Sonoma Partners Microsoft CRM and Salesforce Blog

Feed Me...CRM Content!

Earlier this year, the CRM documentation team recently asked me if I use the content on the CRM Resource Center. I gave them a sheepish shrug and then conceded, no...I really don't. I do KNOW that a wealth of fantastic information exists there, so that naturally led to the question of why I don't use it more. After hours of therapy, we discovered that, for me, it really comes down to an easy way to find the content and to know that new content has been added.

For those of us who write documentation, we know one of the large challenges is people being aware of the information and then ultimately getting them to read it. One approach that has been working great for me, especially with CRM content, are blogs. So I asked them if they would syndicate their content via RSS and that would be a way I can stay abreast of their new content. Apparently they have received that request many times before, and back in March the new RSS feed went live!

Take a look at the left corner in the Stay Current section of the Resource Center and you will see a Subscribe to RSS feed link.
 

Now I get all of the CRM Resource Center articles in my blog reader:

For those of you who don't use Outlook for your blog reader, you can access the RSS feed from these links:
On-premise Resource Center RSS Feed: http://rc.crm.dynamics.com/rc/regcont/en_us/op/feed.xml
Online Resource Center RSS Feed: http://rc.crm.dynamics.com/rc/regcont/en_us/live/feed.xml

And while you can access the Resource Center directly from CRM, you can also access them from these publicly available links:
On-premise Resource Center: http://rc.crm.dynamics.com/rc/regcont/en_us/opdefault.aspx
Online Resource Center: http://rc.crm.dynamics.com/rc/regcont/en_us/onlinedefault.aspx

Happy reading!

Wrapping up another CRM Incubation Week

 

Microsoft wrapped their 2nd CRM Incubation Week last week at the Microsoft Technology Center in Boston, MA. It was another fun and exciting week. Again, I was just blown away by the amount of work accomplished by all of the teams. The teams chosen for this event were:

Startup

Location

Solution

FourthLink

Newton, MA

Project Management and Resource Scheduling for Professional Services Organizations

Smart Red Pen

Lancaster, MA

OnDemand educational portal for learning 2nd Language (Spanish)

Skyline Vertical Solutions

Charlottesville, VA

Project Management and Cost Control for AEC Market

myStaffingCRM

Lima, OH

HR Staffing, Recruiting and Leasing

Hippamatic Houston, TX

Automate Mobile Radiology including Order Entry, Dispatch, Billing and Reporting for Health Care Providers

This time, I had the chance to work a fantastic company out of Lima, OH called myStaffingCRM. Their unique Software as a Service solution really shows off Dynamics CRM xRM platform capabilities by leveraging the native CRM-based functionality with custom functionality built through Dynamics CRM and Silverlight to deliver a truly unique solution for recruiters and HR managers. Further, myStaffingCRM were excited to learn about many of the native aspects of the platform, such as Outlook synchronization, offline capabilities, import data tools, and full workflow and reporting. myStaffingCRM can now focus on the actual business functionality for their vertical market, and not waste resources rebuilding 'plumbing' functionality. In addition, Microsoft Dynamics CRM provides the ability to build a single solution that can be deployed in a hosted environment or directly with the client in as an on-premise solution. As such, myStaffingCRM can now deliver their solution the way their customers want to consume it!

Jennifer, Sandy, and Tony (pictured with me below) spent many a late night working on their solution and business plan. As a result, they delivered a fantastic presentation, complete with a working demo, on Friday to many notable individuals from the CRM and financial community. Microsoft also recognized myStaffingCRM's solution and efforts with the Best xRM Solution award last week. Nice! They were a fantastic team to work with, and I look forward to seeing their solution in the market soon!

Again, my thanks and congratulations to Microsoft and Sanjay Jain for another well run week. This is a huge undertaking and the level of opportunity and commitment for these companies is extraordinary. I also wanted to give a shout out to our friends at Proteans and Venkat Hari who really helped coordinate our off-shore development effort for the week. And many thanks to the MTC gurus, Rich Crane and Jason De Lorme, for their dedicated efforts, especially with the Silverlight. Be sure to check out Sanjay's blog for additional information regarding this fantastic event.

The MTC was extremely gracious again and is just a great place to prototype and design solutions. They run envisioning sessions, architecture design reviews (ADS), and proof of concepts (POC) for all sorts of companies on all types of Microsoft technologies. What's more there are numerous MTC's all over the world. If you have a need or challenge with your Microsoft solution or architecture, definitely consider this resource.

Finally, if you are starting a technology company or would like to be a Network partner, you must check out the Microsoft BizSpark program. The resources and software provided is simply astonishing to me and really will help any startup accelerate their solution to the market.

Speed Up the Newsfeed Business Productivity Accelerator Query

I have been recently playing with the Newsfeed Business Productivity accelerator for Microsoft Dynamics CRM on our production system. The implementation is pretty interesting and much simpler than I anticipated. Basically the newsfeed accelerator consists of a few workflow rules and an SRS report. The report brings back all closed activities, active announcements, and any notes that are prefixed with the word 'Newsfeed:'. The workflow rules are used to create these 'newsworthy' notes and can be configured against any workflow supported entity that has a relationship to Notes.

