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Upgrading to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015? Here's What You Should Consider


Are you currently working with a version of Dynamics CRM pre-2015?  Have you not yet experienced the new flattened “single window” UI?  Do you not know what a CRM Solution is?  Or even worse, do you still use call-outs and deploy custom web resources to the physical CRM Servers (yikes!)?  If so, it may be time to start thinking of an upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015.

Upgrading any software can be a frightening thought and something you’d rather just put on the back burner.  However, delaying the upgrade has some negative impacts as well:  you obviously miss out on the latest and greatest features, and delaying the current pain of an upgrade may mean more pain down the road if you’re not on top of the latest software. Upgrading from 2011 to 2015 is much easier than 3.0 to 2015.  In other words, your current self can rest easy, but the pain you’re causing your future self is growing by the day. 

How configured are you?

A good consideration to take when you do decide to upgrade is, how much of a beast has your CRM system become?  You may have had multiple vendors, multiple deployments, multiple internal project sponsors with different priorities of a CRM system, and years of band-aiding a system you don’t even want to think about upgrading.

In this scenario, it may be best to take a step back.  Look at the Dynamics CRM upgrade as an opportunity to clean up all the noise that has accumulated in your deployment and revalidate the work that has been done over the years.  Use this as your opportunity to deploy 2015 in a “clean slate” and interview the key business groups as if they don’t have a CRM system at all.  Just because something was built and functionality was added to your deployment, doesn’t mean it’s needed.  Ask the question “why?” and if nobody can provide an answer, seriously consider leaving it behind.

Going through this process means you’ll most likely need to write a process to migrate data from your current version, to 2015.  You don’t want to go through the upgrade process which would automatically take all your current customizations and migrate them to 2015.  Instead, you’ll want to start with a fresh install and reconfigure your environment based on the requirements you obtained during the “revalidation discovery” process.  E.g., there may be fields that drop from your schema going forward.

On the other hand, if your system is small, relatively new, and hasn’t had many deployments to it since go-live, you may want to have the upgrade process perform most of the heavy lifting for you.  This means you won’t have to write a migration process – the upgrade process will automatically perform any data conversion needed for 2015.

If your current system hasn’t been too configured, chances are that the changes you’ve made have been supported.  Therefore, they should automatically upgrade through the upgrade process with not much falling out for you to manually clean up.

Budget is a big driver of this conversation as well.  If you have a massive implementation, it may be quicker for you to start fresh and implement just those features you want to carry forward versus trying to upgrade an old archaic system with a lot of deprecated code.  However, if your implementation isn’t complex, and all your code was supported via the API and nothing is deprecated, an actual upgrade may be quicker versus redeveloping.

Pre 2011 vs. Post 2011

There are a lot of clients out there that aren’t on Dynamics CRM 2011 or greater.  If this is you, you’ll want to definitely consider adding more time to your upgrade process as 2011 introduced some pretty groundbreaking changes to the deployment model.

With 2011, all customizations and configurations are packaged up in a Solution.  This includes any custom web pages, JavaScript files, etc.  With versions prior to 2011, these files were manually deployed to the server which means that they would have to be converted to 2011 format prior to upgrading to 2015.  If you’re on 2011 or later, then that work has been done already for you.  If you’re on a pre-2011 version, then you’ll need to factor that time into your upgrade decision.

Continued Investments into Mobile

Microsoft officially entered the mobile space with Dynamics CRM 2013, and they continue to improve upon that story.  With the release of 2015 they made enhancements to the Tablet Client by introducing an offline story, and making the dashboards more configurable.

Now with 2015 Online Update 1, they have introduced a refreshed phone app that has the same rich functionality that the tablet app has.  There’s still a lot of room for improvement in these apps, and during our time at Convergence 2015, the mobile roadmap looked feature rich.  If mobility is something you’re looking to get into, upgrading to the latest version of CRM could go a long way as you’d get a free mobile app in the process.

