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From the category archives: Customer and Employee Engagement Blog

Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM, Customer Engagement, Sales, Customer Care and Marketing

The Hush Hush Way to Implement a Custom CRM 2011 Web Application

There is something to be said for simplicity. When writing custom web application for CRM you can get fancy with Infragistics or Telerik controls and do all kinds of interesting and fun things. There are situations where using third party controls is certainly warranted. In the past I've always leaned towards using third party controls because they can make my life easier. I like being able to just throw a grid on a web form and update a few properties and have most of the work for display of data taken care of for me. As of late I have seen the value of bare bones custom web applications for CRM. As always it just depends on what you are doing and what you need to accomplish as to the need for the overhead of third party controls. But if possible it can be better to try and use vanilla HTML, JavaScript and CSS to accomplish your goal.

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Quick Tip: Track Meetings and Calls in CRM Without Typing

A Happy Salesperson Using Dynamics CRMDo you see the person in the picture to the left?  She is a salesperson.  Why is she so happy?  Because she is using her CRM system right now, while she’s talking on the phone.  And it’s taking her less time than ever before.  And her manager is getting the reports that he wants at the same time!  And she gets her work done in CRM when she would otherwise have “down time”?  How is all this possible you ask?  Read on …

We frequently hear complaints from sales users that they don’t like having to take the time to track meetings and phone calls in their CRM system.  Many sales people feel that this just takes away from the time that they can spend in conversations with prospective customers.  While it is critically important that sales people are disciplined about tracking relevant activities in CRM, there are some helpful shortcuts available to save some time – or to make use of “down time” while driving or waiting for a meeting.

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Bad OData Calls Potentially Causes CRM Service Problems

In the movie Star Wars Chancellor Palpatine outwardly appears to be a well-intentioned and loyal public servant and supporter of democracy, yet underneath his affable public persona lurks his true identity. His Sith name was Darth Sidious and accurately describes his true hidden nature. In a CRM project of any size you may end up with a decent amount of JavaScript to implement client side form customizations. Most likely there will be a need to make web service calls to get certain pieces of information about things such as the user, his/her roles, etc. You have to make sure your web service calls are being made correctly or else you could run into some "insidious" problems on your server.

 

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Sneaky Cylon Copies of Your CRM Security Roles

The best practice stated by Microsoft when dealing with security roles is not to create security roles underneath the root business unit of your organization. Each security role defined at the root is inherited by its child business units. In the case of a new organization the roles you get will be the out of the box security roles. The interesting thing about this is as a developer is that the UI deceives you into thinking that when you are looking at security roles that there is only one when in fact much like the Cylons in Battlestar Galatica there are multiple copies. What is happening behind the scenes is that for each child business unit the security role is being duplicated down the business unit hierarchy. If you are asking yourself why you should care then you have to consider instances when you want to know information about certain security roles in the system. If you are ever in a situation where you are looking for a security role by its guid like in a configuration setting you'll have to keep in mind that you can't just copy the guid you find in the interface and expect that it applies to all business units because they are all unique records with their own guids in the database.

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Quick Tip: Use CRM Email Templates Without Tracking in CRM

CRM Email Template non-CRM EmailE-mail templates are a great feature available in Dynamics CRM.  When Microsoft introduced the ability to access them directly from within Outlook in CRM 2011, it became even more efficient to quickly grab a template for any outgoing email.  In order to use an email template, you first have to track the email in CRM.  So the process works something like this: create an Outlook email | click the Track in CRM or Set Regarding button | select a template | send the email.

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Adding a Twitter Feed to CRM Leads

Twitter Feed on CRM Form

When reviewing a lead, account or contact prior to a sales call, it is always helpful to have as much context about a company prior to making the call.  Putting a Twitter feed on the CRM record for a lead can put this information in a place where it is easy for a sales person to quickly see it.  By passing in the name of the company dynamically, the feed can show relevant information about the specific company.

Twitter makes it pretty easy to generate the “base” code for integrating with CRM (or any website) as a widget.  You can find their tools for generating widgets here.  Even if you use my code, below, as a starting point, you’ll likely find this link helpful as you start to fine-tune your code a bit.

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CRM 2011 Date Oriented Solution Versioning

When working with solutions in a project often times I come across a few exports that I made previously. The probably I have is most people never update the version numbers on a solution. You end up with two or more solutions not really knowing what is in one versus another. Granted not knowing exactly what is in one solution versus another is still a problem, but the issue can at least be minimized.

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The CRM 2011 Multi-Developer Dilemma

Working on a project with multiple developers can be challenging. It requires collaborate and organization in order to take advantage of tasks that can be done in parallel and keep everyone on the same page. If you’ve ever tried to do this on CRM project you’ll find that as you add more developers to the project you quickly reach a tipping point where it becomes very difficult for them to not step on each other’s toes.

