Do you need a custom county field in CRM 2011?

Pedro Innecco posted an article on his blog recently about considerations for customising handling of addresses in Dynamics CRM. This had some great advice clearly based on real-world experience and you should go read it now, then come back here for some more titbits on this topic.

I agree with Pedro’s view that some users get unnecessarily knotted up over labels sometimes because they are creatures of habit rather than purely logical data processing machines (which is probably a good thing most of the time). But if you re-label state as province or canton for their ‘convenience’ and they want to add an Account which is in another country they can get all flustered rather than using common sense.

The choices to make can also depend on the context of the business. If you only really do business in one US state then you might feasibly want to divide up records by the next level of hierarchy for sales territories, or service visits using counties even if they are not used for postal addressing. If your business is nationwide, then it is far less likely that anything below the first level state/region/province would be necessary.

Read more about the best approaches to use for storing state on addresses»

CRM 2011 Pricing and Licensing Guide updated Feb 2012

Kevin Machayya posted links in this article to an updated version of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Pricing and Licensing Guide. This is the definitive document for figuring out what you can and can’t do in various situations with different types of licence.

You can download it via Partnersource here (authorised LiveID required):

CRM 2011 Pricing and Licensing Guide Feb 2012 update

<edit> or the direct link here: http://crmdynamics.blob.core.windows.net/docs/Pricing_Licensing_Guide.pdf (I’m not sure if this only works when logged in with an appropriate LiveID)

Read more about the Activity Feed changes and different licence types»

What are the URLs for CRM integration?

This is one of those really simple things that I don’t need very often so it is easy to forget and then I have to go looking for it, so I figured I can’t be the only one and it might be worth posting.

You may occasionally need one or more of these URLs for integration with other applications or components such as the e-mail router, or you may need your Organisation name to licence a third party plugin or solution (which is a rather annoying GUID if you use CRM Online, rather than the actual name of your Organisation as it appears in your URL).

Whether you are using CRM Online or have CRM 4.0 or 2011 installed on your own servers or hosted by a partner, you can find all the URLs you might need by going to Settings > Customization > Developer Resources as shown in the screenshot below: Link to Developer Resources in CRM

When you click on the link you will see something like this:Developer Resources in CRM Online

Notice that the Discovery Service endpoint is the same for all CRM Online implementations in your territory, starting https://dev.crm… Outside the US replace “crm” with “crm4” for EMEA and “crm5” for Asia Pacific. The Organisation Services for SOAP and OData both use your organisation’s “friendly name” rather than the GUID.

CRM 2011 and CRM Online Q2 2012 Service Update aka R8

Microsoft have made a much-awaited announcement today about the features we can expect to see in the next service release for CRM Online and CRM 2011 on-premises. They remain committed

Earlier information made it clear that the key aspects of this update would be to make CRM available to a wider range of clients, specifically by providing cross-browser, cross-platform support. Whispers had also indicated that some form of ‘real’ client for one or more mobile operating systems. Today’s press release is titled “Microsoft Unveils Microsoft Dynamics CRM Mobile” and the opening lines confirm the rumours:

Next Microsoft Dynamics CRM service update will include a new, cloud-based, cross-platform, native mobile application…This service update will deliver the capability for customers to access the complete functionality of Microsoft Dynamics CRM on virtually any device with a new cloud-based, cross-platform, native mobile client service for Windows Phone 7, iPad, iPhone, Android and BlackBerry mobile devices.

So, before discussing the news any further, the first thing to do is go and read some of the official information. The new General Manager for Dynamics CRM, Dennis Michalis published an article on the CRM Community blog entitled “CRM Anywhere” which looks like it will become the shorthand phrase to describe many of the changes being delivered in this next update.

A more lengthy and detailed discussion of the full range of features expected to be included in R8 can be found in the Release Preview Guide (aka February 2012 Roadmap). There is also some great information and various screenshots at the roadmap page of the CRM microsite.

