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Archive for September, 2010

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Beta: Dev Documentation

September 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Developers will find that there are large numbers of enhancements in the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 beta aimed squarely at making development easier and giving our developers the latest Microsoft stack, from .NET to SQL Server. Using the SDK one can interact with the fully CRUD compliant data and metadata layer. To get started simply download the SDK and the supporting implementation documents.

(click on the screen shots below to see complete listing)

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Enjoy,

Amy Langlois

Next Generation Application Framework Hits Beta

September 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Last week Microsoft released a beta version of Dynamics CRM 2011. CRM 2011 has been in private preview mode over the last couple of years and is now available for public beta. Over the course of that time I’ve had the chance to kick the tires and provide feedback and see it evolve. I’ve also had a chance to run training events in several countries and see the excitement of the ISVs involved early on. I’m excited to see this milestone hit so it can now get out to a larger number of developers.

Latest Framework, Latest Tools

.NET 4, Visual Studio 2010, SQL 2008 R2, SharePoint 2010 all wrapped up in a pre-integrated application framework is the simple way to describe CRM 2011. Sure it’s good at the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) stuff but the real story from my perspective in CRM 2011 is the continued expansion of the capabilities of using CRM 2011 as the application framework for a much broader set of line of business applications. Is it right for every application? No. But should it be considered? Yes. I love building application plumbing (application infrastructure) as much as the next guy, but in current economic times it no longer always makes sense every time.

CRM and SharePoint – Like Chocolate and Peanut Butter

CRM 2011 introduces out of the box integration with SharePoint for document management. It’s my hope that is the first of more integration between the two products. Separately, neither is the dream application framework story yet, but together they would be unstoppable. I believe the end goal should be .NET, SQL etc. all the raw components at the lowest level. I always call this “some assembly required” because it’s up to you to integrate all the parts. This low level would be used by developers building things like Stock Trading applications with high volume, or real time mission critical systems like running a space shuttle. SharePoint and CRM would be combined together out of the box as a single product. Taking the collaboration and document management from SharePoint and related data and declarative development from CRM

Solution Packaging Expanded

Prior to CRM 2011 exporting and importing used to be limited to customizations. CRM 2011 introduces the concept of solutions. Solutions can contain the customizations plus things like the code for a plug-in, workflow and Silverlight. Solutions can be exported for distribution and then imported (installed) in the target system. They will be a key part of Microsoft’s CRM App Store. Solutions can be locked down to limit what others can customize if needed. More importantly, solutions can be layered and updated in place. This allows applications to be built from building blocks of solutions. Some provided internally, some provided by 3rd party ISVs. Together these solutions represent a complete application.

Silverlight or HTML/JQuery – You Choose

In CRM you create a custom entity (like a database table) you automatically get security, workflow, reporting and a user interface without doing any development work. In prior versions of CRM you could do IFrames that included custom application content. You used to have to figure out how to manage that content on your own outside of CRM. CRM 2011 introduces Web Resources that allow uploading of HTML, JavaScript, Silverlight and more and let it be hosted by CRM. This enables for example a Silverlight application xap file to be uploaded to CRM, and the developer or customizer later can simply insert it onto the form without any development. You can do the same thing with HTML/JQuery if you prefer that style as well. Personally, I believe that Silverlight is a better fit for extending CRM 2011 and that JQuery/HTML is better for building more externally facing broad consumption sites. But again CRM 2011 supports both so you can choose. For those of you that do go down the Silverlight Path, we are working on a CRM 2011 Silverlight book. It will take the core parts of our Silverlight 4 Jumpstart book and add on a bunch of CRM 2011 specific Silverlight content. More details on this will be posted soon but if you want to get started you can buy the Silverlight 4 book and we will have a special offer for you to move up to the CRM 2011 book once it’s released. You can find the Silverlight 4 Jumpstart book here.

Your Cloud, My Cloud, The Cloud

It just doesn’t matter, just pick what works. CRM grew up being an on premise with people installing everything locally. Back in (I think it was) 2008, CRM Online was launched along with the idea of partner hosted. We’ve run CRM internally for years, but with CRM 2011 and the fact that almost everything including deploying code to the server works the same we are planning on moving to online. Where ever possible we have been trying to get out of the server maintenance business and letting someone else do it. CRM 2011 also introduces the ability to connect things together using the AppFabric Service bus. Using the service bus capabilities you can publish events to the other listening applications when events occur in CRM.

