Extending CRM 2011…the CRMHobbit attempts to get his first certification

I have been studying for the Extending CRM 2011 certification (MB2-876) on and off for the past 3 months.  Between work, home and other commitments…making time where I can to get ready.  Before I go any further, let me make a declarative statement.  I am NOT, nor do I pretend to be a developer.  Did I take C++ and C# in college?  Sure.  Did I pass the classes?  Sure…got an A and a B, respectively.  Was that 15 years ago?  You bet.  So why am I attempting Extending CRM 2011 as my first certification?  Great question…and I feel that I have a great answer.

I have been working with Dynamics CRM since version 3.0 and in various roles.  Currently, I am a CRM Architect and am sometimes finding my lack of development (slinging code) skills can be frustrating for me at times.  Not that it has affected my ability to execute during a project, just that I have to do some more homework than if I had that skill set.  Further, I think that having the knowledge that the Extending CRM certification would provide would benefit my development team in better design documents, my client in a higher level of consultation and my implementation team in a more knowledgeable team member.

So how does one who is admittedly NOT a developer tackle a certification which is mainly for those who are EXTENDING CRM through code development?  Well, there are many avenues to pursue.  However, personal history had automatically removed one of those options for me…the crash course.

Back in the Winter of 1998, I so desperately wanted to break into the IT field and my perceived path to do so was the Windows NT MSCE certification.  Not having much experience at the time, and now admittedly not doing much research on the topic, I thought that my only way to ensure success was through an in class certification program.  I got a student loan for a mere $8000 and enrolled at the University of Phoenix to take their 12 week MSCE program.  I thought things were going well and was about to start the TCP/IP portion of the program when it was announced that the Windows NT MSCE certification was being retired.  At the time, I didn’t realize that Windows 2000 would not be the standard within the Enterprise space for about two years.  I thought that it was all for naught.  I never sat for the exam, never got my certs…but will have that loan paid off middle of next year. 🙂

So, I was determined for this go around to use the training tools that were available to me on PartnerSource (e-learning and MOC documentation).  Side note, a short time after I began studying for the exam, Microsoft announced retirement of the CRM 2011 certifications as a result of the impending release of CRM 2013 later this year.  I know now that this is not a lost cause and the knowledge will still benefit me in the ways that I described earlier.

My appointment to sit for the exam is set…Friday, October 4th at 11:00 EST.  This week I will be doing my final review of the documentation and videos to prepare for the exam and cram as much knowledge into my little Hobbit head as possible.  I will be blogging every day this week with the topic that I covered, the media that I used and my thoughts on the topic.  I hope that for those of you that have considered pursuing certification will find my tale an inspiring one that motivates you to start your journey as I have done.

Shawn (CRMHobbit)


eXtremeCRM Recap – Day 2 or What’s in the CRM Roadmap?

I had the opportunity to attend the eXtreme CRM conference this week in Las Vegas, NV.  This is the second of a series of blog posts, I will recap my activities and observations from Day 2 of the conference, focusing on the keynote presentation focusing on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Roadmap.  You can also take a look at my quasi-live tweeting of my conference experience at http://twitter.com/crmhobbit. Continue reading “eXtremeCRM Recap – Day 2 or What’s in the CRM Roadmap?”

The “Process Whisperer”…you should buy his book.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 has a very robust workflow capability, known as Processes within the system. There is a wealth of capability waiting to be harnessed, like that of an unbroken Thoroughbred. Horses and their owners have Monty Roberts, known as the “Horse Whisperer”. Well, believe it or not, Dynamics CRM has had our own “Process Whisperer” this whole time within the CRM MVP ranks…Richard Knudson.  Now you can get his vast knowledge of processes in a great reference title. I have mentioned Richard Knudson in past blog posts, namely “Using Dialogs to Create an Application for Services“, his knowledge on Processes and Dialogs within CRM 2011 is second to none. His multi-part series on Dialogs on the Dynamics CRM Trick Bag is fantastic. However, “Building Business with CRM” is one of those books that every CRM consultant or business user should not be without.

Buy Richard’s book at http://www.crmbizbook.com for your own reference, to help your practice or for your customer who is about to take over the day-to-day ownership and maintenance of their internal business processes enabled through Dynamics CRM.

