Help get better and more helpful tooltips on forms in CRM 2011

One of my frustrations in CRM has long been that there is no easy way to get useful tooltips to appear to help end users when they are filling in forms.

Loads of discussions take place during planning meeting about what fields will be included, what their purpose is, what should or should not go into a particular field and what will happen when a user fills it in (eg scripts or workflows, or how the data surfaces in a report). Most of that detailed consideration gets buried in project documents, some of it may be covered in user training, and even less may actually make it into end-user support articles and training hand-outs.

Some of these are common misunderstandings, such as what should you use “Address Name” for? (hint – it’s not the building name nor part of the address, it’s the name of the address, i.e. what do you call this place? answer might be “Head Office” or “North West Distribution centre” for example).

The most obvious place to put this stuff is on the form, and the most logical place is right next to where it is needed, by adding tooltips to the field labels. Yes, I know they do have tooltips, but these simply repeat the text of the field label! Zero value is added by having them there, they don’t even go as far as using the “normal” display name or the description.

There are ways to create tooltips by adding an “onmouseover” event to the field, but since this is a direct DOM hack, this won’t be supported. It is also yet another bunch of scripts being delivered over the wire, which also need to be written, maintained and updated, usually by system admins with at least a basic level of Jscript coding skills.

There must be a better way…

For me the ideal answer would be a property of a field on a form where a system customiser (i.e. not admin, no coding skills required) can easily add text they want to use as a tooltip. Either directly as custom text or perhaps simply ticking a couple of boxes to include the field display name and/or description and/or schema name and/or custom text as well.

So I went over to the Microsoft Connect site where you can give feedback about CRM and other products. This is intended for product suggestions and definite bugs, rather than support for things that don’t work in your particular implementation. Other site users can vote up or down the importance of your suggestion, and can comment or provide information about workarounds.

I posted a new suggestion to provide useful “tooltips” on rollover/mouseover of form labels and/or allow supported customisation of them and within two weeks it had already reached the all-time top ten most upvotes. It is continuing to rise and I really hope this is given serious consideration for the next version (either a quarterly release, or more likely the next “full version” given that it might require changes to xml schema for exporting and importing customisations).

You can help get this idea implemented

If you like the idea go and vote it up and if have useful input add a comment so that if and when it gets implemented they can make it fit people’s real-world needs as closely as possible.

There are loads more great suggestions in the Dynamics CRM section – have a look round and vote for those you would most like to see built first.

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 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.

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»