Overview of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Portals

Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement apps deliver business functionality to the users. Dynamics 365 Portals extend Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement apps solutions to internal and external audiences such as communities, customers, partners, and employees.

Dynamics 365 Portals & Audiences

Dynamics 365 Portals come with a variety of pre-configured portal solutions targeting many diverse audiences. Starter portals have many features that add value to the Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement apps. Let's take a look at how these features help modern business to engage modern audience.

Modern Audience

We have all had our share of the customer service support experiences, both positive and negative. Would you rather be, on hold for a long time, waiting for a customer service agent or use self-service capabilities of the company's web site, going directly to the supplier's knowledge base for the products and services? Would you rather write a letter and mail it, without any expectations of a reply, or engage in the online community forum and get the answer from other users sharing their experiences?

Portal capabilities empower the majority of online consumers who prefer to find answers on their own through self-service and community options. Using Dynamics 365 Portals you can provide them with a branded, personalized self-service experience that leverages an organized, searchable knowledge base to deliver consistent, up-to-date answers, and community experience for peer-to-peer support and direct interaction with your subject matter experts. The portals provide simple navigation, with seamless transitions between self and assisted support.

Out of the box mobile optimizations for portal and knowledge articles ensure customers can get the help they need anytime and from any device.

Consumers are a major driver of this trend:

  • The majority of global consumers now expect brands and organizations to offer a self-service portal.
  • Nearly one-third of consumers keep in touch with brands they’ve done business with to make sure they are getting the most out of their purchase.
  • Half of the end users are using multiple channels to stay connected including web, mobile, telephone, social and self-service; often using many channels for a single support experience.

Providing a web portal interface takes these user trends and brings any engagement, including partner, groups and employee scenarios directly into Dynamics 365 to create a modern connected experience for both external users and internal business operations.

Modern Business

Let's take a look the same trend but from a business perspective. Your business is already using Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement apps. Consider what additional capabilities can Dynamics 365 Portals deliver.

Provide self-service support. When your business is growing, would you rather employ extra staff in call centers OR add self-service capabilities to your web site where your customers can search knowledge articles, engage with other customers, find answers and create support cases when needed (that then go directly into Dynamics 365 for Customer Service), all without a single interaction from your resources?

Build sales pipeline. When a lead fills in a contact us form on your company site would you rather receive this information as an email OR get it recorded in Dynamics 365 for Sales where the record can become part of your sales pipeline automatically?

Empower employees. When an employee needs a new computer, would you rather see them sending an email to the helpdesk OR simply filling in an online form with the information being recorded in Dynamics 365 custom app with the helpdesk staff immediately accessing and processing this information?

Engage mobile workforce. Empower agents on any device, wherever they work. Field technicians can process and complete work orders in the field, instantly updating the Dynamics 365 for Field Service.

Dynamics 365 Portals Benefits

What is the value

It is important to understand that Dynamics 365 Portals are built on top of the Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement apps platform. They extend functionality to both internal and external audiences but this functionality must already be present in Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement apps. For example, if you do not have Dynamics 365 for Field Service installed, you will not be able to install the field service portal solution.

On the other hand, if you have Dynamics 365 for Sales installed, you will be able to configure case management functionality in your portal without any code. In other words, Dynamics 365 Portals are enablers of Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement apps functionality for the internal and external audiences.

This architecture comes with a major benefit. All the differentiating features of Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement apps are the features of Dynamics 365 Portals as well: centralized management, Common Data Model, roles and permissions, forms and views, business rules, declarative workflows and actions, plug-in architecture, integration with other services, Common Data Service for Apps extensibility, audit, and more.

Dynamics 365 Portals deliver complete content management system out of the box, with all content stored in the Dynamics 365 database. That means the content can be edited not only via the front-end editing tools but also directly using Dynamics 365 application. Content can be secured using the robust Dynamics 365 security model.

These are the key capabilities of Dynamics 365 Portals:

Capability Description
Content icon Content Seamless, responsive, and customizable web design for any user on any device. Full tracking and context available as Dynamics 365 is the backend system for all interactions.
Form icon Functionality Quickly build secure, functional websites to interact with Dynamics 365 with no coding required. Track customer interactions across all channels and capture them in Dynamics 365
Icon tools Extensibility Leverage powerful D365 business processes natively extended through the web front-end. Integrate portals with other systems like SharePoint or Power BI. Extend portals with custom development to cater for complex scenarios
Secure document icon Security All data used to build portal content is protected through Dynamics 365 security model. Dynamics 365 Portals extend this model to secure and tailor the content for the target audiences who are not Dynamics 365 users.

Let's take a look at various scenarios when portals can be a good fit and others where portals probably wouldn't deliver the same value.

When to consider

  • Expose Dynamics 365 data in a simple, secure web interface. This may be external users (like customers and partners) or internal users whose role does not warrant full Dynamics 365 client access.
  • Provide access to simple community forums, self-service knowledgebase and web forms for service requests, cases or other Dynamics 365 data management.
  • Requirement for a website to read, update and create Dynamics 365 data in an out of the box, ready to deploy manner.
  • Limited resources and budget for large scale web development, business-user and no-code configuration requirements.
  • Need for responsive design, Portal content accessible across all resolutions, devices, and browsers.
  • Multi-lingual implementations where you need to serve audiences of different languages or are required to provide multi-language services by law.
  • Secure connection to Dynamics 365, Single Sign-On.

When to exercise caution

  • Majority of data to surface on the web resides in an external (non-Dynamics 365) system.
  • Heavy requirements around document management, indexing and searching.
  • Large volumes of end-users driving heavy traffic to the Portal.
  • eCommerce requirements including processing payments and maintaining an online store.
  • Use cases that are more appropriate for direct Dynamics 365 licensed user access.