What’s new in CRM 2015 Spring Release?

Thanks to MSFT Group Program Manager, Oren Ryngler for this amazing session. Exciting stuff guys.

Overview


Across the traditional sales cycle there are numerous products available to help sales team be more productivity:

Here is the mapping of tools across this process flow:


Immersive experience across applications means that contextual information from CRM is available in other applications. This is the primary focus of spring release. Here are some awesome features.

Who has Clients complaining about CRM outlook Client because it’s heavy and slow? This is for you 🙂

1. Outlook Client for CRM (Spring Release – May)

  • Folder based tracking
    • Outlook folders can be configured to synchronize with CRM
    • When an emails comes in user can just drag and drop in the right folder and it will show up in CRM
    • Another way is to automate further is to have inbox rules that will move emails to a folder and then the emails will be tracked in CRM
    • Setting it up in CRM
      • Go into Options in CRM
      • Go to Set Personal Settings
        • New feature: Folder level tracking
        • All the folders are available in this section from Exchange
        • You can select the account to map this folder to
  • Outlook Apps: (Spring release)
    • Outlook client is heavy so MSFT is going to release outlook app for CRM
    • Important: Outlook app does not have to follow release cycle for Outlook or CRM 🙂
    • You can track emails and then get info from CRM
      • Against an email you see the “Dynamics CRM application” link in outlook

 

  • If user is in CRM all the information will be available from CRM in the application
    • Scenarios like all the relative information pertaining to following:
      • Communication
      • Cases
      • Opportunities
    • So in case someone has already reached out to the contact then one does not have to do that again.
  • One can hit track and it shows all the relevant entities
    • 99% of the time it is a matter of one click to select the record to track it against
    • One can search if not available as well


    • Create Case, Opportunity, Lead or contact from the email using the “New” incase suggested records are not relevant.


    • Outlook app is built using the mobile web interface technology so all customizations can be exposed like they can be for mobile from CRM
    • All new views will be available on all different devices
      • Phone, tablet and now the outlook app
    • After Spring release:
      • Enhancements:
        • Relationship intelligence:
          • Who was the last person who interacted with User
          • Not only pull information from CRM but also from outlook. Emails that are not tracked in CRM. I don’t know how they will make it work with mailboxes and how they will handle security but this is what was shared today.
          • Email analytics:
            • Get a notification when customer opens up email
        • Integrated Compose:
          • As you compose an email you can attach all the material like you do in outlook but there would be suggested material based on relevance.


2. Integration with Microsoft OneNote (Spring Release May)

        • I love OneNote and this is one product about which I can say that everyone else I know loves as well. Really excited about this feature.
        • CRM would not allow you to access OneNote just like Notes.
          • Advantages of OneNote compared to existing Notes section


        • Experience:
          • In addition to notes link one also has access OneNote section
          • In windows tablet it opens it side by side
          • All the sections from OneNote notebook appear in CRM
            • OneNote would allow you to add recordings
            • Sound to text feature
            • Pictures
            • Copy text from image and copy your info in notes:
              • Business card example
          • Each notebook relates to one entity
            • Each section is a new note
          • Setting it up:
            • Enable one note for entities in CRM
              • It creates a shared one note for entity in SharePoint


3. Immersive Excel

        • Open opportunities view
          • Just like export to excel functionality there is no a button to open view in Excel
          • Opens view in Excel online but it is embedded within CRM. It opens it in CRM context.


        • So on your view click on open in excel and it open up within CRM so you don’t lose the context
        • Experience:
          • Do calculations:
            • Play around with numbers and do your analytics
            • Save it and it will be integrated in CRM directly
            • So all the rows will be updated in CRM through data import. It supports up to 100, 000 rows.
          • After Spring Release:
            • Whenever you export to excel you will get pre-defined templates to create dashboards
            • Power BI dashboards:

4. Collaborative selling

      • Collaborate around one note
      • Immersive Excel
      • Yammer:
        • All the features
      • Skype for business (announced today)
        • Now lync is Skype for business
        • Share screen
        • Presence inside Dynamics CRM
      • Document management:
        • Open your documents in CRM
        • Spring release will support CRM online with SharePoint on-premises
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Cloud Services – Bridging the gap between two Worlds

I wrote a blog, “Race to the Cloud”, about taking into consideration all the Pros and Cons before making a decision to build an application for cloud or hosting a service on the cloud. I got a lot of good feedback based on which I want to share what I see as the new trend in corporate world. The underlying theme, at least in my mind is the same as my previous blog but I will try to be more explicit in this one.

