As a Dynamics Partner, we’ve used Dual-write to help businesses connect their quoting and customer service inquiries to their financial processes, warehousing, and production. That lets salespeople, finance teams, and operations enter information easily in forms relevant to them, and then have the data automatically flow back and forth to the other systems.
Table of Contents
- Benefits of Dual-Write
- Which Dynamics 365 Products Does Dual-Write Work With?
- How Much Does Dual-Write Cost?
- How Does Dual-Write Work?
- Who Should Use Dual-Write?
- Preparing to Use Dual-Write
- Mitigating a Common Implementation Problem
- Limitations of Dual-Write
- Further Resources
What Is the Benefit of Dual-Write for My Business?
Dual-write creates three main benefits: a single source of truth, ease of use, and ease of maintenance.
- Single source of truth: For data that’s important to teams across your business, Dual-write creates a single source of truth, so that records changed in one part of your system are automatically updated in the others. Teams as disparate as customer service and manufacturing can work with the same data.
- Ease of use: Although your teams are now sharing data, they can do so from streamlined interfaces tailored to each department. This is much easier than, for instance, trying to have your sales team enter customer data in an interface designed for a finance team.
- Ease of maintenance: Dual-write is a fully supported integration from Microsoft. Your Dynamics Partner will be able to manage and maintain it through future updates.
Many businesses using legacy systems manage their data exchanges between departments in Excel spreadsheets or via email. This is time-intensive and error-prone.
On the other hand, adding CRM to a large and complex business without a fully supported integration like Dual-write may unintentionally add work, create duplicate data, and fail to increase profitability.
Dual-write saves your team from having to do manual entry in two separate systems. For example, Dual-write allows a sales team member to enter customer information into the D365 CRM system and, when ready, sync it to D365 Finance & Operations, where it is then available for other departments such as order management or finance.
Which Dynamics 365 Products Does Dual-Write Work With?
Dual-write works with Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations and the full suite of Dynamics 365 CRM applications.
(Now technically licensed as Finance and Supply Chain Management)
(D365 Sales, Customer Service, Marketing, Project Operations, and Field Service)
A few extra details:
- Business Central can share data with other Dynamics 365 products, but it does so using different technologies, not Dual-write. (At Encore, we have implemented that kind of integration for our customers as well.)
- This is the same list of products that is applicable for Microsoft’s FastTrack program to support advanced implementations. In general, if you’re using Dual-write, your project is also likely to be a good fit for FastTrack.
- You may also hear your Dynamics Partner refer to the D365 CRM applications by the technical term “Customer Engagement.”
- Although most customers and consultants still call it Finance & Operations or “F&O,” Microsoft now officially licenses it as Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management.
How Much Does Dual-Write Cost?
Dual-write does not require any extra cost. If you have the relevant applications for your business, Dual-write is included in your licenses. See also:
- Licensing for Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations (aka Finance and Supply Chain Management)
- Licensing for Dynamics 365 CRM solutions (aka Customer Engagement)
How Does Dual Write-Work?
At a technical level, Dual-write provides a foundational integration scaffolding for linking Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management (F&O) and Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement (CRM). Microsoft has provided a basic framework for entities in F&O and mapped them to their corresponding tables in CRM. Within each of these table maps are a list of fields. Each represents data that can flow between the systems.
Your Dynamics Partner can modify these table maps to a certain degree and tailor them to the needs of your business. The beauty of Dual-write is that this framework also allows for non-developers to manage and modify the integration between two systems once they are properly trained by their Dynamics Partner.
Caveats: Not all fields are available for Dual-write, and not all fields flow both ways. Also, some table maps have pre-requisite maps. Discuss with an experienced Dynamics Partner for more detail, and don’t modify your integrations without proper guidance and training.
For more detail, read our integration best practices for CRM and F&O.
Which Dynamics 365 Implementations Should Use Dual-Write?
Dual-write is a great fit for businesses with a large number of customer-facing interactions that lead to financial transactions (sales) and inventory or production actions (manufacturing and delivery). It’s especially helpful in connecting data from field-service interactions with data in your ERP.
However, Dual-write is usually not a good approach for companies who have a large number of one-time customers and very little repeat business. The benefit of Dual-write is largely for managing ongoing relationships that result in recurring sales, service, manufacturing, or delivery actions.
Also, Dual-write should not be overapplied. If you have a large number of prospect-facing interactions that do not result in sales, manufacturing, or delivery, those interactions should probably not be mapped to Finance & Operations. Otherwise, Dual-write would be pushing a large amount of unnecessary data from your sales and marketing side to your finance and operations side.
Note, again, that if you’re using Dynamics 365 Business Central instead of Finance & Operations together with Dynamics 365 CRM applications, your solution partner can take a different approach to the integration.
