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June 2011

Fun with Dates

In this incredible world of both technology offering calculated date and people capturing data from all over the world the two concepts can sometimes collide!

Take for instance the world of dates.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM offers UTC adjustments, personal settings and Date and Time fields. What this means is that depending on how you have your computer configured and your Dynamics CRM Personal Options the dates that you enter are adjusted.

Microsoft Outlook does this as well. If  I was to setup a meeting with an associate in California for instance on my calendar for today the meeting would display as Eastern Time (2pm for instance), but for my associate (CRM Guru Marc Wolenik)  the date and time would display as (11am) and if we then added in another person such as a cool CRM Guru in Australia (Leon Tribe) the time would not only be different, the DAY would be different.   

So what happens when you start capturing these types of dates inside of Dynamics CRM for analysis or reporting?

If all the dates are entered by "humans" correctly configured for their local time zones then the software correctly handles all the adjustments. The only trick with regards to this set of considerations is that DATE Only fields are well not really date only so watch that!

If all the dates however are entered by other "Systems" then a bit more thought needs to go into the architecture. Take for instance a system that resides on a server in a data center that is capturing date information based on that servers date. If you then take that date and enter it via an integration, how would you expect Dynamics CRM to react?

How would that date be managed?

Do you want it to be fixed? or adjusted?

If you want it to be adjusted, how are you going to tell the system to adjust it?

What if you want it to be a date field BUT you want to lock it to a certain time zone?

These are the joys of the world of global!  


Oh Async: Introducing the Chef "Mr. Processor"

Async

"The term asynchronous is usually used to describe communications in which data can be transmitted intermittently rather than in a steady stream" :

Now given this simple fact you might be surprised to discover that sometimes people forget that if you use asynchronous processes (such as workflow or asynchronous plugins) and you have dependencies particularly on a variety of async processes, timing might be an issue!  

An interesting way to consider this is from the perspective of looking into a professional kitchen. Take the Master Chef (Mr. Processor): He must prepare certain items in sequence, for instance the pork chops have to be cut and spiced before they can be put in the pan to be cooked and before they can be prepared for display.

On the other hand if serving two vegtables for the same plate, if the broccoli comes out before the carrots, the chef (Mr. Processor) does not have a problem. The preparation of the broccoli and the carrots can happen in order, reverse order or at the same time. They can be asynchronous. They both need to be prepared in a timely manner (within the same approximate window of time) and they both need to get done within that time frame, but which gets done first doesn't matter that much. They are not dependent on each other.

Now the Chef might prefer the broccoli to come out first, as he has his own habits and best practices to make it all come together, but he can (and does) deal with the reality if they get reversed. On the other hand if an assistant chef forgets to spice the pork chops or spices them after cooking then the flavor of they chef's prized dinner is ruined and sometimes considered unacceptable!

These same concepts apply to functions and processes within the world of Dynamics CRM. There are functions that should be asynchronous, there are processes that need to be synchronous and knowing the difference is an important variable in any developer or power user.    

Related Posts

What is Asynchronous?

Dynamcis CRM v4 Asynchoronus Process pushing CPU to 100%

AsyncOperationBaseTable: What are those records anyway?  

 


IE 8 and CRM - Something you might not know

PowerObjects had a great little blog post on Internet Explore 8 when it came out highlighting a few of the cool NEW features that are worth learning about if you are using Dynamics CRM.

Now that IE 8 is part of your everyday routine (and you are thinking about IE 9) take a look at this post on some of the features that might have slipped your notice in what you ALREADY have.

Oh and in terms of security (for those of you running other web browers)

"Testing conducted by the independent NSS Labs found that IE8 provided signifigantly better malware blocking capabilities than Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Google Chrome and Apple Safari."


Mobility v4 and v2011

The CRM development team at Microsoft slid in the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobility option called Mobile Express a while ago - (I could even say years ago -Check out Settings, Mobile Express) and as far as I can see they have been updating it little by little as the rollups and new versions come out.

What does this mean? It means that Mobile Express is an option worth checking out, BUT that it does not necessarily meet ALL your extensive mobility needs depending on what you need in a Mobile client and what and how many platforms you need it to run on as well as how many extra mobile specific features you want.

The mobile ISVs including TenDigits and CWR Mobility are totally focused on working with mobile teams to empower them and encourage them to get more from their Dynamics CRM Investment.  They also have additional features that are integrated so if you need those additional features get the teams at CWR and TenDigits to give you a demo, BUT if you just want to access Dynamics CRM from your cell phone once in a while then take a peek at Mobile Express.

