Data integration guidance for Dynamics 365 for Talent

Overview

Dynamics 365 for Talent manages business data that is useful in a variety of business processes. This topic provides guidance on various options for integrating with data managed by Dynamics 365 for Talent, describing the characteristics of different integration technologies so that integrators can make informed decisions regarding which technologies best fit their needs.

Data integration vision

Microsoft sees business data as a key asset that makes your company unique. Your business’s data is highly valuable. Data gathered and maintained by one part of the business relates to data gathered by another part of the business, and these relations can be used to improve business processes and business intelligence across your organization. Providing easy, secure, stable access to your business data, regardless of which system “owns” the data is a key tenet to the vision we have for data integration with Dynamics 365 for Talent.

Historically, integrating data between multiple systems has been difficult. Microsoft is taking steps to make data integration easier, and a large step toward that goal is realized through Common Data Service (CDS) for Apps. Going forward, Dynamics 365 for Talent is making CDS for Apps the preferred public interface for Talent data. Over time, we expect that all the most important data managed by Dynamics 365 for Talent will be exposed in CDS. We recommend CDS as the technology of choice for most integrating applications. While we realize that not all data your application may require is currently present in CDS, and that your project timelines may require an alternative technology, please let us know when CDS does not meet your integration needs.

Integration technologies

The following sections describe the different data integration technologies available for use with Dynamics 365 for Talent (Core HR).

CDS entities

CDS is the preferred public data interface for Dynamics 365 for Talent. CDS is built on a mature platform, having grown out of the Dynamics 365 “XRM” platform, upon which the Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement solutions are built.

CDS provides a platform for data entities and an API for accessing those entities. When Dynamics 365 for Talent is deployed in your organization, Talent is connected to a CDS instance and the entities that maintain Talent data are deployed into that CDS instance, making the entities and their data available to any application that can connect to the CDS instance. Depending on which Talent apps you are using, Talent either performs data operations directly against the CDS entities (this is the case for Attract and Onboard) or synchronizes data to/from the CDS entities (this is the case for Core HR).

Once the data entities that expose the data your integrating apps require are present in CDS, you can make full use of the CDS platform and the APIs it supports. Among the supported APIs is the Dynamics 365 Web API, which provides an OData implementation for accessing CDS data.

The CDS entities and the associated APIs are the best option for accessing Talent data from web applications, web services/APIs, and from any other application that connects to OData feeds.

Note

With the decision to make CDS for Apps the preferred data interface for Talent (Core HR) being relatively recent, you may find that the Core HR data entities you need for your integration are not yet available in CDS*. If the Core HR entities required for your integration are not yet available, you will need to wait for the data entities to be made available or you will need to use one of the other integration technologies described below.

DMF/DIXF entities

Dynamics 365 for Talent (Core HR), built primarily on the same platform as Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, provides a Data Management Framework (DMF), sometimes also known as the Data Import Export Framework or DIXF, and a set of data entities that can be used for importing/exporting data into/from Talent. While CDS entities are the preferred data integration interface for Talent, the DMF entities will still be useful in some circumstances, such as:

  • CDS entities are not yet available.

  • The integration requires high performance bulk data import/export capabilities.

The DMF entities currently provide the most complete data coverage for Talent (Core HR) data.

DMF is not appropriate for real-time integrations (such as when immediate user feedback in a user interface is required), because package operations are scheduled batch jobs, and will often have a minimum of a 1-2 minute latency before the batch service picks up the job for execution, plus whatever time is required to complete the import/export operation.

DMF may be the best option when high throughput is required (such as a nightly scheduled import/export of many thousands of records).

Note

DMF is not available for Attract and Onboard.

DMF package REST API

The DMF provides a REST API for manipulating data packages. This API can be used to programmatically interact with the DMF, allowing actions such as:

  • Importing a data package.

  • Exporting a data package.

  • Checking the status of an import/export operation.

The DMF Package REST API is fully supported in Dynamics 365 for Talent (Core HR).

Azure SQL DB (BYOD)

DMF additionally provides a powerful feature (generally known as Bring Your Own Database, or BYOD) that allows Talent to export data to your own Microsoft Azure SQL database. This provides tremendous flexibility, because when the data is present in your own SQL database, you can make use of any applications or middleware that can connect to a SQL datastore.