Features, features, features

Of course, the main driver for upgrading usually is the features that the new product comes with, and Dynamics CRM 2015 doesn’t fall short in this category.  With 2015, and 2015 Online Update 1 (Carina), Microsoft has continued to add to its already feature-heavy product.  Key notable features rolled out in these latest versions are:

  • Multi Entity Search
  • Business Rules
  • Business Processes
  • Continued Mobile Improvements
  • Hierarchical Security
  • Hierarchy Visualizations
  • Outlook Sync Improvements
  • Folder Level Tracking – Outlook Email Sync
  • Refreshed UI with cleaner Site Map
  • Theming
  • Date Only Fields
  • Office Groups Integration
  • OneNote Integration
  • Immersive Excel
  • Export to Excel Improvements

If any of these features are something you’ve been waiting for in the product, an upgrade now may be a no-brainer.

If your organization is considering a Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 upgrade, please let us help you decide the best way to approach the project.

Topics: CRM Upgrade Microsoft Dynamics CRM Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015

Sonoma Partners Named the Microsoft Dynamics CRM US Service Industries FY15 Partner of the Year

Last month, Microsoft proudly announced the United States Microsoft Dynamics Partner Award winners during the US Microsoft Dynamics Annual Conference. 

“The US Partner Awards gives Microsoft Dynamics the opportunity to recognize its top partners at a global event.  We are honored to acknowledge the extraordinary contributions and success driven by our Microsoft partners serving a strategic group of customers and driving strong business impact throughout the past fiscal year.” said Marietta Davis, Vice President, US Dynamics.

Sonoma Partners was recognized with the Microsoft Dynamics CRM US Service Industries
FY15 Partner of the Year Award. The company was honored among the top Microsoft partners for demonstrating sales excellence in innovation and implementation of customer solutions based on Microsoft technology.  


Awards were presented in multiple categories, with winners chosen based on their Microsoft Fiscal Year 2015 industry and product sales performance in the United States. Sonoma Partners was recognized for providing outstanding solutions and services, as well as demonstrating excellent engagement in the in the Professional Services Industry.

“Sonoma Partners is seen as an industry leader in the area of Service Industries. They have built their organization by embracing the need to have unique specializations for success.” said Lindsay Zwart, US Partner Lead – Microsoft Dynamics.

Microsoft Dynamics Day 3 Awards-0062

Microsoft Dynamics Day 3 Awards-0147

Our Microsoft Dynamics CRM Sales Team accepting our award in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Upgrading to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015
Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Announcing CRM DevTools for CRM 2015 and Update 1!

Last January we released a brand new tool called CRM DevTools for CRM 2013 and 2011 UR12+.  Today we’re happy to announce a new update that supports CRM 2015 and CRM 2015 Update 1.  If you missed the original release, head here for usage information or here for the latest release.

Along with CRM 2015 and Update 1 support, we added a few more handy features.

Note:  Most of these new features will open a new window so be sure enable pop-ups

Form Tab – Record Properties

The Record Properties button on the Form tab brings back the old Properties page from CRM 2011 that still exists but isn’t surfaced anywhere in the UI.  The page displays the permissions on the record and the Created By, Created On, Last Modified By, and Last Modified On.



Form Tab – Performance Center

The Performance Center button on the Form tab displays the native Performance Center on top of the record form.  The Performance Center is used to debug any performance issues with a record form to see where it can be optimized.



Debug Tab

The new Debug tab replaces the old DB & Server tab.  The information from the old tab is now within the Environment Info button.  The Debug tab has 5 buttons to provide easy access to native debug pages within your CRM environment.


Debug Tab – Diagnostics Page

The Diagnostics Page button opens the native Diagnostics page for your environment.  This page helps debug any network issues and admins can use it to run a latency and bandwidth test.


Debug Tab – Environment Info

The Environment Info button opens the native Debug Information page for the CRM environment.  It contains version information for the CRM server and database, along with other settings. 


Debug Tab – Default Solution

The Default Solution button is pretty straight-forward and will open up the default solution for the organization.

