About CRM 2011…

1. Take a Look at CRM on Steroids, aka Microsoft Dynamics CRM 5.0, aka CRM 2011!

By Dan Smith, Altico Advisors

Thanks to Leon Tribe’s guest post on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Blog and Richard Knudson’s post the Richard Knudson Dynamics CRM Trick Bag, this is going to be the shortest blog post ever!

Here’s a link to a 1-hour video about Dynamics CRM twenty-eleven: http://bit.ly/9xiUmy. Some have described the new release as Microsoft Dynamics CRM on steroids.  Three cheers for that!

2. Dynamics CRM 2011: The “Wait or Build” Decision (by Richard Knudson)

How would you describe your feelings about an impending upgrade for an application you use a lot and depend on?

  • A. a necessary evil
  • B. more exciting than Christmas
  • C. somewhere in between

Based on traffic and on the responses I’ve received since posting Taking the Covers off Dynamics CRM 2011, my guess is a lot of users and customizers of Dynamics CRM lean towards “B”. That’s not surprising to me: when you use an application as a solution platform, new features can have a huge impact, saving you hours of development time or allowing you to build solutions that simply weren’t possible with the previous version.

For the next few months, those of us who build on the CRM platform will have what I think of as the “wait or build” decision: If you need to do something that’s going to be significantly easier in CRM 2011, do you wait a few more months until you can get it (more or less) out of the box? Or do you swallow hard and build it now?

Based on what we can see in the video linked to in the article, here are a few of my recommendations for the “might wanna wait” category:

  • Need dashboards, KPIs, visualization? If you’re using CRM Online you’ve already got a sneak preview of what dashboards can look like in CRM. The problem with the current CRM Online implementation is that they’re implemented as “personalizations”: every individual user must configure his or her own dashboards, and there’s no way to centrally build and deploy dashboards for users. In my experience, the people with the skills to build dashboards are generally NOT the people who need dashboards, and vice versa. Up until now if you wanted BI in CRM you needed to build it yourself or buy an add-on. The add-on vendors will always find a way to add value…but they’re going to have to work a little harder starting with 2011, since it looks like we’ll have dashboards worthy of the name in the product.
  • Find yourself coding around limitations in CRM Online? For me, this is a HUGE one: my production CRM is CRM Online. Overall, I love Microsoft’s cloud CRM. Only problem is, the architectural limitations around extending CRM Online generally means that I can’t do most of the really cool stuff I want to do: No plug-ins, no server-based ASP.NET applications, no custom SSRS reports, most add-ons don’t work with it. (Here’s an article where I discuss the issue…) The promise in 2011 is that we’ll finally get parity between the deployment options in terms of how we can extend the application. Like I said: HUGE.
  • Want easy integration with SharePoint document libraries? If you never quite got all that IFRAME code figured out, you aren’t alone…and you don’t have long to wait for an out of the box solution. It looks like a nice baseline IFRAME-style integration will be included, where you’ll have the option of letting CRM create a document library for you – say, for an account record.
  • Building CRM add-on apps? Assuming you can still find function gaps to fill, deploying your add-ons will get a lot easier than it is now, especially with 2011’s “managed solution” concept. This is going to be a significant shift in the way we develop and deploy solutions on the XRM platform, I think just as much for enterprise developers as for ISVs.
  • Need an audit trail of changes to CRM records? Currently, there’s no record-level auditing built in to CRM. There are plenty of ways to build DIY auditing (for example, the approach I discussed in this article…), but starting in CRM 2011 it looks like we won’t have to resort to that approach any more, since auditing looks to be built right in.
  • Need to measure salespeople’s performance against goals? It looks like this is going to be built in as well, which is good, since I don’t know anybody who ever quite figured out the mysterious connection between Fiscal Year Settings and sales quotas in CRMs 3 and 4.
  • Jumping through hoops trying to implement security at the field level? Martin Jaeger reminded me I missed this one. True field-level security should be in CRM 2011, so this should be in the “wait” category. Thanks Martin!
  • Need more than one form for an entity? I almost forgot this one. It’s a big one, though, so if you find yourself wrassling with code like the kind I discussed in this article…well, you might want to wait.
  • Need filtered lookups? Nathan Vanderhoof pointed out this one: “Depending on your skill level and the urgency of your users requirements might want to wait for Filtered Lookups as well.” Well said. Thanks Nathan!
  • Recycling the “Fax” and “Letter” activities getting tiresome? As Jdz points out in his comment below, the ability to create true custom activities will open up some good possibilities. Obviously we have a lot to learn about how these will be implemented (will they synch to Outlook? will we be able to create 1:N relationships from activities to other entities?), but having them in the first place is a good start!

