Sonoma Partners Microsoft CRM and Salesforce Blog

Final sample chapter voting, and a winner!

Last month, we announced we were going to release a free sample chapter from our Working with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 book and we asked people to vote on which chapter they want to see. Well we just received the FINAL electronic copies of the book from Microsoft Press so we're ready to declare a winner! Here are the voting results:

Chapter 1st Place
Votes
2nd Place
Votes
Total
Votes
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 Overview 0
Setting Up Your System 1 1
Managing Security and Information Access 3 3
Entity Customization: Concepts and Attributes 0
Entity Customization: Forms and Views 1 1
Entity Customization: Relationships, Custom Entities and Site Map 10 3 13
Reporting and Analysis 3 5 8
Workflow 12 5 17
Server-side SDK 3 3
Client-side SDK 1 1 2
Integrating with Additional Applications (custom Web site and SharePoint) 9 8 17

Based on these votes, we're declaring Chapter 8 - Workflow the winner! Chapter 11 Integrating with Additional Applications received the same number of votes but Chapter 8 had the most first place votes. You can download the free sample chapter 8 off our website immediately. Please post and let us know what you think...

Sonoma Partners is hiring!

We updated the open jobs list on our website, and right now we're looking for three people:

  • SQL Database Developer
  • Consultant/Project Manager
  • .NET Software Developer

If you're interested in working with a young, fun, fast-paced company like Sonoma Partners...please contact us ASAP. We'd love to speak with you!

CRM Elements for Real Estate updated for Microsoft CRM 3.0

We're proud to announce that we just finished updating our CRM Elements for Real Estate add-on for compatibility with Microsoft CRM 3.0! This product is targeted at developers and agents responsible for selling a large number of residential property units at a multiple project sites. We've been demoing a development version of CRM Elements for Real Estate 3.0 for several weeks now, and feedback has been off the charts! My favorite quote (that sounds too good to be true, but someone really said this!) was from a developer in the Washington DC area:

"I've laid in bed at night dreaming about a product like this, and now I am looking at it for real. It's unbelievable".

If you're interested in learning more about this product, please contact us to schedule a live web demo.

Our company will celebrate the CRM Elements for Real Estate 3.0 release tomorrow afternoon with a nice lunch at Bin 36 (I love wine), and then we're off for a few hours of fun and drinks at the 10 pin lounge!

Microsoft Operations Manager - Microsoft CRM 3.0 Connector (Beta)

Lambert Consulting (from Switzerland) created a Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) connector for Microsoft CRM 1.2...and Christophe from Lambert notified us that they are beta-testing the MOM connector for Microsoft CRM 3.0. If you're interested in checking it out, download it from their website.

Book availability dates

This just in from our Microsoft Press editor regarding estimated retail availability of our Working with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 book:

We will make the Convergence deadline! Books should hit retail by April 12. The first
commercial ship date is 3/15, and it usually takes 4 to 6 weeks before there are actual
copies available in book stores (we have placed a special order directly from the printer
for Convergence).

Google Desktop vs. Microsoft CRM: Part 2

Yesterday, we reviewed a known minor issue that Google Desktop causes with Microsoft CRM when it removes the header background color on intial launch.

We recently discovered a new issue that Google Desktop causes with Microsoft CRM and we want to post our learnings in case someone else bumps into the same problem. When we launch a new session of Microsoft CRM on a computer running Google Desktop, the CRM Internet Explorer window will temporarily lock up. After a minute or two (sometimes longer), the window returns to normal and behaves just fine for the rest of the session. If you view the Task Manager during the lock up period (when CRM is launching) you'll see that the CPU usage spikes up and then returns to normal.

What made this behavior really strange is that the browser only locked up for some of our Microsoft CRM 3.0 websites, but not all of them. We noticed that the lockup was particularly bad for our live production install of Microsoft CRM but we did not see any performance issues when we launched our demo/development installations.

Fortunately, we eventually determined the unique set of circumstances that caused this window lockup behavior:

  • Google Desktop installed and running on client computer
  • The default start page (change under Tools -> Options) is set to a view that contains a large number of records (approximately more than 100 records)

The reason we never saw this problem on the demo/dev environments is that the default start page was set to a "My Activities View" and that view didn't contain any records! However, when we logged into our production CRM there are lots of activities and records because we're actually using it!

After playing with Google Desktop some more, we were able to eliminate the CRM window lockup by doing either of the following:

  • Disable Google Desktop Search
  • Exclude Web History from the Google Desktop Search Types (located under Preferences)

Since we wanted to use those features, turning them off wasn't a good solution for us...but it did clearly confirm that Google Desktop caused the performance problem.

As a workaround for the problem if you want to continue using Google Desktop Search, we would recommend one of the following solutions:

  • Set the default Start Page (and the default View) so that it only displays a few records
  • Change the Records Per Page to a lower number like 25

Google Desktop vs. Microsoft CRM: Part 1

The world's worst kept secret: Google and Microsoft don't like each other.

What does that have to do with Microsoft CRM? Well, I probably shouldn't admit this but I like using Google's products such as their Desktop Search and Google Toolbar. Unfortunately, the Google Desktop software doesn't get along too well with Microsoft CRM...just like the companies that create these products. There is one minor documented issue regarding running Google Desktop on the same computer as Microsoft CRM. In addition we recently discovered a second (yet to be officially documented) issue caused by running Google Desktop with Microsoft CRM.

