Archive for June, 2010

A Health Plan Sales Solution for Microsoft Dynamics CRM

LAS VEGAS — June 10, 2010 — Microsoft Corp. today announced at America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) Institute 2010 the Health Plan Sales Solution for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, a strategic sales and service-enabled customer relationship management (CRM) platform that will allow health plans to quickly and easily move their marketing and sales processes online to better manage and monitor sales, member service and retention. As a result, health plans will be able to better compete in the individual and small-group market, reduce multiple points of failure in their current sales, service and retention processes, and interoperate with state health insurance exchanges.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that health reform will expand coverage to 32 million by 2019 and 24 million will be enrolled through exchanges by 2019, not counting employer coverage, meaning health plans need to quickly take advantage of this short window of growth or risk losing share and revenue to competitors. According to a recent Gartner report, “Health insurers that do not have effective online sales and service functionality for the individual market must immediately establish such capabilities to compete in the current market and meet future requirements of exchanges.”*

“In light of changing regulations, health plans must now focus on winning share and loyalty through adaptive and efficient sales processes and exceptional customer experience while preparing to integrate sales and service processes with each health insurance exchange in 2014,” said Dennis Schmuland, director, U.S. Health Plans Industry Solutions, Microsoft. “Through a comprehensive CRM strategy that is pre-integrated with various touch points in the sales process, our Health Plan Sales Solution for Microsoft Dynamics CRM enables insurers to easily and quickly capture critical sales data, reduce the cost of sales, service, and retention, and interoperate with state health insurance exchanges by 2014.”

The Health Plan Sales Solution for Microsoft Dynamics CRM is an interoperable framework that allows for more seamless integration with existing systems and applications. Partners can pre-integrate their solution to offer health plans a seamless workflow across different applications, and a number of Microsoft’s trusted partners, including Ingenix, CosmoCom Inc., VUE Software and Colibrium Partners LLC, are already supporting this framework.

The platform enables insurers to more easily design and deploy a complete CRM strategy that spans acquisition, retention, health and care management, and service, and it tightly integrates social media sites into the sales, service and retention processes. With the platform, payers also will be able to reduce custom legacy integration costs and maximize their existing investment in both Microsoft and non-Microsoft technologies. In addition, the Microsoft Dynamics CRM solution can be deployed wholly on-premise, in Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, or as a hybrid solution that provides the flexibility, improved security and cost management that health plans want.

“Health insurance is an increasingly complex and challenging environment to work within because of the ever-shifting regulatory, patient and business landscape, which directly impacts our underwriting efforts,” said Jeff Berry, vice president, Underwriting, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City. “By deploying the Tuo product suite integrated with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, we will be able to quickly expand and change underwriting methodologies as the market shifts without costly development efforts. This will help us achieve significant efficiencies, which directly benefit our customers.”

Read more…




Give Yourself the Gift of Time with Microsoft Windows 7

You might be wondering why am I taking the time to blog about Microsoft Windows 7.  The reason is because I am  absolutely thrilled with Microsoft’s latest Operating System.  

Not only is the performance exceptionally better than any of the previous operating systems, but the updated features significantly improve my ability to get my work done more quickly.  I am able to spend more of my available working hours completing work related activities and responsibilities which results in improved productivity.  I actually look forward to what I am going to discover next that will help me work more quickly and efficiently rather than wondering when I might experience the next potential OS or software delay or crash. 

The Action Center is one example of a new feature I use several times a week.  Here is a screen shot:


So what’s so great about this feature?  Well, with just a few mouse clicks, I have a solution to an issue downloaded and installed.  Yes, that’s right, in case you didn’t catch it the first time; in less than 3 mouse clicks, depending on the issue, I have a solution downloaded and installed.  That doesn’t just apply to Microsoft software.  It applies to third-party applications like Skype, Adobe and other commonly used software as well as hardware and drivers. 

In order to find the solution, I simply select the View Message Details button from the Action Center or select the Action Center icon from my Taskbar……


Taskbar icon for the message Center


Result when icon is selected


……… and voila, I have a link to the exact solution I need to address the issue.  All I need to do is select the link provided, download and install the solution.

