Keep Learning

I am amazed at how I continue to learn more  and more about Dynamics CRM despite focusing on the platform for over eight years. The product team continues to release small and large updates and are amazing in how fast they manage to keep up with the pace of technology change.

Additionally the current product (even before any updates) has a ton of depth and a number of under utilized functionality. When was the last time you decided to add something new to your business processes? What about learning one small area of the software in full?

Consider Goals, or Connections - take a peek at subjects or perhaps you want to become a FetchXML guru

Did you know you can tie web sense into charts?

There is so much that can be done.

Given this I offer this link and suggestions: Go review the Microsoft Dynamics CRM v2011 IMPLEMENTATION GUIDE. You might not have looked at it for a few years, a few months or even ever and it is packed with great information. So take an hour for study, each day this week - shoot make it a team effort and start up a Dynamics CRM brown bag lunch or book group. You will be pleasantly surprised.

 


Unit Testing CRM v2011 and Enterprise Development BP

1)      Unit testing CRM – Some interesting food for thought  

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/devkeydet/archive/2012/10/31/how-i-develop-and-unit-test-crm-2011-plugins.aspx

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/devkeydet/archive/2012/11/27/unit-testing-crm-2011-javascript-web-resources.aspx

 

2)      Enterprise CRM team development – Feedback from the field from Shan (CEO of ADX) and more good food for thought –

A special 2 hour XrmVirtual presentation on Enterprise CRM team development focusing on change management and application lifecycle management (ALM) tools.  Here is the event page:  http://www.xrmvirtual.com/events/team_dev_ShanMc_CRM2011


What happened at Convergence 2012? Twitter happened!

The fastest way for you to find out about the hot trending topics from Microsoft Convergence is to go on over to Twitter and to search on #conv12, #conv2012 and (to get a few missed items) #con12. You can also search on #CRMLady (that is me) and #msdyncrm.

The buzz during the event was hot, fast, real time and enlightening. I can't tell you how many times I smiled while reading 140 characters. A quick glance, a smile and back to 100% listening to content.

What was great was to post a thought and then to see all the reviberating thoughts on the speakers while the speaker was still speaking.

In fact at one of my presentations. Someone TWEETED a question, I read it (yes, while speaking) and responded to the entire group. How did I do that? Well there were two of us presenting so the back and forth gave me a chance for a quick peek.

Talk about an entirely different way to present to geeks and introverts - Look out future tomorrows, the power of the introverts enabled!  


Dynamics CRM Utilities, utilities, utilities

For anyone ramping up on Dynamics CRM development make note

There are a TON of utilities to make your life easier available in codeplex, Microsoft Downloads, and in the SDK. Some of these utilities are version specific and some are good for all verisons

Go check them out and to get you started here are just a few to wet the appetite

CRMDiag

– Diagnostics Tool for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 or v4 which helps CRM developers and administrators to enable trace and devErrors on a CRM server.  It also generates an HTML report file with information about the CRM deployment.
 
–A small to tool which Generates CRM 4.0 Picklist Customization XML. This tool allows you to cut and paste a comma separated list of values and descriptions into a text box and then generate a set of XML picklist options which can be pasted into your Customization.xml file.
CRM Documentation - from Microsoft Dynamics CRM Documentation team’s famous Jim Daly
–Automatically generates technical documentation from a CRM Database Metadata
A large set of tools that includes a Sitemap editor, a tool for Dynamics CRM icon resizing (for custom entities), The ability to generate test data quickly and more
–Takes two customization.xml files and compares and reports on the differences
–For those projects where numerous similar views are requested within any entity. This tool offers replication of the Layers, columns and width increasing consistency.
–The tool allows you to display the list of all attributes and select if you want them to be searchable or not. In only one action, you can set all attributes searchable property for one entity. 
–With this tool, you can:
•Indicate which entity you want to inspect
•Enter the identifier of the object in question
•Searching for a user with its name or its unique identifier
•Click the “Retrieve rights” button and the program will tell you what rights the user with respect to the record
Support for all out of the box privileges - By default the export utility will export ALL privileges, including custom privileges.

What Version Am I Really Running?

Occassionally the need arises to double check exactly what version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM you are running and when I say version, I mean the exact .0000000 version. Christian recently posted on exactly how one goes about doing that.  

His post can be found HERE or below are some of his wise, wise words.

"As many Dynamics CRM 4.0 aficionados know, Microsoft releases regular updates to iron out documented issues [and to sprinkle in a little love].  CRM 2011 is no exception; three Update Rollups have already been released since RTM.

