currently-a-lease-on-the-blob-and-no-lease-id-was-specified-in-the?forum=WAVirtualMachinesforWindows

Update:

In addition to having the image out of the VHD on windows azure, you can also have a disk instead if you don’t have a sysprep VHD. In this case, you create a disk out of the VHD and then create a VM out of the Disk instead of out of the image. The main difference is that when you create a VM from an image, windows azure creates a copy of the VHD and associates the VM to it while if you creatte a VM from a Disk, it just uses the same VHD – which means you can only use this disk/VHD once with one VM. This is usually a good work around if you are getting the error: Virtual Machine running but provision timed out on your Virtual Machine: Running (Provision timeout).

Hope this helps!