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February 2009
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April 2009

Why?

The battle continues as Microsoft dives into branding what they have had for a number of years. xRM, both a development platform and a CRM Application.

Can you using Microsoft Dynamics CRM without writing one line of code? Oh definitely!

If you write code are you strapped into a box limiting the tools you use and the creative juices so often found in the 20 year programming veterans? Definitely NOT!

Are their competing products with different zing? or the same xRM concept? Of course.

So why Microsoft? One simple word: Choice

Choice of partner

Choice of where you place and manage the actual software

Choise of where you put the data

Choice of internal staff with skills that can be utilized as it applies to the platform

and the list can go on ...


Walk a Day

In these tight economic times many a business is looking to improve efficiencies using a variety of techniques. One of the key terms that I learned and adopted from Convergence 2009 is "the Anthropologist." This isn't necessarily new to me, but it is something that is worth re-emphasizing. 

When trying to improve a process the first step is to first ask the right question (explain to me and show me exactly what you do on a daily or monthly basis) and then document and listen (Visio is very help for this - for a picture validates a 1000 words all on one page)

So the next time you are talking with someone who is asking if Microsoft Dynamics CRM does A, B, or C and the next time you are trying to figure out what someone wants as you design and configure - step back and put that anthropologist hat on. 

Find out exactly how the person is working, what technologies and applications they really using and how are they using the tools available to them.Have them show you versus tell you. You might be very surprised. (They might be as well)  


The concept of an Opportunity

It seems that the concept of an "Opportunity" is one that trips a number of people up and as such I wanted to post some thoughts on this. The core concept of an opportunity is that it is the "thing" that you would consider closed when a sales process is completed.

For instance the opportunity is the tracking of a dollar amount, a close date, a sales stage and a probability percentage. When closed the dollar amount is set in stone, the sales stage is "the end" and the close date is firm and the probability percent is 100. You also have a win/lost concept to consider. 

Now for any given Account you can possibly have multiple opportunities. The key here is that as you close these opportunities you are building a historical context. You are also doing analytics and analysis on these open things. You might report on where an opportunity is in the funnel or how likely it is that this opportunity will close.

An "Account" (a client or prospect or other) is ideally a relationship with a company that you maintain forever, but what you are doing with that account might change.

Why would you have multiple Opportunities? 

1) Multiple years - Such as a software licensing renewel

2) Multiple projects to close and complete

3) Multiple products to sell to different people

4) Different departments selling different things to different locations


Convergence 2009

SQL Server data mining toolkit for Excel might be an interesting tool to add to the CRM Toolkit. 

The CRM SDK has some new hidden gems to explore such as a new dynamic picklist creator 

The CRM Demonstration toolkit has some hidden gems including    

  • The schema builder – customize without going through the CRM UI (great for many entity xRM projects.

  • More advanced editor for sitemap.xlm that prevents typos which often happen in Notepad

The Developer Ramp up Toolkit is a must have for the experienced developers

Performance Point will be released free to all Enterprise MOSS accounts in April.

The Statement of Direction for Dynamics CRM v5.0 has been updated


Custom Entities

Microsoft creates over 150 entities when the Microsoft Dynamics CRM software is installed; however that does not mean you can not add more without donating an arm and leg to a team of developers. In fact you can add an almost unlimited number of custom entities and the possibilities of what to do with them is a very, very, very long list; however there are some limitations that you might want to be aware of.

1) Merging custom entity records together can not be done.

2) You can not create a custom entity that has a relationship to a existing system composed entity (such as the select from either/or Account or contact in a single lookup)

3) When looking at an Entity rollup, Custom Entities do not appear.

4) Parental behavior with system entities cannot be done with custom entities


The Asynchronous Service

The Microsoft Dynamics CRM Asynchronous processing service runs constantly behind the scenes. This services is very tied to workflow and when workflow is not happy you will find that the Asynchronous service can turn itself off. 

You will notice this happening a lot if you have a workflow that gets stuck in either a wait state or an infinite loop.  


New SDK - Have you really thought about this xRM concept?

There is an update to the Microsoft Dynamics CRM software developer kit (SDK) which can be downloaded. One of the key things to keep in mind is that Microsoft Dynamics CRM is designed to be extended, changed, updated, and worked with using the highest level skills available. It is not just an application, it is a whole new way of solving business problems with technology.


Getting the Most out of User Groups

I am a firm believer in information shared, information gained and as such over the years I have participated in, created, moderated and invented many a user group. I have also seen both success and failure when it comes to the time invested.

Here are some top tips for really finding that sweet win!

1. It is not just about joining. Time invested = higher returns on the investment

2. Although you might be an incredible wealth of information it is highly likely that most people in the room know something that you do not know. Egos need to be checked in at the door.

3. If you feel like you are constantly offering information and not getting much in return then perhaps you are talking too much :)

4. A user group is not a training session. It is an interactive discuss. Come to the meetings ready to have a conversation.

5. Never hesitate to follow-up after any meetings with those that you met. If you didn't get a specific card or e-mail address reach out to the organizer.

6. If a side conversation was of value  to you, then it might be valuable to the rest of the group. Share.

7. Preparing for a user group meeting by gather tidbits of interest during the week helps jump start a meeting that might consist of a crowd of strangers.

8. The best presentations are the ones where you get to work with real software or solve real problems and the solving is a team activity. Share the keyboard, mouse or choose a driver that gets input from all.

9. Providing pizza and soda tend to be a necessary evil that works ;) 

10. Go ahead and stick your neck out - there are no dumb questions and someone else in the room will be thankful that you asked.

 So you ask what about Microsoft Dynamics CRM User Groups? Are there any available in my area? What do they offer? Can I participate even if there is not a group close to me?

The answers Yes, very possibly, tons of resources and yes! For more details check out CRMUG.