Debug Tab – CRM For Tablets

The CRM For Tablets button will open up the CRM For Tablets app within your browser.  This is very handy to help debug any JavaScript issues with the app.  The native browser developer tools can be used to see any JavaScript errors that might occur within the app.  It can also be used to just see how the app will look with your organization.


We hope you enjoy the latest release of CRM DevTools as much as we do!  Hit us up in the comments with any feedback or suggestions for future releases.

Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Refreshed Dynamics CRM Phone App Available

A few months back, Microsoft announced the new and improved version of their Phone Client would be available with the Spring 2015 release.  However, with releasing any app to the various app stores, they’re not released immediately.

However, recently the app did show up in the Apple app store and we were able to get our hands on it to take a look and compare it to the previous version.  The previous version is still available in the app store, and has been rebranded “Dynamics CRM for phones express.”  A couple years ago we blogged about it’s release and the functionality it provided back then.  I linked to that post so you could compare and contrast the look and feel of the previous express version, to the new and improved version.

The new version, branded “Dynamics CRM for phones”, is now available in the Apple store, Windows store, and Android store.  You can tell the difference in the apps based on the icon and name.


Microsoft is moving to a “configure once, deploy everywhere model.”  What does that mean?  That means the life of a configurator is going to be that much better.  More specifically, the form customizations you make in the CRM web client, will now not only be what you see on the CRM Tablet client (as they have been since it’s release), but will also be what you see on the new CRM Phone client.  Therefore instead of having to update the main forms AND the mobile express forms, you’ll just need to update the main form for any changes you make to be applied across the board.

Now to the details.  What does the new Phone Client look like?  Well if you’ve used the Tablet Client before, it’ll look very similar to that.

When you initially log in (requiring only your IFD URL to your organization, user id and password), you’ll see your home page.  This home page is the Sales Dashboard.  However, in the Web Client, you can create additional dashboards that can be selected when you’re on the home page on the Phone Client, and you can also make that dashboard your default dashboard.

image  image

As you can see, from here you’re able to view records that you’ve pinned to your home page.  You can also resize tiles that are on your home page and this makes it super convenient for records with contact information like the Patrick Sands sample contact record above.  You can easily email and call this contact now directly from your home page without having to click into his record.

You can also see at the top of the page the global menu bar which has the following commands from left to right:

  • Back – takes you to previous pages
  • Home – takes you to your home page
  • Search – initiates a multi-entity search
  • Site Map – displays the entities you can navigate to

Also on all pages at the bottom right is an ellipses.  Clicking on this presents more options for the area you’re working in, as well as allows you to create a new record from anywhere you’re at within the application.


When you navigate to an entity from the site map, you can create a new record of that entity type by clicking the plus button at the top of the page.

image image

When on a record, you can view the data about the record and related data very easily.  The Phone Client now uses the same exact forms that the Tablet Client and Web Client use (configure once, deploy everywhere).  If you’re going in to talk to a customer, you can navigate to their account and view any open cases or opportunities immediately from the Phone Client.  You can click into an Opportunity to then see the process based form, and where you’re at within the sales process.

image image image

The phone app also allows you to easily create emails and make phone calls by clicking on email address and phone number fields.  The email fields will automatically open your native email client, and the phone fields will automatically initiate your phone client.  The good thing is after you hang up the call, you’re returned to CRM with a new phone form initiated so you can just punch in the details and click save.

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The integration between the Phone Client and the native mobile phone doesn’t end there.  Any address field on the application is clickable, and when doing so, you’ll open up the native map application.