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CRM 2011 JavaScript Library Methodology

If you've ever worked on a large CRM project or had to deal with a CRM 4 upgrade of any size you may quickly find yourself in a sea of JavaScript that can begin to look a little overwhelming. Personally I loathe most JavaScript that comes my way because you tend to get these 5 page long methods that do everything, all the field names are hard coded strings and option sets/form event mode constants are all numeric values so you can't just read the code and quickly understand what it is doing. To make matters worse JavaScript is not like coding in C# so there are so many more opportunities for things to go wrong. Since JavaScript is very loose and the tools available at the moment aren't very strong in design time error and dependency checking are not up to par with managed code it will pay big dividends to try and be a little stricter up front when it comes to writing your client side code and keeping those libraries organized.

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Considerations for a Dynamics CRM 2011 AutoGroupManagementOff Installation

The installation of Dynamics CRM 2011 in tightly controlled multi-domain Active Directory environments can be a real challenge. Dynamics CRM’s tight integration with Active Directory (AD) is a double-edge sword: having built-in Kerberos single-sign on (SSO) for end-users is a big win for organizations using the Microsoft AD for desktop authentication, but the extraordinary permissions required by the CRM Installation Wizard to setup the directory groups and create SQL databases can be difficult to collect in an enterprise-class environment.

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CRM 2011 and Outlook: 5 Functions Everybody Should Use

The CRM 2011 Pane in the Outlook 2010 Ribbon MenuThis is the third in a three part series I’ve been writing on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 and Microsoft Outlook integration.  In the first two blogs, we reviewed the pros and cons of using CRM 2011 for Outlook and CRM 2011 for the Web.  In this article, we will take a look at CRM 2011 and Outlook functionality that everyone in your organization should use (regardless of whether they are using CRM 2011 for Outlook or not).  This integration functionality is easy for users to understand, saves a lot of time, and enables your organization to better track interactions with customers and other stakeholders.

For the previous two articles in this series see:

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A Slice of CRM Coding Philosophy

imagesEvery developer has their own style of writing code. I'm sure I'm not the only person that has inherited code from someone else only to make grimacing faces when you open it up in Visual Studio. I will admit that sometimes I want to slap people for what they have handed over to me but I'm sure someone has wanted to slap me a time or two as well. If you are like most developers you will have the immediate urge to "fix" this code to bring it up to your "standards". I'm no different. Not that I claim to be the swami of coding standards. I'm always learning and getting better but I think I am not bad compared to stuff I've seen. Here are a few of my philosophies. I have to say that a book that I read called Clean Code by Robert C. Martin has really made an impact on my thought process. I think in general we get so caught up in the work of writing code that we step back and think about how we are writing code. When it comes to coding with CRM 2011 I have some basic thoughts on what things should look like.

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Dynamics CRM 2011 Custom Applications - Silverlight vs. ASP.NET

imagesIf you've done any kind of customization work on Dynamics you've probably run into a situation at some point where the needs arises to create a custom application to suit the need. The debate that I always here is should it be done in ASP.NET or Silverlight. When I first started getting involved in CRM projects I didn't really have a strong opinion either way. I wasn't really up to speed on Silverlight either so I had a knowledge gap influencing my “shoulder shrug” treatment of the issue. Now that I know a thing or two more my opinion has shifted.

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Activity Feeds, CRM 2011 Online and Windows Phone

Activity Feeds are a great new social feature in CRM 2011 that was made available with the November 2011 update.  Many organizations using CRM 2011 have begun to gain tremendous benefit by enabling Activity Feeds and training their users on how to take advantage of them.  Not as many, however, have started to use the Activity Feeds app for their Windows Phones yet.  This app has some great features, but it also takes a few tricks to get it working with CRM 2011.  This post will focus on the specifics of using Activity Feeds on a Windows Phone – and fixing a known bug with CRM 2011 Online and Activity Feeds on your Windows Phone.

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A Slightly Tricky CRM 2011 SDK Silverlight Deployment Anomaly

So imagine you’ve created this awesome Silverlight application. The app works great and everyone’s happy. In this particular case the client was using an automated build tool called Anthill which is how they deploy their CRM solutions. The later versions of the CRM SDK have a deploy function where you can have your code in TFS and deploy your plugins and web resources straight from your project after pointing the Visual Studio CRM Explorer add-in to a specified server and organization. This all sounds great until I get a call saying that my wonderful Silverlight application isn’t working.

Distraught and aggravated I start contemplating would could have possible gone wrong. What could I have possibly done wrong? As it turns out when I go to the deployment server the Silverlight control decided to not show up in a matter of speaking. Just to give some background this is a Silverlight control hosted in an HTML web resource displayed in the form content iFrame from a navigation link. The page shows up just fine, but my control isn’t loading. Weird…

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4 Reasons to Use the Microsoft CRM 2011 Web Client

Microsoft CRM 2011 for Outlook

Microsoft CRM 2011 Web ClientThis is the second in a 3 part posting about accessing CRM within Outlook versus from the web.  In the first post in this series, I outlined some of the reasons why businesses should consider training their users in CRM for Outlook.  Given this powerful functionality, why would any business person prefer to use the web version of CRM (also called the “Web Client”)?  Well, as it turns out, there are some excellent reasons for doing just that.  Many of our clients (and many of our internal users of CRM) prefer to use the Web Client for various reasons.  In this article, we will explore the top reasons for choosing the Web Client over Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 for Outlook.

