Sonoma Partners Microsoft CRM and Salesforce Blog

Office 2007 - whohoo!

I was finally able to spend some time playing with Office 2007 Beta 2. I only tooled around for 10 or 15 minutes, but it is AWESOME. This is definitely not your regular 'ole upgrade! Within literally the first 3 minutes I found 3 great new features in Word 2007:

  • Live previews - hovering over buttons in the "ribbon" will update the document on the fly so you can preview what it would look like if you applied the formatting.
  • Save to HTML improved - anyone who has tried to work with the HTML that Word 2003 generates knows the meaning the pain. I tried the Word 2007 save to HTML (filtered) and it was clean looking HTML code...ah nice.
  • Blogging in Word - Write your posts in Word and then publish to your provider. Love it.

My only complaint is that I am too chicken to start using the Beta 2 for my system, out of fear for bugs and incompatibility. Alas, I'll wait a few more months for the real deal.

UPDATE: Microsoft announced that Office 2007 will not be released in October, but it will be released some time in 2006.

CRM licensing going the wrong way?

In Microsoft CRM 1.0 and 1.2, the software STRICTLY enforced the number of licenses you purchased within the software. If you owned 5 copies of Microsoft CRM, you could only have 5 active users. Simple, right?

Well in Microsoft CRM 3.0, the licensing model changed for volume license customers from the strict enforcement system to the "on your honor" system. Now when you purchase Microsoft CRM through Open Business, Open Volume, Open Value, etc. your license key will light up for 100,000 users.

Yes that's right. 100,000 users!

The Microsoft CRM 3.0 licensing model is the same as many other Microsoft products such as Exchange, SQL Server, and so on. It requires the customers to be diligent in tracking the number the licenses they own versus the number of licenses they're using. Remember that software piracy penalties are stiff! If you're not sure how many licenses you have, you can view your exact usage with the License Summary utility. To launch this tool right-click on your license in the deployment manager and select License Summary. The following dialog will launch:

So why is this interesting?

Well Microsoft just announced that Windows Vista and Longhorn Servers will change its licensing model so that the software will automatically report a customer's actual license usage to Microsoft on a scheduled interval (for volume license customers). Even thought Microsoft CRM does have a software registration process, the Vista license announcement is different because it requires customers to "check in every 30 days". So Vista is moving towards a more restrictive model (less "on your honor" system), while Microsoft CRM just changed to a less restrictive licensing model!

We don't think this is a big deal either way...but it is somewhat interesting to note.

Hell hath no fury like...

William Congreve once famously wrote:

"Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."

With all due respects to Billy C, I would like to submit my own addendum/revision to this good 'ole axiom:

"Hell hath no fury like a software developer scorned."

I bring this up in regards to the absolute firestorm caused by Microsoft's recent announcements on Win FS. If you're not familiar with Win FS, my non-expert description of this technology is that Win FS is a new file storage system that would store all of your data files in a relational database...instead of the current crazy file system in Windows XP. This of course would provide lots of benefits, and everyone was really excited about its potential. Originally slated as one of the design pillars of Windows Vista (then known as "Longhorn"), Microsoft announced in August 2004 that Win FS would not be part of the original Vista shipment. However they said they would release Win FS as a separate product after the release of Vista.

But just last week Quentin Clark (who runs the Program Management team for WinFS) blogged that Win FS would no longer be released as a separate product. Unfortunately, he tried to convince the readers that this was a GOOD thing because Win FS would morph into SQL Server and ADO.NET. He also litered his blog with tons "marketing speak" and "blah blah blah". To make matter worse, he said "it's what people have been asking for". As a final insult, Microsoft held sessions at the Tech-Ed conference just a weeks ago hyping up Win FS.

The software development community was not buying it.

Developers from all over the world torched Quentin's post with negative comments, and bloggers took Microsoft to task. The software developers felt scorned, and they let poor Quentin feel their wrath. Yesterday, Quentin posted a follow up and came clean with more information about Win FS.

The software development community was still angry, but at least a little more understanding this time.

Reading through the comments to yesterday's post, I got a few chuckles. Here's one funny one:

"The vision remains alive"
TRANSLATION: Unfortunately the current version of Visual Studio does not support compiling visions.

"But some of the technology, especially the end user value points, are not ready"
TRANSLATION: Of course, by "end user value points," I mean "stuff people will use."

Now I know almost nothing about Win FS, but here's my perspective on how this all went down. Working against Microsoft:

  • An update this important about Win FS should NOT have been made via a blog post. This poor Quentin guy, he's got like three blog posts over the past 12 months. Who decided this guy has to fall on the sword?!?!
  • Microsoft had to know this news would not be well received, so they should have just sucked it up and made the announcement at Tech-Ed, instead of waiting a few weeks after the conference. Yes it would have been painful but it would have been the right thing to do.

However, in Microsoft's defense, I am not surprised at all that Microsoft had to alter their Win FS product plans:

  • Creating new and revolutionary technology like Win FS is HARD WORK. Creating new and revolutionary technology for the world's most popular operating system is RIDICULOUSLY HARD WORK. The Microsoft CRM product team has hundreds of developers on it, so I can't even imagine how many developers worked on Windows Vista and Win FS! Coordinating a software project of that size boggles my mind.
  • If some of your products don't work out as envisioned, then in my opinion you're not pushing the limits hard enough. So kudos to Microsoft! Keep trying new and cool stuff, and we'll try to be more understanding when some great ideas don't come to fruition.
  • I'd rather have Microsoft stop a product now, then ship an inferior product that is slow, buggy, insecure or doesn't meet the end user requirements...even if they publically announced it 5 years ago. Yes we were excited for Win FS, but I'm willing to give Microsoft the benefit of a doubt that this was the right decision based on where they're at today.
  • Stuff happens. Windows Vista started in 2001, and it's 2006 now! Think about how much has changed in technology over the past 5 years. There was no blogging, no podcasts, no Ipods, no RSS, Google just started, and so on. Even the best laid plans are subject to change due to external circumstances. Five years ago I didn't even know that Microsoft CRM existed. Now we're one of the top consulting firms in the world in Microsoft CRM!