The Phone Client also has a disconnected mode just like the Tablet Client.  While the offline mode is better that previous versions, this is still lacking in that it’s not showing you all records that you have access to, but instead, recently accessed records.  You can create new records while offline (called offline drafts), but unfortunately you cannot modify records while offline unless it was one that you just created while offline.  You can view your offline draft records by navigating to them via the Site Map (you’ll see a new “Draft Records” entry with a count of drafts).  Then when you’re back online, you can go into this list of drafts, and re-save them for them to save to the CRM database.  Not ideal, but is much better than nothing, and I’m really looking forward to what Microsoft has in store for vNext.

image image image

It’s great to see Microsoft continue this “mobile first’ mode and add more products to it’s repertoire.  Enhancing the Mobile Express app and making a true mobile phone app now rounds out their suite of products (web, tablet, phone) to all be first class.  Next steps are to add more features to these apps so that functionality that’s available on the web, is also available on these apps (e.g., custom web resources).  I’m also looking forward to seeing how they further improve on their offline story, and hopeful they provide a true offline solution where users can work with existing records while offline, and not only new records they create while offline.

However, as you can see, the application is pretty robust as it stands.  And the best part is the cost:  FREE!  Go ahead and download your copy now and start playing around.

Topics: Enterprise Mobility Microsoft Dynamics CRM Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

You Too Can Snoop… But Not In A Creepy Way

Today’s guest blogger is Stephen Habegger, a Senior Developer at Sonoma Partners.

Awhile back, we showcased an application called CRM Snoop on our website. Snoop is a tool that allows developers to listen to Dynamics CRM plugin messages and peer into the darkest depths of an IPluginExecutionContext object. It’s a tool that can be extremely useful for plugin debugging and development and was only available for use internally at Sonoma Partners… until now.

We’ve recently revamped the application completely, moving away from its former incarnation as a WPF application and creating a new managed solution that can be installed in both on-premise and online Dynamics CRM 2015 environments. And now we’re making the solution publicly available here.

What’s In the Solution?

The Snoop solution will create two new entities in your Dynamics CRM organization, Snoop Session and Snoop Session Results. A Snoop Session represents a configuration for snooping on plugin messages (i.e. what entities and what messages you want to listen to). When you start recording a set of messages, a plugin is registered on those messages, and they are saved as Snoop Session Results records.

How Do I Use It?

After installing the CRMSnoop managed solution, navigate to Settings > Solutions. Click the new Snoop Sessions button in the command bar.


A new window will launch with a list of Snoop Session records. Open one or create a new one. When the form has loaded, select the entities and messages you wish to record. Optionally, select Include Available Images to register Pre and Post Entity Images where applicable. You can also select Only Record My Actions to ensure actions performed by other users don’t show up in your results. Then, just click Start Recording.


After you begin recording, the Results section of the Snoop Session form will display an animated timeline of messages as they happen. You can click on the message icons in the timeline or in the table below to display the detailed properties of the IPluginExecutionContext passed to the plugin message. When you are finished recording, click the Pause Recording button.



You can also navigate to the list of related Snoop Session Results in the header of the Snoop Session form. The form for an individual Snoop Session Results record also displays the results for that particular message.


It is important to note that the recording process relies on the Snoop Session record status. That means recording does not end automatically when the Snoop Session form is closed. The recording must be stopped by clicking the Pause Recording button. The recording may be resumed at any time with the same or altered configuration. In some scenarios it may make sense to let a recording continue over a period of time. However, we do not recommend this in a production environment as there may be a performance impact.

What Is It Good For?

Snoop is an excellent tool for developing and debugging plugins in a variety of scenarios. It allows the developer to see the input a plugin may receive without profiling or attaching a debugger. Use it to check out what fields are changing during an Update operation. Keep a link handy to a specific Snoop Session Results record for when you don’t remember what’s in that pesky Opportunity Won message. Record in a User Acceptance Testing environment to collect a log and figure out what those crazy users are doing to break your plugin.

Will you find another use for Snoop? Let us know what your favorite features are and how you use it.


Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

CRM Online Spring 2015 – Alternate Keys

With the release of CRM Online Spring 2015 Update, Microsoft delivered the ability to define alternate keys for an entity.  Alternate keys can be one or many attributes that are a unique combination of columns to uniquely identify a record instead of using the typical primary key.  Alternate keys can be made up from a combination of decimal, integer or string attributes.

Lets dig into how the new alternate keys can work in CRM based on a real-world scenario.