So, the key features of the release will be:

  • Cross browser support including Firefox 6+ on Windows and Mac OS-X, Chrome 13+ on Windows and Safari on OS-X and iOS 5 (iPad 2). Oh, and a little thing called Internet Explorer 7+ on Windows.
  • Native mobile client for Windows Phone 7.5, iPhone 3GS / iPad (iOS 5), Google Android 2.2, RIM Blackberry 6 / 7
  • Support for SQL Server 2012 when it is released
  • Extended functionality of the “social CRM” features in R7 based around Wall Posts / Activity Feeds
  • Support for custom workflow assemblies in CRM Online, previously not an option and for some customers a reason to go with an on-premises deployment instead.
  • New UI options to give users a more responsive experience when doing read-only operations.
  • “Template” solutions for a variety of vertical industries

Multiple supported browsers

One of the most common requests from customers will finally be answered with support for the most popular browsers on a range of operating systems. These do not require the latest versions in most cases, and although no Linux systems are specifically supported, it may well be that appropriate browsers will work anyway.

Native mobile client

This is the big one in business terms. A ‘real’ application that can be run on various smartphone devices for the users that need a much richer experience on the move than has previously been provided by the Mobile Express service or via a browser. Crucially, the apps are planned to provide for offline access to data for when network connections are unavailable. This won’t be a free option however, but is expected to be charged on a monthly basis per user, pricing not yet finalised.

For most customers this is likely to be an option reserved only for those who really need it, and of course may require an investment in devices not already used in the business. Ironically, the one platform which won’t have offline capability on day one is Windows Phone 7

Of course, there are other vendors in this “mobility” space such as CWR Mobility, Resco and Ten Digits. They already have existing customers and partners and flexible development platforms which will help them to retain some market share, but inevitably some new customers may not look any further than Microsoft themselves to provide an end-to-end service.

More soon when I’ve digested the rest of the details.

CRM 2011 Training courses update 2012

I realised the other day that my previous article about the Microsoft official training courses available for CRM 2011 is now over 6 months old, and I felt it was about time for a fresh look to update some of the items there with new material.

I also wrote about how you can get qualified in CRM  through the MS Dynamics CRM 2011 Certification Tracks and Exams. Again, some of this was getting out of date so I have included information in this single post about the courses and the exams to take if getting certified in CRM 2011 is your goal.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 is going through a period of very high adoption, with many CRM 4.0 customers upgrading their on premises system to CRM 2011, or switching to a cloud solution with CRM Online. People with skills in Dynamics CRM are in high demand as a result, as well as internal staff looking for ways to get their knowledge updated to the latest version.
Read more about the latest courses and exams for Dynamics CRM 2011»

Problem with unresponsive lookup field on CRM 2011 form

Recently had a minor problem with a form in CRM 2011 which I have resolved while trying to fix something else (isn’t that so often the way?).

Problem description / reproduction steps

I created a custom entity in CRM 2011 to use as a joining entity in a manual N:N relationship. In this scenario it was an “Attendance” record to link a Contact to an Event, and enable the business to track the status of the attendance (tentative, confirmed, attended, cancelled) along with relevant dates etc.

To reduce effort on the user’s part I made the primary “description” field on the record auto-filled based on the event and contact name, using jscript web resources. To observe sensible UI practice, I made sure the lookup fields came at the top of the form, then the description which was a result of those, so it should be obvious to the user what to fill in first, then by the time they get to the name field it is already filled in.

A blank new record form is shown below.

Attendance record blank screenshot

So, what went wrong?

When the user creates a new record, they expect to be able to get on with the job of typing in the fields. Although the Event or Contact was automatically filled in if they created the record from the context of the parent record to make life even easier, this still means that sometimes they needed to fill in one or the other field, and that’s where it got strange.

Read more of this post

CRM 2011 Update Rollup UR6 released

CRM 2011 Update Rollup 6 has been was temporarily withdrawn

The downloads for UR6 were down for a while but are now back up, showing a published date of 20th Jan 2012 and a build number of 5.0.9690.1992 as opposed to 5.0.9689.1985 as was the case when they were first released. All the links and URLs remain the same, only the actual files to download have changed.

