MS CRM Users: The Executive Office

Dev to Dev, Let them out once in a while

Sometimes the developers have to sit at the table and talk to each other.

In the really big Enterprise projects, where you bring together the greatest of the great (sometimes still bleeding) AND you pull in the well established, proven technologies, you often end up with a wide variety of languages, thoughts, strengths and weaknesses. (sprinkling in acronyms and it can get really crazy) 

Each person is a deep expert in their specialty, but getting each expert to use a language that other experts can understand is a challenge worth noting. 

If one person is talking Plugins, Processes, and Actions and another is talking approval cycles, statuses and signoffs and a third is discussing throughput, bottlenecks and distribution you might have a disconnect.

The trick?

Recognition. : Acknowledge and recognize that different languages are being spoken.

The second Trick?

Diversity Training : Point out that each person is incredibly different, show a few videos.

The Third Trick?

Collect all the egos and put them in a bag on the table. They cause so much heart ache!

Now add transparency. Acknowledgement and diplomacy.

I have yet to master all of the above. My fears, well ingrained XRM/CRM Think, opinions and even my female blond hair have known to get me in trouble, but  I don't regret my transparency and shared knowledge. I regret my lack of occasional sensitivity. I get so excited about the project and the technologies, I can forget about the people.

It does TAKE all variables. People, Process, Technology (well recognized buzz)

So back to the first line of this post. In the world of partners, there is this tendency to yell over the fence to the developers the criteria and requirements that need to be met. This works for many a plugin or DLL, but sometimes the developers really need to talk to other developers.

So this is a shout out to partners, vendors and ISVs to let the guys and gals with their heads down coding out in the field, to fine tuning their business skills and to encourage them to participate in some dev to dev discussions.  It can increase quality and create a bigger network of knowledge shared, knowledge learned.

Oh and a message to all developers in the world of Dynamics CRM and External apps talking to CRM: Keep an open mind, find the STRENGTHS and learn how to work with the not yet released or newer weaker areas, from those who have mastered the road before you.

Your developer peers are a close knit team writing code every day with variables that you might not be aware of.

 


Time for Graphics, Easy Graphics from Dynamics CRM with Excel PowerBI

Major Update: My deepest thanks to David Hurtado for sharing these slides with me, for letting me share them with the world and for supporting all of his peers inside at Microsoft via the Microsoft Yammer Network (Yammer rocks).

What is incredible about this presentation is that putting the PowerPoint together took or takes longer than helping your customers understand how easy it is to use PowerBI and Dynamics CRM.

So Start Here:

Pull up your favorite View such as a view of all your bubbling opportunities

View Data in CRM - 1

Now confirm your view has account information

View Opportunity data in CRM 2

Choose to Export this View of Data to Microsoft Excel (not the only way to do this, but a familiar way)

Export Data to Excel 3

Now Open the Excel Workbook by clicking Open

Open Excel File 4

Have you noticed this new feature in Microsoft Excel?

  Map Excel Data 5
Now Select your locations

Select Location you want to use 6

And Use your Date Fields as Time Dimensions

Use data fields as time dimensions 8

PRESS PLAY

Press Play 9

And Play, and play and play ... with visual immersion into your data


Azure + Microsoft Dynamics CRM : Partner Options and Love

Oh Partners and IT Department Leads:

Is it time that your little data center gets an injection of extreme power and versatility? What about adding to your customers CRM Online experience?

Check out this great blog post on CRM Online + Azure


Microsoft Dynamics CRM or Salesforce? A question faced by business leaders

Microsoft Dynamics CRM or Salesforce? A question faced by business leaders thinking about the heartbeat of their company. They want to take what they think is the easy road and grab onto a package that perhaps has a ton of buzz, is sexy or one of their peer firms use or maybe they don't want to consider all the value that services brings to the transformation. Microsoft Dynamics CRM soars with an excellent services consulting team. Technology + People + Process .... 

Why? Because there is so much choice! AND choice requires decisions and decision means a tighter fit for your way of doing business and a competitive edge in the marketplace. 

Believe it or Not when it comes to CRM, it is not just the application. Nor the bells or the whistles, or the backend database, it is about a partnership with the vendor and the services provider AND all the great technologies. A partner who is going to be with you through many years of growth. 

Recently I saw a great blog post about great companies switching away from Salesforce to Dynamics CRM.

As quoted in the article

"While each of these companies have unique customer engagement needs, they all have some things in common: the need for increased productivity, the desire to engage more deeply and consistently with their customers, and faster time to value."

So as you consider your options, consider how much choice and at what price. For in today's world there is so much want and even more need for flexibility and options despite how overwhelming they can sometimes be.

  • Tablet Access
  • Mobile Access (Windows, Apple, Android)
  • Web Access
  • On Premise options
  • Outlook (integration and distributed processing)
  • PowerBI (and Power Pivot, Power ...)
  • Excel (Input and Output, with Dynamic Security)
  • Word (mail merge integration)
  • Cortana (Voice to CRM)
  • Kinect  (For those really into the cutting edge working with services) 
  • Did I mention? Microsoft Social Engagement and analytics 
  • Dynamics Marketing (The Enterprise CMO application)
  • Advanced KBA and Services Management (Socially enabled tweets to case) 
  • Document Management (SharePoint integration)
  • Yammer (Internal Social, integrated groups to accounts)
  • Lync or Skype (presence enabled OOB and click to call)
  • Call Center Unified Service Desk (USD)

and a large database of solutions that meet needs that use to require custom everything such as compliance tracking, verification, facilities management, scheduling, and I can go on.

I can't believe that after 10 years of working with this product I am still continually finding great things to love about it.

Yes, it is not perfect, but then that is what requests via CONNECT to the product team are all about and with major upgrades coming out faster and faster. I get more excited every day not only about all that is currently available, but the proven pattern of growth from Microsoft and The Dynamics CRM teams.


Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft Power BI

If you are currently using Microsoft Dynamics CRM, particularly if you are using a more current version or if you are always current with CRMOnline, then it is definitely time to go dive into the world of Microsoft Power BI and all the imbedded tools like Power Map.  

People can be incredibly visual and communicating CRM information using a visual medium like the Microsoft Power BI suite adds a huge refresh to how data and reports are consumed.

 

 


Are you a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Customer? Do you know about Customer Source?

If you have not tapped into Microsoft Customer Source (provided by Microsoft) and some of the incredible resources in the community then you might want to dip your toes into the CRM User Groups offerings, by signing up for a trial and watching the presentation "Getting the Most out of Microsoft Customer Source"

Where is CustomerSource, Right Here!