Note that the On-Premise build numbers I list below may be different than what you will find in CRM 2011 Online.  Microsoft continuously adds new updates behind the scenes, thus the likelihood of having a greater build number in comparison to the latest Update Rollup version.

To determine your current build number from the IE web client, simply:

  1. Browse to your CRM 2011 website
  2. Click on the File tab
  3. Navigate to Help
  4. Click on “About Microsoft Dynamics CRM”

To determine your current build number from the Outlook CRM client:

  1. Open Outlook with the CRM Client installed
  2. Click on the File tab
  3. Click on the CRM side tab
  4. Click on the “About Microsoft Dynamics CRM”  button

A window will pop up with your build number listed.  If you used Outlook, you will see the build numbers for both the Server and Outlook CRM Client (sample screenshot below).

See below for a chart of the Dynamics CRM 2011 build versions.  I’ll try to keep it current, so be sure to bookmark and check back later!

Version

Release Date

Build Number

KB Article

Release Candidate

 

5.0.9688.53

2461082

Beta (On Premise)

 

5.0.9585.106

 

Beta (Online)

 

5.0.9585.107

 

RTM

February 16, 2011

5.0.9688.583

Download RTM

Update Rollup 1

April 7, 2011

5.0.9688.1045

2466084

Update Rollup 2

June 2, 2011

5.0.9688.1155

2466086

Update Rollup 3

July 28, 2011

5.0.9688.1244

2547347

 "


IE 8 and CRM - Something you might not know

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

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

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

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


Mobility v4 and v2011

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

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

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

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

Articles on Mobility and Dynamics CRM are as follows:

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

Customer Effective on Mobile Express (Oct, 2010)

The more Powerful Mobile Express in CRM 2011


Async, Performance and Dynamics CRM v4

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

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

1) Run cleanup scripts to address existing Database problems!

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


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

MaxDegree 

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

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

So where do you start?

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

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


Case Sensitive Searching

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

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

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

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

 


June VPC

Partners Restart your Engines!

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

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

So Tip 1

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

Tip 2

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

Tip 3

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

Tip 4

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

Tip 5

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

Tip 6

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


Rollup Sweet Sixteen (CRM v4)

The Microsoft Dynamics CRM development team has released CRM v4.0 Rollup 16 and not only have they managed to resolve some of the issues reported from the field, they have also fine tuned some of the existing features. (it is amazing what a team of programmers writing code every day can create in 8 weeks) Particularly given there are change control processes, testing processes, QC, Builds, Deploys and more to pull together.

Key Areas

  1. The Deployment Manager and Importing an Org
  2. Performance (around deployment manager)
  3. IE 9 Support
  4. Appointments and Synchronization

Do you have feedback?

  • Have you installed the latest rollup?   
  • Did it fix an issue you reported?
  • Did it cause other issues?
  • Did it add some new bling? or a feature you discovered?

Share your comments !


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!


xRM Developers, CRM v4.0 and SDK 4.0.13

For those of you who are cruising along on your last years knowledge of xRM development habit you might make a note to add a task to your to do list!

SDK v4.0.13 (and SDK v4.0.12) offers NEW options and CHANGES old accepted xRM development practices

This release includes the new Advanced Developer Extensions for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, also referred to as Microsoft xRM. This is a new set of tools included in the Microsoft Dynamics CRM SDK that simplifies the development of Internet-enabled applications that interact with Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

In addition to the documentation, this download package includes the projects for all sample code found in the documentation, and full featured samples that are not included in the documentation. The package includes a visual style guide you can use to make your customizations fit in smoothly, and a style sheet you can use as a basis for your work. There are also tools and helper code provided in this package. Look for regular updates to this SDK!

So now that you have completed all your New Years Resolutions (or abandoned them) take a bit of time and do a bit of deep diving into the new v4.0 SDK

and for those guru, gurus who are developing on the v2011 platform. The same applies :) as many of the new concepts within the sdk world made it into the v2011 SDK world as well.


Congratulations to the Team!

A late but very heart felt congratulations to the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Development team who have now officially released Microsoft Dynamics CRM v2011 OnPremise.

Not only do they now have Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online v2011 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM OnPremise released, but they released the OnPremise version ahead of schedule.

Sweet ! Download Information (warning: please do not try to install without reading the implementation guide)

(They now shift their focus to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Rollup1 and the next version)

 


Dynamics CRM and Custom Reports

I just found this great little How To series on creating custom reports in Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

It starts here with Part 1 

and is summarized as part of the last of the series (part 5)

This little series is a great learning tool for the interns that dive into learning about the world of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.


