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Microsoft Dynamics 365: The What, When and Why

Beginning November 1, 2016, Microsoft Dynamics 365 will not only be available for purchase, but will replace Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online as we now know it. As announced on October 11 at the CRMUG Summit, the initial Dynamics 365 apps will be available on this date in 135 markets and 40 languages. Additional apps will be released at a later date. The Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online SKU will be removed from the catalog.

This announcement follows Microsoft’s early July 2016 announcement of plans for Dynamics 365. At that time, Microsoft let it be known that Dynamics 365 would be an evolution of the current CRM and ERP cloud solutions. It would be “one- cloud” service with apps to manage specific business functions. The idea would be to natively imbed Power BI and Cortana Intelligence, and deeply integrate Dynamics 365 and Office 365. The common data model was also introduced at this time, to simplify data management and integration across apps and processes. In short, it sounded like Dynamics CRM, Dynamics AX, and Project Madeira would be repackaged and restructured into Dynamics 365.

Now we have a bit more information. This past Tuesday, Microsoft announced that Dynamics 365 will be a single, cloud-based service that enables companies to address CRM and ERP needs with a variety of powerful apps and ancillary tools to manage nearly every aspect of business. Whether your requirements include sales automation, operations, customer service, or just about anything else, there will be apps for you. The solution will be available in two editions (Business and Enterprise) to suit companies of different sizes (under and over 250 employees).

Two Versions, Two Plans

Business (10-250 employees) Enterprise (250+ employees)
  • Financials (Formerly Madeira)
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • PowerApps
  • Operations (Plan 2 Only – Formerly AX7)
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Customer Service
  • Field Service
  • Project Service Automation
  • PowerApps


It is our understanding that the Business Edition will be partially available on November 1, 2016, in the form of the Financials app (formerly known as “Madeira”), plus the optional PowerApps platform. The sales and marketing apps are due out in the spring of 2017.  We believe that these will be similar to the existing modules of the same name in Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The Dynamics Enterprise 365 version will be entirely available on November 1, 2016.

Devilish Details

The Enterprise edition will be broken into two “Plans” – Plan 1, which consists of all apps shown above EXCEPT “Operations”, and Plan 2, which consists of Plan 1 plus Operations. Plan 1 (this is the closest thing to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online
as we know it today) will be available with NO minimum user count, which is a departure from the five seat minimum that exists today.  Plan 2, with Operations, will have a 20-seat user minimum.  This makes sense, since a company interested in the Operations app, which was known as AX7, is generally an Enterprise level company. Plan 2 will be considerably higher priced, as well.  From a pricing perspective, Dynamics 365 offers large companies a compelling value proposition, since there is very generously structured pricing model around user license volume and tiers.  Please look for another post soon that details pricing for these products.

A Flexible, Enterprise Platform

The value proposition of Dynamics 365 is that it can grow as you grow, running on an app-based subscription, where you pay for the desired app(s), with each user having a license primarily around job function. This differs from other, more traditional app-based subscriptions that require additional, separate licenses per user per app. This is especially true of the new “Team Access” license, which is priced so low as to attract just about every user in the organization.  Not only does this make it easier for users, but also cheaper. For as little as $5 per month, with tiered pricing based on volume, light-usage customers will have at least read-only access to the entire Dynamics 365 platform.

As announced originally in July, Dynamics 365 will natively imbed Power BI and Cortana Intelligence, and will combine the powers of Office 365, Azure and Dynamics into a powerful tool for delivering solutions. It’s designed to use targeted intelligence, advanced analytics, and machine learning to enrich the user experience and improve the sales process. Running on a new common data model, it will be possible to extend Dynamics 365 capabilities to additional industry- and function-specific tasks using AppSource apps.

The idea is that it will fill the gaps left by others, like Salesforce, and provide a stronger and more comprehensive all-in-one solution, and at an extremely competitive price in the Enterprise space. One of the major ways that it will do this is through PowerApps. Not only does PowerApps make it easy to create new entities and fields, and import and export data into programs you regularly use, like Excel, but it also makes it easy to create your own apps, based on your business need, without needing development knowledge. PowerApps is built for what has recently been dubbed as a legion of “Citizen Developers” that need to whip out departmental-level, clever little applets that draw on the common data model and use as source the various components of the Dynamics 365 and Office 365 stacks.

Considerations for Existing Microsoft Dynamics CRM Customers

For Dynamics CRM Online, specifically, this means that the product SKU and the ability to purchase it as we know it now will be replaced on November 1st with various choices listed above. Our present understanding is that current Microsoft Dynamics CRM customers will be able to choose to either continue using Dynamics CRM Online for the duration of their subscription commitment , or immediately transition to Dynamics 365. The current functionality will still exist in some form within these new Dynamics 365 apps – specifically in the Enterprise choice, which will contain the entire CRM product as it is now configured, but with the additional modules of Field Service and Project Service Automation.

