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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


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.


Summer Reading - Leon Tribe Reviews the Book

I almost missed this, but thanks to Twitterrific I caught the mention. Leon Tribe has taken the time to write a detailed review of Teach Yourself Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4 in 24 Hours.

He has great timing as I can now add his feedback to the next version.

Speaking of great timing - if you have read the book and/or are thinking about reading the book now would be a good time to send me feedback.

"Teach Yourself Microsoft Dynamics CRM in 24 Hours" Book Review

I found this today and thought I would share. Thanks Muhammad for taking the time to post your comments and thoughts. Your feedback makes a huge difference.

4.0 out of 5 stars Very gentle and fluid introduction, January 2, 2010
This review is from: Sams Teach Yourself Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4 in 24 Hours (Paperback)

"I am a Software developer looking for CRM Dynamics custom development but first wanted to explore the concepts and out of the box functionality. I have thoroughly read until Hour-7 and skimmed over the rest, the book did a great a job so far elaborating and aligning the CRM concepts that most reader will subconsciously be aware of.

I bought another text and was overwhelmed by the information presented only from a usage viewpoint. Definitely, one would have to refer an adavnced title for custom development and that's not suggested by the book's title either. However, unlike its counterparts, the book handles a simple subject with utter simplicity.

No twinkle in fifth star due to size of illustration, hardly can peek into the pictures"

Author's Note:  As the book gets updated I will definitely depend on a different tool for capturing screen shots. Vista's Snipping Tool just didn't do the job it needed to do.

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

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobile Access

I had not heard much from Ten Digits in the last few months and I was wondering what was up. They are such a big player in the Dynamics CRM Blackberry market.

Well as it turns out Ten Digits has been heads down in development mode.

Today they announced the newest versions which include new features and new software for a number of different platforms. I was particularly pleased to see they now have an iPad version.

In terms of new features - The mobile market offers some really nice fine tuning focus. Adding in items such as picture capture and association (it is a phone, it has a camera, it has CRM with contacts) and voice record and capture (it is a phone, it does voice, it has CRM with attachment support).

If you have not had a chance to check out what the Mobile ISV's to Microsoft Dynamics CRM are doing then you definitely want to check them out. Don't depend on just press releases. Dig into their website and see the videos, feature lists and discussions. OR step it up and visit the teams at any of the numerous conferences going on this summer and fall. If you are in Washington D.C. this week: The Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference is happening and according to the CRM Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook buzz Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a big part of the event.

The slow and fast pace of technology change

Technology moves so fast! and as someone who has made technology part of their life for the last 28 years it is amazing to me to once again realize that my habits have shifted with the change in technology without me paying much attention.

I have been using Twitter and Facebook on a daily basis, but often forgetting to share via the blog. Sharing via the blog adds to the knowledge base and it also updates Twitter and Facebook. So why the change? A slow change in habit (BUT take a trip above the trees and what I was doing last year is significantly different than this year).

I have also been continuing to do trial runs with new applications. Foursquare, Hootsuite and Twitterific get regular attention and for weekend fun (when resting from the New England heat and garden work) a whole variety of iPad applications. (if you have an iPad check out UZU - mind blowing advancement in technology, but so simple)

LinkedIn has added a ton of new features lately. They have been trying out incorporating SCRM tools and techniques and yet still they honor their culture and remain focused on business and business use. Group functionality has been expanded and a new feature to follow changes at specific companies has been added. These are two areas that are definitely worth checking out. The integration to Outlook is also nice as pictures get downloaded.

Plaxo is still around. This application has a "grey" area to it when it comes to helpful vs. irritating, but I have recently been working with their latest improvements. There are things that I like and things that are still well irritating. I am glad I have patient friends (thank you)

And a foundation to many, the partners are doing some amazing things with Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Next week is the Microsoft Worldwide Partner conference and already many of the ones I follow and appreciate are being honoroed. If you are in Washington D.C. next week or if you need a little adventure and escape you might want to fly in and go check it out. You can even look into an Exhibit room pass for the day only, a great way to get a flavor of some great things happening!