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.


Tap into MS Dynamics World

The popular online magazine and resource MSDynamicsWorld has a new Microsoft Dynamics CRM Resource Page.

Kicking off the New Year, this new page is packed with all things Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011!  If you are planning, prepping or in general curious about the next version of CRM you might want to take a peek.


Caring for ASYNC

David Jennaway has a great post on the Asynchronous Service as well. You can read some of it here and link to the rest over on Dave's great CRM blog at http://mscrmuk.blogspot.com/ 

=================================================================

CRM 4.0 UR 3 brought in a useful feature, the ability to configure the CRM Asynchronous Service to automatically delete records from completed asynchronous operations, and hence keep the size of the asyncoperationbase SQL table down to a reasonable size. This behaviour is configured by the registry values AsyncRemoveCompletedJobs and AsyncRemoveCompletedWorkflows

However, I recently met an issue with this behaviour, where the CRM Asynchronous Service appears to get in a state where all it is doing is deleting completed jobs, to the exclusion of all other activity. This can leave the CRM Asynchronous Service to have effectively hung (not responding to service control requests, nor polling for new jobs to process) and not to process any new jobs for a considerable period of time (in one environment, this could be several hours).

The main symptoms are:

  • No jobs being processed for a considerable period of time
  • The Crm Asynchronous Service not responding to service control requests (i.e. you cannot stop it through the Services console, so you have to kill the process)
  • No values reported for most performance counters (e.g. 'Total Operations Outstanding', 'Threads in use')
  • If you do restart the service, you see a burst of activity (including performance counters) whilst outstanding jobs are processed, then it reverts to the same behaviour as above
  • If you look at the SQL requests submitted by the Crm Asynchronous Service (I use the SQL dynamic management views sys.dm_exec_requests and sys.dm_exec_sessions) you see just one DELETE request and no other SQL activity

At the moment, the only workaround I have is to remove the registry values, and to use a scheduled SQL job to periodically clear out the asyncoperationbase table. Here is an example of such a script.

 

Read More:

http://mscrmuk.blogspot.com/2010/12/stability-issues-with.html

 


A Little Bit More on ASYNC

Thanks to Matt Wittemann over at ICU MSCRM  

=================

Posted by Matt Wittemann

There have been several KB articles and updates published to help control the size of the AsyncOperationBase table, which can cause your CRM database to grow very large, very quickly. (See here and here.) But just what are all those records anyway?

I pulled the following lists together from the SDK and technet in order to put this info in one place, where it’s a little more user-friendly (at least for me!).

First, the list of AsyncOperationTypes:

READ MORE at

http://icu-mscrm.blogspot.com/2009/12/asyncoperationbase-table-what-are-all.html

Value

Field

Description

1 Event Specifies a system event.
2 BulkEmail Specifies a bulk e-mail operation.
3 Parse Specifies an import file parse operation.
4 Transform Specifies an operation to transform parse data.
5 Import Specifies an import operation.
6 ActivityPropagation Specifies a campaign activity propagation operation.
7 PublishDuplicateRule Specifies an operation to publish a duplicate detection rule.
8 BulkDetectDuplicates Specifies a bulk duplicate detection operation.
9 CollectSqmData Specifies an operation to collect SQM data.
10 Workflow Specifies a workflow operation.
11 QuickCampaign Specifies a quick campaign operation.
12 PersistMatchCode Specifies an operation to update the matchcode.
13 BulkDelete Specifies a bulk delete operation.
14 DeletionService Specifies a Deletion Service operation.
15 IndexManagement Specifies an index management operation.
16 CollectOrgStats Specifies an operation to collect an organization's statistics.
17 ImportingFile Specifies an import subprocess operation.
18 CalculateOrgStorageSize Specifies an operation to calculate an organization's storage size.
19 CollectOrgDBStats Specifies an operation to collect an organization's database statistics.
20 CollectOrgSizeStats Specifies an operation to collection an organization's size statistics.
21 DatabaseTuning Specifies an operation for database tuning.
22 CalculateOrgMaxStorageSize Specifies an operation to calculate an organization's maximum storage size.
23 BulkDeleteChild Specifies a bulk delete subprocess operation.
24 UpdateStatisticIntervals Specifies an operation to update statistic intervals.
25 FullTextCatalogIndex Specifies an operation to generate an organization full text catalog index.
26 DatabaseLogBackup  
27 UpdateContractStates Specifies an operation to update contract states.
28 ShrinkDatabase  
29 ShrinkLogFile  
30 ReindexAll Specifies an index management operation.
31 StorageLimitNotification  
32 CleanupInactiveWorkflowAssemblies  
38 ImportSampleData  

