Sonoma Partners Microsoft CRM and Salesforce Blog

Sonoma Partners holiday party!

Yesterday was a fun day because we had our Sonoma Partners holiday party. We ordered in a few snacks for lunch and gave every Sonoma Partners employee their holiday present: a Microsoft Zune.

We gave everyone video IPods last year, but now IPods seem almost overdone and cliche as even grandmothers have an Ipod. Philip Richardson really turned us on to the Zune last month, so everyone can thank Philip for the inspiration.

After lunch, we headed to the Chopping Block for a fun cooking event. We cooked up a great meal (with some professional help), had a few drinks along the way, and had a pseudo-cooking competition. Believe it or not, the meal we made consisted of:

  • Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Crème Fraiche and Caviar
  • Truffle, Onion and Bacon Tartlettes
  • Roasted Prime Rib with Cognac Pan Sauce
  • Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin
  • Chocolate and Hazelnut Mousse

Even though Brad is a guru with C# and the Microsoft CRM SDK, he's also very proud of his skillmanship with the blender so we want to make sure we acknowledge that.

New Microsoft CRM Outlook client for Office 2007 and Vista

Great news! The Microsoft CRM product team released the new version of the Microsoft CRM Client for Outlook...one day ahead of their promised delivery date even. Of course we've been waiting for this since we got our hands on Vista and Office 2007 a while ago so we installed it immediately on a clean build of Windows Vista.

After you complete the installation, here's what the revised user interface looks like:

We're very excited about this new version of the Outlook client and now we need to get it up and running in our demo environments ASAP so that our customers can see how tightly integrated Microsoft CRM and Outlook are. There are lots of other new benefits in this release such as using SQL Server Express Edition and support for group policy deployments but most users will just notice the new buttons in the interface.

Here are some screenshots of the installation, it appears identical to us as the previous installation process:

Just a reminder, when you open the Microsoft CRM Client for Outlook it performs a check to see if it is the "synching client". Since I have the Microsoft CRM Client for Outlook installed on multiple machines, it prompted me with this warning message.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM promotion – Advantage 30-300-3000

I just noticed that this great Microsoft CRM promotion expires in the next few days. We've bundled this in several opportunities, but the customer must purchase the licenses by 12/31/06. Of course 12/31 is a Sunday so that means you really have until mid-next week 12/27 or 12/28 to get your order in and finalized!

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Advantage 30-300-3000
The Microsoft Dynamics CRM Advantage 30-300-3000 offer gives your organization up to a 10% savings on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 Pro. You get either 33 seats for the price 30, 330 seats for the price of 300 OR 3,300 free seats for the price of 3,000.

· Offer valid only in the U.S.

· Offer valid until December 31, 2006

Go to http://www.mscrmadvantage.com for requirements, restrictions and instructions.

Holiday cards coming your way soon

Today was a fun day at the office because we all pulled together and signed our company holiday cards! The cards and gifts are just a small token of our appreciation for our customers and partners, but hopefully the cards can help communicate that we REALLY do appreciate the opportunity to work with these great companies. Many (most?) companies just print out bulk quantities of holidays cards and send them out to a massive list in a very impersonal manner. However since the Sonoma Partners' philosophy emphasizes QUALITY over quantity we intentionally keep the holiday list small and then handwrite all of our cards so that the recipients know that we really do care about their business.

The card signing was quite an operation and it took out our conference table for the better of the day. I also want to apologize in advance for any of our handwriting (particularly mine) that might have gotten a little sloppy!

Microsoft CRM television advertising

I am a big fan of NFL football, so I always watch part of a game or two every Sunday. In the past I commented on the Microsoft Peole Ready advertising but today was special because I saw some Microsoft Dynamics CRM television commercials! Basically the commercial goes something like this...

A presenter is setting up a training room full of computers and the whiteboard says "CRM and you". A woman walks into the room and the presenter eagerily asks "Are you here for the CRM training?".

She says "Uh, no. That software is really pretty intuitive." Then she grabs some of the food in the training room and leaves.

Then person after person enters the room to grab some snacks but no one sits down for the training. Two guys are at the food table talking and one says "We're closing deals left and right".

Then the announcer says something like "Microsoft Dynamics CRM is people ready".

When the last person enters the room the presenter is sitting down and doesn't even look up. He knows the person is just there for the food, not the training, so he announces "All the blintzes are gone".