Also, Andrew Wolfe raises a good point in his comment below: will some of these new features only be available in certain versions, a la the salesforce.com pricing model? My guess (a.k.a. “editorial opinion”) is that few if any of these features will be version dependent. That would be inconsistent with the traditional Dynamics CRM approach, and it would be very unpopular with the developer community Microsoft needs to fill up the Dynamics Marketplace with cool downloadable apps that take advantage of these sweet features.

3.Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011: аудит, field-level security и поддержка нескольких форм для отображения сущности

В прошлый раз не успел рассказать обо всех новинках, ожидаемых в Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. А, между тем, это функционал, которого ждут от MS CRM с самых ранних версий. Итак, официально заявлено о следующих возможностях:

  • аудит изменений данных – кто, когда и что изменил в описании любой записи системы:
  • field-level security – возможность ограничивать доступ к отдельным полям сущности CRM (сейчас ролевая система безопасности позволяет настраивать доступ только ко всей сущности в целом),
  • multi form support – поддержка отображения одной и той же записи CRM различным образом, в зависимости от роли пользователя.

Пытливый ум заметит сразу, что все эти новые возможности имеют общий корень – доработанную модель безопасности.

Помимо этого были заявлены такие “пустяки”, как поддержка .NET Framework 4.0 и замена Web-сервиса CRM на WCF. Последнего ждал ещё в четвёртой версии, осталось только узнать какие конечные точки и привязки будут поддерживаться и можно ли их будет расширять самостоятельно. Это даст огромное поле для деятельности, например, обращение к CRM API из javascript без формирования монструозных SOAP-запросов или промежуточных сервисов. Интеграция станет проще, т.к. можно будет отправлять в CRM сообщения сразу по каналам очередей сообщений (MSMQ), обеспечив, таким образом, гарантированную и надёжную доставку.

На последние возможности намекает следующая картинка из презентации (выгрузка описания Service Endpoints в рамках Solution Management)

4. CRM “Twenty-Eleven” video presentation on  WPC 2010

5.Microsoft CRM Marketplace

Важным нововведением будет запуск так называемого Microsoft CRM Marketplace – ресурса, через который компании смогут распространять/приобретать решения для CRM: конфигурации отдельных решений, дополнительные компоненты, шаблоны документов, отчёты.

Всё это станет возможным благодаря технологии Solution Management, которая предоставит расширенные механизмы управления конфигурацией системы.

6.Taking the Covers off Dynamics CRM 2011 (by Richard Knudson)

Dynamics CRM 2011

Pronounced “twenty-eleven”
Fresh from the recent Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, here’s Bryan Nielson’s presentation on what’s new in the next release of Dynamics CRM, interspersed with demos by Andrew Bybee.

The first demo is about some of the new features for users and starts at the 8 minute mark. The second demo focuses on new features for customizers and developers, and starts at 29 minutes.