Next, here’s a list of the different state/statuscodes that each of these operation types can be in:

State Status Numeric status value
Ready WaitingForResources 0
Suspended Waiting 10
Locked InProgress 20
Locked Pausing 21
Locked Canceling 22
Completed Succeeded 30
Completed Failed 31
Completed Canceled 32

Hope this is useful to you! Have fun with it.

http://icu-mscrm.blogspot.com/2009/12/asyncoperationbase-table-what-are-all.html


The Human Factor - Dynamics CRM Skills

Over the years I have been asked what skills are required for a really good Microsoft Dynamics xRM (CRM) Master?

Needless to say when I saw this post, on some of the interview questions used in a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Developer interview, I thought they were fun to share.

The other resource, that perhaps many have not yet tapped into, is the job descriptions carefully documented as part of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM SURE STEP application.

Do you have favorite interview questions for the next or current generation of Master Dynamics CRM resources? (Developer, Subject Matter Expert, Customer or IS Test Lead, Installation and Infrastructure support, Business Analyst, etc.)  


Thank you Microsoft Dynamics CRM Support

A big shoot out to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Support. I know they cringe (or run) when they see it is a rare support call from Anne, but I did want to say that I really appreciate all the hard work that the guys in North Dakota put into solving some of the toughest problems. They use team work, a win/win attitude and have they have a keen ability to listen with an open mind to get to the root of things.

All you CRM GURU, GURUs in the field - if you have not shared your latest edge case discovery with support lately then I would encourage you to document and post to the appropriate CRM Forums. "Help thy neighbor, helps thy self."

 

 


SSRS Reporting vs. CRM & SSRS Reporting

Open CRM

Select Reporting

Create a simple Ad Hoc Report

Save and Export to an RDL file

Now do the same report directly using Visual Studio and SQL Reporting Services

Compare the two RDLs. Notice anything different?

I recently had the chance to do this and opened a few programmer eyes. As it turns out CRM offers a few tricks to the trade when it comes to getting what you want out of the system. Now from a programmer's view these might be "cheats" but from an application point of few these are features that every programmer working with Dynamics CRM might want to know about.

So the next time you tap into an expert SQL resource for some SSRS reporting, take a few minutes to talk about the Dynamics CRM platform and the features and functions they might be able to leverage.  

Also never forget that there is a TON of field experience shared within the world of blogs, twitter, linkedin, CRM forums and even facebook.

This week this post peeked my interest.

What to do if you can't publish a report in Microsoft Dynamics CRM


SureStep Methodology

Over the years I have been keeping my eye on the Microsoft SureStep Project Methodology. It was originally very ERP centric and as many of the CRM Consultants in the field know - CRM and ERP are very different projects! The audience, the style of design and the rollout are a different mindset.

Consider for instance that an ERP project is focused on a small group of people in the financial department with some interaction from management. CRM on the other hand spreads far and wide and can impact ever department and every person within a firm.

Needless to say despite keeping on eye on SureStep I have yet to embrace it.

With my latest deep dive into the application I can say that it has matured to a point where it is definitely worth checking out. There are still documents that need updating (references to Payroll and AP), but there are also a number of documents that can make your CRM projects much more professional, more organized and more successful.

So if you have not taken a look at SureStep and you are "reinventing the wheel" with regards to project templates or you think it is time to update what you are using then I would suggest that you log into Microsoft PartnerSource and download SureStep.

 


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


Accelerators for Dynamics CRM

You wouldn't add nitro to just any car without a good bit of knowledge and the same holds true with the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Accelerators. They are powerful! Just put them in the right hands, with the right knowledge and a little bit of tender loving polish and look out.

My hope is that Microsoft will continue to increase the amount of polish, but for now know what you are dealing with and don't expect to just drop in the fuel without understanding.

Release 2 of The Partner Relationship Management (PRM) Accelerator has now been posted. The PRM Accelerator allows businesses to use Microsoft Dynamics CRM to distribute sales leads and centrally manage sales opportunities across channel partners.

More Information

Ross Dembecki's Blog Post on This Accelerator

 

 


Send a Report PDF via Workflows

The cool team over at Power Objects has a nice little post that my library and I wanted to go ahead and share it.

