Friday, September 27, 2013

September 27 Blog Review

As we approach the impending release of CRM 2013 I suspect that this review will continue to be divided. Half is for the future, half is for the past. Let us begin.

News about CRM 2013:
PowerObjects describes the new Inline Lookup Controls in CRM 2013. When clicking the search button on the lookup, records will display with basic information about the record. If the records shown are not what you are looking for you can either choose “Look up more records” or use the new Quick Create functionality to create a new record.

CustomerEffective describes some of the new Quick Features in CRM 2013. One of Microsoft’s biggest objectives with this release was Reimagined Experience. To aid with this (as well as Mobil and general user adoption) they have created quick features to help users accomplish tasks faster. There is the Quick Create which allows users to create a new record with just basic information without leaving the screen where they are working. There is also the Quick View to see the important highlights of a record. Magnetism also posted a good comparison of these features: Quick Create vs. Quick Forms.

For our CRM Online folks, Chris Cognetta explains what you need to know about the New License Model for CRM 2013. There are now several different license types and you can be flexible and assign different licenses to different users. How do you decide who gets what type of license? See Chris’ response:
Here’s the key – If the user is creating Sales Entities (Accounts, Contacts, Opportunities etc.) then they need the Professional License. If the user is a backoffice user only updating (Not creating these records), then they could use the basic license. XRM applications not making use of the main these records types can really benefit from the Essential license to access Customized Entities.
Correction: Basic User licenses cannot use Opportunities.

Preact CRM posted CRM 2013 FAQ’s. They go through some of the top questions they have received from users with their answers.

Also this week I attended the MSDynamicsWorld Webinar What Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 will mean for the Enterprise customer. Most of the topics discussed were items that have been highly publicized already. They discussed the “One Microsoft” (integrated product suite) with the 4 key goals of: Reimagined Experience, Process Agility, CRM on the go and Social in Context. Also there will be twice-yearly releases for Online with a yearly On-Premise release that will be a rollup of the Online releases. Update Rollups will be delivered every 12 weeks. These twice-yearly releases do not include the Marketing Update releases. See Slide Below.

Most of the interesting points came out in the questions. The mobile apps that will come with the release are built on a new mobile framework called MoCA (Mobile Client Application). This allows developers to write apps that will work on multiple platforms. This will be available to ISVs and partners so they can write their own apps using this framework.

On the topic of marketing – Marketing Functionalities will never be available for On Premise deployments. These features will ONLY be available with CRM Online. This is because of the functionality involving working with other marketers and organizations, sending working copies, etc. This would not be able to work correctly On Premise.

News about CRM 2011:
PowerObjects also wrote about how to Assign Records to Inactive Users. This can be beneficial if you want to migrate old data. You do not want to give it a generic owner but you also don’t want to use too many CRM licenses. So create new users and then deactivate them. If you ensure they have a Security Role, records can still be assigned.

CustomerEffective introduces the CRM Data Detective! This is a cool tool available on CodePlex that allows you to look at how fields are being used in your organization. It is a good way to find fields that you may need to emphasize or remove. This topic has come up in my organization and I look forward to trying out the tool.

Leon Tribe talks to us about how to Report on Activity Parties. The User fields on an Activity (Owner, Required Attendee, Regarding, Sender, etc.) have Activity Party records. So Activity: Regarding = ABC Company; this means that the Activity has a related Activity Party for ABC Company with the Participation Type = Regarding. This is helpful to keep in mind when you build Advanced Find views. You cannot build an Advanced Find based on Activity Parties but you can include them in the filter criteria as a related record. Also, you can create Reports using the Report Wizard and pull in Activity Parties as the Related Record type. Then you can list the Activity Parties directly in the report.

This concludes the review of all the key things that were posted this week. The excitement is building for CRM 2013. We are only a few weeks away. CRMUG Summit is fast approaching as well. I hope to see all of you there!

