Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Business Intelligence for CRM 2011 data- Part II - PowerView

In Part I of the two part series, I had talked a little bit about the cool things that can be done with the Excel add on called PowerPivot, with the data feed coming in from a crm 2011 organization. In Part II, we are going to dive in to Power View, which is a browser-based Silverlight application launched from SharePoint  that enables users to present and share insights through interactive presentations.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Business Intelligence for CRM 2011 data- Part I - PowerPivot

In a typical CRM system, there might be huge quantities of data (like case items) that we would want to gain insight into. In the first part of a two part series, I will focus on using PowerPivot to connect to a CRM system, extract data, and present the data in powerful new ways using Excel.

PowerPivot is a powerful data mashup and data exploration tool based on xVelocity in-memory technologies providing unmatched analytical performance. The goal of PowerPivot is to empower users of all levels with new insights through familiar tools, which in this case is Excel.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Active Directory password reset via CRM 2011

A couple of months ago, my colleague Robert Shurtleff (@rgsiii) came to me with an interesting idea about a CRM add on to change AD passwords. After a few emails back and forth thrashing out the design, it was time to make it actually work. In this post, I am going to provide some of the details of a solution to enable a user to change his or her AD password from within CRM.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Branding a CRM 2011 application

The Dynamics CRM 2011 application, along with the XRM framework, enables us to model a varied requirement set with a high degree of customization. But there are instances when CRM is used adjacent with another LOB application, either as sections inside of CRM 2011, or outside of it. In such a case, the user experience should be as streamlined as possible. Dynamics CRM approaches this issue by providing the style sheets that crm uses as part of the sdk (sdk\resources\styleguide), so that other applications can be brought in line with CRM. In situations where other LOB applications take precedent (or their UI cannot be modified), what are the options for the CRM customizer?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Extending CRM 2011 into the social sphere: Using Montage Page editor

The inspiration for this post is a whitepaper from Microsoft titled "The Connected Enterprise". It has a bunch of great ideas on how and why there exists a need to embrace social technologies to drive business needs. There is also a peek into the social tools that Microsoft is building or already built, and possible ways that might benefit your marketing and sales teams using simple storylines.

In this post, I am going to focus on one of those cool tools, and how users could possibly benefit by their integration with CRM 2011.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

MS Dynamics CRM 2011 installation checklist and tips

While there is a wealth of information in the installation and planning guide for CRM 2011, it is always good to have a high level checklist of items, along with possible issues and workarounds, when dealing with a multi server install. Here I have attempted to document some of the critical items to have in place before we attempt the install.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Update Rollup 11 for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011

Update Rollup 11 for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 is now available for download. As you might know, update rollup 10 had performance enhancements for retrieving multiple queries and for the Quick Find search. Some salient points from the announcement are listed below:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

CRM 2011 Ribbon Workbench - Getting guids from selected records in the grid

For those who need to make changes to the crm 2011 ribbon, I strongly suggest that you run, not walk, and download the ribbon workbench tool from Develop1. It is so far the best utility to make painless modifications to the CRM ribbon, and also has decent write ups and articles to cover most of your needs. In this post, I will walk though a setup which grabs the selected guids from a grid view, using a button created on the entity main page.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Gamification and the CRM (XRM) Platform

The Gartner Group defines gamification as the concept of employing game mechanics to non-game activities such as recruitment, training and health and wellness. They also predict that by 2014, more than 70 percent of global 2,000 organizations will have at least one “gamified” application, which can range from mastering a specific skill or improving one’s health. 

Pretty impressive numbers, is it not? Reading about these emerging trends, I do wonder how our very own CRM 2011 can be applied to create business solutions that cater to those needs. The opportunities for businesses are great – from having more engaged customers, to crowdsourcing innovation or improving employee performance.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Building a CRM 2011 Virtual Machine on Windows 7 using VirtualBox

For folks like me who keep messing around with crm 2011 and its features, it makes a lot of sense to have a dedicated sandbox environment. My goal was to create a virtual machine on my Win 7 laptop, with the following requirements:
1. Able to guest host a x64 OS (Windows 2008)
2. Ability to take snapshots of my VM
3. And of course, ease of use and compatability.

Monday, August 6, 2012

UserName cannot be null error message while connecting CRM 2011 Developer toolkit to CRM Office 365 online

Recently I had a need to create a simple plugin that works with a CRM online setup. If you are not aware yet, the CRM Developer toolkit it a great way to easily create code, and automatically deploy that code to CRM from within visual studio itself. The Developer toolkit for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 was released as part of UR5 SDK release and is available for download here.
Once extracted, install the toolkit located in folder \sdk\tools\developertoolkit.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Microsoft gets Social - Outlook Connectors for social and business networks

Social networks have a wealth of information just waiting to be harnessed, but I personally have two big issues with them:
  • I do not want to be logging into multiple networks and going back and forth to collate data
  • I want contextual information rather that a fire hose deluge 
Social Connectors to the rescue!
If you are using Outlook, and especially if you are a Sales person using Outlook with CRM, there is a cool new way to get information on specific contacts using the social networks. I see this being particularly useful in the social selling arena, as you get a bigger and better picture into customer connections, preferences, behaviors and sentiments, presented to you in one place.