Visit Richard’s blog at http://www.dynamicscrmtrickbag.com for a ton of great Dynamics CRM information, including this blog post on his “Top X Fave Business Process Tips & Tricks”. Included on this post are the following video recordings:

Part 1: Introduction; Bulk Edits v. Update Workflows; Limitations of BPs; working with closed records and read-only fields; different versions of long-running processes

Part 2: Advanced Find, dashboards, Sales Pipeline report and the Sales Pipeline funnel chart

Part 3: Working with Hyperlinks and Record URLs

Part 4: Business Process Security: who can run on-demand processes, who can create them, who triggers automatic workflows

Part 5: Dialog Process Tips

Special Thanks to Richard for helping me out personally in expanding my knowledge on Dialogs and Processes within CRM 2011!

Using Dialogs to Create an Application for Services

Dialogs within Microsoft Dynamics CRM are not only used for simple prompt and response data entry, but can be used to create a complex application for services.  In this example, we will create a pre-qualification application for day care and tutoring services that could be used by any business providing these types of services.

The use case for this scenario is that we have a call center specialist who is taking inbound requests for prequalification for services for their child.  The call center specialist uses the Case entity within CRM to track the inbound requests from the parent/custodian requesting services.  The method for prequalification will be presented to the call center specialist via a CRM dialog.  The information captured within the dialog will be used in prequalifying the child for services, as well as the creation of records within CRM to track the process and its status.  In this post, we will focus on the dialog process to collect the information to determine the prequalification for services.

Day Care Prequalification criteria
In order for a child to receive day care services in this scenario, the child must meet the following requirements:

  1. Must be 5 years old
  2. Must reside in the state

Tutoring Prequalification criteria
In order for a child to receive tutoring services in this scenario, the child must meet the following requirements:

  1. Must reside in the state
  2. Must be under the age of 12
  3. If older than the age of 12, has Special Needs

Once the prequalification criteria has been reviewed, a child’s Parent/Custodian must then identified for Priority Services based on a number of additional criteria, such as number of members in a household, family income in comparison to National Poverty Levels as well as job/training requirements.

Dialog Process Design

Main Daycare/Tutoring Dialog
Initial dialog to begin the Daycare/Tutoring prequalification process.

The dialog to collect the information for both day care and tutoring prequalification will require an on-demand dialog associated to the Case entity, several child dialogs for the sub-processes, as well as logic using check conditions and conditional branches.  The full design could also include the use of variables, queries, create records, update records and potentially a custom workflow which will call an Eligibility Validation Engine using BizTalk.  For this blog post, we will focus on the portions of the dialog design used in collection of information for day care and tutoring prequalification.

Dialog Requirements


tutoring child dialog
Child dialogs, such as this tutoring example, allow for branching of a process based on input from the user within the dialog.

The dialog needed to not only collect the information in an efficient manner, it also required the ability to display screens only when required.  For example, within the tutoring prequalification process, there is a main page which then presents a page for questions pertaining to Priority Service Groups.  Dependent on how these questions are answered, it may be required to gather additional information for the applicant based on three additional areas of inquiry.  Each additional page displays only if the prior criteria is unmet.

Check conditions, conditional branching and child dialogs allowed the seamless navigation of an entire workflow although there are many branches within the business process.

Daycare/Tutoring dialog
Workflow diagram which depicts the check conditions as well as the conditional branching of the child dialogs within the prequalification process.

As stated earlier, the call center specialist is now able to launch a prequalification process based on the business process for day care and tutoring directly from the Case.  This process allows the specialist to address either or both program prequalification requests by the client and collect all of the pertinent data without having to have to navigate away from the Case.  Upon completion of the full design, the specialist will also avoid wasting valuable call hold time in the creation and maintenance of additional records required by the process.


I am providing an unmanaged solution with all of the dialogs, both on-demand and child for the entire process.  You can download it here from my SkyDrive.  As the design matures, I will update you with additional solution files.

If you are looking for more information on CRM dialogs and best practices, I recommend that you visit Richard Knudson’s CRM Trick Bag.  There are many fantastic dialog related articles.  I have no problem stating that he taught me everything I know.

Lastly, there are some great videos on CRM dialogs available on YouTube.  I highly recommend this video, also created by Richard.

I hope that you found this post beneficial, possibly helping you understand some of the power of dialogs within Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011.  I would love to hear how you have implemented dialogs with your customers!