Sonoma Partners Microsoft CRM and Salesforce Blog

Is your Microsoft CRM Ribbon missing in Outlook?

We've been doing a lot of work with the ribbon in Microsoft CRM 2011. It's much more flexible than the old ISV.config setup from Microsoft CRM 4.0, but that flexibility comes at the cost of complexity. If you've worked with the ribbon at all, you know what I'm talking about!

For a recent client, we added a custom group and button to the main grid for every entity in the Application Ribbon, and then we control which entities the button actually displays for using a DisplayRule. The intent is to not have to include all the entities we want to add ribbon buttons to in our solution, since the entities are commonly customized ones like account, contact and lead. This way, we can also easily extend this button to more entities in the future by simply altering the DisplayRule and not having to touch the entity specific ribbon.

ButtonOnAccountGrid

We had the CustomAction set up something like this, using the {!EntityLogicalName} token to ensure that the action applied for all entities:

<CustomAction Id="Customer.Global.AllEntities.HomepageGrid.Group.CustomAction" Location="Mscrm.HomepageGrid.{!EntityLogicalName}.MainTab.Groups._children" Sequence="110">

And it had a child button that looked like this:

<Button Id="Customer.Global.AllEntities.HomepageGrid.Group.Button.DoSomething" Command="Customer.Global.Commands.DoSomething.Grid" Sequence="10" LabelText="$LocLabels:Customer.Global.Labels.SendMail" ToolTipTitle="$LocLabels:Customer.Global.Labels.DoSomething" ToolTipDescription="$LocLabels:Customer.Global.Labels.DoSomething.Description" TemplateAlias="isv" Image16by16="$webresource:new_/Images/DoSomething_16x16.png" Image32by32="$webresource:new_/Images/DoSomething_32x32.png" />

We used similarly set up buttons in the application ribbon for all entities' forms and subgrids. This worked perfectly in the regular CRM web interface. However, we started to notice that people were having issues with the CRM Outlook integration, saying that the ribbons for CRM were not showing up anymore.

To debug this, we enabled a feature in Outlook you might not know exists: you can enable add-ins to show user interface errors. Go to File -> Options -> Advanced -> Developers, and then check off the "Show add-in user interface errors" option:

OutlookAddonOptions

When we reloaded Outlook, we received a series of errors that claimed that we had duplicate Ids for a ribbon button:

DupeError

We escalated to Microsoft support, confused that our buttons worked with no issue in the Web UI, but caused issues in Outlook. Their response was something that we'd overlooked: you can use the {!EntityLogicalName} token in the Id field as well, not just in the location. It seems that when the XML for the final ribbon is generated, CRM will actually duplicate actions and buttons with the {!EntityLogicalName} token in their location so that each entity has their own copy of the button. This doesn't cause an issue in the Web, but Outlook must handle loading the XML differently and sees multiple XML nodes with the same id which it is unable to handle. Incidentally, this issue only rears its head when using buttons added to the HomepageGrid; buttons on the Form and SubGrid both work fine the way we originally had them set up on the Web and in Outlook.

To solve this, we changed the "AllEntities" part of our ids to be the !{EntityLogicalName} token. Thus our final action looks like this:

<CustomAction Id="Customer.Global.{!EntityLogicalName}.HomepageGrid.Group.CustomAction" Location="Mscrm.HomepageGrid.{!EntityLogicalName}.MainTab.Groups._children" Sequence="110">

This worked like a charm, and the ribbon now loads in Outlook just like it should. Hope this helps!

Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011

The CRM Journey – What’s next?

Chances are if you are reading this blog post you already use a CRM system.  The biggest change in CRM over the last couple of years has been the transformation to the Cloud.  Even if you still run CRM as an on-premises solution there are still pieces of data that reside in the Public or Private Cloud.  As the Cloud evolution continues we are also seeing businesses adapt to all of the new social technologies.  Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are just a few of the websites where businesses now advertise and communicate with their customers.  Sonoma Partners developed Vibe for Microsoft Dynamics CRM to support social collaboration.  Microsoft has announced that their fall CRM release will contain a native social CRM application.  So with all of these trends what’s next with CRM and what should you know now to prepare yourself for tomorrow?