Microsoft still have not published any official information that I can find as to why UR6 was removed from the download center, what faulty behaviour it had and how critical the issue was.

“Nuke it from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure”

My recommendation if you already installed the redacted UR6 for the Outlook client is to uninstall the CRM client completely and re-install. It seems happy to keep configuration settings and evens saved credentials (eg for CRM online) so this is relatively painless and much more certain to work.

I previously tried just running setup over the top and was asked if I wanted to uninstall or repair the app, so I chose ‘repair’ but on checking in the Outlook client under File > CRM > About Microsoft Dynamics CRM it still showed the old build number, so I was not convinced this worked very well.*

*your mileage may vary. If you have applied the new build over the top on the server or any other components I’d be grateful if you could share any useful information or experiences in the comments for others to benefit from.

Original and edited blog post…

What is in UR6 and where to download it

A very quick post to get people straight to the information and downloads:

The Support KB article 2600640 about CRM 2011 update rollup 6 and all the fixes included is here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2600640 Note: you can’t uninstall UR6

Downloads of the update rollups for server, router, clients, BIDS, MUI etc. are all here <edit> and are now all updated to build 5.0.9690.1992 :

http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=28712

If you have downloaded some of the updates and are not sure which ones you have, either go and download them again “just in case”, or if you have slow download speeds or limits on your total data volumes you could check the MD5 hashes first:

Outlook client UR6 32 bit (update only) has an MD5 hash of F537E8C3FF3FF1BA76028C07713B50F6, while the 64 bit client is 78CBBD33E035C9DDF5794F13B000243E.

Server is 64 bit only, and the MD5 is 1753B49EB935D051A4B319EFCC7265F3

Install and update ready-rolled

You can also get updated versions of the installation files with UR6 “slipstreamed” in so you can install in new deployments in one step rather than two.

Outlook clients with UR6 built-in can be downloaded here:
http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=27821 (don’t forget you need the 32bit i386 or 64 bit AMD64 version to match your Office install, not your OS version). MD5 hash for 32 bit version which most people are probably looking to install is 426EBAB49CEA5EDEE0018DEB137AB09C

Download Dynamics CRM 2011 server with UR6 built in:
http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=27822

Build number should be 5.0.9690.1992 after you have installed things.

If you are using Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and download the Outlook client today <edit: this is what I wrote on 12th January when the update was first released>, this is already at UR6 (just in time for go live on my current project as it happens!). For on premises or existing installations, install the UR6 update files or wait for them to come out via Windows Update on January 24th.

<edit: this date has not been changed in the KB article since the re-release of the new build, so it seems like this is still on track>

Happy Rollups!

Just for the record…

Earlier I updated this post because UR6 was pulled for a while, so just for posterity and to make sure any readers have the full picture and are not confuzled, here’s what that edited bit said:

A possible problem seems to have arisen with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 UR6 and the downloads have been withdrawn from the download centre pending further investigation by Microsoft so the URLs in this blog post do not currently work.

If you have already downloaded UR6 the advice is to not install this and await a later re-release before installing. Since UR6 cannot be uninstalled (other than completely uninstalling CRM 2011 this is a bit of a blow if you have already gone ahead with it, but hopefully the fixed version will be able to install over the top.

According to the article on the “CRM in the Field” blog this affects the Outlook client, so it may turn out not to be an issue for the server or other components:

“A Microsoft CRM 2011 Client for Microsoft Outlook issue has surfaced, and the Update Rollup 6 packages for Client and Server are being temporarily removed from the Microsoft Download Center pending our investigation. Please hold off on downloading Update Rollup 6 until new packages are available.

If you have downloaded UR6 packages for any components, please discard them and wait for an update on our investigation and the release of new packages.  If you have installed them, please note that the issue appears to be related to Outlook Client sync and prepare to install a newer build when it is available.”

