One of my favorite bloggers, Ben Hosk, has a great post about teaching Senior Developers to think in entities. Why Entities instead of Tables? Well they give you so much more.
Did you know that if you track all your requirements and backlog iteration items in Visual Studio Online you can easily bridge Business Speak and Developer Speak?
The developers live in Visual Studio, writing code and looking at lines of characters that are often Greek to the non-dev folks, but by using work items in Visual Studio Online you can all work in one world.
Better yet, you can add Microsoft Test Manager test cases and link those to the work items. Just for fun you also get full graphing on burn down and task management.
I like the AGILE TEMPLATE, but also use the SCRUM Template despite my mantra of all CRM projects should be ITERATIVE or a mix of AGILE and WATERFALL.
PS: Online, available from anywhere and it sync's with your local version of Visual Studio and Office AND there are some free try it out options.
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.
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.
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.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM is providing ONE PLATFORM for so many different applications out there that I can't even keep up. It is built to be one and it is built to integrate so that it can display, interact, pull in and/or integrate all of your data and all of your applications.
Now that Dynamics CRM is one of your options, what are options for integrating all of your other applications? Don't get stuck with even more distributed data, leverage MCS or leverage one of the great Microsoft CRM partner resources.
A bunch of field resources put together their knowledge and released this WIKI article on Microsoft Dynamics CRM Integration and I must admit it is one of the most requested tips that I get. If you have more to add, dive in or if you just need answers take a look.
The people who work on Microsoft Dynamics CRM don't always know all the details of loving and caring for Microsoft Dynamics CRM and although it doesn't need much, it does like some care.
This is why the community is so incredible and no amount of thanks can truly show the appreciation for the hundreds of hours community members spend blogging and sharing great information.
So today I am sharing an older post for those using all versions of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, but particularly for those who might want to do even more to keep their system singing and moving along.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM is an incredible out of the box, configurable system AND is also used as a development platform. As users adopt and learn some of the incredible features they quickly realize how many other systems it can replace.
It is like an awesome heart that embraces and wraps all things "need a solution" into it's solution platform, BUT if you have never worked with Microsoft Dynamics CRM then you can make a bit of a mess.
The following are some best practices for working with any technology in today's world.
1) Always ask yourself. If I extend or I get a developer to extend my product how does that align with what the Out of the Box Development team is releasing. They are writing code daily as well., but MANY extensions are 100% supported with all rollup updates and upgrades being easy to install, but some are not and we know how creative developers can be. Make sure your developers think xRM.
2) Understand and stay current with the product roadmap. Major releases are now coming faster and faster and faster. Two incredible major releases this year and with CRM Online driving an elimination of the world of the "upgrade" staying alert is key.
3) Love the SDK. Yes, you are a .NET Master and a long time senior developer, BUT the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Software Developer's Kit offers you so much more and helps to define the rules of engagement.
4) Embrace the well loved and well used Dynamics xRM Tools, but know who wrote them and their strengths.
5) The Dynamics CRM platform is a set of many different options. Too much choice, but so much choice can also be wonderful. Understand your choices - there are times when adding an ISV solution is so much smarter then building your own, and even within Microsoft the choices are many. Take for instance customer service on the Dynamics platform with and without Parature or Microsoft Social Engagement (also referred to in the past as Microsoft Social Listening) and of course there is the entire Office 365 suite that is forever growing in terms of new cool.
6) Work with a partner who has proven experience building long term supportable xRM projects OR if you work with a partner new to Dynamics CRM understand the risks. Learning curves can be frustrating for teams.
7) IT looks easy, and can be easy, but never under estimate the power of the CRM Architect. It is easy to drive a nail in a piece of wood, but rarely do you build a house without an architect OR add an addition onto an existing house without some review of impact.
8) Don't change software products because you picked the wrong vendor. Hundreds of CRM failures across all vendors have occurred going back 40 or 30 years. People, Technology, Process all have places that need continual current review. Many times it is not the software that is the issue.
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.
AND the PFE Team (Premeire Field Engineering) releases awesome ticklers as well. Take a peek at this little tidbit enhancement to Quick Find !
and you can follow the CRM PFE Team Blog !
The Microsoft Dynamics CRM Community has an incredible history of leveraging the Dynamics xRM platform to meet some really tough business challenges. If you work with a proven Microsoft Dynamics CRM partner or with Microsoft Consulting Services (the MCS CRM Team), they bring to the table their own incredible library of experiences, but also their own depth and reach of resources and tools.
Knowledge in "CRM" is critical.
There are also great open source resources such as CODEPLEX where partners and clients can download and take ownership of kick starters and CODEPLEX is not Dynamics specific so you can tap into the entire Microsoft stack.
AND CODEPLEX is really just a small taste of the greater community resources. Take for instance following a few Dynamics CRM Specific blogs such as some of the ones listed on this blog. You start and the list just grows and grows and grows. The number of shared resources, code snippets, tools, configuration best practices and more is so unlimited. OK, so you are now tapped into the blogs ...
Have you looked into the ISVs? The Independent Software Vendors writing solutions to compliment the Dynamics CRM platform? Take a peek at ADXStudio for instance who has a huge library of PORTAL options and ALM! or perhaps empowering SALES Teams with complex ordering proposals and integration? Look at Experlogix or maybe you just want some nice address verification and compliance, you can talk with Dun & Bradstreet. The list really is endless!
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.
When you purchase Microsoft Dynamics CRM a number of entities come with the system (if you need a refresher in entities, see previous post). You can create hundreds more, but here are some of the building block Entites.
- Case Resolution
- Activities including
- Social Activities
- Phone Calls
- Connection and Connection Role
- Document Location
- Price List
- and so much more!
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.