Getting Started and how to avoid the Robot

Clearly this is just the beginning, there is so much more to talk about than a single post can cover. To download the beta or sign up for access to CRM Online beta head to http://www.crm2011beta.com. From there you can also hit the developer tab and download the SDK which includes a lot of good information including some samples and walkthroughs. Whatever you do avoid the videos on that site. I would swear the voice over talent used is a robot and will drive you insane after the first 5 minutes of listening. Look for community content to start showing up everywhere now that the NDA is lifted and save the time listening to the robot other things. This one is a bit long (almost 2 hours) but it gives a great tour of CRM 2011, and is a good place to start.

I could ramble on for a while about CRM 2011; in fact this is just the beginning of what I have planned. First of all we have already talked about the Silverlight book that is upcoming; we also will be doing some broader content similar to the CRM 4 book (www.thecrmbook.com). Feel free to post a comment with what you would like covered and how. Book, Video, both we are still trying to decide how best to cover all the new CRM 2011 content.

Cheers,

David Yack

CRM 2011 Solutions: Business applications on steroids

September 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Yes! The Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 beta was just released and with one of the hallmark features of our extensibility story: “Solutions Management.”

Remember how extensible previous versions of CRM were? Well, we took that to a whole new level. With CRM 2011 you can define, transport, deploy, maintain and consume full business application built entirely on the CRM framework in days (some core pieces even in hours) and not months. With just a couple of clicks you can declaratively define your data model, processes, user interface and analytics. Advanced extensions such as .Net plug-ins and SRS reports can also be included as part of CRM solutions. All transported and deployed with a uniform model.

Ok, big deal. So CRM 2011 allows me to bundle components and treat team as a “solution”–what is so great about that? That is the key point. It is not just about bundling components but about the fact that the platform now understands the boundaries of a solution and performs intelligent actions accordingly, keep on reading.

Developing and Distributing Solutions while controlling customizations (unmanaged and managed)

The first thing that will strike most newcomers and savvy CRM4 developers is that we introduced the notion of unmanaged and managed solutions. Think of unmanaged solutions as the “source” code of your system and “managed” solutions as the compiled version of your solution. Of course you shouldn’t take this literally because some components in CRM are just “definitions” and don’t require to be compiled; nevertheless the analogy is useful. So, when you initially create a solution it always gets created as unmanaged, you can create new components and perform modifications to others. You can even define some restrictions to ease maintainability of your solution such as setting some components as not customizable.

When the solution is ready for final distribution you export it as managed. When customers install a managed solution we enforce any restrictions that you set (for example prevent customizations on components marked as not customizable). And here is the kicker, while the solution itself cannot be modified, customizable components can still be customized but the system will track those customizations as modification “on top” of the managed solution. So you have the best of both worlds, you can restrict customization of some component while still have built-in extensibility for others without the need to write a single line of code!

Smart updates

But wait a minute, this is a slippery slope. If you allow customers to change your solution (build on top) it will be a nightmare for you to maintain right? Well, not really, we take care of that for you. Whenever you deploy updates to a managed solution the framework automatically preserves customizations performed on top. We have 2 fundamental conflict resolution strategies (merge and preserve) that I’ll explain in subsequent posts but the net result is that customers maintain their customizations while you still deploy your updates.

Automatic Dependency tracking

Gee, but how are you supposed to keep track of what components are used where and not to accidentally delete one that would break another; the problem explodes if you allow customers to further customize your solution. Worry not, because the solutions framework automatically keeps track of all dependencies in the system, isn’t that fantastic?

Build once, deploy everywhere

Solutions built on top of the CRM framework are transportable across all CRM deployment types (Online, Partner Hosted, On-Premises) and all CRM clients (Web, Outlook, Mobile). Truly it is as close as it gets to the holy grail of developers “code once, deploy/use everywhere”. Oh yes, did I mention that we can also take your solutions “Offline” on the outlook client; how many frameworks offer you that kind of functionality?