CRM 2011 Opportunity Revenue field is read only

I’ve just had a slightly strange situation with some customisation for a CRM online project I am working on that I thought I would share in case anyone else has a similar experience with this particular scenario or other odd results of customisations which may have a related cause.

Customising the Opportunity form

I have been customising various entities and forms to build the system to suit the particular customer’s requirements. One of the things I was changing was the Opportunity form. I added some of the custom fields, moved some things around and tidied is up generally. Published and everything seemed fine.

Estimated Revenue always read only

Then I noticed that I could not put a value in the Estimated Revenue field. It was disabled, dimmed as unavailable, read-only, “move along, nothing to do here…”. Nothing I did would change this, Est. Revenue was always read only.

I had quite deliberately already changed the “IsRevenueSystemCalculated” field default to “User Provided”, and this is the value it correctly showed up on the form.

In general this organisation will be quoting their clients as part of longhand written proposals or formal RFPs for very flexible services work which does not lend itself well to using the Product Catalogue, although they may do that later for standard, fixed price, “commodity” services they offer. So their Opportunities will be used to manage the sales pipeline but not to figure out the values for them, and user provided figures are the most sensible way to handle this.

If I changed isrevenuesystemcalculated to “System Calculated” it correctly added in a value (£0.00 at the moment since I have added no line items) and it remained disabled, as it should. Change it back to “User Provided” and nothing happens, still read-only and unavailable. Currency was set, no Price List was added (and none needed as there would be no line items). All very strange.

What else could be causing this?

I had included Est. Revenue in the form header, and thought this might be causing the problem in some way because it would be a read-only field, but I removed it and it made no difference. I checked and rechecked that there were no scripts or anything else that could be affecting this behaviour. Nothing.

But one other thing that I had changed from the default OOBE is the way the field was displayed – rather than a pair of radio buttons I had chosen to save some space on the form by showing isrevenuesystemcalculated as a picklist since the user would only very rarely want to change this.

Switching back to radio buttons fixed the problem.

Why would this be buggy?

So it seems that the built-in functionality which is triggered by changing this field and updating the Est Revenue field accordingly is not particularly flexible. As far as my testing shows, it looks like it explicitly uses the status of the radio buttons as part of the DOM, rather than the underlying value of the bit field to figure out the state of the user selection in the isrevenuesystemcalculated field.

I would argue that this is a bug, since it should be possible to display this field in any way I choose. Albeit if I chose a single check box the label would need to be more explicit than simply “Revenue”, and this would not work as tidily in any case as selecting or clearing a checkbox does not trigger an “onChange” event until the focus changes (ie you click away from the field).

Have you had any similar experiences where the built-in functionality is very picky about how things are displayed, or where changing the default forms has affected things in strange ways? Please feel free to share via the comments.

CRM 2011 now works with SharePoint online

I don’t usually blog unless I have something original to say, and try to avoid becoming just another echo in the blogosphere, but felt this announcement is important enough to merit it.

You can now properly integrate CRM 2011 with SharePoint online – in other words the SharePoint list component can be installed and configured properly and the previous problem whereby you could not get the SharePoint online server to serve up .htc files which are a vital component of the “seamless” document management experience enjoyed by on-premises customers has been resolved.

This also means by extension that you now use CRM online with SharePoint 2010 online (eg via Office 365) for a totally cloud-based setup. Note this is supported for SharePoint 2007 and 2010, but only 2010 gives the completely integrated look and feel inside CRM.

Thanks to Donna Edwards for tweeting this article by Eric Boocock: CRM Integration with SharePoint online is here

Previous problem is described and documented very well by Jukka Niiranen here: Office 365 launches without Dynamics CRM integration

More information on how to setup SharePoint to work with CRM 2011 is on MSDN:

CRM 2011 Training Options

There are loads of resources for official and unofficial CRM training available, so to try and make things easier, here’s a few starting points.

Official E-learning, classroom training and books

The easiest way to find all the official Microsoft options in one place is to start with the Microsoft Training Catalog for CRM.