In summary, I understand that developers are frustrated because Win FS offered so many potential benefits. However, I think I understand Microsoft's position on this product. For me, I am 100 times more excited about Office 2007 than I ever was about Win FS. So here's hoping Office 2007 lives up to my expectations, and I never scorn software developers!

Rio reminder!

One of the great things about the Microsoft conferences is using the Rio networking tool to meet other people via short scheduled meetings. I just searched through the Rio database looking for some people that I KNOW will be attending, but their names don't come up. That means they're being slackers because they have not registered for Rio yet (you must explicitly register, not all conferences are defaulted to automatically appear).

So consider this your reminder...register for Rio ASAP. Here is the link:
http://rio.crgevents.com/RioWWPartnerConference06/Rio/

Showing activites in an IFRAME

I tried this neat idea from Matt at ICU-CRM on our Lead records, and I like it a lot. This allows us to quickly see the history for a Lead on the same page as the Lead form. One less click! Hallelujah!

In addition to sales, I think that displaying the history in a similar manner would be especially useful on the Case entity. Therefore, I tweaked Matt's code to display the Activity history for a Case:

Follow Matt's instructions to setup the IFRAME, but use this code for the Case form OnLoad event (we had to modify the path and the oType to get this to work). I also commented out the script that hides the History in the navigation pane because I prefer to keep it there for consistency throughout the user interface:

//case form onload script to display activity history
if (crmForm.FormType == 1)
{
document.all.IFRAME_HistoryFrame.src="about:blank";
}
else
{
var navActivityHistory;
navActivityHistory =
document.all.navActivityHistory;

if (navActivityHistory != null)
{
//navActivityHistory.style.display = "none";
document.all.IFRAME_HistoryFrame.src="/cs/cases/areas.aspx?oId=" +
crmForm.ObjectId +
"&oType=112&security=852023&tabSet=areaActivityHistory";
}
else
{
alert("navHistory Not Found");
}
}

Don't be like me and forget to enable your OnLoad event! I wasted 10 minutes trying to figure out why the thing would not work...and it was because I did not enable the event.

CRM Mobile Fact Sheet

Ben Vollmer posted a link to the Microsoft CRM 3.0 Mobile factsheet, so we added that document to our Microsoft CRM download library. Thanks Ben!

Unfortunately, we have not had a chance to play with the Microsoft CRM Mobile application yet so I can't give you our $0.02 on it...yet.

Microsoft CRM Deployment Planning Tools

We received an email question the other day:

"Where can I access the Planning Tools Folders referenced in the CRM Implementation Guide?"

Chapter 3 of the Microsoft CRM Implementation Guide lists a bunch of documents that you can use to plan your deployment.

However, you will NOT find these files on the Microsoft CRM CD media. Rather, these documents are part of the Implementation Guide. When you download the Implemenation Guide and run the .EXE it extracts the Implementation Guide PDF AND it also creates a folder called "planning tools". In this planning tools folder you'll find the documents referenced in the Implementation Guide! We zipped up this folder and posted it to our Microsoft CRM downloads page if you want to grab it from there too.

My personal opinion of these documents is that they are a good starting point if you've never deployed a CRM solution before. However experienced CRM professionals won't get too much benefit from them. Of course, we have developed our own proprietary Microsoft CRM project management and implementation tools that we use with our customers. But we don't post those for download!

Microsoft Partner Conference, coming soon...

I just booked my flights for the upcoming Microsoft Partner conference, and I AM PUMPED! I love attending the Microsoft events and you can't go wrong with Boston. No offense to Dallas (where Convergence was held this year), but Boston is much more enticing.

One of the things I enjoy the most about the conference is learning about all of the Microsoft products other than Microsoft CRM. We live and breathe Microsoft CRM every day of the week, all year long...so these conferences provide me a chance to suck up information about the other Microsoft products and solutions we can offer to our customers.

Of course the BIG news for this conference will be Office 2007 and Windows Vista. Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably heard that everyone and their mother is trying to download the Beta 2 versions. How many people want Office 2007 and Vista? Well Microsoft had to throttle their downloads because they're concerned about crashing the ENTIRE Internet.

“We are experiencing extremely high download demand at this time. The wait time to start the download is very long and many customers may be unable to access the download site. To guarantee participation in the Customer Preview Program (to receive both Beta 2 and RC1) we recommend you use the DVD kit order option above,” Microsoft notes on the Vista order and download page.

According to company sources, the Redmond company has anticipated the level of demand but is ceiling on the resources available; an eventual increase in bandwidth could result in an overall collapse of the Internet or degrade its quality for the user because of the networks becoming saturated with the downloaded files.

Presently both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Vista Beta 2 are available for download in ISO format, the files size reaching 3.5 GB, respectively 4.4 GB. According to Microsoft, the estimated download time for the 32-bit version ranges between 4.5 hours on a Fast Cable/DSL 3.0 mbps connection and 64 hours on a Cable/DSL 256 kbps connection.

I also decided to check out the partner conference sessions list to see which ones will cover Microsoft CRM. I found just four (only 4!?!?) and of course the Brad Wilson session will be "must attend" for anyone in CRM space. Since the conference is still a month away, I assume they will add more sessions about Microsoft CRM but who knows? Again, I expect Office 2007 and Windows Vista to be the stars of this show.

Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM