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    Yes Virginia, there is a Common Data Model

    Dear Editor,

    Some of my little friends in the software world are talking about a Common Data Model. They claim they saw it on the internet. Some have claimed to even use it! But I have not seen it yet. Please tell me the truth; is there a Common Data Model? 

    Virginia O’Hanlon

    Virginia, your little friends are right! Don’t be affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge. Yes, Virginia, there is a Common Data Model! It exists to offer an external light to PowerApps, Flow and Dynamics 365. One day we will wonder what we did before the Common Data Model.   

    What is the Common Data Model and the Common Data Service?

    So first, a few clarifications. The Common Data Service, according to this announcement from Microsoft, refers to a set of services that enable users to “build beautiful cross-platform, multi-data source applications in a fast iterative manner”. A picture of the Common Data Service is below, but central to all of this coming together is the Central Data Model. The CDM is a secure, separate database that contains a standard, structured view of common business data elements.

    To be clear, the CDM is NOT a replacement for xRM development platform. It is literally a separate database designed to be a common schema connection between other databases and apps. Think of it as a parallel data repository that syncs Dynamics 365 data with other platforms.

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    What is in the Common Data Model?

    The Common Data Model ships with a set of standard entities across common industry data types, including sales, purchasing, customer service and Office productivity. Currently there are 65 standard entities shipped, although this number is growing rapidly. In addition, you can add custom entities to the CDM.

    What can I do with the Common Data Model?

    Today, CDM is the backbone of PowerApps. The PowerApps platform allows business users to easily create and publish business apps to the web or mobile. Central to this concept is the requirement to connect data from services you already use, like Dynamics 365, your ERP system, your Office 365, SharePoint, Salesforce.com, etc.

    CDM is also the backbone of Microsoft Flow. Flow allows you create automated workflows between different apps and services. Once again, it’s super easy for business users to use. And there are about 100 ready-to-use services here.

    What is new with the Common Data Model?

    The CDM was announced back in July, and since then there have been many improvements and new features. Included in the latest version:

    • Improved app from data generation on standard and custom entities with field groups
    • Multi-field lookups
    • Editable data import/export entity field mappings
    • Ability to export data import/export templates
    • Multi-sheet Excel import
    • Simplified address type, complex types for Quantity, Person name, GUID, Date
    • Central place to view entity relationships
    • Simplified primary key definition
    • Searchable fields allow for indexed searches
    • Entity data explorer in creator portal
    • Null support
    • Default value support for simple data types

    Is it secure?

    Secure? Entity level authorization and role based security ship with this release. Field and row level security are coming in future releases. Currently, permission sets are the foundation of the Common Data Service security model. Much like Dynamics 365 security settings, the permission sets are made of a list of entities and the level of access granted per entity. Each entity comes with two permission sets; a View set and a Maintain set.

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    OK, what’s next?

    This is the exciting part. For Hitachi, we’re looking forward to building our Industry Cloud Solutions using the Common Data Model because it gives us a common schema when we integrate. Instead of building multiple connectors between our solutions and common back end systems, we can build it out once in the CDM. It also changes the way we architect our custom solutions for our customers. We no longer have to think about pulling all data and functionality into a single platform system. Flow allows us to create data in one system based on events in another. And with PowerApps, we can get even more granular with our custom app development. Because we can create quicker and cheaper, individual roles and functions can have their own unique apps.

    More questions on the Common Data Model? Contact Hitachi Solutions today!