Update Rollup 10 for CRM 2011 — Now Available!

Update Rollup 10 for Microsoft CRM 2011 Now Available!

Microsoft has just released Update Rollup 10, which fixes all the issues that would have been included in the previously announced, and then postponed, Update Rollup 9. For more information, click to view the following article:

Continue reading “Update Rollup 10 for CRM 2011 — Now Available!”


Windows 8 RTM and Visual Studio 2012 now available on MSDN

MSDN subscribers can now download Windows 8 Enterprise RTM.  Also, subscribers can also download Visual Studio 2012 Express for Windows 8 to begin developing “Modern” or “Windows 8 Style UI” apps.  Continue reading “Windows 8 RTM and Visual Studio 2012 now available on MSDN”

Microsoft Surface: How will it fare with the Enterprise user?

With the announcement of the new Surface tablet, Microsoft is on the verge of going head to head with the Apple iPad and relegating Android to third place in the tablet market. While this is interesting purely from an Apple v Microsoft competition standpoint, it also could provide Dynamics CRM with a mobility game changer for the Enterprise space. As everyone already knows, the tablet of choice is the Apple iPad for home and business users. It is the business user segment that upon which this blog post will focus.

Market Share
According to the latest numbers from Netmarketshare.com, iOS dominated the Mobile/Tablet space with a resounding 66% of total market share, Android with 20% and Windows Phone (7, 7.5) only had one percent overall share. Safari had the largest browser market share for the Mobile/Tablet space, also at 67%, with the Android browser coming in second with 20%. Again, Microsoft Internet Explorer was poorly represented with only a one percent share.

Figure 1: Total Market Share – Mobile/Tablet OS (www.Netmarketshare.com)

Figure 2: Total Market Share – Mobile/Tablet Internet Browser (www.Netmarketshare.com)

Enterprise Acceptance – Usability
Noted in the numbers above, Microsoft Surface will have to come out of the gates strong in not only functionality/usability but pricing to supplant the iPad or Android.

Enterprise iPad and Android users do not typically view the devices capabilities the same as they would enjoy on a standard notebook or ultrabook.  Applications built for iOS and Android allow users to remote control or emulate their desktop experience for those functions that are not yet tablet capable.  Microsoft is wagering that the Surface tablet will provide the best of both worlds.  Tablet ease of use and the power and capabilities of a Ultrabook.

Windows 8 does offer the enterprise user a unique “touch” experience, incorporating all of the core Microsoft programs (Windows, Office, etc.), but may cause some users to struggle to get back to a more “classic” experience such as Windows 7.  ZDNet had a less than stellar usability review of Windows 8 Pro on the Surface tablet.

While Microsoft Windows, Office and Dynamics products are moving toward the new “Windows 8 Style UI” (…ahem code name “Metro”), it will take some time for non-Microsoft programs to catch up.  How this will translate into early adopters from the Financial Services, Technology and Healthcare industries, which are key iPad/tablet user populations, remains to be seen.

Lastly, the announced Microsoft cover/keyboard/mouse must work well and avoid the version 1 glitches as much as possible.

Enterprise Acceptance – Pricing

Microsoft has not yet revealed the pricing for the Windows 8 Pro model, which will be most prevalent within Enterprises.  In order to compete with iOS and Android devices, the 64GB Pro model will have to be in the $800 – $900 price point at its highest.  If pricing comes closer to similar ultrabook pricing of $1000 – $1300.

What does Surface tablet success mean to Dynamics CRM?

Microsoft CRM has opportunity to significantly improve its mobile options with the “Metro” UI interface for CRM, which will have its optimal experience on the Surface tablet (and other Windows 8 tablets, when available).  The convergence of Windows 8, Office ’13, Dynamics CRM and Yammer could definitely prove to be a game changer against Salesforce.com and others in the CRM space.  If Surface does not prove successful, Microsoft will have to revisit and bolster its mobile options for the on-premise customers, or continue to count on the partner community for innovation in the mobile solution.

What do you think?

Experiences with DemoBuilder for CRM 2011

Microsoft recently launched their DemoBuilder tool for Partners to create compelling demo environments that leverage not only Dynamics CRM 2011, but also integrate Office 365, Lync Online, SharePoint Online and Windows Azure services. Since the launch, I have used this tool a couple of times to create pretty powerful demos with relative ease.

Getting DemoBuilder Setup

To get setup with DemoBuilder, follow these simple steps:

  • Create a 30 day CRM Online Trial
  • Go to http://demobuilder.cloudapp.net/ and sign in with your Windows Live ID
  • Click the Run Demobuilder link in the Metro tile on the screen and follow the prompts to install the tool locally
  • Enter the information as requested within the screens of the DemoBuilder tool wizard.
    (It will take about an hour for the process to complete, so be patient…)

Figure 1: DemoBuilder – DemoHub Main Screen

For a great Introduction to DemoBuilder, check out Gareth Tucker’s Microsoft CRM Blog.

For this blog post, I wanted to go a little deeper with a few features of the DemoBuilder that I found particularly beneficial.

Demo Ager

An issue that plagues every consultant prior to a pre-sales or client demonstration is the problem of stale data within your CRM instance. I have had many experiences where I am creating new records to have more timely information within CRM to demonstrate a process to a client so that it has a more timely presentation. As you know, dependent on the scope of your demo, this could be a very time-consuming process. Microsoft has addressed this within DemoBuilder in two ways. First, DemoBuilder populates the entire system with relevant data across all system entities, including charts and dashboards. Second, a tool called Demo Ager is also included. This provides a very simple method of changing the “age” of some of your data, like Opportunities, within a Silverlight dashboard. As shown in the picture below, Demo Ager is accessed from the dashboard menu and has one simple control…a date selection control and a start button to execute the process. The tool also displays the “date last aged” of your demo environment. Once you select your new date for system data to be aged, the various entities will have a progress indicator displayed. When the green bar is shown, the process is complete.