Mobility – Mobility – Mobility

Always connected – sound familiar?  All the major technology companies are depending on it.  Your world is evolving right in front of you and you may not even know it.  Have you been on a flight lately?  WiFi is starting to become the standard on flights.  So even at 37,000 feet you can still track your CRM email activities real-time.  Crazy!

Mango      Android  iPhone

In conjunction with mobility, “touch” interfaces have become the expectation of consumers.  We are now starting to see these trends work their way into corporations.  I was just on a call last week where a company purchased iPads for their entire sales organization (1,000+).  Microsoft understands this trend is not going away and has been working for a few years to transition their product lines to support mobility and a more immersive end-user experience (like touch).  Enter the “Metro” user interface. The Metro design concept has worked it’s way into Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox. 

One of the core concepts to the Metro experience is Live Tiles.  Live Tiles deliver real-time information to the user in an interactive type fashion.  As an example, if someone posts a message on your Facebook wall that message will appear within the Live Tile for Facebook on your Windows 8, Windows Phone and/or Xbox dashboard.  Think of Live Tiles as a notification engine but on steroids.  Live Tiles allow developers to present real-time information to all of the hardware interfaces you might use on a daily basis (phones, computers and gaming consoles).

Windows8    

Xbox

So how does this impact CRM?  Simple – CRM is all about your customers.  If your customers are communicating with you via email, Skype, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. then your CRM system should support tracking this information in a seamless manner.  Going one step further, your CRM system will need to push and pull data through these applications utilizing new mobility technologies. 

I know, you are reading this and thinking “Xbox,” why is he talking about “Xbox?”  It’s simple really.  Gaming consoles are just another way to communicate with consumers.  Creating an immersive interface that is the same across hardware platforms builds a cohesive ecosystem that becomes familiar to consumers and consistent to developers. 

Microsoft understands our world is changing fast.  If consumers are living on Facebook, watching Live TV on Xbox or conferencing via Skype then we need to be able to communicate and track relevant content with them.  Mobile phones, tablets, laptops, desktops and gaming consoles are here today.  Tomorrow will be another new technology device.  Microsoft continues to innovate with all of their existing products to support these changes and Microsoft Dynamics CRM is no exception. 

To keep pace with innovation in the market, the Dynamics CRM team will be delivering new product functionality every six months.  I suspect that one of the key design pillars moving forward is providing a user interface that takes advantage of an “immersive experience.”  I expect future product updates will take advantage of the Metro design concepts and more specifically, Live Tiles. 

Tomorrow

Sonoma Partners is highly invested in Microsoft Dynamics CRM because this is all we do.  We eat our own dog food by using Microsoft Dynamics CRM to run our business (from A-Z).  To help prepare our consultants for tomorrow we are attending the “Build” conference next month in Anaheim, CA.  We are looking forward to building new and exciting CRM applications for Windows 8, Windows Phone and other mobile technologies. 

Build

If you’re not attending Build don’t worry about it.  Just follow them on Twitter and Facebook to stay up-to-date with all of the latest information.  You can also follow us on Twitter and watch for Tweets about the next generation of Windows and how CRM will evolve. 

Cheers!

Are you Missing Outlook Reminders with Office 2010 SP1 and Microsoft CRM 2011?

Today’s guest blogger is Peter Majer, a CRM Sr. Consultant at Sonoma Partners.

Recently, the Office 2010 SP1 was delivered through Windows Updates, and many people in our office who have the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Outlook Client installed have been reporting that Outlook reminders are no longer working. The only obvious workarounds would be to either uninstall the CRM 2011 Outlook Client, or uninstall Office 2010 SP1. Obviously I didn’t want to uninstall the CRM 2011 Outlook Client as I use it daily to track emails sent to our customers. Uninstalling Office SP1 also wasn’t ideal, as we have a custom Microsoft Word add-in that we built to integrate data between Word and CRM which stopped working after uninstalling Office SP1.

