• msft dynamics partner

What’s new in CRM 2015 Spring Release?

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


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

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.



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

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Migration

just wanted to introduce our migration utility. What better way than a simple webcast.

Understanding Cloud computing

I have read a few books and heard at-least a dozen talks comparing Cloud Computing with Electricity. The idea that businesses in IT industry would change drastically with Cloud computing has its merits. However comparing the evolution of electricity with cloud computing is stretching it too far. The fact that over the years manufacturing industry evolved from using small electricity units that would suffice to fulfill their requirements to centralized Grids seems appealing to a few. What we tend to forget is that in IT we already tried Grid computing and it failed. Moreover the analogy is fictitious because no one ever wrote a book with a title “Does Electricity Matter” and there was never been a debate on utility of electricity. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that with Cloud computing IT companies need to redefine their business models so that they could gain competitive advantage. However by comparing Cloud computing with something as essential as electricity some pundits are arguing that cloud is the only way of survival in the IT industry going forward. I would certainly not buy that as other IT models will continue to flourish. If at all one wants to understand the Cloud computing and its impacts, one would be better of comparing Cloud computing with telecommunication industry.

Telecom industry evolved over time and its manifestation is that instead of making money on the handsets, companies are making profit on data plans today. The competition and advancement in Telco forced the stake holders to redefine the way they did business. Consumer expectation to pay less for a standardized service meant that there would be quick adaption but less profit provided customer expectation is met. It also meant that over a period of time there would be competition resulting in less profit margins. It also meant that client addition and retention would be challenging and would require streamlining of processes. Product offerings and packing that would be audience specific would govern the success of business. Business insight into processes and quickly changing market would be essential to change with the marketing trends. How did companies evolve with these changes to the industry? What happened to companies that didn’t change with the market? What was the impact on the early adoptors? What was the effect of competition on profit margins? I believe that answers to these questions would hold true for cloud computing.

In Pakistan, with a population of around 180 million, cell phones happen to be amongst the most sold commodity but service providers continue to complaint about the lack of profit. On the other hand small companies that sell problem specific solutions to these telecommunication giants tend to make good profits. Similarly the challenges of subscription models and KPIs for customer addition and retention in this model in Telco provide deep insight for the software industry. Think of a user who has a cell phone and uses services such as Hotmail, Google, Facebook, Car rentals, Hotel bookings and travel advisory. This user pays nothing and gets so much from the cloud. Now it’s just a matter of applying the same to industry so that businesses could run on the cloud. Businesses would eventually reach there so we are better off realigning to be part of the change. However bear in mind that profits are going to be marginal unless the processes are defined and services are replicated.

CRM Online Email Reading Pane add-on

I wrote a blog on claim based authentication for CRM. The idea was that once the users are authenticated the claims enabled CRM 2011 could be extended to add business specific functionality. As mentioned in my last post the claim based authentication for CRM 2011 online is still not out of the cloud, so I have not tested the solution, but considering what Microsoft claims I would feel that the claim based solution would work with CRM 2011 as well. As for CRM dynamics I already showed how to enable single sign-on for writing web extensions. Here is the link to the post.


Building on the documented authentication model I have extended the CRM Dynamics online solution to provide users with a reading pane similar to outlook. Most of our clients have had an awful experience responding to mails using CRM Dynamics online. Primary drivers for this add-on are:

1. Users are accustomed to using outlook where one can quickly go through the emails using preview pane and reply to emails of interest.

2. In CRM in order to review the content and attachments one needs to open the mail by double-click and only then realize that this is not the mail one was in search for.

3. Productivity of sales representatives suffer a great deal just because half of the day is spent finding the right document attached in one of the hundreds of mails in the history section. Imagine having to open up each mail to find relevant content in outlook. If you cant imaging then just close your preview pane in outlook and try finding mail with content of your interest.

Keeping in view that most of our customers are accustomed to outlook we have provided the look and feel of outlook. Setting up our solution for CRM online clients is really simple and all that is required is to import the customizations and register on our online service to get things going. You have guessed it right its a hosted service solution.

After the initial setup a tab is added to the entity for which emails are to be previewed. This tab contains all the emails and a preview pane. One can quickly go through each mail in grid and on selection the description along with attachments open up in the preview panel at the bottom. As simple as it sounds and as elegant as outlook’s reading pane, this email reading pane is a great tool for sales representatives struggling with hundreds of emails each day.

CRM Add-on

HOST file redirection, Https and Ports

I normally don’t write about issues as mostly there is help available on internet but I have to write about this one. It drove me crazy and I would like to save you from going through the pain. The scenario was simple I had an azure application and after establishing STS I was trying to debug using DevFabric. All was good the first day. However I left this task in the middle and got to some other stuff I had to take care of. When I got to this task again the break points were not being hit anymore and the HOST file redirection was not working for SSL requests. I tried whatever I could and then searched internet but to no avail. The problem of SSL requests being blocked on IIS is listed on many blogs and general suggestions are to either check for malware, virus or some corrupt registry entry. After having tried all that with no luck I started playing around with IIS 7.0. I screwed it up completely and figured out that it was actually the Skype installation that had blocked my 443 port and it was causing all the issues. I didn’t figure it out all by myself and in fact there is blog that helped me with this:


I am still writing this post just to share the scenario that host file redirection can fail because of the port being blocked. Take away from this post is that incase IIS blocks redirection the first thing to verify is if there is a program blocking the port in question. Anyways after unchecking the below options things worked just fine.




One important point to remember is that Host file redirection is for domain and should work irrespective of SSL channel.

CRM 2011 Beta – Recurrence

I have been playing around with CRM 2011 Beta and I like it so far. Today I was really excited about the recurrence feature in the new CRM which is something that was missing in CRM 4.0. I was looking at recurrence in terms of a module that would allow for scheduling of different entities. Although this is what recurrence is but it is limited to appointments. So in case you were getting super excited please settle down as you will still have to write some custom code for jobs such as “sending greeting mails to customers based on an event”.

The new recurrence feature allows for scheduling activities. So once an appointment is set for recurrence thenafter the spcified interval a new activity will be created. This is kind of nice as this allows for the management of details in each activity as recurring activities are actually separate activities. This is what made me wonder that this recurrence is more of a scheduler that schedules entities but unfortunately it is limited to activities in this release. Nevertheless I feel it’s a very nice new addition in the new CRM. In the next blog I will show how to create recurring appointment.