Sonoma Partners Microsoft CRM and Salesforce Blog

Going international

Just got some more exciting news from our Microsoft Press Editor:

Thought you would like to know – given the recent announcement of the China deal for CRM – that we have sold rights to your book for publication in China, also in Japan.

This means that they will be creating localized versions of the Working with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 book in both Chinese and Japanese languages! Now users in those countries can learn about Microsoft CRM in their native language, which of course should help them learn more quickly. I'm not sure about timing, but I'm guessing this won't be available in those countries until the end of 2006.

Internet Explorer 7 and tabbed browsing with Microsoft CRM

With the new release of Internet Explorer (version 7) just around the corner, we decided to take the beta version of IE for a test drive with Microsoft CRM 3.0 to see what happens...and overall the results look great! All of this testing was performed on a clean install of Windows XP SP2 with Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 (7.0.5346.5).

With Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 installed, we browsed to a Microsoft CRM demo server running our CRM Elements for Real Estate add-on (http://elementsdemo). Microsoft CRM fired up with no problems, and we clicked around without any noticeable issues. As in Internet Explorer 6, double-clicking a record launches a new window as shown below.

However, one of the GREAT new features of Internet Explorer 7 is tabbed browsing. Actually, we got tabbed browsing working with Microsoft CRM last year by using the MSN Search Toolbar. However, using tabbed browsing with Internet Explorer 7 is much much improved. To get Microsoft CRM windows to launch in tabs, you'll need to configure the Internet Explorer Tabbed Browsing Settings so that pop-ups always open up in a new tab (located under Tools - Internet Options). With this setting checked, double-clicking a Microsoft CRM record will launch it in a tab.

Even cooler, Internet Explorer 7 offers a Quick View (CTRL + Q) so that you can view thumbnails of all your tabs in one place!

I do have one minor (and I mean minor) gripe about Internet Explorer 7 and Microsoft CRM. I noticed that when using the tabbed browsing that sometimes I lost the background color on my main window. I experienced this before with Microsoft CRM 3.0 and Internet Explorer 6, but I attributed it solely to running Google Desktop Search on the same machine. However, this is clearly not the case here because we're running a clean Windows XP SP2 install with nothing else on it. Just like before, it's easy to get the color back just by refreshing the window, but it is kinda annoying. If anyone cares, this is an easy problem to replicate. Follow the steps above and launch Microsoft CRM in IE7. You'll notice that the header color is correct. However, if you double-click a record that launches a tab and then click back to the "main" window tab you'll notice that the header color is gone!

My Bulk Import failed, what now?

We got a question today from one of our users who was using the Bulk Import feature of Microsoft CRM to suck several hundred Leads in the database. She loaded up her spreadsheet, mapped the fields, and the import appeared to complete just fine. However, she could not find any of the data she just imported in the system...even though there was no error message. Seems kinda confusing, but there is a perfectly valid explanation for this behavior.

We directed her to navigate to the Activities view and then select Bulk Import in the view type drop down list. This view will show the user all of the Bulk Import activities performed in the system, in addition to listing the number of successes and failures in each import. You can see that this system had several imports with zero successes. So even though the Bulk Import feature completed without any errors, none of the records from the Bulk Import operation actually made it into CRM...and that's why the user in our example could not find her data!

We see that Illinois 6552.csv05/17/2006 has 0 successes and 175 failures, so let's double click on that record to try and figure out what happened. If you click on the Failures link in the left navigation pane, Microsoft CRM lists the records that did not make it into the system. It also gives you a Reason explanation and a Reason ID code. With a Reason explanation of "Data in row did not match the import type" you can easily determine the problem. There was an incorrect field mapping during this bulk import (such as mapping text into a number only field) that prevented the records from inserting correctly.

The story has a happy ending...after we pointed out this data mis-match to our user, she went back and tried the import again paying extra attention to the data type matching. Voila! The records went in successfully.

So the lesson here is that if the Bulk Import feature isn't behaving as you expect, the first place you should start your troubleshooting with is the Bulk Import view.

Book sales update: fast and furious

I spoke with our Microsoft Press editor yesterday, and it turns out they’ve already sold over 6,000 copies of the Microsoft CRM book worldwide in just a few months! Granted, these numbers are small compared to other Microsoft Press books on topics such as Windows XP and Microsoft Office. However, the book sales numbers are double their initial projections, so we’re excited. In fact, he said that they have to do another print run of the book to keep with the higher than expected demand.

Of course, we attribute most of the sales success to a unbelievably great Microsoft CRM 3.0 product and its related community since both are growing so rapidly.

Who knows, if Microsoft CRM keeps growing at the same pace maybe we can eventually overtake Harry Potter for the number of books sold. What's that? Harry Potter has sold more than 300 million books? Oh well, maybe not. But then again, that Microsoft CRM Titan release is looking pretty good...

"Advanced" Advanced Find Techniques

One of the great features in Microsoft CRM 3.0 is the ability to search and find CRM data based on complex filter criteria. In particular, the Advanced Find feature lets users create their own queries and then save those queries for later re-use. Unfortunately, we didn't get to spend as much time as would have liked covering Advanced Find in our book, so I thought we'd share some of the more "advanced" Advanced Find techniques we use for ourselves.