How to Prepare for an Implementation Using Dual-Write
If your implementation will be using Dual-write, you should document certain business processes especially carefully, standardize your data entry, and prepare to automate.
Document your processes. In any implementation, documenting your processes is important. If you’re using Dual-write, be especially careful to document processes that involve customer records, addresses, and inventory. The details will be important to properly configure your full solution.
Standardize your data entry processes. With the help of your solution partner, you need to train all your teams to one consistent standard for data entry. A classic example is addresses. In your older systems, some of your teams may be accustomed to entering a state as “Idaho,” for instance, while others enter it as “ID.” You won’t get the full benefit of Dual-write if those teams’ processes remain inconsistent.
Prepare to automate. As you automate and integrate your systems with Dual-write, you and your Dynamics Partner need to train each team to understand what actions will automatically take place when they post orders, etc.
That need for training is one of the reasons it’s important to choose a Dynamics Partner who understands the “why” of financial transactions and data just as much as the technical nuts and bolts of D365.
Mitigating a Common Dual-Write Implementation Problem — Unexpected Behavior on Records
You may encounter some records that are not available to both the CRM and F&O sides of the system, especially during, or shortly after deployment. This happens when a team member unknowingly inserts a certain kind of data in the “wrong” place in the system.
This sort of mistake is more common during data migration and deployment, because there will often be several waves of “syncing” data about customers, inventory, etc., into the system.
How to mitigate it:
Determine a standard for where and how each new type of record will be created, and then train your team to follow that process. Your partner can help with best practices and training.
Your system administrator (or your Dynamics Partner) can also limit access to parts of the system by security role. For instance, your sales team may not need access to finance records. Limiting access will reduce the ways in which duplicate or misplaced data can be entered.
Learn how to troubleshoot if Dual-write apps don’t sync with Finance & Operations.
Dual-Write vs Data Integrator
The Data Integrator is an alternative to Dual-write in that it facilitates integration between F&O and Dynamics 365 CRM applications. There are 3 main differences between the Data Integrator and Dual-write:
- The fields and tables available to sync with the Data Integrator are quite limited. The management and setup of syncing is more difficult than with Dual-write and requires someone with development experience to maintain.
- The Data Integrator primarily uses the Sales application in Customer Engagement to sync with corresponding Sales entities in F&O (Sales and Marketing) whereas Dual Write can sync any Standard Entities and provides a wider range of fields within those entities to sync. The Data Integrator does not support syncing of Inventory Management and Order Fulfilment. All inventory and fulfilment activities still happen exclusively in F&O.
- While Dual-write is a real-time, live sync, the Data Integrator syncs using a Batch process which can result in a slight lag in data between applications.
Microsoft is recommending customers start using Dual-write, which provides a tightly linked bidirectional integration between F&O and Dataverse and is easier to configure and maintain.
Dual-Write vs Virtual Entities
Virtual Entities are created custom and used to allow simplified and faster integration with-3rd party software such as FedEx Ship Manager, or external reporting solutions.
Virtual Entities and Tables allow you to expose external data like SQL Server or SharePoint as if they were Dataverse Tables like Customer Engagement Tables are. Dual-write, on the other hand, takes data in Standard Entities and Tables in F&O and Customer Engagement and syncs it, real-time, between those two applications.
Virtual Entities are custom and are complex to set up. Note that Standard Entities cannot be converted to virtual ones. Virtual Entities are independent of Dual-write, and cannot be used with syncing via Dual Write.
Limitations of Dual-Write
Although Dual-write is a very helpful integration technology, it has some important limitations you and your partner should be aware of:
- Some kinds of data only flow one in direction. For instance, released products can only be created in F&O. In practice, this means that the record for a product needs to be created by your operations team before your salespeople add it to an invoice.
- Not all entities have all fields. In general, Microsoft has built Dual-write to sync only the essential data between F&O and CRM. If for some reason you need to sync an extra field between the two systems, there are two options: It can be done through customization, but that can be a difficult and unstable approach. A simple workaround we sometimes recommend is to make use of an unused field that’s already mapped between the two systems.
Your Dynamics Partner can configure your system and train your team to avoid any business problems due to these limitations.
For specific advice about Dual-write or other aspects of your Dynamics implementation, speak to a Dynamics Implementation Partner like Encore.
- Microsoft’s Dual-write overview
- Explanation of Microsoft’s FastTrack program
- Technical Best Practices for Integration Between Dynamics 365 CRM and F&O
- Solution Architecture for Dynamics 365 Implementations
Many customers come to us for their first Dynamics implementation. Others want to add a new solution to their Microsoft stack. And others ask for help with ongoing but troubled implementations.