BYOD should generally be considered a read-only solution. While you are able to manipulate and store whatever data you want in the Azure SQL database (such as for data mashups), data stored in the Azure SQL database will not be synchronized back to Talent Core HR.

BYOD is appropriate for reporting solutions, data integrations, data mashups, as a data source for an Azure Data Factory pipeline.

Note

BYOD is not available for Attract and Onboard.

OData-enabled entities

Most DMF entities are also enabled for access through the Talent data service (OData). The documentation provided for the Finance and Operations OData service generally also applies to Talent (Core HR), although documentation about creating your own OData-exposed entities will not apply.

While CDS and the OData implementation provided by CDS (through the Dynamics 365 Web API) is preferred over the Talent data service, the Talent data service currently has more complete entity coverage for the Talent data.

Excel Add-in

The Excel Add-in makes use of OData-enabled entities beneath the surface. It provides a convenient way for an end user to retrieve and modify Talent data through the familiar Excel UI.

The Excel Add-in is appropriate for ad-hoc data imports/exports by business domain experts. For a recurring data integration that requires programmatic automation, another integration technology will be more appropriate.

Data Integrator

The CDS for Apps administrator experience provides a Data Integrator service that can be used for data integrations to/from CDS. Data Integrator can be used to define integration projects (often based on pre-defined templates that application developers have tailored for specific integrations). The integration projects can be scheduled to run automatically on a recurring schedule or be run manually.

Data Integrator projects are appropriate for CDS-based batch integrations and make a great choice for integrations between the Dynamics 365 family of applications. As an example, Microsoft provides an out-of-the-box Data Integrator template that can be used for integrating data from Dynamics 365 for Talent (Core HR) into Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations. For more information, see Integration from Dynamics 365 for Talent to Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations.

Power Query

Data Integrator also supports Power Query (through its Advanced Query feature). Power Query provides powerful, flexible data filtering and transformation, including the rich M formula language, and will likely be familiar to those who have experience developing Power BI reports.

Deciding on an integration technology

With so many different integration technologies available, deciding on which integration approach to use can sometimes be overwhelming. Over time, and particularly as the data coverage in CDS matures, the decision will become easier, with CDS being the preferred data interface in most cases. But until then, you may find that CDS does not yet meet your needs. The following table helps summarize some of the key characteristics of the various integration technology options.

Technology/Tool/API Recurring integrations Synchronous/Asynchronous Programmatic access through an API Appropriate data volumes Data coverage
CDS entities Yes, using Data Integrator or middleware Sync Async, Batch (through Data Integrator) Yes, through Dynamics 365 Web API (OData) Varies with use case (supports paging for interactive use) Improving**
DMF entities Yes, scheduled through middleware Async, Batch Yes, through DMF Package REST API High (hundreds of thousands of records) High
DMF Package REST API Yes, scheduled through middleware Async, Batch Yes High (hundreds of thousands of records) API supports all DMF entities
BYOD Yes, scheduled by Admin in Talent Async, Batch No*** High (hundreds of thousands of records) Supports all DMF entities
OData-enabled entities Yes, using middleware Sync Yes, through Talent Data Service (OData) Varies with use case (supports paging for interactive use) High
Excel Add-in No Sync No Medium (tens of thousands of records) Supports all OData-enabled entities
Data Integrator Yes, scheduled in Data Integrator Async, Batch No Varies with use case Supports all CDS entities

Summary

Your business data is a valuable asset, but its value can be greatly diminished if it is hard to use the data for your specific purposes (such as reporting, data mashups, or custom applications). Dynamics 365 for Talent provides several technologies for working with your data outside of the Talent application’s user interface (UI), allowing integrating applications access to the data. This topic has described the available integration technologies and some of their key characteristics. This information should help you make better decisions on which approaches to leverage for your integration projects.

* For a list of Core HR entities available in CDS, see Core HR and Common Data Service for Apps.

Note

For Attract and Onboard, all entities are available in CDS.

** Microsoft is investing heavily in increasing data coverage for CDS entities, and recommends CDS as the preferred data interface when coverage is available. Currently, CDS data coverage is low relative to DMF and OData-enabled entities.

*** SQL database can be accessed programmatically.