Where is the CRM User Group?


27018: Cloud Trust - Learn More about this Differentiator at Microsoft

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online conforms to ISO/IEC 27018, the only international set of privacy controls in the cloud

Microsoft is the first major cloud provider to be independently verified as having  adopted ISO/IEC 27018, the world's first international cloud privacy standard. The adoption of ISO/IEC 27018 by Dynamics CRM Online is part of a broader commitment from Microsoft to protecting the privacy of our customers, as described in a Microsoft on the Issues post from Brad Smith, General Counsel and Executive Vice President. In addition to Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and Microsoft Intune have adopted ISO/IEC 27018."


CRM Online in the world of Enterprise : Patterns & Principles for Solution Builders White Paper

"In the world of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, the shift to the cloud is well underway. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is growing by leaps and bounds, including sales to massive customers with huge user counts. If you’re a partner in the Microsoft Dynamics CRM channel, it’s important that you understand what this means for the solutions you build for customers who want Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online."

READ MORE


Microsoft Social Listening has MORPHED into Microsoft Social Engagement

They started with Microsoft Social Listening (MSL), empowering one user at a time to embrace and filter through all the social noise using technology! Empowering users to leverage more data to get their individual goals met and offering more depth of functionality both with and without Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

NOW there is MORE! Now MSL has morphed into Microsoft Social Engagement where you can do more than just listen.  MSL Matured into more features, more interaction and more user power.

So if you have been waiting for the bleeding edge to stop bleeding and you are ready to empower your users with more than just an e-mail system and more than a robust customer relationship system then start dipping your toes into the water with the Microsoft Social Engagement tool (MSE).

You can take a GUIDED Tour Here!  


The Power of Choice (and the risks)

One of the most fabulous features of Microsoft Dynamics CRM is the number of choices that any given business can have when leveraging the power of the toolset. This helps the solution and the product, the processes and the people to grow and change as businesses grow and change. 

This is also one of the biggest dilemmas for the "New to Dynamics CRM" crowd. Choice makes a number of seasoned veterans to business applications scratch their heads and ask "Why". They assume that what they see is what they get.

They often mention things like "Why does the product do this out of the box" or "I need to talk to the development team about how (pick your vendor Siebel, SAP, Oracle, etc. etc. etc.) models this differently". They can even lock themselves into a box by eliminating a huge number of choices and blocking these from the business because of their own filters.

What is often misunderstood is that the consulting partner, resource, resources, mix and match team or IT department that a business works with, needs to understand both your business, the CRM Industry and methodologies for success and the depth of the technology.

This is a big ask, but so many customers have found success! It is not an impossible ask.

This post is to encourage CxOs to consider and discuss and participate in technology as part of their long term growth and to insure that the adaptability of that technology is part of the discussion. Take small bites (small phases) and let teams grow, change and mature on a continued and seamless path to success.  Lastly don't make a decision and walk away. The heartbeat of a business is living and changing and many times always being updated. Setup reviews both of the solution and of the processes and make continued decisions.


Even More Dynamics Love on Youtube and Facebook! #MSDYNCRM

The new CRM page is live on YouTube and Facebook.

You can access the YouTube page here: https://www.youtube.com/user/msdyncomm/DynamicsCRM

The Facebook App can be accessed directly at: https://apps.facebook.com/microsoftdynamics/


    Partner Perspectives: CRMOnline FAQs

    Some of the partners have some great information and although there is a TON of information available from Microsoft, it is also worth tapping into some of the field buzz.

    Here is an interesting little post on CRMOnline Frequently Asked Questions for instance from xRM!


    New Dynamics CRM YouTube Channel

    The new CRM page is live on YouTube and Facebook. This will enable better discovery of the video assets being created for the releases.

     You can access the YouTube page here: 

    https://www.youtube.com/user/msdyncomm/DynamicsCRM

     

    The Facebook App can be accessed directly at:

    https://apps.facebook.com/microsoftdynamics/


    What's New - Thanks to Dynamics CRM

    One of the best parts of being semi-snowed in is that I can convert my travel time into learning and sharing time.

    Let's look at a feature that everyone assumes that everyone else knows about. The What's New Social Pane.

    Why do I point this out? If your team uses activities to track, retain touches and to communicate (e-mails) this pane gives you an incredible look into which contacts and accounts are actively engaged. It also lets you see an account that is requiring extra attention, a colleague who is working on something that you can help with or an activity that you needed to know about. (but because it is so easy to get into our own little spheres it was missed)

    It is about raising the bar of transparency and shifting a culture and it is about creating a culture of sharing among all the users of your Dynamics CRM system.

    What only inside Dynamics CRM?

    Well actually NO! If you have YAMMER enabled you click a button in configuration and configure Yammer and your YAMMER Feeds become an option under What's New. Bringing in other (even perhaps non-CRM user) conversations into the mix.

    Just imagine!

    WhatsNew
     


    Get Ready for the Microsoft Dynamics CRM FALL release! #msdyncrm

    Press Release:

    http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/press/2014/sep14/09-16crmpr.aspx      

     

    Bob Stutz’s Blog:

    https://community.dynamics.com/crm/b/crmconnection/archive/2014/09/16/marketing-sales-service-one-cloud-for-all.aspx

     

    Customer Center Get Ready Page:

    http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics/crm-customer-center/get-ready-for-the-next-release.aspx


    What is a Microsoft Dynamics CRM View?

    Within Microsoft Dynamics CRM each entity has a set of system views. These system views can be configured or added to and as such are a powerful feature within the system. You can even create new views.

    So what exactly is a view?

    If you are familiar with a spreadsheet, you know that you have rows and columns of data and each piece of data sits in its own little cell. A view in Dynamics CRM is just like a spreadsheet. It has rows and columns of data. Additionally any given view in the system also let's you "click" and export to Excel.

    Other powerful features of views include the ability to add columns of data from not just the entity where the view is defined, but from every entity that is related to the entity where the view is defined.

    You can also sort views of data by clicking on the header of a column and secondarily sort by shift clicking on the next column.

    People using Dynamics CRM can also use "Advanced Find" to create their own personal views of data. So if your IT Department is a bit buried under a long to-do list, you don't have to wait. You can create your own personal views AND you can even share these views with your peers or manager.