Friday, September 20, 2013

September 20 Blog Review

More and more news is beginning to surface about CRM 2013. Today we start with a success story and some CRM 2011 tips. Then we move on to learn a bit more about CRM 2013.

DynamicsCafe featured the Success Story of New Belgium Brewing. This is to drive interest in the upcoming webinar featuring the brewing company, however they planned it during CRMUG Summit so that will be a problem for some people. This company uses a “Beer Ranger” app for field agents to work off of. You can learn more about this in Sonoma’s Press Release from when this was initially deployed.

In my experience, the E-mail Router can cause a large amount of heartache. Even though it is going away in CRM 2013, we still need to deal with it now. PowerObject posted a great blog on Email Router Troubleshooting 101. It describes how to identify where the problem exists, checking everyone involved has access to the router and what to do next.

CRM in the Field Talks about Multi-Series Bar Charting. Sometimes when you design a bar chart it will have a secondary y-axis; so some of the bars are related to the primary and others to the secondary. This can be corrected by modifying the chart XML to remove the secondary axis reference.

CustomerEffective discusses the Benefit of CRM Activity Management. In the example presented, the author was in a meeting with a customer and trying to remember who was in previous meetings, what they said, etc. This is an excellent use of CRM. We can keep track of all these details for reference later. You never know how the little details could benefit you in the future.

In CRM 2013, we will be able to include a Bing map for an address in the system. Chris Cognetta discusses how to enable Bing Maps API Integration. First of all you will need to buy your key to use the Bing API. This information is entered into the System Settings area. Then you can simply add the map to the form through the form customization Insert tab.

MSDynamicsWorld reviewed the Favorite Features emerging from CRM 2012 Partners. Here is a list of what is highlighted in more detail in the blog:
  • Quick Create vs. Quick Forms
  • Real-time/Synchronous Workflows
  • Search by Phone Number (simply create a call and enter the number in the “Call To” field and CRM 2013 will search for the corresponding record)
  • Access Teams
  • Form and Field Notifications
  • Improved View Filters

Sonoma Partners wants to make sure we are Ready for 2013 and also get us excited about new Lookup Functionality. The new lookups are very nice in that if we enter text into a lookup box and it displays multiple options, it will also display some information from the record. This will make it easier to choose the correct related record. However, you will not be able experience those fabulous lookups if you haven’t fixed and direct SQL Calls, updated all your endpoints and checked all your custom code passes the Code Validation Tool. Follow Sonoma’s Flow chart to see where you are in the process.

There are lots of new features to be excited for in CRM 2013. I feel like we learn about a new feature every week. It will be a big change, but definitely a welcome and beneficial change.

Friday, September 13, 2013

September 13 Blog Review

News about CRM 2013 is starting to be released. Earlier this week the Release Preview Guide came out. Now partners are starting to talk about some of the features we should expect.

Let’s talk about the CRM 2013 posts first.

PowerObjects talked to us about two new features in CRM 2013: Quick View Forms and Portable Business Logic. A Quick View form allows you to view information about a record from within another record. To do this create the Quick View form and then edit the form for the related entity where you want the information to be displayed and add the Quick View form component there. This feature enables you to display more of the required information in one place. Portable Business Logic is a built-in way to perform actions usually handled with JavaScript. The blog works through an example and shows how to set up the full rule. This Portable Business Logic is called “Portable” because it can be used on multiple forms and works on all browsers/platforms/devices.

Here is a quote from PowerObjects Portable Business Logic blog:
Portable business logic allows you to define business rules for each record type. You can use it to do any of the following:
  • Show a message to the user
  • Change a field value
  • Set a field as business required/not business required
  • Show or hide a field
  • Lock or unlock a field
 You can set all of these actions to occur based on conditions you set in the business rule. Conditions can be based on one of the following:
  • If a field contains data or doesn’t contain data
  • If a field contains a certain value or doesn’t contain a certain value
  • If a field equals or does not equal another field value

Richard Knudson also posted on this logic also known as Business Rules. He works through a more complex example and includes lots of good information. There are some limitations to this functionality. For instance, you can only do a single set of conditions. So you can say if A is true, do B; but you cannot add an otherwise (else) if to this. Branching requirements will require multiple rules or going back to JavaScript. You also can only use fields in the Entity that the rule was written form.