Have you ever had a need to send a generated report in PDF format to someone? The PowerObjects team has developed a workflow extension that allows any user to schedule a SQL Server report to be sent via email.

Here is their post on the Subject


From my "Add to the Library" as I might need these at some point

If you are looking at importing a large amount of data into Microsoft Dynamics CRM then you might want to get caught up with this post Speed up your CRM SDK imports and updates

If you are a Microsoft PARTNER then you will definitely want to check out the current version of the SureStep Project Methodology for Microsoft Dynamic CRM (I think they finally got it) AND have a few of the consultants take the exam

  • "Managing Microsoft Dynamics Implementations Exam MB5-858The exam for Sure Step 2010, MB5-858, is now available on Prometric."

Are you looking for more Address Data Validation? How about tying to a Standard Source? Check out PostCodeAnywhere Address Lookup.

Trying to Solve a Problem with Dynamics CRM v4? Did you turn on Trace? Scott gently offers a reminder on problem solving and disk space.


 

Microsoft Dynamics Convergence

It is snowing and raining in New England today and yet we have had an early spring! The daffodils are blooming, the grass is green and the buzz of the Microsoft Dynamics conference "Convergence" in Atlanta is in the air!

If you are an Enterprise Dynamics CRM USER or IS Contact at an Enterprise account you will want to mark the underground lunch meetup on your calendar. We are meeting at lunch on Sunday at the edge tables in the lunch room. (signs on the table) This is informal so please come on over and introduce yourself to some peers!! (Meals are in Building B, Hall B3-4)

If you are not planning on attending Convergence you might want to reconsider after reviewing Julie Yack's great post on "Why Convergence?" or you might want to follow the Microsoft Convergence threads on Facebook or search Twitter via #CONV10. Some of the best information on Dynamics CRM is FIELD learning and there are not many places where you can get this kind of training from peers. 

Key things to make sure you do!!

1) Plan on spending time after sessions finding out about where information is being "shared"!

2) Sit down for 15 minutes or so with the Dynamics CRM Technical support team. They have usually have a few kiosks or booths.

3) Find out about the Dynamics CRM events/parties and after hours networking. I have learned so much from these!

4) Don't be shy talk to the people you sit next to on the buses. To and from the hotel, to and from events, etc.

5) USE MICROSOFT CONNECT and setup at least one meeting.

I will be doing/participating in two presentations. One is sponsored by CRMUG (a great learning resource) and it will focus on "Is the Customer always right?" and the other is a panel with a few of the developers where they ramp up a totally new Dynamics CRM/XRM solution in two sessions!!  

There is a week left! It is not too late to register! Come on down and join in the fun.

If you are in the ATLANTA area you can also consider a Day Pass!


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.


So Many Variables: Windows Server 2008, 64 Bit

One of the benefits of blogging is having a place to capture items that might be worth remembering when problems occur.

Recently Microsoft released a technical article on running Microsoft Dynamics CRM v4.0 in a Windows 2008 64 Bit Server environment.

Some of the Key Items include an

"Error message when you try to open the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 Web application"

but the article also includes work arounds to many of the issues discovered in the field.


The CRM Configuration Manager

A big shoutout thanks to Daniel Halan for creating this little toolkit (CRM Configuration Manager) and for sharing it!!! and thanks to Joel Lindstrom over at Customer Effective for point it out as something useful to have.


Enterprise Architecture: New Article on R7 Outlook Synchronization

The Nuts and Bolts article Outlook Synchronization in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0, which is available for download from the Microsoft Download Center:

Outlook synchronization enables Outlook users to view Dynamics CRM information, including contacts, tasks, phone calls, letters, faxes, appointments, and e-mails, within the Outlook interface. This document describes the client synchronization process that is associated with Update Rollup 7 for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 or later (for on-premise deployments) and with Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online November 2009 Service Update or later (for online deployments).


Databases

Back in the pre-Microsoft SQL days I spent a good amount of time thinking about databases. There were databases that needed constant tweaking and maintanence and there were databases that were like chunks of granite that rarely had trouble, but when they did have trouble they could be a monster to fix.

I am curious as to if anyone out in the community has run across any favorite Microsoft SQL Server database tools and Dynamics CRM database maintanence best practices.


Integrating with SharePoint

The perfect pair: SharePoint and Dynamics CRM and yet there are times when users might only be in SharePoint and/or only in CRM.