Figure 2: DemoBuilder – Demo Data Ager

Ribbon Editor

There are several fantastic ribbon editors available via Codeplex, such as the CRM 2011 Visual Ribbon Editor , Ribbon Editor for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 and the Pragma Toolkit: Ribbon, SiteMap Editor as well as the Ribbon Workbench from UserVoice. Check out my blog post that reviews the CRM 2011 Visual Ribbon Editor and its benefit as a learning tool here. Microsoft now provides a built-in ribbon editor within the DemoBuilder tool set. This tool has an easy to use interface with no configuration needed or discovery of what entities are available within the environment. Like the Demo Data Ager, the Ribbon Editor is accessible from the Dashboards navigation. I found this editor simple to use and one of the easiest to add functionality such as JavaScript to a ribbon button of all that I have used before. The DemoBuilder Ribbon Editor allows easy creation of ribbon buttons, tabs and groups with custom actions such as JavaScript, workflow or web resources. This is a great addition to a presales demo build toolkit.

Figure 3: DemoBuilder – Ribbon Editor

Social Activity

DemoBuilder provides an eye-catching integration to the Twitter feed of the Account within the CRM System. It passes search criteria to Twitter using the Account name and provides a real-time twitter feed of all tweets that are from the Account itself (@ADXStudio for example) or that reference the account within a tweet. Clicking on the link CRM Twitter Monitor takes you directly to Twitter with the search criteria passed. This is great functionality to demonstrate how CRM can provide immediate feedback to stakeholders within Marketing, Sales or Senior Management. The DemoBuilder only provides this functionality for demonstration at the Account level within CRM.


Announced at Convergence 2012, InsideView integration delivers relevant business and social insights directly into Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Do things like monitor business events or discover relationships that get you introductions. This functionality is limited from the full features of the subscription version, but the integration within DemoBuilder provides insight to the immediate benefits that the depth of knowledge CRM can now provide to Account Management. This information was previously only available via channels outside of CRM and would require custom integration. The free InsideView CRM integration is available for any Dynamics CRM customer and can be installed using their deployable solution. If you want more information on this functionality, check out InsideView’s website or the Dynamics CRM Marketplace.

Figure 4: DemoBuilder – Social Activity and InsideView Integration

Customer Portal

Also included within DemoBuilder is the Microsoft xRM Customer Portal Accelerator. Installed and configured automatically with the Azure instance provided with DemoBuilder, it is the fastest method to show potential customers the power of portals when combined with Dynamics CRM without the concern for setting up a website or any other setup related concerns. If their needs are greater than what the standard Customer Portal Accelerator provides, I recommend checking out ADXStudio‘s portal offering…a very flexible and powerful solution applicable to many vertical industries.

In Summary…

DemoBuilder for Dynamics CRM 2011 is not only a great tool to energize your pre-sales demonstration capabilities, but provides quite an insight to the prospective customer on the extensibility of the Dynamics CRM platform. The features that have been presented, in combination with Office 365, SharePoint and Azure provide an incredible tool within your pre-sales demonstration toolbox to help win deals and understand your prospective customer’s pain points and objectives!

CRM 2011 Update Rollup 8 — Now Available!

CRM 2011 Update Rollup 8, not to be confused with the upcoming Service Update 8, is now available for download. This update addresses a number of Outlook client synchronization issues, a performance fix when switching folders in WAN and more.

Remember, Update Rollup 6 is a requirement for UR 8 so ensure your systems have UR 6 before attempting to apply UR 8. You will be able to uninstall UR 8 if needed but you will not be able to uninstall UR 6.

I would recommend checking out Donna Edward’s Blog for more of the details. She has a great blog with a ton of information.


Dynamics CRM: Opening the “Mystery Box”

Tannen's Magic Mystery Box
Tannen's Magic Mystery Box

I watched J.J. Abrams’s talk on TED.com today and his topic was “The Mystery Box”.  It really captured my attention merely because of the word “mystery”…and well, it’s J.J. Abrams.  He talked about how he and his grandfather would go to Lou Tannen’s Magic Shop in New York City when he was a child.  While he was at this store with his grandfather he bought Tannen’s Mystery Magic Box.  It was only $15 and it contained $50 worth of magic.  A clear bargain, right? He never opened the box and still keeps it in his office today, enjoying the mystery.  What he loves about the box is that it represents not only his memory of his grandfather, but the “infinite possibility, that sense of potential.”

His TED talk was only about 20 minutes long, but I immediately began to see parallels between his Mystery Box and Dynamics CRM.  The Dynamics CRM platform is so extensible, the true capabilities of an implementation are left only to the imagination and the creativity (not to minimize time/budget constraints) of the implementation team.

In movies and television, the “Mystery Box” is the paper that the script is written upon or the computer that the CGI animation is conceived.  Ours is the Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform.

It is often quite simple to check off a task denoting a requirement met with out of box functionality.  However, it is also often just as simple to enable an entire business process while meeting numerous requirements just as easily.  Each implementation is itself its own “Mystery Box”, waiting to be opened to find out what is inside.  Tools such as workflow, dialogs, custom activities, activity feeds and everything else that can be unlocked with the SDK are sitting in that box, waiting to be discovered.

So, I challenge you…have you had a situation where you effectively “opened the Mystery Box” and provided some incredible customer value or is that “Mystery Box” still sitting in your office, waiting to be opened?

Next Week: Creating an application for services using dialogs