    OK, so you really don't want to give up Excel and all the pivoting and graphics that you can do with it. Guess what, you don't have too! Views feed Excel and all the powerful data manipulation techniques that Excel offers. Check Out PowerView, PowerBI and PowerPivot, if you love Excel, you will go over the top with these Excel add-ins. CRM + Microsoft Excel "Better Together"

    Views have another role within the world of Dynamics CRM. They feed charts, so setup your favorite view and then use the CRM Chart feature to chart the data from that view. These charts can be added to Dashboards for instant, dynamic, graphical love!

    If you want to learn even more about views you can read about them in the MSDN library entry called Customize Entity Views.  


    Keeping up with Dynamics CRM Versions

    Keeping up with the incredible Microsoft Dynamics CRM versions in the old days was hard enough, but now the team is  updating and releasing at an even faster pace. 

    Benefits:

    • If you don't like something, enter a CONNECT request and you might be surprised sooner than you think or VOTE on one already submitted.

     

    • Competition: There information is probably outdated, ask multiple sources. Also make sure you include an experienced servcies provider in your conversations. The Field Service teams at Microsoft and at Partners configure and extend past most all objections.

    Negatives:

    • You need to make sure to plan on staying current.
    • You need to interrupt the versioning.

    These Resources can help

     The Dynamics CRM in the Field Blog

    The Microsoft Dynamics CRM Team Blog

     


    What is an Entity? #msdyncrm

    What is a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Entity?

    Think first about a table within a database and then add more. A entity in CRM is one focal point of data including a set of fields, a set of views, a set of forms, a set of relationships and more.

    An  entity includes an unlimited number of system views that display the data in a spreadsheet like format. Views can also include related data.

    An entity includes an unlimited number of data entry forms, although many rollouts have one form per entity. A form is a set of fields laid out in a manner that allows easy data entry. Forms can be tied to security roles.

    An entity  includes relationships to other entities. For instance you have an Account entity that has a relationship to a contact entity and this relationship is one account to many contacts. You can also have different types of relationships including One to Many, Many to One, and Many to Many.

    An entity includes Charts. A chart is a graphical representation of the data that is contained in the entity and it's related entities. Charts can also be filtered and displayed based on the views.

    An entity includes system messages that can be configured.

    An entity can be named or renamed to represent the specific needs of a business. Take for instance Account, the Account entity can be renamed to be Company, Corporation, Building, Farm, Sign, Hospital, Department, Office and more.

    New entities can be created to meet the demands of many different types of businesses and data tracking.  


    Charts Getting you Down? Inject them!

    You don't have to live with only all the powerful out of the box charting options. You can also Modify the Chart XML and inject steroids into the system.

    Check out Alex's post on the basics.

    https://community.dynamics.com/crm/b/crmpowerobjects/archive/2013/11/01/modifying-chart-xml-in-crm-2013-the-basics.aspx


    Purchasing CRM? Style considerations

    Thinking on CRM : The last time you purchased a TV, did you purchase it because of the new features? The better picture quality, the smaller form factor, perhaps even a new connection or cutting edge bling?

    OK so that is how you buy a new TV, but this mindset does not work as well for the purchase of a new CRM System. A CRM System is not the solution to your business process problems, it is the empowerment of your decided upon business process. Perhaps even new business processes. It is a new road with growth possibilities and potenial. It is a new culture.

    You might be limited today by technology, but the technology that you buy for tomorrow should not limit you and your business processes.

    Needless to say why I am a big fan of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Microsoft Dynamics CRM is as much a development framework (xRM) as it is a product. Those who are masters understand not only the features they get out of the box, but also the strengths, weaknesses and when to use which feature. They also understand the age and maturity of each feature. Knowing if the feature can easily be used outside it's designed purpose or if it needs to stay in it's comfort zone. They understand when to configure,  when to customize and when to extend using standard Microsoft Development methodologies.

     As a business owner stepping into the world of implementing and incorporating technologies into the heart beat of your company you need to think flexibility. Change is constant, but the change of technology is so fast that you need a product and a partner that offers you choice. Constant choice. Microsoft Dynamics CRM has a long history (10 years and counting) of not only offering you choice , but of also staying current with the latest technologies and not removing all that has been an incredbly solid framework since 2003.

    Choose carefully your product

    Choose carefully your partner

    and you will have an engine behind your business processes that helps keep you consistent, organized, empowered and current.


    Microsoft Dynamics CRM v2013

    Look out! It is a whole new and old CRM world!

    Take a huge amount of depth and years of development (Dynamics CRM v2011) and add onto it a whole new way of working. Shake out a few of the old features, park a couple of items for just a bit and add some much very cool new. Now mix well, test and release.

    Oh and hold onto your hat, because although change is constant it always has an impact.

     

     


    Dynamics CRM 2011 Rollup 13 has been released

    There are some great posts summarizing this wonderful development effort of updates, features, fixes and new!

    Bullets of Interest

     

     

    Links for More


    A day in the life of the Outlook Client

    Microsoft Dynamics CRM comes with a number of extras and one of those powerful extras is the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Outlook Client.  (free to all Microsoft Dynamics CRM users)

    Not only can you access the entire Dynamics CRM system from within Outlook, but the Outlook Client and the Microsoft Outlook software share information between their data storage systems.

    Choices, Choices, Choices to leverage all the powerful functionality of Outlook 2013 on data from Microsoft Dynamics CRM or leverage all the powerful functionality of Microsoft Dynamics CRM on e-mail, contacts, tasks and appointments and outlook functionality which possibly drives your daily life.

    You can run Dynamics CRM without the Outlook Client, but the Outlook client offers you even more features and functionality.

    Here are a few of the key ones

    • Track E-mail that you receive and respond to in Outlook against the contact's account (or case, or contact record or opportunity or, ... ) in Dynamics CRM, sharing this with your team

     

    • Complete a task in Dynamics CRM by checking off the task in the Outlook task list

     

    • Use Word Mail Merge to use Dynamics CRM data in letters and word documents or even word templated reports

     

    • Take your data offline when there is no internet access for the Outlook Client gives users the ability to take a all or a subset of data “offline”

     

    What are your favorite features of the Outlook Client? Colors, Categories, appointment tracking?

     


    Convergence: It is that time of year again! #CONV2013

    I won't be at Convergence this year, but I wanted to go ahead and share some getting the most out of the event tips and tricks. because Convergence isn't just about great sessions and learning, but it is also about

     

    1)      Networking

    2)      Meeting the Third Party Providers and ISVs who partner with Microsoft on Dynamics CRM
    and add value add

    3)      Meeting the Microsoft CRM Support Team and technical resources (bring your questions)

    4)      Meeting the Microsoft CRM Developers and development team (there are new faces to watch for)

    5)      Meeting other Microsoft team members

    6)      Communicating with other CRM users (Look for CRMUG)

    7)      Listening and learning from Authors, Field Experts and great consultants

     

    So In my many years going to and presenting at Convergence I offer you the following

    Tips

     

    1)  Know which sessions you want to go to before you go and have a backup option
    (sometimes sessions are sold out)

    2)  Know who the speakers are: Ask or search the net or read their blogs, being great at what you know doesn't mean you are a great speaker. Look for both!

