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


Bridge 2 CRM

I haven't heard much from Bridge2CRM over the last couple of years and have not had the pleasure of talking to them at some of the big Dynamics Conferences like Convergence 2011, but their solution looks to be another option in the mobility space.

Menno blogged about them a while back, but alas my link to Menno's post has grown cold, brittle and broken.

Comments from the Crowd?

    Are you using this solution?

    Have you used this solution?

    What do you think?


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  

 


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.


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 !


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.


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

 


User Adoption

Well said, overall well said

Over my 12 year career in the CRM space, I have seen customers take a variety of approaches to creating training materials.  From leveraging software manufacturers’ user guides to multi-deck power point presentations, I believe I have seen it all.  More often than not, these approaches are nothing short of failure.  Expecting users to learn your CRM philosophies and strategy from software reference material is akin to expecting one to learn how to drive by simply reading a vehicle’s owner manual.  To be successful we must know the rules of the road, or in this case, the business rules to support CRM strategies.” More on the same subject at http://www.dynamicscare.com/blog/index.php/increase-user-adoption-with-effective-training-materials/


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.

 


IE Tabbed Browsing, Defaults from Shortcuts and CRM considerations

To set Internet Explorer  to open a NEW instance of IE in a NEW window do this:

  1. Open the Control Panel or from the Tools menu inside IE access the Internet Options
  2. Click on the Advanced tab.
  3. Look for the following question "Reuse Windows for Launching Shortcuts (when tabbed browsing is off)" under Browsing
  4. Uncheck the box

Note: You have to turn off tabs feature for this to matter (of note this also applies to those using older versions of IE that do not have tabbed browsing functionality)


Tabbed Browsing



Microsoft Dynamics CRM v4.0 Rollup 11 has been released

In a wonderfully consistent best practice the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Development team has released their latest rollup for Microsoft Dynamics CRM v4.0. Nice Job Guys!

R11 has a number of updates and enhancements for Enterprise including items focused on performance improvement when dealing with tens of thousands of workflows and fine tuning around active directory user settings.

The Microsoft team has also managed NOT to neglect the help files (something easy to do when developing at the speed of light). The documentation team has continued to update the electronic help files that come with the system. A new release of help is included in this rollup and it is recommended that this also be installed.

Download Rollup 11

Read More about Rollup 11




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.


 

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.


Feature of the Week: System Jobs

If you are a "CRM Administrator" have you looked at your System Jobs recently? Now for all those working on various projects ... Have you checked out the System Jobs in your development environments?

Choose SETTINGS

Choose SYSTEM JOBS

Immediately you will see a list of various information regarding various "system jobs" that might have run or might be "waiting".

Make particular note of the items in the waiting state. Do you know what they are waiting for? Should they really be waiting? Do they need to be cancelled?

Next Question: Are you managing your system job log? Has it been purged lately?

Did you know that Duplicate Detection is a System Job?


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!


Working with Attributes

Just finished up doing a bit of attribute work. There are a few things to keep in mind that I thought I would share.

1) If you do not want to have an attribute show in Advanced Find then you want to set the SEARCH flag on that attribute to NO. By default the search flag is set to YES.

2) You can use the comment field to help organize your work in addition to the display field and the internal attribute schema names. For instance you might want to map your internal schema names to the system you are integrating with, the display names to something that makes sense to users who are using advanced find and the labels on the form to something that works well for data entry. The comment field can also be used by placing a flag at the start of the comment so you can sort by comment during your reviews.

3) Don't have time to enter comments? A few extra seconds per attribute and you can go so much further with documentation and communication. Makes someone elses life easier, include comments.


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.

 

 

 


The World of Dynamics CRM Help

Microsoft has a world of "XRM" within Dynamics CRM and as more and more of the framework matures we will see growth.

On my latest deep dive I have been looking at modifying Dynamics CRM Help and the general structure around how changes to Dynamics CRM help are supported in a multi-tenant world. In summary they are not (yet). The help files are stored with the application files.

But luckily there is some great reading material to get started with changes you might want to make to help in a single tenant world and customizing help is supported. You can read the complete Microsoft Dynamics CRM Configuration Guide on Technet and when talking HELP you can focus on this section.