Pierre Hulsebus over at EHTC has a great use case post today regarding how licensing is managed when the two products are married and yet seperate.

http://blog.solomon2crm.com/2009/10/05/rtg--dynamics-crm-and-multiplexing.aspx?ref=rss


Reducing the Pain of setting up Pick Lists

There are a number of cool little tools that the partners use to quickly populate user drop down lists.

Here are various blog posts and links to pick from in no particular order

1) http://marioraunig.blogspot.com/2007/03/save-time-and-energy-creating-large.html and

http://www.beatnik.at/picklist_for_mscrm.php

2) http://kjellsj.blogspot.com/2006/08/using-excel-to-generate-picklist-xml.html

which was updated here 3) http://dynamicscrmbyalfredo.blogspot.com/2006/09/recently-i-found-this-useful-blog.html

4) and back in the 3.0 Days http://blogs.infinite-x.net/2006/08/26/release-utility-to-generate-picklist-options-for-dynamics-crm-30/ 

Have you found an easier way? Feel free to share!


CRM v5.0 (or 6.0) Wish List - Better Late than Never

I still need to get these into the Microsoft Request engine, but here are a couple of the hot ones on my plate that bubbled up in thought when I was reading Richard Knudson's blog post today on the same subject.

What would be great to see in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 5.0

1) Business Unit Ownership
2) Enterprise scalability for Team ownership
3) Performance Tuning/Improvement for Form Assistant
4) Outlook Client Configuration Flexibility including the locking down by user of configuration options
5) Menu management/Navigation Pane management without editing XML files
6) From a "It is a CRM application" support for common field functionality so programming doesn't have to bother with this such as Country lookup, SIC and NAICS code management, Zip Code options, etc.

7) From the perhaps this would be a cool utility category: a tool to rename all the New_ prefixes to something else.

8) A super easy, don't need to be technical advanced find option to create views. Yes, the one we have today is powerful, but it is still "techie" and frustrating for some business users. In this same light let them pick any field from any entity to include in the view.

9) A really advanced report writer with a really super easy interface. There are some pretty cool third party  BI tools on the market that meet this need, but talk about a blow a few users away feature.

10) User definable portals and dashboards

11) For the developers: The Developer toolkit which is so cool that traditionally trained advanced software developers can't keep their hands off it. Creating a situation where they would rather write in "xRM" than in .NET only ;)


Changing the order of the Left Navigation Pane Custom relationships

You have customized the system or the system has been customized for you. You pick Account and on the left navigation pane you have many  new and different options.  

Did you know that you can change the order of the new items listed in the left navigation pane? Just change the Display Order properties on the N - 1 or 1 - N custom relationship.

 

 

 


Cool Tools: Entity Mapping

Given that I placed this little tool on my desktop and then totally forgot that perhaps I might build using it into our project I thought I would share it here.

Once you have a Designed Microsoft Dynamics CRM system the following Entity Map Drawing Tool can be a great resource for documenting (or even debating) architecture and relationship design.


Microsoft Dynamics CRM Rollup 5 Released

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Rollup 5 (v4.0 R5) has been released can be downloaded here.

"The build number of the update rollup packages for the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 server, for the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 client for Microsoft Office Outlook, and for the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 E-mail Router is 4.00.7333.1644."

Key items within this rollup include tweeks to performance such as fixes for the following

956527  (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/956527/ ) The Microsoft Dynamics CRM client for Outlook consumes three times as much memory in version 4.0 as in version 3.0

and

959072  (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/959072/ ) An entity form loads slowly after you add many fields of several different attribute types in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0


Windows Server 2008 Changes

In follow-up to my post yesterday, the key change I was hinting at was the removal of POP3

"POP3 has been depreciated and will no longer be supplied as part of the Windows OS. Although POP3 was introduced with Windows Server 2003, Microsoft removed it after including it in just one generation of the OS."

Various people are starting to bubble up some work arounds. One that I found is listed below.

http://weblogs.asp.net/hpreishuber/archive/2008/04/30/visendo-smtp-pop3-extender-for-windows-2008-server.aspx

What does this really have to do with Microsoft Dynamics CRM? Well it impacts the design of the testing and development worlds. Yet, it is not only Microsoft Dynamics CRM that has a tiny hit. There are also hits to the world of Microsoft Small Business Server and and the new world of Microsoft Essential Business Server (EBS) and add in Microsoft SharePoint.

Oh I am not saying we need pop back, just that it would be nice to have a solution to the change.


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