This includes Online training courses and instructor-led classroom training which map to the exams, as well as some courses which are more general (such as 80442 Introduction to CRM  2011). The classroom training also provides links to search for training providers near you, although this simply lists partners that may or may not offer the specific courses you are looking for, so you will need to check their own websites to see if they have public scheduled courses to suit you.

You will also find links to the exams with full details of the objectives covered and their weightings. There are also links to “Learning Plans” which guide you to resources specifically aimed at gaining the skills to pass a particular exam, but it seems that all the plans available describe the CRM 4 tracks, not CRM 2011
Read more about training options and free resources for learning about CRM 2011»

Exam tips for MB2-866 Customising CRM 2011

I recently passed the Microsoft exam MB2-866 – Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Customization and Configuration, and I wanted to share a few thoughts about my experience, and hopefully help others who also want to gain this certification.

Of course, like every other exam this was done under NDA, so I can only give some general thoughts and not discuss specific questions or answers.

All change

I find many exams for a new product version like this seem to deliberately ask lots of questions about the new or changed stuff rather than the old elements that have remained largely the same (this was certainly true of the MCAS exams for Office 2007). I can only assume this is to avoid people coasting through on old knowledge from CRM 4, although it does seem to risk not testing some of the core knowledge.

Obviously some features are unchanged and some questions still cover them, but the feeling is that to pass the exam you really need to have studied the new material and properly practiced using these new skills. Of course, in the real world of actually getting on and using CRM 2011, knowledge passed along from previous versions is all very useful as well.

Are we nearly there yet?

In order to avoid worrying about running out of time, what I tend to do is make some very quick and rough calculations when the information comes up at the beginning about how many questions there will be and how much time is allowed. If it’s easy enough to work out in my head, I figure exactly how much time per question. If not, I just figure out for a bunch of them – however many makes the maths easier, say 5 or 6, and likewise round the time down a bit if it makes it easier to figure out, which also gives you some slack time at the end.

If you have 75 questions , you have 1/15 of the time for every 5 questions, and 15 is easy to divide into hours. So for a two hour exam that’s 8 minutes for every 5 questions (15 goes into 60 four times, so into two hours 8 times). Read more exam-taking tips and some of the important changes to remember in CRM 2011»

CRM 2011 Update rollup 3 released

Update rollup 3 is here, and contains lots of little fixes for things you may not even have known were wrong! Some of these are more important than others, but overall at this stage of the product lifecycle it is not surprising that many are things which simply had not been spotted during beta testing until people start to stress the system with real world use, and deploy in a much wider variety of complex environments.

Where to get it

The main information page is KB article 2547347 Update Rollup 3 for Dynamics CRM 2011, and the downloads can be found at download centre page 26912 CRM 2011 UR3 for servers and clients. The update will also be available via Windows Update and therefore also ready to deploy via WSUS on August 9th (or possibly 23rd, since both dates are shown on the KB page). Read more about what’s in Update Rollup 3 »

Course 80295A Extending MS Dynamics CRM 2011

An an update to my earlier post about the official MOC courses available for instructor-led training for CRM 2011, I have just found that the details of the course “Extending Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011” have now been released, although the course itself won’t be available for another week or so. The course page is here:

MS MOC course 80295A Extending CRM 2011

This will be a three-day course as expected, and includes lots of topics such as:

  • querying CRM by various methods, including LINQ queries, FetchXML and OData,
  • developing custom workflow activities and plug-ins,
  • application events and the xrm.page model
  • customising the Ribbon
  • publishing web resources including Silverlight applications

No news on a release date for the related exam yet, but of course lots of people want to go get the training in order to be able to bring their skills up to date for actually getting on with the job of developing for CRM 2011, and not necessarily in order to pass an exam.

(and for fellow MCTs, yes, this course is available in the download centre so you can start preparing)

CRM 4 MCITP Certification tracks updated

The exam requirements to become a Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) in Applications for Dynamics CRM 4.0 have been updated slightly. Now you will be able to take (or use an existing pass in) exam 70-680 Configuring Windows 7 instead of the out-dated 70-620 Configuring Windows Vista Client. Hurray!