McGladrey talks about the Business Process Enhancements in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013. Process can now span multiple entities. Also the concept of synchronous workflows has been incorporated so users can see the change take place real-time. There is also the addition of Role-Based processes so a workflow can be triggered based on the user’s security role.

Some other new features for CRM 2013 include the new clickable Phone Number fields and Access teams which allow dynamic record access.

As mentioned previously, the Release Preview Guide came out this week. There were several blogs in relation such as CustomerEffective and CRMSoftwareBlog. The Preview Guide covers many of the features we have already talked about today. Most of it is still general but there is insight into the goals of the changes. Obviously better user experience is key with simplified data entry and flat forms. Also it is clear that we are moving into a code-free experience. So many things can now be down with built-in features. This will enable Microsoft to move forward with yearly releases because having all of this built-in with greatly simplify the upgrade process.

Also some great posts came out about CRM 2011.

CustomerEffective describes how to use Cases in CRM to Manage your Email. When you track an e-mail you can convert it to a Case. This is related to the customer and others with access to the customer can assist you when working on the issue or question.

Leon Tribe posted a great blog: Setting Long-Term Workflows in Dynamics CRM. This describes how to set up a workflow that will set up a date 1, 3 and 5 years in the future and wait until that date before resetting the date. It demonstrates how to use the Set To operators as well as Timeouts.

That concludes all the exciting news for today. I hope you enjoyed all the CRM 2013 news on this Friday the 13th. It is spooky how close we are getting to the release.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Q3 CRMUG DC Recap – CRM 2013 Demo

The DC CRMUG chapter also had the privilege of welcoming MVP Chris Cognetta from Tribridge via WebEx for a quick Demo of CRM 2013. Personally, I am extremely excited for CRM 2013. There are so many awesome new features and many new ways to eliminate code. This will make future upgrades easier because everything is built-in and will not need to be tested and re-written. I want to cover some of the key things he showed us without spoiling all the surprises.

When you first log in to CRM 2013 there is a quick welcome tutorial. This is great because it reviews the key changes to help users get started. 2013 is much easier to use but users will still struggle and this will help them with the adjustment.

As you have probably seen, the new screen layout removes the left hand navigation and gives you much more screen real estate to work with. Now there is a ribbon that you click down through to access each area. Some of your existing Ribbon customizations will work because it is modified in a similar way. Of course these still should be evaluated to make sure they fit the new model.

All of your classic forms will be migrated to the Basic form, meaning the nice new form without the process flow. You will need to modify these to improve the look and feel.

The new Business Process Logic is part of the form editor. It is a way to build Java Script that will work on all devices and without actually writing the Java Script. It allows you to take actions instantly on the screen, without needing to reload the form. You can do things such as When a field is set to a specific value set another field to equal that field or to a specific value.

We also have two new categories of Processes: Actions and Business Process Flow. Actions replace some functionality provided by plugins and SDK code. They can gather information and then use workflow steps to act on this information. Business Process Flow is process behind the new process driven forms. There is also the new option for Synchronous Workflows, these will run on the screen in real-time.

On the backend the ExtensionBaseTable has been removed and there will now be only one table per entity. This will help to prevent SQL deadlocks and improve performance. The merging of existing tables can be postponed so you do not need to do this at the same time as the upgrade.

The Outlook Client is also improved, most notably by breaking the processing into 3 separate threads: Outlook functionality, CRM Browsing, and Synchronization.

There was so much more covered but too much to be mentioned here. It will be a big upgrade to 2013 but all the changes are for the better. Be prepared to rewrite your code with Business Process Logic on the forms and the new Process types. This will help you be prepared when we welcome CRM 2014 or 2015. Also if you haven’t seen it yet, make sure you check out the Release Preview Guide to learn more about these changes.

