Should you wish to go beyond Dynamics 365’s built-in reporting, and Power BI doesn’t quite give you the flexibility you need to create the bespoke reports your business requires, you may wish to explore the Visual Studio route. However, although Visual Studio can provide powerful functionality, there can be a few hurdles to overcome to get your reporting environment set up correctly.
1. Install Visual Studio
The first thing you will need is Visual Studio itself, if you haven’t already installed it. At the time of writing, the Dynamics 365 Report Authoring Extension does not support Visual Studio 2017, so your best bet is to stick with 2015. This can be downloaded here by creating a free account and downloading Visual Studio 2015 Community Edition, if you don’t already have a paid version of the software available. Once downloaded, simply install it as you would with any other Windows application.
2. Install SQL Server Data Tools
This step can either be completed during the Visual Studio install process or the tools can be downloaded separately from Microsoft.
Note – if you install the tools as part of the Visual Studio install, the tools will need to be updated prior to use. This will be indicated by a small notification flag in the upper-right of the Visual Studio interface.
3. Install the Dynamics 365 Report Authoring Extension
The Authoring Extension can be downloaded from Microsoft here. During the installation process, any required additional software will automatically be installed.
4. Create your first report
There is a useful Technet guide to creating a report here. However, there are a couple of important steps to take before a report you create within Visual Studio will be compatible to be reuploaded back into Dynamics 365. This useful blog post covers the error you will most likely see, but in summary, when uploading your RDL into Dynamics 365, if you encounter –
Error Uploading Report
This report can’t upload. This issue can occur when the Report Definition Language (RDL) file is not valid. If you contact support, please provide the technical details.
simply follow these steps –
- In Visual Studio, change the target report server version from SQL Server 2016 or later to SQL Server 2008 R2, 2012 or 2014 within the Project properties.
- When uploading the RDL file back into Dynamics 365, ensure that you upload it from the /bin/debug folder of the project and not the RDL file from within the project folder itself.
If you only plan to run your reports from within Visual Studio, then the steps can be skipped, but having your reports stored within Dynamics 365 itself gives you the powerful option to be able to run a report in the context of the current record, so it’s highly recommended.