I was on a conference call today and the customer asked me a question I didn't know the answer to off the top of my head: "When does Microsoft stop supporting Microsoft CRM 3.0"? After the call, I looked up the published support lifecycle for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0:
- Product release date: 12/1/2005
- Mainstream support retired: 4/12/2011
- Extended support retired: 4/12/2016
This is interesting because the total support duration for Microsoft Dynamics CRM is more than 10 years! In the past, Microsoft offered a three-year Mainstream Support Lifecycle policy but they obviously changed that policy to offer longer windows of support. Consequently, customers can invest in the Dynamics CRM platform without worrying about being forced to upgrade on their vendor's timetable. Microsoft allows plenty of time for customers to make the upgrade decision when it is right for them.
After downloading the CRM 4.0 RTM bits, I took a look at the read me files and noticed that the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 Implementation Guide is available for download too. In the 3.0 version, the Implementation Guide was one giant document but for 4.0 they (wisely) split the information into three smaller and more specific documents:
Planning Guide: Use this to determine you what you need to plan for Microsoft Dynamics CRM. It includes two main aspects , technical and implementation methodologies:
- Technical. These topics focus on such areas as the supported topologies, system requirements, and technical considerations to address before installation.
- Implementation Methodology. Learn about the business management, CRM requirements and project-management aspects that are needed when you deploy a CRM system. In addition, there are several documents that you can use as tools to plan the implementation of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, which are in the planningtools folder where the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 Implementation Guide is located.
- Installing Guide: Use this guide to learn about what you need to install Microsoft Dynamics CRM, such as step-by-step instructions for running Setup, command-line installation instructions, and guidance about how to remove Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
- Operating and Maintaining Guide: You can read this guide to learn how to back up, restore, and perform system recovery for Microsoft Dynamics CRM data. Also, this guide has troubleshooting steps for known issues.
The Implementation Guide documents are a must read for any customer or partner using Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0.
As part of writing Chapter 1 in our new book, I did some research on using Microsoft CRM with a non-Internet Explorer web browser. Of course, Firefox is the most common request so I poked around to see what I could find. The good news is that, yes, it's possible to run Microsoft CRM with Firefox! Of course, I wouldn't recommend this for a production deployment because Microsoft won't support it...but it definitely appears to work. The key is that you need to install a Firefox extension named IE Tab. I am not an expert at browser technologies, but my understanding is that the IE Tab extension uses the Internet Explorer rendering engine to display web pages within Firefox. Lastly, I didn't test this too thoroughly but I did click around for a few minutes and everything seemed fine. Personally, I don't like Firefox so I'll continue to stick with IE...I considered this as more of a proof-of-concept to see what's possible.
To view your Microsoft CRM site in Firefox, simply follow these steps:
1. Install the IE Tab extension in Firefox and then browse to your Microsoft CRM site. You'll receive the login prompt:
2. When it loads, you'll see a mess like this (screenshot taken from Microsoft CRM 4.0/Titan CTP3 build):
3. Right-click on the page and select "View Page in IE Tab". You can also left-click the Firefox icon in the lower-right corner of the window to change to IE View.
4. Voila! Microsoft CRM loads just like it does in Internet Explorer!
5. You can also configure the IE Tab options and add a specific URL so that it ALWAYS renders the page using the IE engine (like I did here by adding the URL http://prodctp3/*). This will save you a few clicks if you visit the same Microsoft CRM site repeatedly.
Note: Even though these screenshots show Microsoft CRM 4.0/Titan, this also works with Microsoft CRM 3.0!
Just recently, I noticed that I was having problems tracking my Outlook appointments to Microsoft CRM. When I tracked an appointment and saved it, I would receive the following error message:
To make matters worse, if you click "Yes" and save the appointment with errors the next time that the CRM Client for Outlook syncs it will remove this appointment from your calendar entirely. Yikes! Obviously tracking Outlook appointments in CRM is one of the key benefits of the system so I wanted to get it working again...and fast.
Fortunately, Microsoft's support website is very strong so I was hopeful that I could find a resolution to my problem online. I logged into the PartnerSource website(customers would log into the CustomerSource website) and I entered the error message text into the KnowledgeBase search feature. Voila! I found KB Article #911516 had the answer to my problem. If the owner of the appointment (the person clicking "Track in CRM") has their email address in the CRM database more than once, you will receive this error. Each record in Microsoft CRM only has one owner, so duplicate email addresses would obviously cause this problem because the system can't determine which record should be the owner. It would be nice if the error message said that instead of the somewhat misleading "No resources have been selected for this activity" text, but I was still able to track down this problem within just a few minutes.
This problem appeared recently because I had entered my email address into a test Lead record to send sample ExactTarget emails to ourselves. When I removed my duplicate email address, I was able to track appointments again without any problems.
On a side note, you won't be able to access this KB article in the public Microsoft support search so you'll need to make sure you get access to the KB articles on CustomerSource/PartnerSource. The content there is different sometimes than the public support site.