In my example we have an entity for States and our Contact entity has a Lookup to the State entity.  The State entity has an attribute called Code where it will store the unique two character abbreviation for the State such as IL for Illinois.  There is an integration with another system where Contacts will be passed to Dynamics along with the two character abbreviation for State.  Alternate keys work perfectly in this scenario as we can just associate the State record to the Contact record by using the State’s Code instead of needing to query to find it’s GUID.

In order to accomplish this, we first need to go to the customizations for the State entity.  Underneath the entity is a new link for Keys.


Click New which will open a dialog and let you pick one or more keys that will make up a unique combination to identify a record.  We will select Code as a Key for our State entity.


Now with the SDK when updating a Contact record, in order the set a Lookup value we would need to use the EntityReference object and provide a GUID to a State record but with the latest Spring Update and the latest SDK, we can instead pass in a value for the Code attribute like shown in the snippet below.

Therefore if our integration sends us a Code for the Contact’s State such as “IL”, we can just update our Contact record using the “IL” value and avoid needing to do a query against the State entity to find the GUID for the IL State record.

One last thing to point out about alternate keys is that CRM will put a constraint on the entity to make sure the new alternate keys make up a unique identifier for the entity.  If you try creating a record with a duplicate set of alternate keys, you will see an error similar to the one shown below.


Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

How to Mass Update Business Process Stages

Today's guest blogger is Rachel Sullivan, a Senior Consultant at Sonoma Partners

CRM allows you to easily update fields on records using their bulk edit functionality.  Records that you can query and return back in a list/grid can all be edited using this functionality.

However, since it’s currently not a field on the Opportunity form, there is no way to update the Business Process stage using this native bulk edit feature.  However, fear not, as Sonoma is here to provide a workaround on how to edit this field using native export/import.

In order to update the Business Process Stage using this workaround, follow these steps below.

1. You’ll first need to find the unique identifier of each process stage (the GUID).   To accomplish this, use Advanced Find to identify the opportunities that you would like to update.

3. Edit the columns and include Process Stage

4. Click Results and from this view, you can see all of the unique Process Stages and their GUIDS


You will need to match each unique GUID with the Process Stage Name.  The easiest way to do this is to open a record of each unique Process Stage value, view the Process Stage name.  Do this for each unique Process Stage.

For Example:

  • d3ca8878-8d7b-47b9-852d-fcd838790cfd = Propose
  • 650e06b4-789b-46c1-822b-0da76bedb1ed = Develop


5. Once all GUIDS are gathered, you’ll need to export the records that you’d like to update.  When doing this, make sure to check the box that makes the file available for re-import (note that with CRM 2015 Online Update 1, all records are automatically exported for reimport and this step isn’t necessary.  This should come to CRM 2015 On Prem in the fall).  Save the file locally and open it with Excel.


6. Once in Excel, copy and paste the GUID of the business process stage (that you’d like to change each record to) into the Process Stage column.  Save the file and import back into CRM.

Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

VIDEO: Sonoma Partners Relationship Mapper

The Sonoma Partners Relationship Mapper for Microsoft Dynamics CRM allows you to see who knows who and how. It's an easy, drop-in solution that you can just add into your Dynamics CRM instance to visually see which relationships exist in your system. 


Contact us learn more about Relationship Mapper for Dynamics CRM.

The Negative Effects of a Disjointed CRM System
Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM

INFOGRAPHIC: 2015 State of Knowledge for Customer Service

Note: The following is a guest post from Parature, from Microsoft Sr. Product Marketing Manager Tricia Morris. Tricia promotes Parature's focus on customer service thought leadership and best practices through Parature's customer service blog. 

Customers’ expectations for brands and organizations delivering the right answer at the right time, whether through assisted or self-service, continue to grow. In the The Real Self-Service Economy Report, 70% of consumers surveyed now expect a company website to include a self-service application.

In the most recent American Express Customer Service Barometer, 99% of consumers say that getting a satisfactory answer or being connected to someone knowledgeable are important prerequisites to a great customer service experience. But while customers are expecting more, many brands and organizations are struggling with providing the knowledge agents and employees need to consistently deliver the right answers at the right time across all major service and engagement channels.