Q3 CRMUG DC Recap – Half-Baked CRM

Today was the Washington, DC Regional Chapter meeting for CRMUG. It was an excellent session with lots of discussion. It is always good to talk about our issues and find new ways to improve.

The first session was called “About your Half-Baked CRM”. This was presented by Eddy Conde of T3 Information Systems who is “fluent in English, Spanish and CRM”. So you are not happy with your CRM system. What do you do? You have 3 Options: Start Over, Update or Enhance. This is not a decision to take lightly and not a decision to make based on your emotions at the time; all options need to be carefully considered. Even if you are happy with your system you should be looking at it every 6 months to determine if it is still meeting the business needs.

Some things to keep in mind that affect this decision are: number of users, Outlook installations, personal views, training, number of customizations (form, JavaScript, Reports, Plugins), number and complexity of custom reports,  integrations, etc. Most importantly you need to think about User Adoption. Will this help user adoption or hinder it with more things they need to learn? Can we achieve big wins with smaller changes?

If you start over (fresh start) you have all the excitement of a new system and you can correct all the things you did wrong the first time (new requirements, data correction) but you will need to recreate any customizations, retain users and reconfigure outlook. So this is generally not recommended unless you have very limited customizations.

If you want to Update the data and/or configurations you will focus on requirements as well as gap analysis. There will be no need to reconfigure Outlook or reset any of your system settings but it could require extensive customization and data correction. You may also need to undo old customization work.

So your final option is to Enhance your existing system. This is a healthy phase to be in. Once your CRM system is up and running you can remain in this stage and always keep improving. User Acceptance/Adoption is a pro and a con here. You can improve user adoption by quickly providing solutions to common pain points through customizations; this can be a big win. However, some users are just unhappy with the system and will remain unhappy unless it is completely new. It will not have the “new CRM smell” but changes can be made quickly and there is also no need to reconfigure Outlook or redo the initial CRM set up.

It was a great session with lots of participation. Key takeaways are to look at how your system can be improved and remember that CRM is a very flexible system that can customized quickly and easily – take advantage of this.

Friday, September 6, 2013

September 6 Blog Review

Back on the regular schedule this week. Let’s see what has been happening in the CRM Blog world:

First, PowerObjects posted a quick tip on Reporting down to the Second. When creating or editing a report you can change the properties of a field to include an unformatted value column. You can do this for Date/Time fields, Currency, Whole Numbers and Decimals.

PowerObjects almost missed the deadline with today’s bog – Top 10 New Features of CRM 2013. The blog contains much more detail but here are the top 10:
  1. Command Bar
  2. Simplified Navigation
  3. Flat User Interface
  4. Auto-Save
  5. Business Process Flow
  6. Social Pane
  7. Quick Create Forms
  8. Portable Business Logic
  9. Quick View Forms
  10. Real Time Workflows

Donna Edwards posted a great blog compiling all the links for Getting Ready for CRM 2013. She has links to the Microsoft blogs, TechNet Blogs, and PartnerSource content.

Also while preparing for 2013, you should look at Sonoma’s CRM 2011 Legacy Feature Check Walkthrough. This Microsoft tool allows you to evaluate issues that will not work in CRM 2013. Related, make sure you also review the Custom Code Validation Tool that Chris Cognetta talks about.

Everyone knows you shouldn’t make changes directly to the CRM database. However, I know that most organizations do it or at least think about. When it’s suggested, how do you respond? Jamie Miley compiled the reasons from several MVPs into Solid Reasons Not To Do Direct Database Operations on Dynamics CRM Database From the Pros. It is great information. I will definitely be keeping it in mind so I have a good answer the next time direct SQL updates are suggested.

Another interesting development this week was the announcement of Microsoft Acquiring Nokia. This is especially interesting amid rumors that the head of Nokia, Stephen Elop, may be replacing Steve Ballmer at Microsoft. Interesting things to ponder as the weekend begins.

Those were the big topics this week. Happy Friday!