Here are my RBIs (”Richard’s Big Items”) from the demos & presentation:

Applications

Lots of new goodness in the Outlook client:

  • More “context”. For example, the Outlook preview pane will be “CRM-aware”, presenting things like related records for a tracked e-mail or appointment, without having to open the tracked record’s form.
  • Convert a tracked e-mail to an Opportunity, Case or Lead…from the Outlook ribbon, without having to open the form. This will be a nice time-saver.
  • When replying to an e-mail in Outlook, you can access a Dynamics CRM e-mail template directly from the Outlook ribbon, and you can do an in-place search of the CRM knowledge base and insert an article.
  • And…you can even attach CRM sales literature to an e-mail directly from Outlook! Seeing as how you can’t even attach sales literature to an e-mail at all in 4.0, this is going to be a nice feature and for lots of organizations may justify using sales literature (from what I can tell the single least-used feature in Dynamics CRM 4.0.)

Dashboards and Views:

  • Lots of improvements to KPIs and Dashboards. Perhaps most importantly, it looks like we’ll be able to centrally deploy dashboards to users. (Currently, the CRM Online implementation requires every user to create their own).  In the demo at the 15:18 mark, you can see several dashboards available as “system dashboards”, which indicates we will be able to create them the same we can now a system view, as a schema customization.
  • It looks like improvements to views will fix a lot of their current shortcomings. Check out the video at about the 21-minute mark to see improved sorting and grouping of data within views. Andrew doesn’t actually show creating group subtotals, but if that doesn’t make it into the product I’ll scratch my eyes out.

Customization and Development

  • A “solution“ is a new concept, described as a portfolio of customizations, configurations, extensions and the like. So rather than manually exporting and then importing collections of customizations, as at present, solutions will let us package them up as pre-defined…well, solutions. (described at the 32 minute mark)
  • It appears that extensions (Plug-ins, for example) be part of what can be in a solution, and that they will be supported for all deployment models, including CRM Online. Including the cloud version of Dynamics CRM as a full-fledged development platform, on par with on-premise for extensions like custom workflow actions, plug-ins and ASP.NET development will definitely add credibility to the message that Microsoft’s “all in” when it comes to cloud computing. Check out how comprehensive the solution concept is at about the 33 minute mark in the video!
  • Apparently “workflows” become “processes”in 2011, but more importantly they can do some important new things! Go to the 35 minute mark to take a look at these things:
    • Prompt and Response construct lets you add a synchronous user experience to workflows — sorry, processes! — to store the user responses, and to branch depending on the responses.
    • New workflow Actions sound interesting: Query CRM Data, Assign Value, plus a couple of others that sound like they’re related to Prompt and Response.
  • Custom Activity Types. Nice. Discussed at 40 minutes.
  • The concept of managed v. unmanaged solutions.  Unmanaged solutions sound like what we have now (exporting and importing customizations) — Managed solutions are for scenarios when you want to lock down a release, and don’t want code or customizations exposed or changed. (42 minutes)
  • Field-level security. Yay! (44 minutes)

The embedded video requires Silverlight and a few people have told me they can’t play it — here’s the link to the site just in case: http://digitalwpc.com/Videos/AllVideos/Permalink/f9625bd7-7009-4bed-ab7a-c3fbb548d6ac

6.1 Great post – Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011: The Demo Video (by Jim Glass)

7) Introducing Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace

(by Girish Raja)
To streamline solution discovery and distribution, Microsoft will be launching Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace in September 2010. This new online catalog will provide an easy way for partners to market and distribute solutions to Microsoft Dynamics customers. The marketplace will allow customers to quickly search, discover and apply industry-specific applications and solution extensions from Microsoft and its partners to help them accelerate and extend their CRM and ERP implementations. Essentially it is a win-win for both partners and customers. Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace will be integrated within Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, allowing customers to search for applications directly from within their CRM solution.

The Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace is powered by Microsoft Pinpoint. This Dynamics-specific marketplace leverages the capabilities of the Pinpoint platform to deliver a relevant and easy-to-use experience to Dynamics partners and customers direct through the web or, in the case of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, embedded within the solution.