The Agent Communications Panel for Dynamics CRM

Are you ready to dive into something new with Dynamics CRM?

"The Agent Communications Panel for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 is an application add-in to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0. It works with Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2, and enables agents to manage their communications (make calls, receive calls, conference, and chat) from their Microsoft Dynamics CRM system.

The Agent Communications Panel is an XAML browser application (XBAP). It is published to a Web server and opened from a Web browser. "

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?displaylang=en&FamilyID=0d689f13-4953-40ea-995e-49469dae559e 


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.  


Tackling Performance

When it comes to performance the list of variables can be quite long and the solutions do not always bubble up to be what you think they should be.

For instance we can start at the user  level and trickle all the way up to the SQL or Application Server, but you can also have application, custom code and network bandwidth that comes into the formula. Mix that in with CPU, Memory Utilization and Disk I/O and the battle is on.

User's Machine

If we start with the user's machine then we must realize that Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a web application that is authenticating and using IE. There are key settings that you can make to insure that things are not slowing on the user's machine and Microsoft has provided a number of white papers and recommendations regarding these. (see below)

When using the CRM Web Access option these include items such as insuring the web pages are in the trusted zone, understanding your latency and confirming that your anti-virus software is not fighting with the application. 

When looking at the user machine and the CRM Outlook client the volume of  variables expands. You want to take into consideration all the different "other applications" that can impact Outlook. For instance the numerous toolbars that can get installed or the size of the Outlook data footprint and  if the user has numerous PST files in addition to their Exchange mailbox. You also want to check  the settings on the anti-virus/anti-spyware/anti-yuck software which often wants to interact with anything going on. Another consideration is the version of Outlook that you are using. Outlook 2007 is significantly different than Outlook 2003 for instance.

For both of the above another consideration comes into play and this  has to do with the amount of memory and the hardware being used by the user. Despite the fact that many times hardware is not the solution, hardware can make a huge difference if limited.

We also have the User's Operating system as a variable. Outlook 2007 for instance was built and designed for VISTA and yet many companies are running Windows XP. This means that Outlook 2007 must take into consideration a completely different platform than it was designed for and although I have not seen any specific issues related to this it is a variable. 

Now despite all these factors you might find that one small thing makes a huge difference. From my personal experience I have both run the outlook client without issue (perfect performance) and have run into massive headaches (resulting in extended effort to fix things).

Here are some links that might help if you have to dive into this area.

First the Microsoft White Papers and posts

Optimizing and Maintaining Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0

Optimizing the Performance of MS Dynamics CRM 3.0

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 Performance and Scalability White Papers

Improving Microsoft Dynamics CRM Performance and Securing Data with Microsoft SQL Server 2008

Boost performance with Pre-generated XmlSerializers

Best Practices for Better Performance from Your Custom Code

Performance Odds and Ends

Investigating CRM V4 Performance

Performance Study - Dynamics CRM 4.0 WAN Performance using Cisco Wide Area Application Services

Tips for faster and better performance on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0

Then

Other Blog Posts on Microsoft Outlook and CRM Performance

The CRM Outlook Client Diagnostic Utility

http://blog.customereffective.com/blog/2008/02/extremely-slow.html

Improving the Outlook Experience with CRM

You receive Outlook sync messages when you view a shared calendar or a shared contacts folder in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 client for Outlook

and Blog posts on Performance with a Server Focus 

http://billoncrmtech.blogspot.com/2009/01/tips-for-faster-and-better-performance.html 

Enterprise Scalability and Performance with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0

Ronald Lemmen on CRM Performance

MS Dynamics CRM and Perfmon

Optimizing IIS Performance for Microsoft CRM, Part 1

Improving the Performance of IIS 6.0 Applications

What is interesting is that you can easily get into tuning on SQL or IIS that really can make a difference and yet are significantly far away from CRM Expertise.


Multiple Sales Processes

Many of the larger clients have unique sales departments and each sales department might have a passion for a slight change to the standard company sales process.

As company goals and standards go - having a core shared sales process can be important, but by using the power of a multi-tiered work flow you can accomodate both needs.