Dude, where’s my transcript?

The only strange thing here is that whether you have already passed this exam or take it now, it won’t count towards making you an MCITP on CRM 4 until September. Why would that be? Answer: because internally at Microsoft Learning, the matrix of which exams count towards which qualifications is handled by the Transcript Database, and there is a planned update to that taking place in September.

This means that any exams you take now which are not already featured in the database / matrix simply don’t count towards anything, and will not show up on your official MCP / MCT transcript that you can access through the Microsoft Professionals portal or share with anyone else. Essentially, you can’t prove you have passed any of the new CRM 2011 exams, for example, because they don’t have a pigeonhole for that yet, so “computer says no”.

Update October 2011: They have fixed one part of the transcript database so it does at least show up the exams you have passed, but for MCTs it is still frustrating as the whole Dynamics range of products is shown in strange ways. I can apparently teach subjects in which I have no knowledge at all, while on the other hand I can’t cover courses for which I have passed the relevant exam. Hopefully this will be largely resolved when they finally release the requirements for the CRM 2011 tracks.

What about the tracks for installers and developers?

While this is only a small change to the Applications track, I wonder if this is a sign that the other tracks will follow, such as allowing exams in Exchange 2010 rather than 2007 for the Installation track.

This also bodes well for the MS Dynamics CRM 2011 Certification Tracks and Exams which look more likely to use current versions rather than older ones, which will make them more relevant and achievable for a longer time into the future.

Update October 2011: Yes it was a sign of further changes! The Installation and Deployment track now includes 70-432 (SQL Server 2008 Implementation and Maintenance) and 70-431 (SQL Server 2005) as an elective alongside the Exchange 2007 and Windows Server 2008 exams. This looks promising for people wanting to qualify as an IT Pro in CRM 4 using 70-432 and being able to count this towards CRM 2011 too (but not the SQL 2005 version which is not supported for CRM 2011).

Does this change make anyone out there an MCITP in Applications or Installation who was not already? What other exams do you think should be included as electives for the CRM 4 or 2011 tracks? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

MS Dynamics CRM 2011 MOC training courses

MS Dynamics logo

Update Feb 2012: I’ve written a much newer article bring up to date all the information about Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 training courses and exams in one place here: CRM 2011 Training Update 2012

As a follow-up to my previous post about the new Dynamics CRM 2011 exams and certification tracks, this article describes the official courses available to help prepare you for gaining CRM 2011 certification, or upgrading your skills from a previous version, or simply to find out more about the software to help you do your job without actually taking any exams.

All the courses described below are available now on the courseware download library (for MCTs) and on PartnerSource (for suitably certified MS Partners), except where stated.

Microsoft Official Courseware (MOC) courses for CRM 2011

Although there are four main exams (Applications, Customization, Installation, Extending) there are many more courses, some of which are already released, others around the corner. All of these are discussed in this article. Find out about MOC courses available for Dynamics CRM 2011»

MS Dynamics CRM 2011 Certification Tracks and Exams

MS Dynamics logo

Update Feb 2012: I’ve written a much newer article bring up to date all the information about Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 training courses and exams in one place here: CRM 2011 Training Update 2012

I see lots of people asking about the CRM 2011 certification track, exams and courses and although most of this information is available, it is not very well linked together. So, to try and get things straight and written down in one place, here’s my take on “how to get certified in CRM 2011”.

Individual CRM 2011 exams

There are three core exams already available for CRM 2011, very similar in concept to their 4.0 equivalents, and the details of what is required for each one are on these pages (and their various tabs for skills measured, preparation materials etc):

MB2-866 – Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Customization and Configuration

MB2-867 – Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Installation and Deployment

MB2-868 – Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Applications

The fourth exam “Extending Dynamics CRM 2011” is not yet available, but it is planned for release in August, and I’ll update this page once details are up on the Microsoft Learning website. Update: the details for Course 80295A Extending MS Dynamics CRM 2011 are now available.