Ok, I know this is old news (from way back in February 2007) but we just posted the Forrester CRM Study file to SonomaPartners.com, and I thought it was worth sharing this chart that shows how Forrester viewed the various CRM applications. As you can see, Microsoft Dynamics CRM received the best rating on "Current Offering" and the best rating on "Strategy" as well. Can't argue with that!
We conducted our webinar titled "Advanced E-mail Marketing within Microsoft Dynamics CRM Using ExactTarget's E-mail Platform" this morning and it was a success. If you're interested in watching the recording of the event, we posted it here.
In addition, we updated the www.SonomaPartners.com website with an Events page so that customers can easily view all of our upcoming and prior webinars in one spot. For the upcoming webinars, we posted the DRAFT topics, and we'll be working the agenda and details over the next few weeks. Please let us know if there is something specific you want to see!
Reporting, Analysis and Dashboards in Microsoft CRM
More details to be announced
Thursday September 27, 2007
10:00am Central Time
Check beck for details and registration information
Empower Your Sales Team with Remote and Mobile CRM solutions
More details to be announced
Thursday October 25, 2007
10:00am Central Time
Check beck for details and registration information
At the same time, we posted the new Events page we also included a link with all of the news references to Sonoma Partners over the past few years. Check out Sonoma Partners in the news here.
Due to the great success of our past webinars, we've decided to continue holding one webinar each month through the end of the year! With that said, I'm very excited to announce the details behind our new upcoming webinar on August 23rd at 10:00am Central time.
Advanced E-mail Marketing within Microsoft Dynamics CRM Using ExactTarget's E-mail Platform
Don't you wish you and your salespeople could tell which prospects opened and clicked on the marketing emails sent from your Microsoft CRM system? Wouldn't it be great to see each individual's responses to your various e-mail marketing efforts directly within the context of all your other CRM data? Shouldn't you be able to access of your key e-mail marketing data directly within Microsoft CRM without having to log into different systems?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, join this webinar to learn how to improve your e-mail marketing and sales efforts by combining Microsoft CRM with ExactTarget's e-mail marketing add-on. As the market leader in on-demand email software solutions, ExactTarget has over 5,500 customers worldwide and best-of-class technology to help you create, deliver and manage professional e-mail marketing initiatives. With Sonoma Partners as their technology partner, ExactTarget developed integration software titled "ExactTarget for Microsoft Dynamics CRM" that allows you to seamlessly access their powerful e-mail marketing tools directly within Microsoft CRM.
With "ExactTarget for Microsoft Dynamics CRM", you can:
- Measure and report on email opens, clicks and bounces
- Deliver personal and relevant content
- Manage profile changes automatically
- Honor opt-out requests for CAN-SPAM compliance
This one hour webinar will give you some background on the "ExactTarget for Microsoft Dynamics CRM" product, and then provide live demonstrations of the integration software working within Microsoft CRM. We'll also explain how you can engage with Sonoma Partners and ExactTarget to setup and deploy your own e-mail marketing campaigns with Microsoft CRM.
I am really excited about this event because the ExactTarget integration software with Microsoft CRM is simply amazing! The direct email feature in Microsoft CRM is nice, but it has some limitations such as:
- All emails are sent through your mail server, so you need to be very careful about sending large volumes of email.
- The template editor is somewhat limited and it is tricky (and/or) impossible to include conditional content in the email.
- Email open, click and bounce data isn't captured or reported on.
Because they're the market leader in e-mail marketing, ExactTarget has answers for all of these issues. And since our company Sonoma Partners helped ExactTarget build the integration software, we know it's technically sound! We've been using the "ExactTarget for Microsoft Dynamics CRM" integration software on our live production system for about 4 or 5 months now and it works like a charm. Here's a quick teaser screenshot that shows how users can send ExactTarget emails to all the records attached to a marketing campaign directly within the Microsoft CRM user interface.
If you're interested in attending, register now as this event will absolutely fill up! If you can't wait for the webinar and you want to talk about the ExactTarget integration for Microsoft CRM, please contact us and we'll give you all the details.
Yesterday we conducted our webinar titled "Improving Sales and Marketing Effectiveness with Microsoft CRM" and I'd say it was a big success! As I mentioned last week, the webinar was totally sold out with pre-registrations and we had a great turn out yesterday. If you missed the event and you're interested in viewing the webinar and listening to me talk for an hour about how Microsoft CRM is the greatest thing since sliced bread, we recorded it and you can view it online:
Even though the event went well overall, I did make a few rookie technical mistakes recording this LiveMeeting. We confirmed all of these issues with the LiveMeeting technical support team after the event.
- To improve the quality of the PowerPoint images, you should select 16-bit color instead of 24-bit color.
- In addition, I should have uploaded my PowerPoint presentation to LiveMeeting and selected it as a resource (instead of sharing it as an application).
- When share an application, you should click the "Auto hide sidebar" check box so you don't have the black column on the left side of the screen.