A friend of mine attended a CTO conference couple of years back and he shared that the theme for the conference was ‘New IT’. In reference to that conference, ‘New IT’ was about companies presenting newer versions of their solutions with additional functionality in front of CTOs in an effort to sell their products. However for me, based on feedback and discussions with a lot of friends and colleagues, “New IT” is about bridging the gap between consumer world and the corporate world. Making business applications that allow effective management of time yet are a lot of fun to use. Think of a CRM system that is as fun as Facebook. Yes there is a correlation as Facebook, in a way, is a contact management application. If that happens you will not have to check on employees to keep them from logging into Facebook in office hours. Mobile access to business applications that allows getting things done in a cool, sleek and time efficient manner. Applications that allow and facilitate team collaboration and insight. That is what New IT should be all about. In order to get there the race between Line of business applications in terms of functionality needs to end. Business applications no longer need to have a checklist of functionality with one application being better than the other based on additional features. The differentiator should be usability and design that makes the application likable. Users want to log back into applications not just because of pending work but also to explore additional functionality and enjoying the experience as they get their work done. Application still needs to provide functionality to get work done but the focus needs to be on user experience and customer delight.

“New IT” as defined above is where I see Cloud computing delivering on its promise. Applications hosted on the Cloud by Oracle, MSFT, Google or other service providers expose the functionality and features that address a business problem like CRM application helps manage customers, Agile PLM manages product life cycle, SharePoint manages documents and team collaboration, e-mail applications manage messages and go-to meeting or webex help manage meetings. These application are exposed via web services to end-users and Partners for them to use the functionality as well as extend the applications. Users and Partners can benefit from this opportunity to build add-ons, extensions, mobile applications and enhancements on top of the hosted platforms to improve user experience and make these applications fun to use. As the core functionality is already available so the focus needs to be on user interaction. This can help in bridging the gap between consumer and corporate space as IT team working for a start-up or tech savvy end-users are not bound to follow processes, procedures and get feature set approvals to have certain features/changes incorporated in the product lifecycle. Small Product companies leveraging cloud solutions are more likely to be innovative and creative about their offering than big corporate giants.

In MSFT eco-system, MSFT expects the partners to play the “New IT” solution provider role. In my viewpoint some of the challenges related to that are based on the way partners operate in addition to how MSFT pushed its cloud offering in the beginning. MSFT message related to Cloud offering always had an underlying theme of cost savings which in my viewpoint was not helpful. If MSFT had just focused on cloud offering as a recipe to undo the pains associated with managing and hosting applications that would have been a much stronger message. “MSFT cloud services to make your lives better by easy to manage and ready to go products” sounds better right? On the other hands as most of MSFT Partners, at least in CRM space, are service providers so they tend to align themselves with MSFT marketing message. Partners focused more on how to reduce CRM setup time and fulfill client expectations to pay less with cloud offering than on how to add more value. MSFT helped train partners on how to sell in waves and reduce sales cycle but not on how to leverage xRM to deliver more value. Independent Service Providers (ISVs) have built add-ons and applications but again the focus mostly has been on the feature set. I believe that going forward the companies that would flourish would focus mostly on “New IT” which is bridging the gap between corporate and consumer world. Building fun to use applications that make our lives better.

 

 

Custom Reports not working and ‘rsProcessingAborted’ error on MS Dynamics CRM with NLB

I try not to write about stuff that is available all over the web but i am still writing this blog because i could not find a solution for this online. I ran into alot of issues with our Reporting Server setup for CRM 2011 on-premises and had to spend a lot of hours before i could figure it out. First of all i really miss my old IT team as they were awesome and because of those guys i never had to deal with IT issues. Anyways so here are the details of the error along with the solution.

Dreaded rsProcessingAborted was what i got to start with. I checked the error log on the reporting server. I had following error in the log.

Microsoft.ReportingServices.ReportProcessing.ReportProcessingException: Query execution failed for dataset ‘DSMain’.Microsoft.Crm.Reporting.DataExtensionShim.Common.ReportExecutionException:
Microsoft.Crm.CrmException: An unexpected error occurred.
System.ServiceModel.Security.SecurityNegotiationException: A call to SSPI failed, see inner exception.