    3) Use Twitter during the conference to keep up with the live session buzz and to connect with other CRM tweeters. My guess is the tweet tag will be #conv2013 or #conv13

    4) Know the level of the session: They can range from 100 to 400 and have a lot to do
    with presenter and audience. Convergence has both sales sessions to show what is new and deep technical sessions to get you up to speed fast so you have to know how to pick them.

    5) Go to the parties and don’t stay at one. Roam from one party to the next and check out the culture, the mood, the tone, the side talks, the buzz

    6) Talk to Strangers

    7) Eat with people you don’t know and when you sit down, talk to them

    8) Make time to visit the bookstore (even if to just see what CRM books are available)

    9) Make time to visit the booths (I have had more great technical talks with CEOs at
    trade shows than anywhere else)

    10)  Go to some non-CRM Sessions such as Office, SharePoint and BI – products that work
    great together with CRM

    11) Go to some business sessions – they have some incredible leaders presenting on
    leadership, change management, etc. Many are well recognized business book
    writers. (loved hearing Malcolm Gladwell a few years back)

    12)  Setup a Meet the Expert Connect session and have a one on one with a developer,
    business leader, or other resource. A few years back I met with the development team working on a key feature in the newest version of CRM. What a blast to get their perspective.

    13)  Attend the Pre-Convergence CRMUG Day, the sessions are smaller and the content incredible.

    14) Bring business cards, share your business cards, collect business cards AND schedule time when you get home to follow up. Not just the week after, but again two weeks after and a again after 2 months, etc. Networking is about meeting and then building relationships that offer win/win value to both people.

    15) Share what you know! Evaluations make a HUGE Difference in the world of Microsoft. Peer to Peer sharing makes a HUGE difference in the success of Dynamics CRM.

    16) Attend the last session of the day and the event. Those speakers are sometimes the best, because they draw out the day.

     

    Social Tips

    1) It is New Orleans! Get up on the balcony and share the fun of throwing beads at people.

    2) Plan to eat incredible food.

    3) Don't plan on sleeping too much, but don't burn up all the brain cells so you don't have time to learn.

     

     


    And here it is 3 years later

    So in 2008 I posted the below and just out of curiosity I checked out the hyperlinks today. A few of them were 404'ed so I deleted those, but I was pleasantly surprised that the following still work.

    Ah the Beauties of the Web

    One of the beauties of the web is that much of the valued work that was
    released over time, is still available today. 

    Articles

    The Discipline of CRM, by Anne Stanton and Herb Rubenstein,
    iSixSigma Magazine http://www.isixsigma.com/library/content/c040323a.asp

    How much do you invest in Mastering your Accounting
    Software?
    by Anne Stanton, Accounting Software 411 http://www.accountingsoftware411.com/Press/PressDocView.aspx?docid=6460

    Accounting Software, Maintaining Control, by Anne Stanton
    and Joel Eisenhandler http://www.accountingsoftware411.com/Press/PressDocView.aspx?docid=6613

    Software and Systems
    Instant Messaging: Why communication needs new tools
    , by Anne Stanton,
    Accounting Software 411 http://www.accountingsoftware411.com/Press/PressDocView.aspx?docid=5900

    Other items of Interest

    Utilizing Technology to Market Smarter by Melissa Farmer,
    Accounting Marketing http://www.accountingmarketing.org/images/2006_UsingTechnology.pdf

    CRM making life easier for CPA firms, by Lisa Spinelli,
    WebCPA http://www.webcpa.com/article.cfm?articleid=20645&searchTerm=spinelli

    5 signs that it's time to automate your customer data, by Jo
    Anna Krotz, Microsoft Small Business Center http://www.microsoft.com/smallbusiness/resources/marketing/customer-service-acquisition/5-signs-that-its-time-to-automate-your-customer-data.aspx#signsthatitstimetoautomateyourcustomerdata

     


    A Second in an Elevator

    Do you know how every programmer is a creatively unique person? They like to artistically write and develop their custom code and (to the developers - you then tend to be responsible for it for life). I specialize in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, because I want to see more value for business investments in customized and extended solutions. I work with Microsoft Consulting Services to do this, on projects that are different (and sometimes the same) as standard Customer Relationship Management solutions that solve sales process, marketing process and service process needs.

    Solutions can range across a very wide range of needs, but generally flow across numerous different departments.  Integration to Microsoft Office is a common need, tracking of relationships between things or people is a common need and tight ties to Excel for pivoting, reporting and analysis comes up a lot. Document Management with CRM's relationship to SharePoint and so much more.

    So if you are still using Access (on speed) or Excel (multipled by 1000s) then maybe it is time to rethink.


    CRMSoftware.TV : A new way to decompress?

    Although most of us would not like to admit it, we all like to crash and decompress in front of the TV. Please welcome a new way to decompress CRMSoftware.TV.

    This week Lauren Carlson, CRM Analyst, interviews David Pennington on exactly where Microsoft is investing when it comes to the many social marketing venues and applications. As well as how this plays in the world of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

    A quick lick of the upcoming ice cream!


    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!  


    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!!


    Upgrade? Already? 4.0 to 2011 to ???

    You just settled in with Microsoft Dynamics CRM v4.0

    In fact you are feeling pretty good with it. You have started with the basics, learned a few of the intermediate features, added a few reports that you like and all is good. Next week you might even add a few more workflows to the mix to automate even more of those painful manual processes and THEN

    Microsoft comes out with this upgrade. Oh and you took a look and it has some cool new stuff that you want. BUT, but, but there is still so much you can do in Dynamics CRM  v4.0

    Well no worries: We have a session to discuss all of these considerations at the VIRTUAL FREE DecisionsWorld conference.

    Mark your calendar today - Register (yes, it is free but you need to register) and gather up all of those questions and perhaps a few assumptions so you are ready to debate the timing and benefits of staying vs. upgrading.