This infographic presents a snapshot view of the current state of knowledge delivery when it comes to customer service, showing that we should never be content with our customer service content:


Empowering Employees, Engaging Customers with
Parature Knowledge within Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Knowledge and knowledge management serve as the basis for productive, proactive and consistent assisted and self-service customer care. When both employees and customers can find the right answers at the right time, delivered on the channel of their choice or convenience, satisfaction is sure to rise.

Knowledge on every desktop is the foundation for Parature and Microsoft Dynamics CRM’s powerful and growing integration success story. Teamed with Microsoft Dynamics CRM’s case management, this easy access to and delivery of knowledge empowers employees and engages customers for greater service success. Click here to download the feature sheet or contact Sonoma Partners to make this powerful integration work for your brand or organization.

Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Always Look on the Bright Side of Your Data

Today’s post is courtesy of Ross Talbot, a Development Principal at Sonoma Partners.

In our continuing coverage of new features included in the CRM Online Spring 2015 Update, today we will be talking about optimistic concurrency.

First, a little review of data quality and minimizing data loss. Just as in life, there are two basic models for minimizing loss when updating data in your database: optimistic concurrency and pessimistic concurrency. Pessimistic concurrency uses row locks to prevent others from making changes while you are performing an update. This prevents a conflict by calling “dibs” and then releasing the lock when you are done. Optimistic concurrency involves an attempt to update and then a rollback if there is a conflict. This prevents a conflict by stopping the second update and letting the user know via an error message. Optimistic data tries first before stopping, and pessimistic data fights others off until its update is complete.

What does this mean for Dynamics CRM today? The lifeblood of your business starts with your customers, so from a CRM system perspective your customer data is vital. With integrations, mobile applications, and multiple users accessing and updating this data, you want to be sure that a situation that could potentially result in data loss is handled in a way that minimizes that potential issue. So let’s dive into an example of how these updates can be used in your code.

Before we start, optimistic concurrency is supported with this update on all out of the box entities enabled for offline sync as well as all custom entities. This is found as a metadata setting “IsOptimisticConcurrencyEnabled” and is set to true if the entity supports it. I have also set up a console app with some basic logging and an organization service to create a contact and test optimistic concurrency via an update and a delete.

Inside the app, I create Bob Brightside and then retrieve the record again so I can obtain the Row Version needed to check during our Update attempt.


From our log file, I see that Bob was created and that the current Row Version is 459773:
INFO "Contact Bob Brightside created with id: 24496e99-470a-e511-80d9-c4346bac7dac"
INFO "Row Version before update attempt: 459773"

Next, I use a breakpoint in my console app to simulate the timing of two updates. One will be made in my console app and the other in the browser. In my code, I will change the First Name field on the contact to Robert. I use the new ConcurrencyBehavior property to check the row version on my update. If the Row Version in CRM matches the Row Version of the contact record I am updating, the update will succeed. If these versions do not match, or if no Row Version is specified, the update will fail. I pause at the breakpoint in order to update the contact via the CRM web interface, changing the First Name field to Mr. replacing Bob.


When I resume my console app, the update request is executed and the update fails.


From our log file, we see that the concurrency check noticed another change had occurred and prevented our update:
ERROR "Concurrency Check Failed: The version of the existing record doesn't match the RowVersion property provided."

Next, I retrieve the record again to ensure I have the latest Row Version. Our log shows this has been updated: INFO "Row Version after update attempt: 459780"
I now execute a Delete Request with the updated contact and the ConcurrencyBehavior property set to IfRowVersionMatches, and since no other updates have been made this request succeeds.


Here is a link to the MSDN article detailing this new feature for more information about the supported entities, fault codes when concurrency checks throw an exception, and additional sample code.

Are you having any issues with your CRM deployment? Concerned that you aren’t doing enough to prevent data loss? Don’t grumble, give a whistle. We can help things turn out for the best.

Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online