Solution co-existence

So far so good but what if the user installs multiple solutions from different vendors, aren’t they are going to step into each other toes? No problem, the solution framework automatically handles co-existence of 2 or more solutions when they are installed as managed. The solutions do have to make sense to consume together; while it is technically possible to install two solutions for different verticals (for example Hospital Management and Education Management) into the same organization/tenant the outcome would probably not make a lot of sense for end users, particularly if both solutions want to perform modifications to the same shared component. (For example one wants to turn Account into Hospital while the other one wants to turn Account into School).

Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace

Oh yes, we have a marketplace for you to host your applications that has built-in integration with the product. I’m not going to mention details here because I know for a fact that a lot more information is coming but stay tuned, this is a big deal. 🙂

Go build CRM solutions!

Ready to get started? Take a look at the SDK (I recommend reading topics in full rather than using discrete search) and get going! http://offers.crmchoice.com/CRM2011Beta-Developer-Videos/

Solutions Management is a vast topic, I wrote a 20+ pages document explaining the fundamentals, patterns and variations which we are in the process of incorporating into the SDK. While you can get up and going building your first solution in just a couple of minutes mastering more advance topics does take some time, so don’t get baffled, you’ll get there. Trust me, the more your learn the more “ohhhh!” moments you will have; I’ve seen it first hand with some early adopters J

A note about the team behind

Nothing else and nothing more than 40+ people were directly (actually hands-on) on the design and development of the solutions framework and related components. Attempting to name each one would inevitably lead me to miss someone but I do want to show my greatest respect and gratitude to the solutions “platform” team that built the foundation that everything else is built upon. They are (in no particular order): Scott Head, Ajith Gande, Atul Shenoy, Donald La, Christian Betrisey, Brandon Simons, Greg Alicbusan, Jim Daly, Carola Klass, and Elliot Lewis. Special thank you to satellite teams: Application Infrastructure, Visualizations, Reporting and Programmability. You guys rock!

Humberto Lezama Guadarrama

Using Microsoft Dynamics CRM to do Simple Calculations

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

CRM workflows can be used to do simple calculations. I have come across many users who are not aware of this feature and thought it would be a good topic for a blog. In this example, the workflow is doing a simple calculation.

Before you build this workflow, add an attribute called Weighted Revenue of type money to the opportunity form.

Now Create a workflow that calculates the weighted revenue value from Est. Revenue and Probability. In CRM we capture probability as a whole number so Weighted Revenue = Est. Revenue * (Probability*0.01).

Set Weighted Revenue to Probability:

Multiply the value in Weighted Revenue field by 0.01. This is done using Operator “Multiply by”:

Now Multiply Weighted Revenue field by Est. Revenue:

 <Editor note> This is so simple and an awesome way of calculating the weighted revenue. I absolutely love this. For the kicks, we actually tried this out and it took us just 4 minutes to implement this solution.

Cheers,

Shilpa Sinha

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Upgrade Scenarios

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

With the recently announced Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 beta (sign-up at www.crm2011beta.com) there naturally comes questions about the upgrade paths from one version to another.  Microsoft invests a significant amount of time and effort to ensure that the upgrade path from one version to the next version is as smooth as possible, even across major changes to the product.  As Microsoft Dynamics CRM supports the Power of Choice for customer, there are separate paths available for on-premises and CRM Online deployments.

A quick baseline on acronyms:

  • Release To Web (RTW):  This refers to the point in time when CRM Online is ready for production use by customers.
  • Release To Manufacturing (RTM):   This refers to the point in time when CRM on-premises is ready for production by customers.

Beta is NOT for production use

For those of you building out your plans for the CRM 2011 beta, the first consideration is that it should not be used in production.  The beta release is not fully supported release and any issues experienced during beta will not be directly supported by the technical support team.  All beta support issues will be supported through a Microsoft Forum.

The beta is a great environment for you to kick the tires of the upcoming Microsoft Dynamics CRM release, start learning more about how it can benefit your organization and begin the effort of building out proof of concepts and design work for when you go live on the production bits of CRM 2011, either online or on-premises.   For those of you who decide to start your configurations and customizations with the beta release, there are upgrade paths for your solutions from one version to the next.  Let me walk you through a few key scenarios for those of you interested in the CRM 2011 beta.