What I no longer have to spend time doing is search the Internet with cryptic error message phrases, continually modify the phrase to try and find a more relevant result set, dig through irrelevant posts, or try using the link from the error message in the Application Log  “For more information, see Help and Support Center” (which never seems to have a solution for the issues I encounter, sorry Microsoft but its true) until I simply surrender because I can’t find a solution, so I can get back to work . 

The time and frustration I save with this new feature alone is well worth the price of the Operating System and this is only one of several features that I really like.  My computer runs better, I have fewer issues, I have considerably more time to spend on more important tasks and everyone I know who has installed Windows 7 is just as happy as I am. 

For me, it is a huge Win/Win success story!  Not only am I able to spend my time on work related tasks, but my work morale is improved because my system is more reliable.  Who would have thought that Microsoft could impact the employee morale of a ‘non’ Microsoft employee.  Well, Windows 7 did just that for me!

For all you Microsoft Dynamics CRM implementers, administrators, end users, etc., I encourage you to update to Windows 7 because regardless of the role you play, your experience and interaction with the Dynamics CRM application and your end user’s experience will quantifiably improve. 

My hat’s off to the Microsoft Team, you nailed it!

Donna Edwards

Sonoma Highlights the Microsoft Dynamics CRM UR11

Last week Microsoft released Update Rollup 11, which I had been patiently waiting for to see how it works with Outlook 2010. I am happy to report that it delivers the goods!

I have had Microsoft Outlook 2010 installed on my laptop for a while but I was not happy with how the CRM Outlook client worked on UR10. Instead of adding the “Track in CRM” and other related CRM buttons on the home tab in the ribbon, it added a new tab called “Add-Ins” and put all the CRM functionality there. As a heavy Outlook client user, this simply didn’t work for me because every time I wanted to do something with CRM I had to click on the Add-Ins tab first. Very annoying.

Outlook Client UR10 – Uses Add-Ins Tab


When Microsoft released UR11, the first thing I tested was to see if they fixed this problem. Great news, the all of the CRM functionality including the critical “Track in CRM” button is now front and center on the home tab!

Outlook Client UR11 – CRM Functionality on Home Tab


Even better, you can play around with the Ribbon to customize the location of the CRM section and move it further to the left in the ribbon if you want (clicking the up arrow moves the ribbon section closer to the left side of the screen). You can access this menu by right-clicking on the ribbon and selecting “Customize the Ribbon”.



Mike Snyder

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Email and Snail Mail Activities

Today I’d like to highlight an approach to handling the mass distribution of email and letter activities in Microsoft Dynamics CRM.   This is a strategy you can use when you have the need to distribute email and letter activities to a large audience, similar to marketing campaigns, but whenever the intended recipients of those activities are determined at random throughout the day.

Let’s face it.  Even in this day and age not everyone has an email address.  When you need to run a campaign and communicate with a wide variety of people, one challenge is in building a system that can handle both types of consumers.  On the one hand, people with an email address could receive an email immediately, and people without an email address….well, you still want to communicate with them but it’s not quite as immediate or easy to pull off.

For example, let’s say you wanted to build a communication module that will notify applicants if they’ve been accepted or denied.  The system should send an email to any applicant that has an email address.  The system should also assist you printing a letter for any applicant that does not have an email address.

Since applicants can be accepted or denied at various random times throughout the day.  Emails are easy enough as the system will just send them immediately.  But for letters, how do you keep track of who needs one?  How can you print them easily and know who you’ve already printed one for?

Enter Microsoft Dynamics CRM.  In this scenario, there are really three key steps in the process.  I call it the Trigger, Print, Complete (TPC) Method.

Step 1: Trigger

In the TPC Method, first you build workflows in CRM that are triggered by system events.  The workflows send emails or create activities, depending on the recipient’s profile.  For example, the workflow below checks first to see if the recipient has an email address.  If so, then it sends an email immediately.  If not, then it creates a letter activity immediately, giving it a specific subject line.  This letter activity will remain open for the next step.

Step 2: Print

The next step is to locate recipients who need a letter.  Using CRM’s advanced find feature, you can build a search that will find any recipient who has a letter activity with a certain subject line that is still in the open status.  Letters in the open status still need to be printed and sent.