I promise not to make these mistakes when we record our next webinar. Speaking of that, we've settled on a date, time and topic for our next session. The event is titled "How to Replace Your Custom Software Application with Microsoft CRM 3.0 as a Business Software Platform" (yes, that's a mouthful) and it will take place on July 26th. Here's a synopsis of the material we'll cover:
How to Replace Your Custom Software Application with Microsoft CRM 3.0 as a Business Software Platform
Does your company manage multiple "home grown" software applications that you've bolted on bits and pieces over the years? Does the code base look like a Frankenstein-ed mess of spaghetti code? Do simple changes take forever to implement and you're absolutely scared to death trying to figure out how you will tackle the bigger system changes that the executives are considering?
If you've answered "yes" to any of the above questions, join this webinar to learn how you can save yourself and your company tons of headaches, time and money by implementing Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 as your software business platform. In just one hour, we'll show you the benefits you'll gain by deploying a highly customized off-the-shelf product like Microsoft CRM 3.0 instead of creating a custom application from scratch. We'll also show you real-world examples of our how customers are extending CRM software functionality beyond the traditional boundaries of Sales, Marketing and Customer Service into the more complex operational, transactional and integration-intense areas of their business.
Somewhat ironically and entirely coincidentally, I noticed that Michaeljon Miller blogged about Microsoft CRM as an application platform today. He's a super smart guy so his blog post talks about stuff like "enumerations, elemental types, and higher-level types". Consequently he's making me feel real dumb because I was just planning to use the webinar to demo a bunch of the cool non-traditional business applications we built for customers using Microsoft CRM!
One of the very common requests that we receive is that customers would like to see a "dashboard" of all their Microsoft CRM data. Users want a dashboard so that they can view all sort of different charts and reports on a single page without having to click to a bunch of different places. Makes sense, right?
Well unfortunately Microsoft CRM 3.0 does not include a dashboard generator out-of-the-box. That's the bad news. The good news is that it isn't really too hard to create a great looking dashboard using custom code and the Microsoft CRM SDK. We recently built a few dashboards and I thought people might be interested to see what a some finished products look like.
In my opinion, the Track in CRM functionality is one of the most useful pieces of integration between Outlook and Microsoft CRM. The one drawback with this feature is that Microsoft didn't provide a way to "untrack" a record (specifically email records). I have found that sometimes I may have clicked "Track in CRM" on the wrong email or even more common is setting the wrong regarding record on accident.
Recently a customer of ours did just that...accidentally set the wrong regarding record on an email. They figured the easiest solution was to simply deleted the email record in CRM, and then just re-track the email. Makes sense, except that deleting the email in CRM doesn't update the user's Outlook email, so now that email is tracked to a missing email record in CRM and producing an error when the "View in CRM" button is clicked. Ugh!
Well, this call finally spurred me to figure out a solution/work around and here is one approach to resolving this.
When an Outlook record (email, task, appointment, contact) is tracked in CRM, the Microsoft CRM client add-in will create the record in CRM and take the resulting information and store it in a handful of custom created user-defined fields in the outlook record. This is easily seen when examining a contact record in Outlook 2007 by clicking the All Fields button.
If you want to untrack a CRM contact record, you can simply edit the crmLinkState value to 0 and remove the value in the crmid field. Then click Save, and you will see that the Track in CRM button is enabled again. Now if you were to click Track in CRM and save again, a NEW record would then be created and linked in Microsoft CRM.
Too easy...I just need to do these steps on the email record and I will be all set. The only problem is that I was unable to find out how to show the user defined fields on the email record easily (if someone knows how, drop me a line). In addition, Outlook 2007 does a nice job of hiding the developer actions. To alter the email record's hidden fields, I then did the following:
1. Enabled the Developer tab in the Ribbon
(Tools, Options, Other tab, Advanced Options, Check Show Developer tab in Ribbon)
2. With the Developer tab enabled, when you open an email record, you will now see a new tab called Developer in the Ribbon. Click that tab, and then click the Design This Form button.
3. Click the (All Fields) tab and you will see the CRM user defined fields. Delete the values of all the CRM fields listed here, click Save, and then Close the form.
4. Reopen the email, and you will see that you can select Track in CRM button again and create a new email activity record in CRM.
- If you try this on a record not tracked in CRM, you will not see the user defined CRM fields.
- This just removes the LINK to a CRM record. It will not delete the activity record in CRM. You will need to manually delete the CRM activity and avoid having duplicate records in CRM.
- If you don't remove the crmid, then when you click track it will just pick up on the existing record. For contacts, it will actually provide you the following duplicate detection dialog. Just as you expect, if you were to click Yes, you would then create a new contact record.
- Data synchronization should continue to work. Be careful when creating duplicate records for contacts, appointments, and tasks, as you may end up seeing multiples if you leave the originally tracked records in Microsoft CRM.
- You can perform similar steps for tasks and appointment records.
- This is probably unsupported, so use with caution. It might have some other unintented side effects as well, but I haven't encountered them yet.
Finally, I have created a simple Outlook macro that will perform the steps outlined above and is easier to use, but that will be another post. Stay tuned!