First, let's review the known Google Desktop issue per Microsoft Knowledge Base Article #906863 dated November 7th, 2005. When you launch the Microsoft CRM Web client on a computer running Google Desktop, the header background color disappears when the window finishes loading. This isn't a big deal because if you hit Refresh (F5) the color returns, but admittedly it is a little annoying.

We first noticed this issue last summer when we were testing the TAP1 builds of Microsoft CRM 3.0 (known as V.Next then). We assumed it was a bug in the code and that subsequent builds would fix it. However, when we got the TAP2 build the issue was still there. Eventually the light bulb went on and we realized this wasn't a Microsoft CRM problem...but one that Google Desktop causes!

Tomorrow we'll review a new undocumentated issue caused by Google Desktop that we recently discovered.

The book is done! Finally!

I'm pumped to report that we're now officially done writing the Working with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 book! It wasn't easy, and it took Jim and me about 900 hours total over the past 6 months. Considering all the long nights and weekends we had to work on the project, our wives were incredibly patient with us...so I'm sure they are just as excited for us to be done.

If you're curious what the book writing process is about, I thought I'd share a little behind-the-scenes information. Microsoft Press asks us to write the book using a special Microsoft Word template (XML-based of course!) that allows them to easily get the appropriate formatting for their printed layouts. Unfortunately for us, the Word file isn't too pretty to work with. Here's a sample of the Word template file that we wrote for a page in Chapter 9, "Server-Side SDK".

This screenshot also shows you the various edits and comments made by the other people working on this project! Every page in the book is reviewed at least once (more like two or three times) by our project editor, our copy editor, our technical editor, a member of the CRM product group and a proofreader.

After we send the file to Microsoft Press, they whip it up and turn out a pretty PDF file that looks like the following!

Now Microsoft Press and our project editor are cranking to get the book printed and ready for the Convergence conference at the end of March.

I'm still working on the details to get a sample chapter posted on our website! I hope to have that up soon, thanks for your patience.

CRM 3.0 - Great Plains Integration

Got this question from the Netherlands via email:

Hi,

I’m looking for information about integration of CRM 3.0 with Great Plains 7.5/8.0. Is this already available, and if not when?

Thanks in advance.

I haven't seen any official documents released on this subject yet, but the last we heard is that the Microsoft CRM 3.0 to Great Plains integration will be released in the March/April timeframe. Just like any software release, it's difficult to pin down an exact release date.

I was able to confirm that the Microsoft CRM 3.0 to Great Plains integration will work with both Great Plains 8.0 and Great Plains 9.0! That's great news for customers because they'll have the decide how they want to deploy the software.

Free CRM 3.0 demo servers offered by Microsoft

Every potential Microsoft CRM customer wants to see a demo before they purchase the software and we're more than happy to oblige via a LiveMeeting. However, some prospects just want to "play with" the software on their own time. Now of course they can download the 90-day trial version or even use the virtual PC image that Microsoft provides. Unfortunately this still requires prospects to spend some time installing the software and procurring the appropriate hardware...so many people don't go through this effort.

Well we have some good news for people looking for a quick and easy test drive of Microsoft CRM. Microsoft now offers LIVE CRM DEMO SERVERS free of charge at http://mscrm.demoservers.com!

After you register at this website, you can evaluate live Microsoft CRM demos within a hands-on lab environment.

Microsoft CRM DemoLab
Welcome to the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Virtual Labs! The Microsoft CRM Virtual Labs allow you to quickly try and evaluate Microsoft CRM 3.0 through a series of guided, hands-on labs which can be completed in 30 minutes or less. Each lab has been created to demonstrate Microsoft CRM 3.0's rich system components that enable your business to quickly deploy, customize and use Microsoft CRM within your organization.

To begin, start by selecting the type of module you want from the list below:

Customization
Design, customize and add entire new features to the Microsoft CRM application – all without writing a single line of custom programming. In this lab, you will explore how to design the Microsoft CRM system so that it truly fits the way your business works.

Customer Service
Empower your service professionals with quick-access to entire customer relationships. Equip your service teams with service entitlement, access to a central knowledge base repository and innovative resource scheduling to ensure that your organization delivers the highest degrees of service to your customers.

Workflow
Standardize, simplify and automate your business workflows through an intuitive, easy-to-use workflow designer. In this lab, you will learn how to quickly deploy automated system workflows that allow your business to save time and money when working with customers.

Sales
Stay one-step ahead of the competition. Designed from the ground-up to help your sales organization to sell more effectively, Microsoft CRM 3.0 introduces enhanced contact management, opportunity management and sales activity tracking to help your sales professionals be more productive.

Marketing
Use Microsoft CRM 3.0’s revolutionary marketing functionality plan, target, implement and measure your marketing activities like never before. Built from the ground-up to help you be a better marketer, Microsoft CRM 3.0 will help you find new revenue streams for your organization.

When you select a demo lab, the website instantly creates a fully functional demo server of Microsoft CRM that you can access through a web browser (via an ActiveX control)! On the demo server, you can follow the steps specified in the demo labs, or just click around and check out Microsoft CRM 3.0. The demo server appears to be almost identical to the Virtual PC version of Microsoft CRM (complete with SharePoint, Outlook, demo data, etc.) but you don't have to worry about setting it and installing it! Someone else did all the hard work for you.

The demo server times out after 1 hour, but of course you can try all of the different labs so prospects should have plenty of time to "play with" Microsoft CRM at their convenience.

Be sure to check this amazing service out!

(The fact that Microsoft offers this service for free is shocking to me?!)