I recommend that you save this view or create a system view so that you can find the recipients with just a few clicks the next time:

Once you have the list in front of you, now you can take two paths.  First, you can use the native CRM mail merge to author and print a letter for each recipient.  You can start with an existing template or create a new one.  Once you are finished, you can save the template for next time.

Mail merge is great for most letters but does have two limitations you should be aware of.  First, there is a limit to the number of records you can mail merge at any one time.  The limit is 5000 as of this writing.  Second, mail merge can pull data in from the recipient, or from any related or parent record where there is an N:1 (many-to-one) relationship.  It does not allow you to pull in information from related records where there is a 1:N (one-to-many) relationship.  If you think about it, it kind of makes sense since Microsoft Word expects a single row by row source of recipients, there is no way to tell Word how to handle one-to-many type “detail” records for your recipient.

If you find you need to get around the 5K or one-to-many limits, you can create a SQL Reporting Services report to fill the gap.  In this case you build the report, typically in Visual Studio or Report Builder, and then publish the report to CRM.  When you build the report, you can bring in data from anywhere in CRM, and users will be able to print over 5,000 pages, assuming the printer can handle the load.  Be sure to set the “display in” related records options when you upload the report, so that the report is available in the same toolbar as the Word mail merge button.

Step 3: Complete

Finally, you need to tell CRM that the recipients are now done so they do not show up in the next search.   In general there are two ways to do this.  First, you can close each letter activity individually.  I prefer to create a “Close Activity” workflow for this so that you can highlight several activities at one time and then close them in batch.

Second, you can write a workflow that you can run from the recipient level to close the related activities.  This one is a bit trickier.  You will need to write a Microsoft .NET custom workflow assembly to find all related activities with a specific subject line and then build a workflow at the recipient level to call the custom assembly.  If you have the basic .NET skills to do it, that method is better since you can run the workflow using the same advanced find search you created in Step 2.


That’s it – so there are three steps in the TPC Method: Trigger, Print, and Complete.  Most of this uses native CRM functionality, with a few options to enhance the end user experience with Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services and a custom plug-in if needed.


Jeremy Hofmann

Three new xRM White Papers

I wanted to take this opportunity to share three new Microsoft Dynamics CRM white papers that we’ve just made available. These papers cover various aspects surrounding the use of xRM as a custom solution platform. These papers could be the starting point or seed for a new way of creating customized solutions that are based on the way your company does business.

File: Microsoft Dynamics CRM xRM for Solution Builders
Title: The xRM Advantage for Solution Builders
Description: 100-level customer and partner-ready white paper targeted to solution builders (SIs, ISVs and Corp IT) communicating the value of xRM for solution development.
Abstract: Solution builders—the people and organizations that use software to create custom solutions to business problems face increasing expectations that they will be agents of IT savings in addition to serving as trusted, strategic partners for corporate success. This paper will examine the ways that application platform choices can drive the success of the solution builder as a value-added strategic partner, with particular focus on the capabilities of the Microsoft Dynamics® CRM xRM application framework.
Target Audience: Business and Technical Decision Makers, System Integrators [SIs], Independent Software Vendors [ISVs], Application Development leads, Enterprise Architects.


File: MS_Dynamics_CRM_Maximize_value_with_xRM_FINAL.pdf
Title: Maximize the Value of your Custom Business – Applications with Microsoft Dynamics CRM
Description: 100-level customer and partner-ready white paper targeted to business and IT decision makers communicating the business value of xRM through quantifiable customer evidence.
Abstract: The xRM application framework of the Microsoft Dynamics® CRM offering is designed to help organizations meet their LOB application requirements more economically than traditional approaches by providing rapid application development, a high degree of flexibility, and consolidated systems management. This paper examines how customers and partners are using xRM to drive business success.
Target Audience: Business and Technical Decision Makers, System Integrators [SIs], Independent Software Vendors [ISVs], Application Development leads, Enterprise Architects.