Read more about the available certifications for CRM 2011 and what you need to pass to achieve each one»

Annoying file format warning when exporting CRM records to Excel

Pointless error message dialog box

When you export from CRM to Excel the data is derived as XML, saved with an XLS file extension and Excel is invoked to open the temporary file. Unfortunately Excel checks to see if the file being opened is actually of a type which matches the file extension and tries to be helpful. Normally this is to help overcome problems such as a comma-separated variable (CSV) file being saved as an XLS file extension, which ought to mean Excel tries to read the XLS file, fails because the contents are nothing like a real Excel binary file and gives up. Instead, Excel actually looks at the content, spots that it looks very much like a CSV and allows you to open it just as if the file extension was correct in the first place. However, this cleverness is tempered somewhat by the fact that the default setting for this is to ask the user every single time what they want to do.

As always, this is probably intended to be a helpful warning and prevent people opening files which might have insecure content, but it fails to do so because most users do not understand the implications and the longwinded message is probably not even read properly anyway. Certainly the 50th time someone sees a dialog like the one below, they just click “yes” without reading and it no longer provides any benefit whatsoever (by the way, I have done nothing to this, it displays in this ridiculously wide, un-resizable window on my machine).

Click to see larger version - CRM Excel export error message

Whenever I have managed people in IT support roles I try to eliminate fixes which involve things like “ignore that error message, just hit OK and it will work fine”. This not only numbs people to the meaning of that particular error message but to these sorts of warnings in general. Too often I have heard users explain why they did not report a problem until it was too late, saying “well, I got an error every day saying something about faulty disk or something but I just clicked OK, like John said we should with that other one…”. Find the root cause, eliminate the error, or suppress the error somehow, don’t teach people that errors don’t matter or they just ignore them. If you went to your doctor and said “it hurts my neck when I lift my arm up” you would not be impressed if she replied “then don’t lift your arms up!”, would you?
Read on to find out how to stop Excel asking unhelpful questions when you export records from CRM»

Quick CRM customisations

I recently found some interesting (and easy) customisations for Dynamics CRM 4 that I though I would share.

Linking to LinkedIn

I’m using Office 2010 with the CRM client installed, and I’m also using the LinkedIn Social Connector for Outlook. I had a few problems at first with Outlook 2010 beta, but a quick uninstall of the social connector component and reinstall or the latest version of the OSC beta as per this Microsoft article did the trick. It’s not something I rely on hugely but it can be handy sometimes. Even more useful would be to get information about my CRM contacts directly. This can be done for Accounts (ie companies) as explained in this article by CRM MVP Marco Amoedo. I must get round to going through the solution to see how it might be possible to modify it for individual Contacts, although I expect getting the results to match the right person might be the tricky part.

Copying addresses from Accounts to Contacts

Maybe you imported a load of data and have Contacts with no address, or you have Contacts who work at sites other than the main head office. Either way it would be great to be able to copy any of the multiple addresses associated with an Account directly to a Contact. I found a nice little solution to do just that on the BusinessNone blog. The html code (which is attributed to Microsoft’s Pierre-Adrien Forestier) needs to be published on your web server then simply called from an iFrame on the Contact form.

This presents all the addresses associated with the Contact’s parent Account so you can choose between them with a click of a button. Note that the “Address name” field is used here to distinguish between the sites. I have often seen this field completely overlooked (or even removed from forms) or misunderstood (being used for the name of the premises or building, or simply the first line of the address). The Address Name is simply “how do you refer to this address?” – head office, New York store, Dallas factory, LA regional call centre or whatever.

Visit this page to download the iFrame source for Address Picker (Ben Vollmer’s Skydrive, Hotmail / Windows Live login required) Note: you need to follow the link to the Skydrive page then download, you can’t right click the link here.

Do you find these useful? Do you have any other favourite quick and easy enhancements for CRM? Let others know in the comments below!