    Too Busy to Travel? Decisions 2011 is coming to your desk (FREE)

    Over the last couple of years I have participated in the MSDynamicsWorld Decisions conference and the first year it was pretty cool, but a little light by the second year the speakers and vendors were really starting to get the format and now VIRTUAL CONFERENCES are well just hot. (Hey, just checking out the technology is cool)

    Yes, the world is noisy, people are busy - but given that Decisions 2011 has one full day packed with great CRM Speakers I am helping to spread the world. Last year I heard and shifted my perspective when listening to a talk on Dynamics CRM and the marketing features (how to really leverage what is there) and this year who knows what I will learn.

    SO Mark your calendars as June 17th is CRMDAY!

    CRM Day 

    and for those of you also working with the other products within the Microsoft Dynamics Family you might be interested in these virtual conference days as well.

  • June 14 - AX Day 
  • June 15 - GP Day 
  • June 16 - NAV Day 

  • My push back to the Senior .NET developer thinking on Why xRM?

    The best part (s) of the Dynamics xRM platform 

     1)       Developers don’t ever have to “line up fields on a form”

     2)       DBAs are not needed to build the database, although a few database indexes are good to have (if wanted) DBAs are still needed!

     3)       Users can design their own forms (ok this is only in xRM 2011) and not step on other people’s preferences – In v4.0 the CRM trained BA can do it, no developer necessary.

     4)       Users can come up with their own views, dump the data to Excel, save it as a report and be glorified heroes to their boss. In fact they can export to a Dynamic Excel Pivot chart (that when the boss opens it, shows the bosses secure data in all sorts of cool graphs)

    5)       In 2011 – Users can create their own charts on the fly, charts have built in drill down (IS doesn’t have to write as many SSRS Reports!)

    6)       Programmers can focus on the fun stuff like Silverlight interfaces ((not the stuff they have developed 100 times before))

    7)       The bling – doesn’t take a year to develop  

    8)       Users get new features every 6 weeks and over 500+ new features every 1-2 years from Microsoft (if the extensions are written in the supported framework, it is an upgrade – not an expensive rewrite or a risky set of custom reactive patches that over a number of years gets painful to support)

    9)       To solve a user problem, to fix a bug or to figure out what is up is usually a phone call away. With 1 million other users you are not always the first one to find it and with Tier 1, 2, 3 support not to mention the blogs and books and a crazy wild community ... well nice to have community.

    10)    Integration to Google Maps, GeoData or Bing Maps takes less than a week to complete.

    11)    Popping any other web application (with a link) from the menu can take less than an hour to enable, add role security ok a day or two

     12)    There are hundreds of Apps that you can buy to plug in. iPad interface, Advanced Marketing, Hoovers integration, BI and OLAP analysis, mobility, 

     13)    You still need .NET developers! Integration, extensions, cool stuff, new things in .NET and SQL and more! not redundant done it 100 times before like authentication code, Form Field line up, etc.

    Ok, ok there are some change requirements (believe it or not I am not 100% CRM Kool-Aid (maybe 80%;))

    1)       Experienced .NET developers have to change process to fit within working with another .NET development team that is external (Microsoft Dev team) 

    2)       The team writing the framework is not perfect and do make mistakes

    3)       The efficiencies to Microsoft Dynamics xRM have to be learned via training, reading and experience. (the first two are the least painful) particularly if you skip them.

    4)       The first project never lives up to the expectation of a more efficient turn around particularly when the people trying to hit this expectation do not get the time to get training, or think they can train themselves, (field feedback and connection with the MS Developers helps a lot)

    5)       Business users also need to realize they get the cool stuff but it comes with other features that don't necessarily just turn off if they don't like that way of doing it.

    6)       Infrastructure matters:  Supporting CRM infrastructure requires expanded network administrator skills and it helps to have DBA input and involvement 

    7)       You can screw it up (but then what else is new)

    8)       When people screw it up, they blame it on xRM/CRM instead of on all the factors

    9)       CRM is not an ERP or financial application framework, sometimes the DynamicsAX Framework is a better choice particularly when it comes to crazy tax codes that you don’t want to be the one keeping current.


    Training

    We had dinner with a couple of wonderful people on Saturday night and one of the conversations turned to the new hospital wide medical software that was recently rolled out. The couple we dined with were users of this software and had first hand experience with having to change to new tools. The approach for this project was everything changed and all the old was ditched.

    Everything was replaced and each of the 1000+ users was given a mandatory 12 hours of training.

    Do you see something wrong with this picture? It is not ditching the old (radical but it has it's benefits)

    BUT 1 day of training does not a surgeon or doctor make and 1 day of training does not allow the users to master new tools, adopt and change their processes to functions, features and power nor even gives time for them to really think about how to embrace and get excited about the potential to alleviate headaches. It does create frustration and it is the frustration that then has to be managed. If on the other hand there is a major pro-active initiative that includes

    My Mantra - Drip, Drip, Drip, Drip training needs to be first given in very small groups. Keep the training to 2-4 hours (brain overload after that) and ideally add some one on one for at least an hour each so that individual questions can be efficiently addressed.

    Training should not end nor be limited to just face to face. Software changes every day, why not the human as well. Supplement training with a wiki (shared knowledge), 5 minute videos, reading material, weekly webinars and regular followup.

    If you really want people to get the most out of the tools they have, then sit down with them and watch what they do, offer them insight into functions or features that might make what they do easier and listen, listen, listen.  After listening, empower them - empower them to master what is offered, entrance them with the prizes for mastering and excite them with the potential to do what they want to do easier, better, with less hassle.

     


    Swimming in the MS CRM 2011 Ocean

    I was going to say lake, or pond but it is way too big for that. I spent the weekend working hard on adding to all of the great Dynamics CRM 1.2, 3.0 and 4.0 knowledge.

    First and foremost it is such a joy that there is almost nothing that I have to painfully have to throw away. All the great features within CRM v4.0 are enhanced and expanded and then they added more functionality and more power. All while simplifying the concepts so that the developers have easy tools to bundly (Solutions) and the users have power to personalize (Charts and Forms)

    What more can a passionate CRMLady ask for!

    Key areas that I have been working with, you ask?

    The new Service module has been injected with more TEAM power. You can now share cases using key techniques like "working on" and team ownership.

    The Knowledge Base has a number of new enhancements which PowerObjects has done a nice job of quickly summarizing here.

    The Relationships functionality has matured and a new concept, "Connections" is introduced.

    and lastly as much as an entity is an entity is an entity, the entity concept now has a long list of sister components organized in a nice list for mastery such as Option sets, Connection Roles, Templates, Security Profiles, web resources and more.