File: MS_Dynamics_CRM_SharePoint_and_xRM_FINAL.pdf
Title: Relational Productivity Applications – Leveraging Microsoft Dynamics CRM and SharePoint for Enhanced Business Impact
Description: 100-level customer- and partner-ready white paper targeted to IT decision makers communicating the “better together” benefits of SharePoint, CRM and xRM.
Abstract: The paper will lay out an approach for using a combination of Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007 platform and the xRM application framework of Microsoft Dynamics® CRM to address today’s great business challenge: how to be more customized, more rapid, and more engaged with the client while still driving down transaction costs and associated overheads.
Target Audience: Business and Technical Decision Makers, System Integrators [SIs], Independent Software Vendors [ISVs], Application Development leads, Enterprise Architects.


Best wishes,

Matt Valentine

Working with Data Maps in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

In the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online November 2009 Service update release, one of the key delivered features was enhanced Import Data Wizard. This feature brings lots of power and functionality and one of its main components that work behind the scene to make everything possible is Data Map. It works as back-bone of Import process by mapping source file and columns to their corresponding target record types and fields in MSCRM.

You have already seen how Import wizard works and how data maps are used in various situations to map the data during import. This blog focuses on Data map save, import and export in MSCRM system.

While doing import, you select data maps on the Select Data Map screen of the wizard and proceed with import. You must be curious about where all these maps reside. Go to Settings > Data Management > Data Maps and you will see all user Import Data Maps available in the system (user should have read privilege on Data Maps). These maps will not include the OOB system maps for

Working with Data Maps:

Data Map is a complex entity and contains many kinds of sub-mappings in it. For basic Data Map manipulations, you can use the Wizard itself. However for advanced editing, you may need to Export the data map, make changes with your favorite XML editor and import back in with new user friendly name.

Manipulating Data Map Manually:

While importing a map xml file in MSCRM system, system checks for few properties of map:

  • Duplicate map name
  • Map XML is well formed
  • Target record type and field names do exist in MSCRM

Import wizard also provides a way to modify any existing map during import process. But there are few specific scenarios where complex data transformation is required and in that case, it is recommended that the user edit the map manually to provide transformation mappings. Below table compares the scenarios when the user may need to manipulate the maps outside of Import Data Wizard:


Once the map is edited and uploaded to the system, it can be used for future import processes.

Manipulating Data Map via Import Wizard:

During import via Import Wizard, after selecting a file, user is presented with Select Data Map screen. There user has to select between AutoMap and Existing map in the system. Now user can create/edit the data map as below:

  • To create a data map select AutoMap, let the system take the first attempt at creating a map that can be used
  • To edit any existing map, select that map and start the import process. The original copy of map is saved and all changes are done in a temporary copy of this map.
  • Proceed with wizard and specify new mappings as required.
  • On “Review Settings and Import Data” screen of wizard, user can save his new map. Please notice that the mappings done for record types that are present in the user data files being imported are saved and other mappings are dropped from map.


This map will be saved in system and can be used for the future imports.

I hope this little introduction with data maps will come handy while doing the import.


Sudhakar Singh

Lost: Beware of the “Others”

If you ever watched the television series Lost, you know about the “Others.”  These were mysterious inhabitants of the island who were often at odds with the show’s main characters.

In Microsoft Dynamics CRM, there are also “Others.”  These “Others” frequently show up in picklists, such as account industry, customer type, address type.  When you are configuring one of these picklists, sometimes the thought goes through your mind “maybe I should add a placeholder called “other” just in case I didn’t think of every possible choice.”

Before you let an “other” into your list, think twice.  Consider this cautionary tale.

One of our clients is an accounting firm that serves multiple industries.  One of their goals was to track business by industry, so they required the Industry plicklist on the account form; however, they also included an option for “other” in the picklist.

After they had used CRM for a couple of years, we helped them develop some dashboards and reports for their account data.  What we found when we graphed their accounts by industry was that the “other” bar was significantly longer than any other industry.  This was not because these companies were in unusual industries, they were all in one of the existing industry codes, such as manufacturing.

The lesson learned was that users tend to take the easy way out—it was easier to select “other” than to determine and record the actual industry in the field.

Here are my recommendation on how to fight the “others” in CRM:

  1. If possible, don’t include “other” in your picklist.
  2. Instead, have an easy process for your users to follow to request new picklist values, in case a legitimate option is missing.
  3. If you must include an “other” option, monitor this data closely to insure that records don’t get mis-categorized as “other” if they actually have a more legitimate categorization.


Joel Lindstrom