  • Upgrades from CRM Online Beta to CRM Online RTWUpgrade is available through an opt-in process for customers wanting to continue with CRM Online in a production environment.  All supported customizations and configurations will be upgraded from Beta to RTW for customers who decided to sign-up and move forward with CRM Online.  
  • Upgrades from CRM 2011 Beta to CRM 2011 Release Candidate and then to CRM 2011 RTM – Upgrade capabilities are included in the product for on-premises customers, but limited support is provided through the beta support process (Microsoft Forums). 

 

The upgrade process is fully supported moving from production environments to production environment, so moving from CRM 4.0 (both on-premises and Online) to the same CRM 2011 deployment is fully supported.  For those of you interested in migrating your current CRM 4.0 environment to CRM 2011, here are the scenarios where it is possible, but please be aware that while the capabilities are there, support will be provided through the standard Beta support process on a best effort basis through Microsoft Forums.  Technical resolution to challenges will likely be released in subsequent versions (e.g. issues with upgrading your CRM 4.0 on-premises to CRM 2011 beta will likely not be resolved until the Release Candidate or RTM release). 

 

  • CRM Online (4.0) to CRM Online Beta (2011) –  This upgrade path is not available. 
  • CRM Online (4.0) to CRM Online RTW (2011) –  This upgrade path is fully supported and will be available to customers shortly after CRM 2011 is released to RTW.  Customers will be able to schedule their upgrade time through a schedule tool and will be given up to 1 year to upgrade.  This will help fit the upgrade cycle to your business cycle and give you time to train and prepare for your upgrade on your schedule. 
  • CRM 4.0 on-premises to CRM 2011 Beta and Release Candidate – Upgrade capabilities are included in the product, but limited support is provided through the beta support process (Microsoft Forums).  For on-premises deployments, CRM 2011 requires 64-bit hardware and 64-bit software (Windows Server 2008/2008R2, and SQL Server 2008/2008R2).  Please see the requirements list for a full description of infrastructure requirements.
  • CRM 4.0 on-premises to CRM 2011 RTM – Upgrade capabilities are fully supported for production use through standard support processes. 

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 is a significant upgrade from an already great solution with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0, these upgrade scenarios will help you get the most out of your preparations to move to this new release, which is being called a “game-changer” by customers, partners and the press. 

Thanks,

Bryan Nielson

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Chatter in the Microsoft Forums

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m monitoring the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Beta forum on Microsoft Forums and there is a lot of great activity. If I were just about to install the Beta I’d start by scanning this site to see what other people are saying about this install. Here is a snapshot of the site:

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There’s nothing better than reading about the process and being reminded about things like System Requirements, Available Documentation, and issues that other folks have run into and how they resolved them.

Stealing a coworkers by line, “Have Problems, We have Solutions!”

Cheers,

JaAG

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 – Global Beta Released

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

The Microsoft Dynamics CRM team has reached a key milestone as it releases the beta of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, for both cloud-based and on-premises deployments. Available for download and testing in eight languages (English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Chinese) and 36 markets, this release marks the first global public beta for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. Additionally, beta for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 on-premises is available in 40 markets in eight languages.

There is definitely high anticipation for this new release among partners and customers based on the very positive response received when the team first talked about the new product at WPC, and specifically highlighted how Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 will deliver the Power of Productivity through familiar, connected and intelligent experiences for users inside and outside an organization.

Here is what Garrett Klas, application development manager at CAPTRUST Financial Advisors, a Microsoft Dynamics CRM customer who had the opportunity to experience a pre-beta version of the new release had to say:

“We are enthusiastic about the guided process capabilities of CRM 2011 as a means of reducing the required user training and enhancing our data stewardship program given our highly regulated industry. We value the flexibility offered by the current version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM so can’t wait to try out the next generation product and witness the new features first hand.”

Additionally, the all new Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace online catalog (also announced at WPC) will be released as a beta later this month and will offer customers and partners a searchable and filterable catalog of more than 700 applications and professional services. This service will offer partners an easy way to market and distribute solutions to Microsoft Dynamics customers and customers a convenient way to find solutions that meet their business needs. 

To try out the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 beta or sign up for the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online beta visit www.crm2011beta.com.

The full press release issued today is located here: Microsoft Releases Global Beta of Next-Generation CRM Product.  Be sure to engage and follow the Microsoft Dynamics CRM community @MSDynamicsCRM and provide your feedback on the beta at the Microsoft CRM 2011 Beta forum.

Best,

Umran Hasan