    Utilization and Process

    If you had to be 80-90% billable could you do it? (BTDT)

    I always find it fascinating to tap into prior experience, even if that prior experience was not necessarily the best. What is fascinating is mixing experiences and thinking about them. It is nice to have hindsight and perspective.

    Take for instance the time it costs to write and/or respond to an e-mail. When I was tracking time, yes I counted e-mails and I counted them at 5 minutes a piece (reading, thinking, responding, review and send). When you consider that a similar question not sent via e-mail is most likely a minimum of a 15 minute conversation (well the time adds up) and that doesn't even include the interruption factor.

    So is e-mail more cost effective or is the 15 minute face to face? As much as it is tempting to pick the 5 minute item it depends!

    As with anything, professional judgement is a factor. If you really have 15 minutes of material that needs some great back and forth then a face to face might be much more efficient than 10 e-mails. Look at the math.

    10 emails at 2 people at 5 minutes a piece = 1 Hour 40 Minutes

    vs

    1 face to face meeting between 2 people = 30 minutes (plus perhaps 5 for travel and 10 for coordination)

    In this example the face to face wins.

    On the other hand if every question tends to be face to face then you are significantly increasing interruption, breaking individual blocks of concentration time and burning up a lot of productivty cost. So there must be a balance.

    Here is another interesting comparison. The time to actually do a timesheet. I cut my 20 year old teeth having to fill in a timesheet and kept one for the next 25 years. There were times when I was inefficient and ended up doing the timesheet at the end of the week and other years when I managed to enter time as it was used.

    When doing technical support, it was easy to be on the phone, fill in the timesheet entry and save before hanging up and the analytics were extremely accurate. When I was multi-tasking and doing three things at once, keeping the timesheet current was a much bigger deal. It required carving out time to not only get those three tasks entered, remember the details of each and to actually enter them. I certainly spent more than one Sunday afternoon getting a timesheet completed.   

    Ron Baker would argue that the model of the billable timesheet is torked, and he is correct. The value of any one persons time can very significantly. Take for instance the time the person took to become that expert or how fast they actually work.

    On the other hand there is value in understanding where time is going and how to make better use of time used to meet business goals. This is not just about an individual's productivity, it is much more about process. Inefficient processes (or no process) creates rework, miscommunication, role confusion and more.  


    April 5th: xRM/CRM User Group Southern New England Meetup

    xRM/CRM User Group Southern New England Meetup 

    Join us for the next meeting of the CRMUG New England Regional Chapter on Tuesday, April 5, 2011 at the Corner Pocket Billiards & Grill, Johnston, RI from 4 to 7 pm. This will be an informal connect with other CRM customers with topics to include: "Getting the Most Out of Convergence" & "Upgrading - Why? and When?". Please register no later than Friday, April 1st!

    Meeting Date & Time: Tuesday, April 5, 2011, 4 to 7 pm

    Discussion Topics: 

    • Getting the most out of Convergence 2011
    • Upgrading - Why? and When?


    Audience: All CRM users are welcome to attend, regardless of whether they have joined CRMUG. Partners should be accompanied by a customer. Partners should bear in mind that the objective of Regional Chapters is to exchange knowledge and Dynamics CRM experience. Partner personnel should possess deep CRM expertise and refrain from sales activities.

    About CRMUG Regional Chapters: Regional Chapters enhance your membership in CRMUG by offering face-to-face interaction and knowledge-sharing with other Microsoft Dynamics CRM users in your region. By having meetings centrally located within your region, users from all job roles and levels in your company can participate by only driving a short distance. All job roles are welcome: • Customer Service • Sales • Information Technology Join us so you can optimize the functionality, flexibility, performance and return on investment offered by CRM—and get better results from your CRM implementation back home. Feel free to invite CRM colleagues and other users within the region. For more information about CRMUG, visit www.crmug.com.

    Event Type

    Regional Chapter

    Location Details

    Corner Pocket Billiards & Grill Phone: 401-383-9889 1428 Hartford Avenue Johnston RI USA 02919


    Thoughts on Convergence 2011 in Atlanta

    If you work with any of the Microsoft Dynamics products or if you are just thinking about jumping onto the xRM/CRM bandwagon then you will want spend some time thinking or rethinking about attending Convergence 2011 in Atlanta!

    Microsoft Convergence is one of the largest Microsoft shows in North America and as such it draws a large number of cool people from a wide variety of vendors and from Microsoft. I love just having a chance to sit down for 15 minutes or so with a number of different partner contacts, support staff, guru field experts and even the people who happen to sit next to me at breakfast. There are so many fascinating minds at work in this world!

    Additionally although some of the presentations can be a bit too marketing oriented (the last couple of years have shown huge improvement in this area), there are even more that are totally intense field feedback packed. Not to mention that many of the speakers come right from the front line.

    Realize that this year the EXPO hall at Convergence was sold out way in advance. Welcome back buzzing economy! AND the conference attendence is so full that Microsoft marketing doesn't have to do much so don't expect any extra motivation from your local Microsoft Rep!

    Here are my top 5 tips for getting the most out of Convergence 2011 AND if you are going to be in Atlanta watch for me!

    1) Spend the time to setup meetings in advanced. These can be a quick lunch, a specific breakfast table or an agreement to go to selected sessions together. Meet with people you don't know!  A lot can be accomplished in those first 15 minutes before a presentation starts.

    2) Line up your agenda now, but give yourself choices. One of the morning sessions might influence which session you pick in the afternoon.

    3) Know the speakers and pick the speaker that is going to offer you the content at the level you are interested in. This could be highly technical, a mix of business and technical, 101 or case studies.

    4) Make time to visit the Expo Room so you can connect and learn about all the incredible third party offerings. Many of the people in the booths are GREAT contacts to know from CEOs, to developers to passionate CRM gurus.

    5) Attend DAYOne sponsored by CRMUG and supported by xRMVirtual. It is a great way to warm up, ask questions, find out how the week will unfold and meet some of the people who spend a significant amount of their time helping the community and learning from answering CRM specific questions.

    6) Follow the TWEETs on the event so you know where things are happening and what you don't want to miss. The tweets let you find out about unpublished events and can give you access to Convergence experienced feedback minute by minute. #CONV11

    Now jump on over and get those logistics nailed down before it is too late!


    CRM Industry News and Cloud Debates

    Lauren Carlson, a CRM Market analyst over at The Software Advice blog, recently shared a number of new videos that some of you might be interested in.

    The first I watched is an up close and personal interview with Brad Wilson answering the question

    "What percentage of [CRM] customers choose the Cloud?"

    To watch the full video click here !

    A few interesting points from the video and from my thoughts for debate.