I had no trouble getting everything installed, but found that the report took around 35 seconds to run in my production environment and sometimes timed out on me. I traced the bulk of the time to the activity portion of the query which was surprising since we only have around 200,000 activities and 800,000 activity party records (i.e. not that much).

One of my colleagues, Brian, suggested I change the order by from modifiedon to modifiedonutc. Sure enough, the query was now coming back in a few seconds. The final report query now looks like:

SELECT     TOP (25) newsfeedid, createdby, createdbyname, modifiedbyname, modifiedon, modifiedonutc, description, regardingobjectid, subject, activitytypecode, 
                      activitytypecodename, regardingobjectidname
FROM
    (
  SELECT activityid AS newsfeedid, createdby, createdbyname, modifiedbyname, modifiedon, modifiedonutc, description, regardingobjectid, subject, activitytypecode, 
         activitytypecodename, regardingobjectidname
  FROM          FilteredActivityPointer
  WHERE      (activitytypecode IN (@Activities)) AND (statecode = 1) 
  UNION
  SELECT     annotationid AS newsfeedid, createdby, createdbyname, modifiedbyname, modifiedon, modifiedonutc, notetext as description, 
             objectid as regardingobjectid, subject, objecttypecode as activitytypecode, objecttypecodename as activitytypecodename, 
             filename as regardingobjectidname
  FROM         FilteredAnnotation
  WHERE     (subject LIKE 'newsfeed:%') AND (objecttypecode <> 4703)
    ) AS derivedtbl_1
ORDER BY modifiedonutc DESC

I am sure other optimizations could be made, but the changing the sort to use the UTC date value is a quick and easy one to improve your report performance immediately.

Mass E-mail Options in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0

Laura Robinson and I contributed on a recent post describing some of the ways you can send mass e-mail with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0. Here is a quick summary of the native options.

Dynamics CRM Mass E-Mail Summary

The following table outlines some key differences of the mass e-mail options for Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Each of these options is also available for Dynamics CRM Online as well! Please see the full article for further details on each of the native options.

  Direct E-mail Quick Campaigns Workflow Direct E-mail via Mail Merge
Uses templates Yes, E-mail templates* No Yes, E-mail templates* Yes, Mail Merge Templates*
Can include images and hyperlinks in the e-mail message Yes Yes Yes Yes
Available entities Leads, Contacts, Opportunities, Accounts and Quotes Only Leads, Accounts, Contacts and marketing lists Most entities including custom entities Leads, Contacts, Opportunities, Accounts, Quotes, and any custom entities
E-mail recipient selection All or some of the records in a view All or some of the records in a view Can only apply manual workflow to all records in a page (250 records max) All or some of the records in a view
Can include a file attachment No No Yes No
Works with campaign responses No Yes No Yes**
Tracks e-mail opens No No No No
Tracks hyperlinks clicked in the e-mail message No No No No
Provides unsubscribe information No No No Yes**

* See the Email Templates v. Mail Merge Templates blog post for comparison.
** These options are only available when the direct e-mail via mail merge is started from the Outlook client.

Although the out-of-the-box options for mass e-mailing in Microsoft Dynamics CRM can meet many organizations’ needs, companies like ExactTarget offer an add-on product for Microsoft Dynamics CRM that includes many additional e-mail marketing features and benefits. ExactTarget offers its e-mail marketing services on a hosted basis, and provides direct integration with Microsoft Dynamics CRM on-premise product so that users can send e-mail through the ExactTarget service directly from the Microsoft Dynamics CRM interface.

By using the ExactTarget service for sending mass e-mail, Microsoft Dynamics CRM users can enjoy the following additional benefits:

  • ExactTarget sends the e-mail messages through its servers, not through the outgoing e-mail server configured for Microsoft Dynamics CRM. This allows users to send a large volume of e-mail without affecting their internal network. Outsourcing the message delivery to ExactTarget also helps improve message deliverability because ExactTarget works with the various e-mail companies to ensure consistent delivery.
  • ExactTarget automatically captures response data such as e-mail opens, clicks in messages, bounces, and unsubscribes. Almost all of the response data downloads into the Microsoft Dynamics CRM user interface so that you can report on it, access it using Advanced Find, and so on. The default ExactTarget for Microsoft Dynamics CRM installation includes data such as unique opens, total opens, unique clicks, deliverability rate, and bounce rate.
  • Users have more control over the delivery of their mass e-mail messages because they can schedule a specific date and time to start the message send. In addition, users can throttle the e-mail to send only a certain number of messages per hour.
  • ExactTarget offers a proprietary user interface in which users can create and design their e-mail messages to include images and hyperlinks.
  • ExactTarget Email Marketing Automation functionality allows marketers the ability to create and manage programs that will automate email campaigns using the native Microsoft CRM workflow capabilities. Common scenarios for the Email Marketing Automation functionality include:
    • Automatic confirmation responses to customer feedback, purchase completion, whitepaper downloads, etc
    • Welcome message when someone completes a subscription or membership.
    • Customer alerts based on activity with their account.
  • ExactTarget Smart Capture will allow marketers to configure landing pages on ExactTarget’s site that will capture information, perform optional logic, and read and/or write data to and from Dynamics CRM.