This issue only appears to be occurring when you have both the Office 2010 SP1 installed, and the CRM Outlook Client configured:

  • CRM Outlook Client Configured + Office 2010 = Reminders Work
  • CRM Outlook Client Not Configured + Office 2010 = Reminders Work
  • CRM Outlook Client Not Configured + Office 2010 SP1 = Reminders Work
  • CRM Outlook Client Configured + Office 2010 SP1 = Reminders Don’t Work

There’s a forum post that has been logged identify this issue, and Microsoft is aware of the issue. They’ve created a KB Article to track this issue which will be updated once they identify the fix. After a fix is found, I assume they’ll roll that into a future UR.

Fortunately, after playing around with the Outlook Client, we were able to come up with a workaround that allows you to have both the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Outlook Client installed and configured, along with Office 2010 SP1 installed, and your Outlook reminders will still appear. Here are the steps to perform this workaround:

1. Un-configure your CRM Outlook Client installation

Outlook must be closed at this point to start the CRM Configuration Wizard. You can do this by running the Configuration Wizard which is typically found in Start-> All Programs -> Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 -> Configuration Wizard. Select the Organization(s) that you’ve configured your Outlook Client for, and select “Delete”
clip_image002

2. Startup Outlook and Configure the CRM Outlook Client

When Outlook starts, it should realize that the CRM Outlook Client is installed and not configured, and then prompt you to configure the CRM Outlook Client. Go ahead and enter in your Server URL and select the correct Organization. Complete the information and click OK.
clip_image003

Your Outlook reminders should once again be firing, and CRM will be configured and available for use.

clip_image004

Unfortunately, you’ll need to go through these steps again each time you restart Outlook. While certainly not ideal, I hope this workaround will keep you working until a resolution is provided by Microsoft.

Enjoy!

Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011

Have fun with your CRM 2011 forms (and learn from my mistakes)

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 includes a bunch of new additions to the form customization options and controls. These enhancements provide even more ways to design forms for better usability, perfect for those nit-picky end users! While the form customization enhancements provide much more deisgn flexibility, there are a few downsides to watch out for. Here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind when customizing your forms:

 

1. Drag and Drop – cool or not? Where did the green arrows go?!

A cool new feature of the form designer in Dynamics CRM 2011 is the ability to use your mouse to drag and drop fields onto the form. If you’re like me, after a while you will wonder where the green arrows from 4.0 went. The good news is that you don’t need them, you can now use the arrows on your keyboard – even better!

 

2. Up to 8 columns – great idea? Watch out for different screen resolutions!

Being able to display more information with less scrolling is always a goal. In Dynamics CRM 2011, you can now add sections to tabs up to two columns and up to four columns per section. Technically that’s up to 8 columns of information which can be very useful. However, depending on the screen resolution used, you may end up with some very confused users. Below is an example of a form with 8 columns. The first example is displayed in 1366 x 768 which looks great! The second is shown in 1024 x 768 – not so great.

Large Image


Notice that the last field in the column does not display. (Now seems like a good time to remind you to test, test, test. Even if it is just customization changes.)

 

3. Less clicks – no complaints from me but beware!

If you notice on the screen shots above, you can now access the form editor directly from the ribbon of the entity that you’re on. This new option saves a lot of time when you are first customizing and testing forms. However, this convenience could be very dangerous in a production environment. Make sure that users have the appropriate security roles to prohibit them from doing this (and to all System Administrators, refer back to my message on testing).

 

4. Navigate in less time – but know what can’t be undone

Left navigation links can also be edited directly through the UI now. I love this feature because now these links can be ordered logically for the end user. To make edits to this area, click on the Navigation button on the ribbon. If you are working with links of related records, you can drag and drop from the Relationship Explorer onto the navigation area and re-order as you need to (or use your handy keyboard arrows).

Navigation

One caution on this is that you can only add one link to the navigation area for every related record. In the case of the out of the box Activities and Closed Activities links, that is actually two links to the same related record. So, if you remove those links, you will not be able to re-add them after you save the form without going back into the xml to make that update. However, before you save the form, you can use the Undo button!

 

5. Tab order – an oldie but a goody!

When customizing forms, it doesn’t matter how nice they look. If the user experience isn’t a good one, then they won’t appreciate it. Tab order is very important on forms since most users don’t use their mouse to go from field to field. The shot below (described in more detail in the Working With Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 book) shows how the tab order occurs.

Tab Order

Have fun!

Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011