All these errors are explained in Conor’s blog so just refer to that if you have these issues.

http://blog.simpletrees.com/2013/04/mscrm-and-dreaded-rsprocessingaborted.html

However once this was fixed i ran into an issue where custom reports were not working. I didn’t have any error in the error log. I opened up the execution log in the reporting DB and i could not see the request.

 

ISSUE:

–          Hardware architecture:

  • NLB with 2 CRM 2011 web application servers on SSL. 1 SSRS server and a separate SQL back-end server SQL 2008 R2.

–          Reports – Canned reports shipped with MS Dynamics CRM worked. Custom reports created using “Report Wizard” in CRM 2011 worked intermittently. Those that did not work didn’t show any errors in event viewer on CRM 2011 application server, application server trace logs, Report server logs and reports server execution log in SQL show that a request never got to the report server.

Probable CAUSE: ( I am not sure about this so feel free to correct me if i am wrong)

–          SSRS server creates a session for the report request. Let’s assume the request was instantiated by Application server A and gets to reporting server. In order to establish the session there will be back and forth message flow between SSRS and application server. However as it is a web farm it could be that response from SSRS gets to the Application server B. Application server B fails to decrypt the message and does not know if the request was sent from Application Server A probably because the machine key is not the same on both the application servers. Application Server B never responds back to the request and application server A is left hanging waiting for the session from SSRS. That is why the report does not work.

 

RESOLUTION:

–   Applied and issue resolved:       Generated the machine key on one application server and used it on both application servers. After this change irrespective of which application server receives the request the request should be decrypted and session should be established with the right application server. This fixed the report issue.

MSFT recommended: (Makes more sense) I opened a ticket with MSFT to confirm if this is the right solution. Here is what they suggested.

Make sure the Affinity or the Sticky Session is set to 1 / True. This will enable the request initiated on one server to be completed on that server.

For more information refer the links

–          http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd979314(v=crm.6).aspx

–          http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb687542.aspx

I hope this will save someone’s time.

 

 

Polaris – process flow forms

Let’s start with what is available now. As most of you already know that new UI is already available on CRM Online. Rollout 12 is the on-premises equivalent of Polaris but process UI will not be available in the on-premises version till last quarter of 2013.

The Good :

1. Integrated Process flow forms are available on COLAC (contact, opportunity, lead, account and case) entity.

2. Process control – users can add more stage to the process flow with new GUI in order to map to business process. This is huge from user adoption perspective.

3. Cross browser compatibility:

a. Supports Safari(Mac), Chrome, IE 8, IE 9 and IE 10(desktop version)

4. Cleaner user experience – If you have had clients that struggle to understand why lead should convert to contact/account and opportunity then you know that it is a huge improvement.

5. Process flow interface is certainly visually appealing

6. Quick forms – Quick forms allow access to information from other entities (contact, account) on opportunity process flow

7. Inline lookups

8. End to end experience for opportunity and cases

9. UI Extensibility

a. Process control

      1. Configurable (Add more steps and fields)
      1. Customizable

10. SubGrids – process form specific

11. Autosave – forms save every 30 seconds

The Bad:

This is a big list primarily because I still fail to understand the reason behind this half cooked UI. MSFT got some good feedback during sessions but if they would try and track it through NetBreeze it would be mostly negative sentiment :).

Most of the users are not happy with the way this new interface was released. I do not want to call it beta release because the functionality is just not there. However this is just an interface that can be turned off so not all is lost. Old functionality and GUI prior to Polaris release is still available with the exception of lead qualification pop-up dialog. What it means is that every time a lead is converted, an opportunity, account and contact is created. Early adopters who want to build on top of the process flow forms here is a detailed list of things to watch out for.

