Recently, Microsoft released several exciting enhancements to Dynamics 365 Universal Resource Scheduling.  For those that are not aware of the latest and greatest updates within Field Service, Project Service and Universal Resource Scheduling, you can check it out here.

Universal Resource Scheduling (URS) is the scheduling tool utilized within Project Service and Field Service, as well as enabling resource scheduling across other Dynamics 365 entities.  EDITORS NOTE: Check out our recent At Your Service episode where we talked about URS, here. Universal Resource Scheduling  allows you to extend the scheduling functionality beyond those areas, making it an exciting and flexible tool within any organization that requires the capability to schedule items such as Opportunities, Leads, Cases, Marketing Campaigns, and just about anything else you can imagine.  In this blog, I will focus on a few of the enhancements I feel are game changers (if I could, I would write about all the enhancements and bug fixes as I feel Universal Resource Scheduling is an amazing feature set), the issues they solve and why.

Sort Resources based on Available Time

The update I find most exciting is users/schedulers now have the capability to sort resources by total available time (check out this Microsoft Blog for all the exciting details).  In previous versions, a scheduler typically had to visually review the percentage booked/available of each resource and determine if any were over or under booked.  Depending on the size of the resource pool for the particular schedule board, this could take some time – or you could rely on booking rules to inform you if someone was double / over booked.  Either way, this was a pain point for dispatchers I’ve spoken to in the past.

With this new sort feature, dispatchers can quickly sort resources to see those under booked or over booked (Microsoft provides the scheduler the capability to sort in ascending or descending order).  This tends to make it faster and easier for dispatchers to book work orders, projects and anything else you schedule to resources.  A caveat to our readers:  if your organization “books” based on characteristics or uses  booking rules based on characteristics, you may need to also filter on said characteristics or rely on the booking rule to kick in and inform you IF a particular resource is not a good fit for the job.  Regardless of any rules or other restrictions, the capability to sort resources based on availability is a game changer.  Now I can quickly look my resource pool and determine if I need to update any previous bookings to properly distribute workload.

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Increase Search Threshold from 100 to 1,000

Yes, you read that correctly.  Microsoft increased the ability to search available resources up to 1,000.  A large global organization once complained to me:  “Scott, are you telling me I have to further refine my search criteria so the system can display the less than 100 available resources for me to possibly schedule this work order?”  My answer to him at the time – yes, it is a current limitation and if you want to see results, you need to ensure your query returns 100 or less possible resources.  For larger organizations, this can cause angst and frustration, because if it found over 100 possible resources, it wouldn’t return any results.  The only information the user saw was this error: “Schedule availability found for more than 100 resources, please try to add more filter criteria to narrow the results down.”  There were obvious ways around this, but even when I provided logical explanations or asked why do you need a result set greater than that, I was informed “because we want that flexibility, so when can you make that happen for us.”

Those days of being limited to 100 or less are over (thank you Microsoft), well if your organization wants it to be.  Microsoft’s Product/Program Management Team is brilliant.  They provided the flexibility to increase the result set to 1,000 but left it configurable for organizations.  So you may be asking what happens in the latest update if my results exceed either the default threshold (which is still 100) or the user defined custom threshold (up to 1,000).  I don’t want to spoil it for all.  Let’s just say bye-bye to only seeing an error message.  For those that want to read about this exciting new feature and how to change the default limit, you can check out Microsoft’s Blog on this feature set.    A word of caution to all:  increasing the result set to the 1,000 limit will take processing time.  How much time depends on the number of total possible resources and the complexity of your search criteria.  Sometimes, in my opinion, less (a lower resource limit) is more.

Change limit

Schedule Board Date Ranges Now Available in Custom Queries

In the July 2017 update, Microsoft provided scheduling users the ability to take advantage of custom attributes or entities (resources / resource requirements) on the schedule board to filter resources and resource requirements.  This was exciting as it was the first time extensibility of the schedule board was officially made possible (I’ve extended the schedule board in the past, but it was not supported and experienced sporadic issues.

In the December 2017 update, Microsoft went a step further and now allows organizations to display those custom queries in the date range being viewed.  I recently had a customer ask me (when we extended the schedule board to show # of bookings for a resource), “why doesn’t the number update when we change the date range on the schedule board?” At the time I thought it was a great question and didn’t have an answer besides this is a new feature and I’m sure Microsoft will continue to expand this functionality over time.  If I were a betting man, I wish that was a time I bet it all.  Now, as I update or change the date range, my custom query details update to reflect the data within that range.

Custom Schedule Board

Depending on your organization’s query (in my customer’s case, # of work orders assigned) this provides a scheduler quick insight into potential workload and can assist in making timely and accurate decisions when assigning new work to your resources.

Conclusion

Microsoft continues their innovation of Dynamics 365 and they certainly hit it out of the park with the latest enhancements and fixes to Universal Resource Scheduling.  If you aren’t familiar with this feature set, then I urge you to obtain a trial instance of Field Service or Project Service (yes, you need either or both of those to take advantage of Universal Resource Scheduling for Dynamics 365) and become familiar with what it provides for organizations requiring scheduling capabilities.

Scott (@fldservice_guru)