    1) The cloud offers smaller customers the option of an instantly available application without any of the server installation or support requirements.

    2) The cloud offers larger customers the option of an instantly available application without being queued up in the often over loaded information services department list of tasks.

    3) If you pick the cloud and want to switch to OnPremise, the Microsoft Dynamics CRM code base is the same for both environments, making a switch in the future an option.

    4) .NET extensions and plugin options are not (easily) available in the cloud. If you want to extend Dynamics CRM beyond the power of Customization and simple workflows, you potentially need OnPremise.

    5) Smaller customers often need as much power (or more) as larger customers when it comes to traditional CRM. Relationship building and management of prospects and support handling and management of customers. Why? Because they have fewer people with more titles and responsibilities. CRM can greatly supplement human resource time constraints.

    6) Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online does offer a bit more out of the box marketing functionality (web lead capture, different analytics), but the OnPremise ISVs in this arena really kick some tail. If you need advanced marketing features, such as click through analytics, then there are additional variables to consider.

    7) Data matters, Security matters:  but who has better security? A professional hosting company whose reputation and business is on the line every day when it comes to their business model or your computer room or data center where the network administrator (s) live? The debate and history shows an even 50/50.  There are weaknesses in both arenas

    To summarize the perfect CRM environment is different for each customer as each comes with positives and negatives, so I have to give Microsoft kudos for choice.

    Despite the overhead of keeping two offerings current and defined (and yes there are significant overhead costs), Microsoft made the right choice in giving customers options.

    These include Microsoft's Dynamics CRM Online, partner hosted Dynamics CRM and the OnPremise "customer hosted" Dynamics CRM.

    Not only did they give customers the option of choice, they also give customers the option of changing their mind.     


    Bit by the Dynamics CRM 2011 Marketing Bug? Read this First

    Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 has been released now both as an Online offering and as an OnPremise offering.

    The buzz from the field is that the product is packed with 500+ new features and a ton of new options with regards to customization and after working with the product I have to agree. The team is offering some incredible power and flexibility while still maintaining all that is great in v4.0.

    Power however comes with a price. As partners and customers across the world learned in Dynamics CRM v3.0 and v4.0 if you don't take the time to understand then it is easy to dig your own hole of frustration.

    So how can this be avoided by those just getting interested? Particularly given that 2011 offers even more!!

    Here are five key steps to getting off on the right foot!

    1) Take baby steps and small bites, grow with the product 

    2) At a minimum READ the installation guide twice (OnPremise)

    3) Remember, just because it is easy to configure and customize doesn't mean you know the best way to configure and customize. Tap into experience.

    4) Good "CRM" partners have already invested in the basics and offer those as part of every project (why pay to rebuild these, just for the learning exercise? There are better ways)

    5) Senior .NET developers who don't know XRM/CRM still have a lot to learn when it comes to thinking XRM. Junior XRM/CRM developers still have a lot to learn when it comes to thinking .NET

               and as a little bit of extra - Item 6

    6) Many of the features within Dynamics CRM are version 4.0! but some are v1.0 - set proper expectations when utilizing a specific feature set.


    Tips from the Field: Configuring Outlook

    I love it when partners step it up and share key tips that make their Microsoft Dynamics CRM clients happy. Today on the PowerObject's blog "JoeCRM" wrote up a really nice post about empowering users in the task of configuring Outlook to get even more out of the embedded Dynamics CRM functionality.

    One extra point to bring to everyone's attention. You can quickly find URLs within Dynamics CRM for any number of pages so if you have a favorite specific account that you want to link to directly you can do it.

    Open the Account, Select Actions, Select copy shortcut (you can now paste this shortcut into a new outlook shortcut property)

     


    The Training Difference between CRM and XRM

    Now that everyone is grumbling about how much there is to learn about Microsoft Dynamics xRM it is time to separate the difference between CRM and XRM.

    Microsoft Dynamics CRM can be thought of as an application that sits on top of the Microsoft Dynamics XRM platform. It appropriately stands for Microsoft Dynamics Customer Relationship Management.

    Learning to USEMicrosoft Dynamics CRM is generally not very difficult. If you hire a new staff member and show them around your Dynamics CRM system they quickly realize that it is very similar to the Microsoft Office products. They get a few new folders in Outlook, They learn the difference between a View and a Form and they can immediately get their job done.

    As they learn your business and their new job they might expand into doing more. It is no different than mastering Microsoft Word (including growing into the advanced features) or learning Microsoft Excel (and growing into the advanced features)

    Is training recommended for the user? Personally I like training when it comes to increasing efficiency and reduced human grumbling.

    The human brain is creative and you never know what direction it will go, so training helps to set the right path and the right direction. Additionally many times training is 50% or even 70%  about your business processes with a swirl of how to use the software. So it is an excuse to reinforce best practices in process and there are never enough chances to do that so grab it when staff are open and egar to listen. 


    Training or No Training?

    It is true that there are some incredible technical resources in the world and most of these technical resources have taught themselves a good bit of technology. Perhaps they learned one or two development languages in school and then the other five they have mastered on our own.

    Or they might know five or six or 15 different applications so what is another application. A word processor is a word processor is a word processor or a spreadsheet, is a spreadsheet, is a spreadsheet.  AND for some CRM applications I can even say that a Contact management system is a contact management system

    BUT  

    Now let's talk about Microsoft Dynamics CRM

    Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a new tool and platform!Yes, it is written in .NET so one could argue if you know .NET then you can teach yourself Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Alas some have tried, many have failed - a few were open minded enough to have success, and some that have failed are still tripping over their own feet and not admitting their failures, but there is more as follows:

    1) Dynamics CRM is built in a manner to enforce standard development practices on the XRM platform. Do you know those standard practices? Every MS CRM deployment can be unique and Microsoft had to come up with a way to both honor the uniqueness and not tick off all their customers when they ship rollup updates and major upgrades. (they figured it out)

    2) The Dynamics CRM MS SQL databases are well .. they are not a SQL developers vanilla databases(even for the most advanced SQL guru). They have security built into them and leverage filtered views. Do you know how the filtered views work and why they are the way they are?

    3) The application is server side and client side code. Development methodologies need to change so that individual developers can do server side coding and have the option to do client side coding as needed.

    4) Team Collaboration when extending Dynamics CRM is unique. Have you learned how to do team programming on the XRM platform? You most likely do not want to be changing, refactoring, deleting and moving around attributes in multiple locations to be pulled together in one place. Key word here is that the XML customization file is additive.