I like the commercial for a few reasons:

  1. Microsoft CRM needs to get more brand awareness and national TV advertising seems like a good way to go. Everyone knows Microsoft of course but not everyone knows they have a CRM product...believe it or not!
  2. The key theme of the commercial is that the product is very easy to learn and use. It's so easy in fact, that you don't even need training. Ease of use is one of the key software benefits that we emphasize to prospects.
  3. The commercial highlighted the sales benefit when the guy says "we're closing deals left and right". Our experience has been that most companies buy CRM software for the sales module, and then they roll out marketing and customer service as they get more comfortable with the software.
  4. It is clever, and worth a chuckle!

I looked over the Internet to try and find a link to the commercial, but I wasn't successful. If you have a link, please let me know.

Oh, one thing I would change to the commercial...they should have ended with the announcer saying something like "To buy Microsoft Dynamics CRM, call Sonoma Partners or visit their website at www.sonomapartners.com". :)

Microsoft CRM performance hotfix

Just before Thanksgiving Microsoft published KB article #927854 titled "You experience slow performance when you try to load forms in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0". Of course Microsoft CRM already runs fast, but it NEVER hurts to run faster... so we decided to evaluate the hotfix described in this KB article.

SYMPTOMS

When you try to load forms in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0, you experience slow performance. This problem occurs if the following conditions are true:

• You are using the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 Web client or the Microsoft Dynamics CRM desktop client for Microsoft Office Outlook.

• You are using a virtual private network (VPN) connection or a slow connection.

CAUSE

This problem occurs because Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 uses .aspx files to load forms. Some of these .aspx files contain static content. By default, most static content is not cached by Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0.

We installed the hotfix on our internal production CRM system and...it does appear to run faster! It always ran very quick, but we did perceive a small speed performance when loading the forms. I tested it from home tonight via a VPN connection and I can confirm it does indeed seem to run faster.

Another minor issue that the hotfix corrected is that it the top toolbar color loads correctly when you launch Microsoft CRM. This is a minor issue that has bugged me in the past, but I am glad to report it's gone now.

I think we will definitely be recommending this hotfix for our customers and add it to our base installations going forward.

Microsoft CRM Update Rollup...in action

Ok, so everybody and their brother has blogged about the Microsoft CRM Update Rollup released last week so we won't rehash the same old same old information. Instead we'll share some new information about the rollup. We installed the rollup on our internal production CRM system that we use for our sales and operations, and we wanted to share our experience.

The install went in just fine with no errors, but the next day when we tried to create a custom attribute we received an error. The user interface gave us the always wonderful "Contact your System Administrator" but the trace file showed the following:

>MSCRM Application Error Report:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Error: Method not found: Void Microsoft.Crm.Metadata.AttributeInfo.set_Searchable(Boolean).
Error Message: Method not found: Void Microsoft.Crm.Metadata.AttributeInfo.set_Searchable(Boolean).
Source File: Not available
Line Number: Not available
Request URL: http://grapevine/AppWebServices/SystemCustomization.asmx
Stack Trace Info:    at Microsoft.Crm.Application.WebServices.SystemCustomization.AttributeCreate.GetAttributeInfo(ParameterBag paramBag, AttributeMetadata attributeMD, DynamicMetadataCache mdChache)
>   at Microsoft.Crm.Application.WebServices.SystemCustomization.AttributeCreate.Execute(User user, ParameterBag paramBag)
>   at Microsoft.Crm.Application.WebServices.SystemCustomization.SystemCustomization.CreateAttribute(XmlNode data)
Type: Application

We contacted Microsoft technical support and they said:

That error is most often caused by the Microsoft.Crm.MetadataService.dll not being loaded in the Microsoft .Net Global Assembly Cache. Please complete the steps below to load the .dll file.
a.  On the CRM server go to the directory of the Microsoft.Net Framework v1.1.4322 and locate the utility gacutil.exe  
b.  Then go to the system drive, Program Files, Microsoft CRM, CRMWeb, bin and locate the following .dll file "Microsoft.Crm.MetadataService.dll"  
c.  Finally run the below command, make the necessary changes according to your system file directory:
C:\WINDOWS\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v1.1.4322>gacutil /i "C:\Program Files\Microsoft CRM\CRMWeb\bin\Microsoft.Crm.MetadataService.dll"
 d.  Below is expected result after running the command:
Microsoft (R) .NET Global Assembly Cache Utility. Version 1.1.4322.573
Copyright (C) Microsoft Corporation 1998-2002.
All rights reserved. Assembly successfully added to the cache  
e.  From the command prompt run IISRESET  
f.  Finally try to create or update an attributes from the CRM web application.

This was kinda weird and unexpected behavior, and we're not even 100% confident that it was caused the rollup installation. Regardless, we followed the steps to add the MetadataService.dll into the Microsoft .Net Global Assembly Cache (abbreviated and pronounced as "GACK") and now we're able to add custom attributes again!