Initially, it will be a searchable repository of downloadable custom solutions and extensions to help accelerate and/or extend the value of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and on-premises deployments. Publishers of solutions can get also more detailed web analytical information about their listings. In the future, Marketplace will provide e-commerce and offer financial transaction capabilities for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and on-premise, as well as Microsoft Dynamics ERP solutions.

Partners can find more information on joining the Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace at http://www.microsoft.com/dynamics/marketplace.

8) Video – Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Top 10 in 10 |  Channel 9 channel9.msdn.com

9) Dynamics CRM 2011 new features –> very useful presentation

10)  Server-based v. Cloud-based DynamicsCRM2011

Our DynamicsCRM2011 will be hosted on a local server. The originally planned cloud-based option didn’t meat the privacy needs. Do you have any advice, or comments about potential problems down the road? We are currently defining values and mapping out the contacts and case management fields.

Ankit Dhaniwala • Hi Amra,
There is this excellent paper published by Altico Advisors that might enable you to whet your vendor on cloud-based CRM solution roadmap.
This addresses to fairly good questions with pragmatic answers, have a look; hope this resource helps.

Link:
http://www.alticoadvisors.com/portals/0/Altico%20White%20Paper%20-%20Cloud.pdf

Neil Benson • Amra the features of CRM Online and CRM on-premise are virtually identical. Many IT departments are not able to provide a CRM system that is as secure/private or available as CRM Online but assuming you have a world-class IT department there shouldn’t be any differences or issues as long as you continue to invest in upgrades and enhancements.

Amra Porobic • Thank you both!

Neil: We do have a quite good IT department, but no-one has any prior experience with CRM, so it’s a big learning curve for everyone. The expertise is with the vendor implementing the CRM. I have been recently assigned a role of data steward helping with content classification and data clean up – so I decided to try to pick on the brains of this forum. Having seen that some things have been missed in the business requirements I wonder if CRM training is a must at this stage for our IT or me.

Ankit, from what I hear, the Canadian market for cloud-based computing is very new and not stable. The privacy recommendation is that the supplier of cloud-based solution has to be in Canada. Altico document is very good, but it won’t fly here for now.
Amra

Netsmartz LLC • Amra, a lot of companies undermines Executive Commitment and Training Budgets (for IT staff and end users) while doing CRM implementation. This is the most common pitfall for CRM failures. Also you should religiously follow Sure Step Methodology for CRM project, this is sure shot for the success of the project.
Eric Labashosky • Microsoft will push towards online.

If you start with online you always have to the choice to switch to OnPremise. (I believe MS will give you the databases and all you have to do import the org, confirm with your sales rep)

We tried out both platforms before deciding to go OnPremise (there is a 30 day free trail for online, and your IT staff can get development copies of CRM from MSDN/Technet)

It’s a pain maintaining the servers, but having quick access to the SQL data is very nice.

Amra Porobic • Thank you Nesmartz and Eric!
Pranav Shah • In my opinion there is no one line answer to this question. There are multiple factors for consideration such as…

1. Number of users
2. How simple, complex your system is and will be in next 6 months to 3 years lets say
3. Does CRM will require integration with other on-premise application? If so how easy/complex would it be with online CRM deployment
4. Underastand limitations for online deployment and how much it matters to you in your 3 years plan lets say
5. What type of support available for both on-prem and online
6. On-premise maintenance overhead such as application patch updates

It is absolutely essential to hire an expert brain to perform discovery analysis to conclude the best option given scenarios in addition to ones described above

Amra Porobic • Thanks Pranav,

250 users and very complex organization loking longterm to improve – with help of CRM – the way we manage member relations, government relations, consumer relations, marketing, campaigns, orders. The system will grow more complex depending on users acceptance. We will use Contacts, Cases, Products, Events and Knowledge Base for now. Some support will be available from the experts who developed the system for us. Our IT will be responsible for maintenance/upgrades/patches with the initial help of those experts.
The system means a lot to us, but the budget will define how far we can go with further add-ons (+ hosting). Outlook integration is what worries me.

 

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