    5) Infrastructure, Infrastructure, Infrastructure:When CRM 1.2 was released it took myself and a guru infrastructure guy 7 hours to install. Now in the world of v4.0 much of that is wizard driven and the time is much, much more reasonable. BUT DO you know what those wizards are doing? Particularly so you don't change something and break the world. I have seen a lot of newbie and oldbie infrastructure mistakes (and I don't tend to play in the infrastructure world).

    6) Windows Server, SQL Server, MS SQL Express, Outlook, WSS and MOSS, Office Communicator, and the MS CRM Application footprint.They are all involved when talking about a single instance of Microsoft Dynamics CRM (ok SharePoint and MS SQL Express and Outlook are semi optional) Now what do you think happens when you have a multi-tenant environment with multiple domains and trees? There is a reason that the Installation manual is inches thick and there are  specific EXAMs for MSCRM infrastructure only.

    7) Speaking of Exams on MS CRM- Microsoft has at least five different exams for Microsoft Dynamics CRM which I can think of off the top of my head. These include Infrastructure and Installation, the Application, Configuration and Customization, Extending and Solution development methodology. If you take and pass all those exams they also have master level exams. 

    So if you LOVE to read then there is a TON of material to read in the exam manuals; however there is even more. A wealth of books all coming at the CRM and the XRM platform from different perspectives.  

    Do realize that the cutting edge guru, guru Microsoft Dynamics CRM guys (and gals) are not spending time on their CRM developer toolkit (a must have and most likely you will have to build resource), nor are they worried about their library of code snippets that they can always tap into (code used for the other 100+ projects built on XRM they have rolled out), the master level CRM gurus are leveraging tools like Silverlight to make Microsoft Dynamics CRM sing and dance.

    So back to the question at hand. Should I teach myself Microsoft Dynamics CRM? or should I ramp up with some of the well known field experts so I can start thinking CRM sooner, get to the fun stuff faster and avoid the deep scar tissue that many have from trying things and getting burned.

    I highly recommend training from well regarded, highly referenced Microsoft Dynamics CRM trainers. I also recommend a continued training mindset. There are not a lot great resources out there, but they are out there so do your homework AND if you have had training from someone really good (or really bad) then please share your experience.

      


    Learning to Think CRM

    You are a new customer to Microsoft Dynamics CRM and one of your first questions might be "How do I get started?" and "What training resources are available to me?" 

    The Top 7 8 New Customer Resources

    1) Microsoft Partner of Record: Never under estimate the power of working with your Partner of record. Microsoft Dynamics CRM partners have been there and many times done that and they have a variety of resources available including consulting services, training options, white papers, and relationships to key contacts both at Microsoft and within the ISV (add-on applications) community. I might also add that if your partner of record isn't working out you do have the power of choice. Invest in a win/win relationship.

    2) Books: There are now a number of books available which provide a solid foundation of knowledge. These can be found at your local and online bookstores. For the developers search on the following authors: Mike Synder, Jim Stegner and David Yack and for the users the Microsoft Step by Step book and you can get a good primer and start from my book "Teach yourself Microsoft Dynamics CRM in 24 hours"  

    3) User Groups: There are two great user groups providing some awesome recorded and live training sessions. The XRM User group has a focus on the people working with, developing in, extending and customizing Microsoft Dynamics CRM and the CRM User Group has a focus on leveraging the CRM features of the software to their highest potential. CRMUG additionally has some special interest groups based on industry and both XRMUG and CRMUG have local chapters.

    4) Blogs: I follow about 60 blogs (all on Microsoft Dynamics CRM) and I know there are more that I am most likely missing. I have a couple of favorites when it comes to a user focus and the first is Richard Knudson's Dynamics CRM Trickbag blog. Richard is a Microsoft Dynamics CRM trainer and as such his blog is packed with learning CRM resources. The second is the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Team blog which is a great place to search for answers.

    5) Dynamics CRM Forums: In the Dynamics CRM forums you can post a question and you will get a variety of answers. No questions is to basic!  There are forums for all the different audiences using and working with Dynamics CRM. My personal tip: When working with the forums make sure you post your question in the right forum to the right audience. For instance if you have a question about sales process then you might not want to post that in the developer forum.

    6) Twitter, LinkedIN and Facebook: On Twitter Search on #MSCRM and you will immediately feel the buzz. If you are not tweeting or if you are just getting into twitter then choose to follow one or two of the consultants in the field and feel free to post your own questions using the #MSCRM tag. On LinkedIn and Facebook (Jim Glass, Guru CRM Community Liasion) has some awesome Dynamics CRM Groups where people from all over the world share information.

    7) Microsoft Dynamics CustomerSource: CustomerSource is a benefit of your service contract and is managed by Microsoft Business Solutions.

    8) Don't Forget the resources within the third party software vendors (ISV's): The Independent Software Vendors writing solutions on top of Microsoft Dynamics CRM have a TON of educated and trained resources. Talk to them, invite them in to do a presentation and ask them about the Dynamics CRM way of life.

    Learn to Think CRM


    Getting User's to Love their CRM

    The following is such a great thought, concept and quote that I had to share it! So many people think adoption is all about usability, but there are so many other factors that come into play and often take a much higher priority in the grand scheme of things!!

    Richard Boardman, a guru CRM expert and consultant out of the UK sums it up beautifully

    "Putting aside my belief that actually there has been very little change in the usability of CRM software in the last 10 years, ease of use is only one piece in the user adoption puzzle, and it doesn’t matter how easy to use you make software, it doesn’t mean it will be used. The following are the bits that I believe make up the bigger picture" Read More

     


    Just one Button: LinkedIn and Dynamics CRM

    Just a small bit of code placed in just the right place. Sometimes the biggest business benefit is not necessarily the biggest development effort. 

    Marco has a great post about how to turn on access to LinkedIn within Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

    A small little button opening a world of possibilities.


    Thinking about Social Media

    The big news today are all the interesting things announced for Microsoft Outlook 2010 when it comes to Social Media connections! If you have not seen the numerous posts check this out.

    This is also good motivation to take another look at the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Social Media Accelerator. Barry Givens gives a great demonstration in this little video.

    For those in the technical arena take a moment to touchbase with your clients marketing departments and connections. Their world is changing and it is changing fast.


    Thinking about Social? or Intranet or Internet Content?

    One of my goals in life is to continue to invest in improvement as opposed to reinvention. Needless to say when I see something that makes a great foundation I tend to capture into my library of thought.

    Here is a great list about capturing or assigning content responsibilities.

    7 Principles for Decentralizing Publishing