Monday, July 2, 2012

CRM 2011 Data Import/ Export using Cozy Roc SSIS library

A CRM system is only as good as the data in it. Along with entering data using the UI, there are multiple needs around a CRM supported data import application. For MS Dynamics Crm2011, there are a quite a few options available, like the native CRM Import wizard, Scribe or SSIS applications like Cozy Roc.

In this post I am going to walk through a very basic crm import/ export using the CozyRoc SSIS+ library. CozyRoc SSIS+ library includes Dynamics CRM adapters with support for all three deployment types: Premise, Hosted and Live. A SQL Server license is required to use the library.

Monday, June 18, 2012

MS Dynamics CRM 2011 Activity Feeds and Yammer.

The news is hot off the press - Microsoft has agreed to buy Yammer for $1.2 billion. Yammer is one of the more mature enterprise social networks available on the market right now. There is already some speculation of how Microsoft is going to use (or misuse) this great tool, but the focus of this post is a little different. I am going to try and see how the existing activity feeds functionality stacks up against the Yammer platform. I understand it might be a little unfair to compare an eight month old feature will a full fledged platform, but my goal is not to beat up on a work in progress feature but to get excited about Yammer, and see what it can bring to our implementations.

Friday, June 8, 2012

No Code solution to populate Two Options values when creating a record from a CRM 2011 dialog

The inspiration for this post is a similarly titled blog on msdn from @devkeydet.

Is is an excellent read, and shows the power and ease of using custom workflows. I am going to provide a solution for the same scenario which uses the existing process (workflow) UI, but without any custom coding.

The business case is pretty straightforward. Here is the scenario from the blog post in its entirety:

“I have an entity with a field of type ‘Two Options’ that I would like to populate within a ‘Create Record’ activity in a CRM 2011 dialog.   The ‘Two Options’ type in CRM 2011 is a boolean.  The ‘Prompt and Response’ activity in a CRM 2011 dialog only gives me options for Text/Integer/Float. Because of this, I can’t set the value of the answer to the field in the entity  within ‘Set Properties’ because the types don’t match.”

Here are the steps to achieve the same result without the custom code workflow:

Friday, June 1, 2012

Solution Packager - Enable Source Control for Solutions in CRM 2011

The concept of solutions was introduced in CRM 2011, for the express purpose of having an easy way to combine all the customizations in a packaged format. While this has greatly improved life for people who customize CRM on a daily basis, there are still issues around enabling robust source control for a unmanaged or managed solution.

The solution is available to us in a .zip format, and source control will not be able to track changes in the files within the .zip. This might not be a problem with only one Consultant on a project, but when we have a team of folks working together, tracking changes is not for the faint of heart.

The solution packager is an excellent tool to solve the source control issues. In simple terms, the tool fragments the .zip file into multiple files, with the individual components in specific folders/files, thus enabling granular tracking of changes to components. The solution packager can also be used to convert the fragmented files back into a .zip file, thus reversing the process.

Friday, May 11, 2012

CRM 2011 Activity Feed - Updates from UR9

The focus of this post is the new enhancements to Activity feed feature in CRM 2011. The official build is not available yet, but the beta build is out since yesterday. Here are the details on how to get your hands on the CRM 2011 UR9 beta build. For more details on Activity feeds, please refer to my earlier post.

Setup and Configuration:
As before (Update Rollup 5 activity feed solution), after downloading the rollup update and importing the activity feed solution , under Settings/ System, you will see 2 new nav links named "Activity Feed Configuration" and "Activity Feed Rules".

Thursday, May 10, 2012

CRM 2011 UR9: Cross browser compatibility known issues

Here is a compilation of the known issues  from the readme, regarding the cross browser functionality available in the latest Update Rollup R9 CPT build. More details about the beta build and how to access it is available on the MSDN blog.

I would also suggest this write up by Scott Sewell where he talks about some of the best practices to follow to try avoiding breaking your code!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Update Rollup 8 for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011

Update Rollup 8 for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 is now available. The KB article page is not loading up as I write this post, so the details are from a blog post by Dynamics CRM in the field folks.

UPDATE: The KB article page is working now!

Some salient points from the announcement are listed below:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Deep Queries for subgrids - CRM 2011 and Powertrak offerings compared

I was reading this fantastic post on Microsoft Dynamics CRM blog that walks us through an use case for seeing subgrid values that are not directly related to the opened entity. Great time saver!

After reading through it and trying it out on my test system, I was curious to see how it stacks up against the Powertrak editable grid functionality that is available for some time now.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Dashboard Reporting Control for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011

Dashboard reporting control is available in Dynamics Marketplace and is distributed for no charge by Microsoft. Using this managed solution, reports can easily be added to the dashboard. The only piece of information you need is the report id, which tells the dashboard which report to display. Very nice!

