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 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.

Usual CRM Update – Rollup 11

Roll-up, roll-up, read all about it. Yes, the usual updates for Dynamics CRM 4 have been released and you can download the components and versions you need from this page. The knowledgebase article kb981328 has the detailed information about Update Rollup 11 for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0, including the prerequisites:

You must have Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 installed to apply this update rollup. Update Rollup 7 is a prerequisite for Microsoft Dynamics CRM for Microsoft Office Outlook and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Data Migration Manager.

Update Rollup 1, Update Rollup 2, Update Rollup 3, Update Rollup 4, Update Rollup 5, Update Rollup 6, Update Rollup 7, Update Rollup 8, Update Rollup 9 and Update Rollup 10 are not prerequisites for the server section of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Additionally, you must have Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 Service Pack 1 installed to apply Update Rollup 11. To obtain Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5, visit the following Microsoft website: Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 Service Pack 1 (http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=ab99342f-5d1a-413d-8319-81da479ab0d7&DisplayLang=en)

Note that for the server component there is no prerequisite, this rollup can be installed on a base installation (plus MUI if you have multiple languages installed). For the Outlook client you need rollup 7 (same goes for the data migration manager), and for new client installations you can just install the Outlook CRM client with rollup 7 already slipstreamed in. I must admit I find it annoying that the client install is not set up with a proper manifest to trigger UAC elevation – you have to remember to do “run as administrator” (if you are not using the deployment management tools, as many small businesses may not bother to do). The fact that programs prompt me rather than having to remember to do this is one of the reasons I like UAC (since I never run my client machine with local admin rights).
Read about UR11 highlights and the (old) new help files»

Outlook CRM client synchronisation explained

Outlook synchronisation white paper

Another recent find was this page with a link to a pdf file “nuts and bolts” white paper about Outlook synchronisation. This covers the basic concepts effectively, but also drills down into some of the details about how and when exactly the synch process takes place (some things are effectively immediate, others are queued up) This helps answer those peculiar edge-case questions which come up from time to time about what happens if you create a record here, update it there, share it to someone else then delete the original, or mark it as complete, or some other strange scenario. For example:

An E-mail that is deleted in Outlook will not be deleted in CRM at the next Outlook Sync
An E-mail that is untracked in Outlook will be deleted in CRM at the next Outlook Sync if the user designates

So you can track an email into CRM then delete the copy to keep your mail file size down, and the deletion does not “propagate” to CRM. It is this sort of behaviour which makes perfect sense when you think about the implications, but calling the process “synchronisation” seems to confuse many users as they expect that to mean “keep both copies entirely identical”.

Similarly this table explains what happens when you (or someone else deletes something in CRM which is linked to an item in Outlook:

Entity  Behaviour after deletion in CRM
Contacts A Contact that is deleted in CRM will be deleted in Outlook at the next Outlook synchronization if the Outlook user is not the CRM Owner of the Contact. If the user is the owner in CRM, then the Outlook contact will be unlinked after synchronization.
Appointments An Appointment that is deleted in CRM will be deleted in Outlook at the next Outlook Sync if the Appointment Start Time is in the future.
Tasks A Task that is deleted in CRM will be deleted in Outlook at the next Outlook Sync if the Task has not been completed.
E-mails An E-mail that is deleted in CRM will not be deleted in Outlook.

The distinction between synchronised Contacts I own or do not, Appointments in the future or the past, Tasks which are open or completed, all these details matter in real-word implementations. This document is definitely worth a read, then keep a copy handy for when you need the definitive answer for an awkward situation.

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!

Dynamics CRM rollup 10 and SDK update

Update Rollup 10

First, the obvious regular update. MS Dynamics CRM 4.0 update rollup 10 was announced a couple of weeks ago and the various platform versions and components can be downloaded here. A few minor bug fixes, but this one does not seem to be setting the world alight. Rollup 7 is a pre-requisite as with the last couple; this is clearly seen as the new baseline, but it would be good to see an updated client install package with the rollup already slipstreamed in (as they did with rollup 7). Hopefully for most people it is becoming much more routine to get these rollups tested and installed but it is still annoying for new client installations to have to put the client on and then immediately patch it.

CRM 4.0 SDK version 4.0.12

There is also a new CRM SDK version 4.0.12 available to download, and there are some useful articles about it on the official CRM blog on MSDN and David Jennaway’s MSCRMUK site. Slightly annoyingly the self-extracting CAB file does not have the release version in the filename or in the file version info, it is simply “CrmSdk4.exe” so not obvious which is the latest version when you have multiple downloaded versions lying around. Ho hum, just a quick rename needed.

The xRM stuff is new, there are some Visual Studio templates and CSS stylesheet sample files, but lots of things are unchanged (such as the UX style guide, still on v1.0 from November 2007).

There are some other nuggets too – for example the old dynamicpicklist sample code and documentation has been deprecated and replaced by a newer “dependent picklist” sample instead which deals with three levels of dependency category > sub-category > type and is more robustly written to handle greater flexibility such as non-continuous sets of choices for the subcategories and items which may be available for more than one major category selection.

I also noticed this week there is a “User Interface Integration SDK for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0” for developers writing standalone applications which need to get information to or from CRM, described in the overview as:

The User Interface Integration Software Development Kit (SDK) for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 is for developers and system customizers who want to build and deploy composite desktop applications based on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0. Composite desktop applications are useful when there is a need to bring information from different systems into a unified application for employee use. This SDK provides an architectural overview, the entity model, and how to register and host applications and workflows in your composite desktop application. Sample code and walkthroughs are provided to guide you through the capabilities.