Of note Mobile Express is a Free feature in Dynamics CRM and yes, there are a number of people who don't realize this. Pay to get it configured and to learn the best way to use it from your partner, but don't worry about  extra licensing fees. 

Articles on Mobility and Dynamics CRM are as follows:

Dynamo with Dynamics CRM on Mobility, Mobile Express and CRM v4

Customer Effective on Mobile Express (Oct, 2010)

The more Powerful Mobile Express in CRM 2011


Adding Soundex

Soundex is not necessarily the ultimate solution to expanding the power of Duplicate Detection, but it is definitely one option.

Check out this post for one approach (comments from the development crowd welcome)

Pimp your Duplicate Detection with Soundex

 


Bridge 2 CRM

I haven't heard much from Bridge2CRM over the last couple of years and have not had the pleasure of talking to them at some of the big Dynamics Conferences like Convergence 2011, but their solution looks to be another option in the mobility space.

Menno blogged about them a while back, but alas my link to Menno's post has grown cold, brittle and broken.

Comments from the Crowd?

    Are you using this solution?

    Have you used this solution?

    What do you think?


Async, Performance and Dynamics CRM v4

Just because we are a year or two away from the initial release of Dynamics CRM v4 does not mean that we are past some of the long ago solved problems.

Needless to say here is a item that you might want to look into if you are in "Database Cleaning Mode" or if you are having performance issues with a Dynamics CRM v4 footprint.

1) Run cleanup scripts to address existing Database problems!

Warning (probably unnecessary but): Before running any SQL Cleanup scripts backup the database in case you run into problems.


Note: You might want to set the Max Degree Of Parallelism option greater than Zero (1 is just fine) if you are running a multi CPU SQL Server. This option is under the Advanced options of your SQL Server. This one is a bit debatable among the DBAs and CRM experts. On small queries you want to define resources so the system doesn't burn up resources figuring things out and on more complex queries the benefits exist to let the system figure it out.

MaxDegree 

Now the next question you are going to ask is WHERE ARE THESE Cleanup scripts. Good Question!

Right now most teams (particularly in the larger CRM footprints) have their own or perhaps it is better to consider the partners supporting your CRM footprint. They have their own utilities, tips and tricks for great maintenance as well.

So where do you start?

Start here: An easy way to identify if you are running into an old issue with the AsyncOperationBaseTable is by checking how many records are in this table. Run a simple Count(*) and checking how many records you have of OperationType = ‘10’ and Succeeded/Completed.

If you do have this issue you can go back and check out Ben's blog and/or do a bit of Binging.


CRM v4 as a Baby - Quick Reference

Back in the day, and well ok I admit it this is still on my bulletin board in the office, Tim Dutcher put together a Microsoft Dynamics CRM v4.0 Quick Reference Sheet. This was a GREAT resource for all things new and new back in October 2008 was Dynamics CRM v4.0!

Now before you roll your eyes you might want to take a peek. A similar reference page can be put together for all things Dynamics CRM 2011. It just needs to be done and to get started here is the model!

http://mscrmrocks.blogspot.com/2008/10/dynamics-crm-40-quick-reference.html 

OR

if you have yet to move to Dynamics CRM 2011 and you have people ramping up on Dynamics CRM v4.0 they might like it

OR

if you want to follow my style and always know what features came out with which version so you can know the version number of the features (see this lets you know if the feature is robust or maybe just a bit wet behind the years)

CRMQuickReference 

 


Case Sensitive Searching

Thanks to David Fronk at Dynamics Methods for sharing a quick little trick for changing a field to be set to Case Sensitive. Now before I share this tip be aware that it is NOT supported by microsoft so what this means is that a Rollup, A SQL Server Update, a Upgrade or any other quick little patch might disable this feature.

This tip was also shared in the heavy v4.0 Days of CRM so when it comes to SQL 2008 R2 you might have to updated the steps.

Now on that note here is the link to David's quick checklist for setting the Case Sensitive Flag.

http://dmcrm.blogspot.com/2009/04/case-sensitive-searches-in-crm.html  

 


That Call - Help My Computer is acting strange

As with many software developer teams there are a number of small fixes, features and utilities that get slipped into the stream without any announcement. All of a sudden you have something that is a "well that is nice to have"

I personally attribute this to a developer deciding that if he/she releases a tool or feature that fixes a complaint about something then perhaps the knats bugging them will just go away.