Create your core sales process with the ability to call sub-workflow (or a sub sales process) based on a set of criteria.

Using this advanced workflow feature you can get quite sophisticated in how you meet all the unique needs of the sales team while also standarizing for corporate.

To get started draw out the process using either VISIO or a large White Board or both.  Remember to keep the process as simple as possible while also meeting the requirements. The more complex the process, the more risk for problems and frustrations.

Once you can humanly understand the map and see it laid out, writing workflow to match can be quite logical and logic is required when working with applications and computers.


The Product Catalog

The product catalog in Dynamics CRM is one of those configuration features that is a bit daunting when setting it up, but then incredibly useful once established. The key question today is have you entered your products into the Dynamics CRM product catalog? Have you spent the time on this one feature that needs to be spent to get it the way you like it?

There are a number of steps (some of which make you feel like you are going in circles)

  1. You need to decide on what products you are going to setup (particularly if you are not integrating to other systems).
  2. You need to choose a product name and description. (Pick names that offers consistency or a sysstem that sits well with  the vendor's name for the product)
  3. How are products packaged and sold? What are the units? Do you sell individual items or bundled items? Do you sell quanity such as a box of a specific item?
  4. Decide on a Price list/s method. Will you have one price list? Do you have many different price lists? Which price list is the default or standard? How do you determine who uses what price list?
  5. Organize your prices.
  6. Answer the question: Are prices discounted? Do you want to use discount lists? If you use discount lists where are the criteria for discounts? (specials, dated, quantity)
  7. Think about your Accounting Software. When a quote comes from Dynamics CRM do the items/products on that quote make sense to accounting?
  8. What about services that you sell?

As you can see this one small area can cause some thinking and thinking about it before you start entering data is always a good idea. 


CRM Quotes of the Day

"CRM is like Good Wine"

    - always improving with age if refined through use and tasting

"CRM is like a Good Recipe"

    - Mix the right ingredients correctly and it tastes wonderful

"CRM is like a Good Garden"

    - Tender care creates lasting growth and usable substance

                                                                           - Anne Stanton


Habits

It doesn't matter which CRM application you use you still might have to learn a new habit or two. The key issue is that core "plumping" applications are tools that you need to learn and even if a tool is easy to learn it (because it works like a tool you already use (Outlook and Excel) it is also wrapped in a business process that also has to be understood and mastered.

When it comes to CRM you have some key business processes to think on. There are the sales processes for those who are involved in any step within sales. There is the new account process, for instance when a call comes in and the person is calling from a company that is not in the database and there are service processes. A customer calls with a problem and you want to open and track a problem ticket or case.

For any given indivdual you might have hundreds of small processes and each of these processes can be either easier or harder with technology. The right technology means that process is automated and mastery of the processes needed to run a given job function is as easy as possible. 


Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobile

The full Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobile client ships with a 160 page manual and in response to a recent comment "you can definitely go “offline” and tie into layers of excellent security," So why isn't it being used extensively? The problem comes when people don’t want to take the time to set it up. There is also an overhead issue in that the full CRM Mobile client requires the right resources on the device.

Why do people use Outlook? Well it a known product and it is easy and it meets a certain level of base need and as such people use it.

There are numerous other Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobile clients available as well. There is one for the Blackberry and a nice little mobile express WMI complaint client called the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobile Express client. There is also an Outlook client for the laptop which synchronizes and can be used offline.

Dynamics CRM is by far not without options and every day third parties add more and more and more.

So what is happening with the thousands of Microsoft Staff rolling out Microsoft Dynamics CRM?  I would guess that their biggest issue with embracing and adopting Dynamics CRM within Microsoft is that Microsoft staff rarely get expert support in their rollouts.


Business Units can be Dangerous

One of the most abused features that I see in the world of Small Business CRM is business units. They can be sooo over used and what happens is a mess. You see business units literally divide the database into well.. units. Now this is all well and fine if you do not want to overlap customer data between business units but it can get quite complex if you start to look at multi-layered, multi-tiered business units in a  small organization.

When tackling busness units you want to really, really, really think hard about how you set them up OR if you need them at all.