 

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Quick Tip: Deactivating and Archiving CRM E-Mail Templates

CRM 2011 Email TemplatesDo you have old email, templates in CRM that you don’t use anymore?  You want to get rid of them because they’re cluttering up the views of users.  But you don’t want to get rid of them because you might want to use them again some day (or, like me, you’re just a packrat).  Unlike other record types, these don’t include the ability to deactivate the individual template records.  So what’s a CRM power user to do?

 

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Managing Web Resources and Plug-ins with the CRM Developer Toolkit

The CRM Solution template does a fantastic job of managing and deploying the Web Resources, Plug-ins, Workflows and Silverlight in my solutions. As great as it is, there are still a few pitfalls to watch out for so here is a list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to using the toolkit.

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CRM and Outlook: 6 Reasons to Use CRM for Outlook

Should you use the web version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM or should you use the Outlook client?This is the first of a 3 part series of blogs that I’m writing on Microsoft CRM and Outlook.

With CRM 2011, Microsoft introduced significant new enhancements in how CRM works with Outlook.  These changes also introduced some differences in how the Outlook and Web versions of CRM work.  In previous versions, if you trained users on one version, they had all they needed to know in order to use either version.  Businesses now need to make an important decision on which version of CRM they will initially train their users on.  Users, too, need to decide which version of CRM they are going to use on a day-to-day basis.  This series of blog entries will examine the pros of using CRM for Outlook, then the benefits of CRM for the Web and will conclude with the CRM and Outlook functionality that you should use regardless of which version of CRM that you’re using.

This first article will focus on the 6 reasons why you should consider using CRM for Outlook as the primary way that you use the CRM application.  Dynamics CRM has always had better Outlook integration than any other CRM system on the market (no surprise there).  With all of the new features and Outlook integration that Microsoft has introduced in CRM 2011, the reasons for using CRM for Outlook are stronger than ever.

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An Analysis of Handling a Year Data Type in CRM 2011 - Date versus Text

Introduction

When dealing with the account entity you may decide to display the year founded as part of the company information. This information can come from various public sources of information. It feels natural to think of year as a date since it is part of a date. But of course it is really in fact a “date part”. It is part of what makes up a date but in and of itself is actually just a number. Handled alone it is best stored as a numeric value which makes it easier and faster for filtering and searching purposes. The problem is that if you try to store a date as a numeric value in CRM 2011 that value will be displayed with a comma on the form. If you can live with that fine, but if that bugs the heck out of you then you have to look at the pros and cons of other options.

Let me just preface this discussion with my option that when deciding between making it a date or a text field in order to fix formatting, text is the way to go. Maybe I’m preaching to the choir but I had this discussion on this topic recently. I’ll briefly go over some points on text versus the date data type.

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Lessons on the CRM 2011 Customer Address Entity

The Customer Address entity is one of those special entities in CRM. As you probably know it stores address and shipping information for accounts and contacts. I had worked on a project where we had hoped that we could attach a custom entity to the address entity like any other entity. We found out that customer address is special. It’s one of those entities where Microsoft slaps your hands and says only we can use it so keep out, but that’s another story. The interesting thing about the a ...

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Plight of the CRM Trainer

Introduction Near the ending of any project where a new system is being implemented there comes a time when everyone looks around the meeting table and groans because at some point users have to be trained to use this great new system that has been developed for them. Hopefully in your project the various user classes that have a stake in the project believe their needs were heard and they feel that the new system will empower them to perform their job better. This is of course the best case sc ...

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Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Solution Management Strategy Review

I recently read the Microsoft Whitepaper that was released a few days ago titled “Deploying Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 and CRM Online Solutions from Development through Test and Production Environments”. From what I saw the authors are recommending the same thought process I had about solution management in the software development life cycle.

For development purposes you slice up the project into component layers. The layers are composed by functionality and also to allow for less contention by members of a development team. In a discussion with some Microsoft consultants they split up a project into 6 solutions as follows:

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Two Custom Entities that Are Useful in Every CRM Solution

I know you are probably waiting with anticipation as to what two entities I’m referring to in my title. Well without keeping you in such suspense I’ll go ahead and tell you. The two entities are very common things that we find in our everyday development lives which are the Event Log and Configuration entities. Yes I know this is amazingly obvious but I can’t say that every project I’ve worked on had these two entities. Maybe it’s not so obvious. If you aren’t a believer let me talk about my log ...

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Disable All Fields in a Section Based on the Value of Another Field (CRM 2011)

There are SDK and web examples of how to disable or hide an entire tab on a form in Microsoft CRM 2011, but I was unable to find an example of how to just disable all the fields in a given section on the form based on the selection of a boolean option ("Two Option" field). The scenario is useful if, for example, you want to disable data entry in the fields of a section under certain conditions, but you want to still display the disabled fields (rather than change their v ...

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