In this arena software companies can also release something that perhaps does not need a lot of fanfare and marketing money. One of these tools was blogged about a while ago (February 2009 to be exact) and it has been on my list to share.

So what is this tool?

FIXIT from Microsoft

The Famous Jim Glass Blogged about it because he definitely finds it helpful for all those wonderful perhaps not as tech sauvy members of his extended community and CNet did a quick little article about it in the interest of keeping an eye on the trend. So if you happen to have friends and family who report that something "might" be not quite right with their machine, you might have them start with that little button on the bottom of the Help Article.

Another key little, off the CRM subject, tidbit includes TrendMicro's Housecall - Just happens to be a favorite of mine because without spending a dime you can have "whoever" run a complete check of their computer simply by visiting the TrendMicro website.


Sometimes it is all about People

Over the years my career and my ability to help has been significantly tripped up by people. Sometimes it was miscommunication and other times it was pure mischief and still other times it was something else, Power or Politics, Ego or Hate and perhaps even more.

In other areas I have been incredibly successful, for instance with adoption and mastery of applications and with helping people transition from how they are using technology today, to what they can do with what is new.

Training classes and events, presentations and simple words have all been used to empower people, to get past reluctance to change and to energize the general population.  There have been emotions as well to add to the success. Good Communication, caring, thinking, loving and general liking. Trust has also been a factor; although trust is not always necessary for success.

As I get older, I reflect back and try to think hard about what works and what doesn't work, but it is still a continual process. Failures don't just go away because you have more experience. There are successes and failures, but as my Mother use to tell me, each year is different. Always learning, but usually there is something new and I have to admit that it is true that with every failure there is learning and with every success a small win.

So today, as the urges within you yearn to vent your rage because of someone doing this or that, should we step back and consider what we are learning from this person? I know when I am in vent mode I am not in learning mode and yet. I do shift and think later.  Is it that their style is so different that talking to them is like sandpaper? Is it perhaps their attitude or ego that is preventing them from listening or considering your experience or perhaps your own that is preventing you from considering theirs? Is it a control thing? Is there a win/win? Is it necessary to play win/loose? (sometimes it unfortunately is)

OR perhaps we all just need to be better detectives and ask why? why, why, why, why? and then listen.

 


June VPC

Partners Restart your Engines!

Have you downloaded the latest Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 VPC? As per most VPCs from the CRM team it is packed with a TON of goodies BUT this version not only has your traditional CRM it also three other xRM Models.

Now if you want to really drive yourself a bit nuts and burn some  time you can take this new VPC and load it up on an underpowered Windows 7 laptop. Ouch! I mean imagine running Windows Server, SharePoint, CRM and more all within a virtualbox on a laptop with 2-4 gbs of ram. Oh it an be done, but you will not be impressed.

So Tip 1

Get the Hardware where it needs to be for demonstrating all the cool power of this incredibly powerful product! If all you have is a laptop then at least max it out with as much RAM as possible and use an external drive (or internal solid state).

Tip 2

Windows 7 Virtual PC cannot run Windows Server 64bit. Yes, this VPC is 64bit so if all you have is a Windows 7 laptop you are going to have to depend on alternative virtual technology support such as Virtual Box from Oracle.

Tip 3

Take a little bit of time and configure the image so that it uses it's resources in the most efficient and best manner possible. Even if this requires that you grab the ear of your infrastructure or Virtual guru.

Tip 4

Make it yours - remove what you don't need, change the data to better fit how you talk about the product and add your own views and reports.

Tip 5

DEMO TO WIN - An incredible class that Microsoft has offered over the years. This little class really helps people who are tasks with demonstrating any software to understand how to both present and how to best present demonstrations of applications. Look it up, Sign Up, take the class.

Tip 6

HAVE FUN! Technology solves some really painful business problems. You can be part of this solution, but in this really noisy world it isn't easy, but it is worth it.


The Benefits of User Groups

The Summary from the Southern New England Customer Relationship Management User Group meeting (Microsoft Dynamics CRM User Group - Regional Meeting)

June's SNECRMUG Meeting Summary

Boston once again managed to get the best of me (traffic, late to meeting), BUT  I still made it to the Southern New England CRM User group meeting in time to hear the better part of the first presentation and all of the second and third presentation.