For more information on business units.

And remember.. Clean, Efficient, simple can make for a happier adoption and reduced long term costs for support and training.

Continue reading "Business Units can be Dangerous" »


Scheduling

One of the features that Microsoft CRM has that is not necessarily a "standard" CRM feature is the power of Scheduling. The trouble is that you could write an entire software package called Scheduling and maybe after a year or two have all that businesses need.

So Microsoft CRM has scheduling and it gets deep. You can "not only" schedule people (CRM Authenticated users), but you can also tie those people to locations and associated "resources". Resources would include equipment, facilities and other people or teams. All of this also ties to dates and even open cases or tickets.

The product contains a "conflicts in schedule view",  so that when scheduling you can see who is doing what when and as such if you try to schedule a conflicting activity the system gives you power to do something about that.

BUT as with all things software and business... it does not do everything for all people trying to schedule. What always shocks people is that sometimes the things that it doesn't do are the "Duh" factors.

Scheduling is a new feature of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM software. Consider it 1.5 in a suite of mostly 3.0 software. Powerful, reliable, but not quite 100% feature rich for all people and all situations.

Are you using Scheduling in MS Dynamics CRM out of the box? Post what you love and hate..


New Options

So you have thought about Microsoft CRM, but you have also heard that it can be a big project. There is infrastructure to consider and so much more..

Well you have a new option.

Introducing Microsoft LIVE with MS CRM. 

BOSTON — July 11, 2006 — Building on the market success of Microsoft Dynamics™ CRM 3.0, Microsoft Corp. today announced the roadmap for the next major release of its Microsoft Dynamics CRM products, including a new software-as-a-service offering called Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live. The Microsoft® CRM Live service will be operated and managed by Microsoft within its Windows Live™ datacenters, and will offer Microsoft’s partners another fast and flexible way to address the unique customer relationship management (CRM) needs of each customer. Microsoft CRM Live will use the same code base as the on-premise and partner-hosted versions of Microsoft CRM, a strategy that reinforces Microsoft’s leadership in allowing customers to choose the best deployment option for their business and IT needs at any time. The full range of Microsoft CRM products is part of Microsoft’s vision for business — the People-Ready Business — and the new Microsoft CRM Live service will be integrated with Microsoft’s Windows Live services and Office Live services. Read More ... 


Configuring CRM

I have been having a blast configuring a CRM system the last week or so! It is such a joy to work with a framework that is not only so powerful, but also so flexible. The programmers really did a great job creating an environment where some of the most convoluted and sophisticated business problems can be mapped and conquered!


E-Mail Limitation

When e-mailing attachments via MS CRM 3.0 there have been a few posts about the limit in attachment size. This is by design and is set 5mbs

HOWEVER

for those who have a nice beefy system for MS SQL and don't mind letting their users have a ton of power for clogging up the net ... ok, ok.. who have thought carefully about what they want to send you can

CHANGE IT

By making a change to the Registry...

On the Server
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\MSCRM\maxuploadfilesize

On the Client
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\MSCRM\maxuploadfilesize

Warning.. If you are messing with the registry then you should understand that this entails risk. Really you can mess things up. So don't mess with the registry if you don't feel really good about what you are doing.

I suspect that you would much rather have these attachments in MS SQL as opposed to the Exchange store if saving them in e-mail is critical.


SBS, MS CRM SBE 3.0, ISA 2004 INSTALLING

I can't tell you how wonderful Andy Goodman is for doing this! Not only did he spend ALL day today compiling his notes and screen shots into an accessible online document, but he spent THREE days testing and installing MS CRM SBE 3.0 on various different SBS platforms. Andy Goodman is a Microsoft MVP for Small Business Server.
I wish I could give him an award for this work!
Check it out!! So if you are using SBS with ISA 2004 and MS CRM SBE .. and you either had problems, have problems or are thinking of installing check this FIRST!!
Quick Tip: Watch out for typos during any "fixes", Ouch! 

MS CRM and Choice

As with Windows XP and many of the other Windows Operating systems, Microsoft gives customers choice with Microsoft CRM. Is this choice going to "bite back"?