Of course, I start every day by trying to figure out which activities I should work on. Unfortunately there isn't an out of the box Activity view for "My Overdue Activities". I can see My Activities (both open and closed) or all Open Activities (for all users) but neither of those really suits my needs. I want to focus in on the activities due today (or overdue) for just me. To get this data, I created this Advanced Find:

This view uses two techniques that many users don't even exist!

  • You can group multiple filter criteria together using AND or OR conditions. In this screenshot you can see that the view looks for activities with a due date in the last 99 years OR with a due date equal to today.
  • You can select data from related entities. Instead of seeing one monster list of activities for Leads/Opportunities/Accounts/Cases/etc, I prefer to tackle them one group at a time. So I selected Regarding(Opportunity) in my Advanced Find, so Microsoft CRM will only display activities if the Regarding field is linked to an Opportunity. I could also add a filter for attributes from the Opportunity entity such as Rating or Est. Revenue but I don't need that for my purposes.

After I create my view, I save it with a descriptive name like "Overdue Activities (Opps)" and then I quickly access it from the View list under Saved Views any time I want in the future. In addition, I can also share this view with other users or teams who might benefit from it. Sharing Saved Views is nice because you can have one power user create the more complex views for a team of users so they can benefit from it without having to go through the leg work of understanding the more complex Advanced Finds.

If you're wondering why I selected Last 99 Years for my due date, it's because (believe it or not) Microsoft CRM does not have date filter criteria for in the past! The screenshot below shows all of the date filter choices you have, but not one of them is "in the past" or "overdue". Of course it's a simple workaround to just select last 99 years but I hope they add this criteria in the next release.

Using the "runas" command when testing Microsoft CRM as different users

Did you know that you can launch Internet Explorer (or any application for that matter) as an impersonated user? You can do this by using the "runas" command to specify the credentials of a user other than yourself. This trick is very useful when you want to test Microsoft CRM as a bunch of different users with varying security roles.

To try this, enter the following command at a DOS prompt (using values specific to your environment):
runas /user:<domain>\<testuser> "C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore  http://<yourcrmserver>/loader.aspx"

For example:
runas /user:dev\testuser "C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore  http://devcrm/loader.aspx"

You will then be prompted to enter the password of the user.

After successfully authenticating, you will have an instance of Internet Explorer under the credentials as dev\testuser, and Microsoft CRM will adhere to the security settings of the dev\testuser account!

Additionally, you can create a batch file to store this command for simple reuse. To create a batch file, do the following:
• Open a text editor such as Notepad
• Copy the command into the Notepad window
• Save the file as <filename>.bat somewhere on your drive or on a fileshare for others to use as well. (I usually use the following naming convention: <server>_<user>.bat. For instance, in the above example, I would name the file crmdev_testuser.bat)
• Simply double-click the .bat file the next time you want to run this script, enter the password, and voila…you are running Microsoft CRM under that user's account!

For our Microsoft CRM testing, we typically:
• Add test users to our CRM environment, and assign the key security roles to these various test users.
• Create a batch file with the above command for each user you wish to test.

Microsoft CRM 3.0 and 64-bit

One of our new customers is purchasing hardware for their deployment, and they wanted to know if they could run Microsoft CRM 3.0 on 64-bit hardware.

Looking at the official hardware/software specs on http://www.microsoft.com/dynamics/crm/product/systemrequirements.mspx, you'll see that there is no mention of 64-bit support (or lack of 64-bit support). We pinged both Microsoft CRM guru Ben Vollmer and Microsoft pre-sales tech support. Ben replied immediately and said that CRM 3.0 is supported for the 64-bit SQL database, but not for the Windows Server running the CRM web application. Microsoft pre-sales tech support took about a day to respond, and they said:

The CRM Web application is not supported on Window Server 2003 64 bit. You can have the CRM databases installed on a Windows Server 2003 64 bit OS running SQL 2005 64 Bit version. So if you want to use Windows 2003 64 bit with SQL 2005 64 bit, you will need to have SQL and CRM on separate servers with SQL located on the 64 bit server.

Additional Information:
As the load on a CRM system is scaled up, it shows up in the database tier, not the middle tier. So supporting Windows Server 64-bit and SQL 2000/2005 64-bit on the database server does open up a lot of scalability headroom. Putting 64-bit support on the mid-tier CRM application server doesn’t buy much and therefore is not tested or supported. If customers are interested in using 64-bit to support better performance, the answer is “Yes, MS CRM v3 is designed to permit that where it matters, on the data tier.”

So this is great news for our customer, and anyone else interested in 64-bit hardware! As more and more 64-bit hardware hits the marketplace, it would be great if they would update the "official" Microsoft CRM 3.0 hardware and software requirements to reflect this information.

As a reminder, both SQL Server Standard and Enterprise editions support 64-bit hardware.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 Product Reviewer Guide

I know it's been WAY too long since my last post. I have very solid excuses for my lack of posts of course, but I know no one wants to hear them so I'll just skip them entirely.

We received a new Microsoft CRM 3.0 document today:  Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 Product Reviewer Guide.

"While the primary target audience for this guide is the press and analyst community, it is also a great tool to assist you in your Microsoft CRM evaluation.  The document provides a comprehensive product and technology overview, and insights into how Microsoft CRM positively impacts our customers and partners."

You can download the 28 page Microsoft CRM 3.0 Reviewer's Guide PDF off our website.