I, unfortunately, missed the introductions so if you were there I look forward to seeing you in July or September! Still it also reinforced what a great option it is to have more than one great leader helping to organize and coordinate (Thanks Pat!)

The meeting started out with a presentation by Edgewater Technology on the great new charts, graphs and visual display and reporting options in Microsoft Dynamics CRM v2011.  What constantly amazes me is that reporting techniques used in the v1.2, 2.0 and 3.0 days still get a viewing and offer value, as well as all the new cool stuff in Dynamics CRM 2011. Never stop learning just because there is a new version around the corner is a GREAT motto to remember when it comes to Dynamics CRM.

The second presentation had me doing some wows! One of the Gold Certified ISVs, experlogix, showed their highly visual addition to Dynamics CRM. Products, Quotes and Orders will never be the same for me again. This product not only added break down to a very grandular bundling level but it also includes all with product pictures and built in workflow. Jeff showed the process of ordering a fish tank and with each decision the visual choices followed business rules in such a way that if you picked something such as a piranha  for your fish tank, it will mark the other fish as not an option. Who wants dead fish!

The last presentation was done by a Customer. Lojack did not do the standard presentation around how sales features are used which although is definitely interesting is not as interesting to those who have seen that type of presentation before. They actualy stepped it up and did a great presentation on how the inner workings of customer service get value out of Dynamics CRM. No PowerPoint, just look this is what we do!  They also offered some technology wow with some of the new things that LoJack is offering such as alerts when your "key" is not with your car when it is moving. Hey, I would want an alert on that as soon as possible! Text anyone?  What was fun was some of the stories about unusually things that can occur when offering these new offerings.

An extra thanks to experlogix for sponsoring lunch and to Edgewater Technology and LoJack for presenting!!


The Grace of an Olympic Star

"I am going to give you just enough information on evaluating a customer-driven architecture to make you want the IT Department to do it" Paul Greenberg from CRM at the Speed of Light

There are so many things that you can do easily within the world of Dynamics CRM that it is easy to forget how much experience is built into the solution and some of the Extension architectures. Just consider how easy those Olympic dives or ski jumps look with the grace of a professional and yet I suspect that one might kill oneself if they climbed the ladder and tried to teach themselves.


Change

Change is constant.

I was reminded of this recently by two events. The first was when one of the more incredible people at work dropped an e-mail that a routine checkup turned into a life changing event. One that she is continuing to deal with :(  My heart aches for her and her family.

The second is from a post on CRM Success that Pierre Hulsebus from EHTC posted today. "The implementation of CRM in your organization needs to be viewed as a culture-change initiative. Resistance to the CRM culture change means catastrophe."

"Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches"  -Pauline Kezer

Should we not all stretch out and embrace what is so close to us? The opportunity to grow just a little more? The chance to learn something new?

Today change is even faster. As conversations buzz on twitter at the speed of light and even e-mail is too slow. As the world shifts from the weight of crowd based opinions and as technology breakthroughs rock base assumptions every six months. How is anyone going to keep up?

BUT perhaps it is not about keeping up as opposed to simply being. You are here, in this space, at this time. Yesterday things were slightly or radically different, tomorrow will be a new day, it is all about this moment, this time, this second and what you can do for now and what you plan for the future.

As we plan, we review, as we review, we update the plan. Some items remain, some change.

  


More on Advanced Marketing Options

Tis the year to dive into business cultures and technology that have had significant change 

If you have not looked under the covers at the marketing industry lately then it is time. What you used and assumed yesterday could use a refresh based on some of the newer offerings. Take for instance CoreMotives, who is another very interesting player within the world of cutting edge marketing combined with great technology advances.

To get a feel for what they do take a peek at some of their upcoming webinars covering

> Email marketing

> Auto Responders
> Web intelligence
> Web form creation
> Surveys
> Landing pages
> Social media tracking
> Google AdWord tracking

Being Non-Traditional - Sales

Walk down the street

Make notes on which companies on your block would be great customer fits for your business.

Now add these to your Dynamics CRM system, check out their company websites, learn a bit more about them. Use the search engines.  I bet there are a few key contacts that you see every morning at the coffee shop. You might even ride up the elevator with someone who might take you weeks to get an appointment with using the traditional methods. Just take some baby steps. Eye contact, an unexpected hello?

Opening doors sometimes takes a bit of leg work, but if you focus on win/win and you truely care about great fits amazing traction can occur and the benefits overflow for all involved.