Microsoft CRM is a highly configurable and for the developers a wonderfully customizable application. The IT Pros have choice, the customers have choice and the software developers used to customize the software to the umpteenth degree have choice.  To the small business owner, where time is at a premium, choice is not always efficient.

Are we then talking about doing too many things with the "Quick Fix" and is it a software's job to be concerned with the implications of a decision makers choice to not take the time to really think things through and do good role out planning?


Associated Documents

Imgpaperstack One of the needs that has rarely been met by a CRM application is the association of large bodies of key customer specific searchable text or documents. For instance if you have a database of contacts and you have a resume for each of those contacts can the resumes be tracked  and keyword searched in Microsoft CRM?

The answer is yes, and like all things Microsoft you can do it a number of different ways.


Discussing SMB and CRM

Over at the CRMGuru discussion forums they have a very interesting thread about small business and CRM.

I thought this was a great quote that we all have to roll our thoughts around

"Reading through your description, I am intrigued to understand why CRM - for which I read: building profitable relationships with customers - is "alien" to the SME. One would think that competing in an SME retail market would have meant that they had to be close to customers, particularly regular customers, to remain in business." Graham Hill
Independent CRM Consultant

The concept that CRM is not for small business always shocks me.. How else do small businesses get all that they need done, without good customer relationship management tracking.. Even if this tracking is not as efficient or computerized as it can be..

The goal is to now offer more efficient and more integrated CRM and help small businesses move away from solutions that are a compromise to solving the complete problem.


Multiple Companies, 1 person

You are a single consultant, but you are involved in multiple companies how can you juggle all these relationships in Microsoft CRM?

Believe it or not I know at least three business consultants who are on the board of directors and/or the management team and/or the sole proprietors of new companies.  Now some would argue that a one person company does not need MS CRM, but I would argue that a one person company needs it more than some of it's larger counter parts.

Do you really think one person can remember everything? All the interactions, referral sources, vendor relationships, prospects and company details?

So what to do?

You can use MS CRM for this situation by using Business Units. The main business unit is the company the MS CRM software is licensed to. The other business units can cleanly divide up data. Why would you do this at all? For the simple reason that you might not want various management teams to share the same data and yet you being on multiple management teams want to have access to it all.

Any other ideas?

In former DB days I might have setup multiple databases. Vendors, Prospects, Clients, Personal, Press, etc.


PopUp Blockers

Microsoft CRM 3.0 accesses a central MS SQL database on your server or if offline a local instance of the data. Now you can imagine with all this accessing that popup blockers might get in the way. So if you are having difficulty accessing check those popup blockers.

It is amazing how many layers of "defense" can be installed by a user when frustrated by JUNK. Sometimes eliminating and reorganizing the defenses is an important side step.


New MS CRM 3.0 Data Migration ToolKit!

Received mail that there is a new set of migration tools for MS CRM. Hurray! Not only are the tools available, but they are easily downloadable via the Microsoft Dynamics website.

"The Data Migration Pack includes two tools for migrating data to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0:
  • Data Migration Wizard for Microsoft Office Outlook with Business Contact Manager, for migrating data from Outlook with Business Contact Manager to Microsoft CRM 3.0.
  • Data Migration Framework, for migrating data from any data source to Microsoft CRM 3.0.

MS CRM SBE 3.0, SBS 2003 SP1, ISA 2003, Reporting Services

Yes, there is a documented problem when trying to install MS CRM SBE 3.0 onto MS CRM SBS 2003 SP1 with ISA installed... Understand that ISA is the key factor here. 

The trick with working with PSS to get this resolved (because they are resolving it regularly) is to very clearly document the situation so that the PSS contact goes.. Oh right, fixed that one before this is what we need to do... You are offering PSS a number of variables that they do not work with all the time..

Small Business Server 2003 SERVICE PACK 1

MS CRM SBE 3.0

ISA 2004

MS Reporting Services

and all the other components of SBS that make it both wonderful and sometimes more difficult for the Pros supporting everything.

Unfortunately as of today I have not seen and/or had time to write and compile the official Knowledge Base Article. It was NOT posted last time I looked.