Here is the link for the Dashboard Reporting Control in Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Adding Navigation Link in crm 2011 form - An update if doing in xml

In crm 4.0, the only way to add a navigation link was to edit the xml to add a <NavBarItem> node. In CRM 2011, in addition to messing with the xml, the form ui can be used to modify the navigation pane. But if you want to enable the PassParams option, you will still need to export the solution, manually edit the customizations.xml file, zip it up and reimport.

When I first started adding navigation links in xml, the following snippet for <NavBarItem> which I used in CRM 4.0, would work in crm 2011 too. It goes under Entity / FormXml/ Navigation/ NavBar.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Update Rollup 7 for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011

Update Rollup 7 for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 is now available. For online customers, Update Rollup 7 for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 will be applied to production servers in early April 2012.

Some salient points from the announcement are listed below:

Feature addition
Update Rollup 7 for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 introduces a new feature that is called Read Optimized Forms. By using this feature, an organization can let users decide whether they want to view records using a form that is optimized to load quickly. The read-optimized form improves productivity for users who primarily consume data instead of editing records. It also helps prevent users from unintentional editing field values.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Dynamics CRM 2011 R9 update

By now most of us with knowledge of the roadmap know the details of the R8 update coming in Q2 2012. The key new capabilities are under the following basic categories: Mobility, Browser flexibility, Enhanced Social capabilities, Industry Solution Templates, SQL Server 2012 and Certifications.

For more details, you can read the Release Preview Guide from the Microsoft Dynamics CRM website below:

I was reading this interesting article in zdnet that goes a bit further than R8 and actually starts speculating on what might be available in the R9 release later this year.

Here is the link to the article:

Friday, March 2, 2012

Getting related record from a lookup and displaying it as a link in CRM 2011 with OData/JSON

Lookups provide a way to associate a record with a related value. The simplest example is showing the primary contact in the account form. Keeping with this example, what if I want a record in the primary contact to show up in the account form, and be able to open up the record form on clicking the field?

The business case I am going to focus on deals with showing the primary contacts preferred service in the accounts form. I am thus able to view the service record without having to open up the contact form and click on the service lookup.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Using View Layout Replicator for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011

I have been using the view replicator by tanguy for sometime now. It is a valuble time saver, and very user friendly to boot! If you want to replicate the columns/ formatting in a view to other views, this is a much better option to creating and modifying the properties one view at a time.

Here are the steps to set it up and get it running.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"Assembly must be registered in isolation" error during plugin registration in a non isolation mode

Recently I faced an issue trying to register a plugin assembly in isolation mode "none". Registering it in sandbox mode was not an option as the plugin was accessing external data. The CRM setup was using IFD authentication which really should not be a factor in this case.

The plugin registration tool is available as part of the crm 2011 sdk download in the following path: sdk\tools
\pluginregistration. Once the project is built, you can use the PluginRegistration.exe application to register the assembly, step and image. MSDN has step by step walkthrough of the registration process.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Update Rollup 6 for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011

The Update Rollup 6 for CRM 2011 has been released from Microsoft. The initial release was done about 10 days ago, but due to some issues they were pulled. The exact reasons are unclear, and since the update rollup cannot be removed, I hope you did not install the erroneous version the day it came out! But in case you did, the new Update could be installed on top of the old Rollup 6.

The new release so far seems good - no issues during the update and as far as I noticed, no issues after the update! The link for downloading the update is as follows:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Goal Management in CRM 2011 for a custom entity

Goal Management is a completely unique stand alone feature in the new revamped crm 2011. It provides an organization multiple touchstones to monitor the progress of an activity. You can provide roll ups of individual goals to provide progress reports on a department.

In this post I will walk through goal management setup for a custom entity. The custom entity is a stripped down version of the orders OOB entity, with multiple status options.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

CRM 2011 import error: managed solution cannot overwrite the EntityMap component

Solutions are a very important feature in crm 2011, with a multitude of uses. One of the most common ways to utilize solutions is to create packaged customizations that can be later distributed. The publisher that is associated with the solution can set the managed properties to control the level of customizable actions the end user can have. For example, you can get to a very granular level of checking if a particular view is end user customizable, or not.

Solutions are "layered" when they are imported, based on the order of import. In this post, I will focus on a particular error during an import of a managed solution.

If the import is done using the UI or with code (like a console or form application), the error will be similar to this message:

A managed solution cannot overwrite the EntityMap component with Id=b925c093-77c6-474e-b7ac
-dae44d569c53 which has an unmanaged base instance.  The most likely scenario for this error is that an unmanaged solution has installed a new unmanaged EntityMap component on the 
target system, and now a managed solution from the same publisher is trying to install 
that same EntityMap component as managed.  This will cause an invalid layering 
of solutions on the target system and is not allowed.