1. Cross browser

a. iPad safari is not supported

b. IE 7 is not supported for online

c. Touch is not supported in IE 10 – IE 10 is touch optimized

d. Integration

              i. MSFT SP 2010 does not support IE 10 – .NET 4.0 compatibility issues

             ii. Lync integration is only specific to Lync icons

2. Error handling has to be on the server side through plugins

3. Scripting is not supported. If CRM form contains script then UI will revert to classic view

4. Extensibility

a. Command bar:

      1. No ribbons
      2. Not extensible
      3. Not solution aware (what this means is that you cannot modify process flow in dev environment and deploy on production)

b. Header tiles

                      1. Solution aware however only four sections appear on the form

c. Process control

         i. Not solution aware

         ii. Not extensible

d. SubGrid

         i. Cannot add commands

                ii. Process form specific

5. Integration

a. Bing map integration specific to address 1

6. Auto Save

a. Processing on the save click

b. 30 seconds auto save

c. Not configurable

d. Plugin and workflow management a serious concern with auto save

Race to the Cloud

So Cloud is real and here to stay. It is great that there are solutions ready to go and available on-demand. In addition these solutions are really easy to setup. They don’t scale down necessarily but still I buy it, you can add and remove the resources based on your requirement. Let’s not talk about PAAS or IAAS for a second. Let’s focus on SAAS. What is the driving force that is pushing companies like MSFT to invest so much in SAAS? 80% of their resources are working on Cloud related applications so they have decided in which direction they are heading. As always consulting companies are following suit, and my company is no different. However a completely different phenomena is driving the consumer space. Everyone has a mobile device and Native apps are predominantly considered a lot more Cooler compared to web apps. Like everyone else I want an app that serves my needs and runs best on my device. I want something that solves my problem. Yes if that application solves other problems as well I understand that but it has to solve my problem in a cool way to be part of my application pool on my device. One tends to think that there is no difference between applications on cloud and application in mobile space as they are both built from the perspective that many users have the same requirement. So isn’t it the same thing? Does it not imply that Cloud would encourage us to build applications for a large audience with similar needs and same happened with the applications in App Stores? Unfortunately not in the corporate sector.

In industry the solutions that are being built on the cloud are generic. They solve problems. If they don’t solve a certain problem then features pertinent to that business area are added and the same product is sold with a different spin. SalesForce, Oracle and Microsoft add features to their CRM to make sure they don’t lose out on a business opportunity in a particular industry vertical. I am sure it holds true for other applications in the corporate sector. Huge investment on Cloud infrastructure by Corporate giants drives the marketing and sales initiative for Cloud version of the solution and as a result clients are racing to the cloud. CIOs want to win this race. They want to be the flag bearer for such an innovative initiative. However there is no innovation associated with Cloud. There is no “My Problem” being solved on the Cloud. Applications on the cloud solve a stated problem as they exist on the Cloud and Consultants map that existing cloud solutions to their business problem to the best of their abilities. That is the best that one can get out of Cloud. There is no “My Solution” anymore. There is a race between vendors. If SalesForce has 100 features then Microsoft wants 101 to convince their Clients that their version is better.  Isn’t it drastically different from what is happening in App Stores? App Stores are innovation centers. They are beyond feature set and focusing on usability and user experience. This is not happening in the Corporate sector and the way it is going we are moving away from it. The gap between consumer space and corporate space is widening. Talk to a business user or a marketer who deal with technical resources and they will tell you that their personal IT rocks but corporate IT sucks.

I was excited about Cloud because I thought of it as an App Store. I want to think of Cloud as a tool box that users as well as corporate users would leverage to solve their problems. However unfortunately corporate users are owned by corporations and they can never be independent. If this race to Cloud continues then all we would have is companies with data on Cloud accessed through browsers. What purpose does it serve? Does it make the life of my employees better? Does it make them more productive? No it certainly does not. Instead of focusing on solving business user problem we are focusing on IT. Yes IT, because Cloud is all about not having to support your applications, not having to sign M&S contracts, not having Change Requests as all of a sudden the World has converged and if I have a problem then someone else must have had the same problem. So Cloud is IT saving not IT innovation. Cloud investment must force the solution providers to innovate. C-Level executives cannot just invest in Cloud because MSFT, Oracle or SalesForce told them so. They have to ask questions that would help the market evolve.

As the gap between consumer space and corporate space widens it presents an opportunity to bridge this gap. Consulting companies should focus not only on solving the business problems but also on the user experience and usability. Innovative Business solutions with easy to use interfaces that solve a business problem should drive the business, not the shelved solution on Cloud. We want to build applications for corporations to solve their problems that would make the life of corporate users as easy as mine sitting at home and planning my vacations in Bahamas using amazing Apps on iPad. Till then please don’t try to win this race to Cloud as it would take you no where.