Microsoft has not yet announced whether or not marketing features within Dynamics CRM Online will be replaced by the Adobe Marketing Cloud, but earlier this month, officials announced that Adobe Marketing Cloud would be the preferred solution for Dynamics 365 – at least for the Enterprise edition. In any case, the Marketing app listed above refers to the “lightweight” marketing module in CRM Online now, not Microsoft Dynamics Marketing – our understanding that this product will not move forward.

There is a lot to be said for this bold direction that Microsoft has taken, and there is no question as to the level of commitment shown by this innovative company.  We at xRM applaud the passion that the highest levels of Microsoft has shown in the Dynamics stack. We also understand that this will shake up the space a bit, and in the beginning there may be some complexity to sort out and resistance to change. We encourage the stakeholders on all sides to embrace this platform and make the most out of it.


Microsoft Dynamics CRM and the Private Cloud

We applaud what has to be described as a major level of commitment on the part of Microsoft to use the accumulated 30 or so years of clout to embrace, inform, and lead the multitude that is their customer base to the concept of “Cloud Computing.”  Between Azure and Office365 it would seem that they have just about all the bases covered.

Well, almost. For those of us who are on the front lines every day, providing solutions for organization of all sizes, we run into compelling reasons for alternative architectures.  I’m referring to the concept of “Private Cloud,” and being a Microsoft Dynamics CRM partner, the context of this discussion will be that product.

Deployment Models and the Power of Choice

But we should back up a couple of steps here and explain some things. With all of the press and discussion these days about the success of the Office365 family, which includes Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, we notice that we don’t hear about the “Power of Choice” much anymore, when it comes to deployment of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and when it comes to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online vs. Microsoft Dynamics On-Premise.  The intention of this next section is to explain fully the various choices of deploying Microsoft Dynamics CRM:

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online – this is the cloud-based version, hosted by Microsoft, and if you didn’t dig a little, you might walk away thinking this is the ONLY version out there.  But it’s not.  This version, incidentally, is a perfectly fine, and perhaps even the best choice for a certain set of needs:

  • Data stored in a secure cloud hosted by Microsoft.
  • The latest and greatest in terms of updates and new functionality.
  • No requirements for complex home-grown solutions built on top of CRM, or tricky integrations with other systems.
  • A company that needs 5 or more CRM users. (Five users at $65/month, at the time of this writing, is the minimum monthly investment, unless you have Office365 E3+, then it’s $50/user.)

It’s no wonder why this (relatively speaking) “turn-key solution” is wildly popular with most of the companies who require little in terms of complexity and who have just the right number of users.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM On-Premises – this means that your company will purchase the licenses to run Microsoft Dynamics CRM Server, plus the Client Access Licenses required for each user. This is a one-time fee, and you can optionally purchase Software Assurance to ensure that you would get the inevitable updates and new versions as they are released from Microsoft. You would also need to supply the hardware to run the CRM Server software, one way or another, though a lease option, or through outright purchase. You would also need to install the software, and also install software ancillary and supporting software if you don’t already have it, such as SQL Server, Windows Server, etc.

Needless to say, this could potentially be a daunting task, and it can be expensive (you must get official pricing from a “Large Account Reseller”, but roughly figure about $7,500 or more for the server license plus about $1,500 or more for each client (CRM User) license, plus somewhat less expensive licenses for SQL Server, etc.  And finally the hardware to make it run.  Figure about $15,000 in hardware costs for a relatively small company that has to buy all hardware. So as you can see this only really makes sense if at least most of the following is true about your company:

  • You like to “own” software – that is, you are adverse to “leasing” or paying indefinitely on a per-user basis.
  • Your company has the budget.
  • Your company either has the knowledge or doesn’t mind hiring the knowledge to install and configure the initial deployment.
  • You are committed to the software, such that you will receive the full ROI over time.
  • You have special needs, such as the ability to directly access the SQL database.
  • You need to deploy code that is not “sandboxed.” (This is because Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online only supports plugins that run in “Sandbox” mode, which prevents certain types of programmatic calls to the API.)

Trust us, there are many, many On-Premises instances of Microsoft Dynamics CRM out there – it’s just that because of the barriers to entry, we tend to see this for larger organizations. This is especially true because of the unique method of deployment shown below.

The Sweet Spot – Private Cloud, Dedicated Hosting

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Private Cloud Hosting – this is a rather interesting deployment model in that it allows for all of the benefits of the On-Premise model, such as:

  • Direct SQL Access and control over the CRM SQL Database
  • Full administrative management (RDP Access) of the Windows CRM application server
  • Complete control over the ability to run code in Sandbox mode or not.

The reason for this is that at a technical level, this is an On-Premises deployment.

And yet – and here is the very interesting part – there are none of the On-Premise costs for server software or hardware! In fact, this licensing model, if provided by a certain type of Microsoft Partner, can in some cases match the $65/user/month that CRM Online provides.

How is this possible?  Because of a relatively little-known Microsoft type of Partnership called “Service Provider Licensing Agreement.”  This allows companies like ours to offer monthly licensing on on-premise deployments of software like Microsoft Dynamics CRM, SQL Server, etc.

The level of this type of service depends largely on the attitude of the service provider.  In our case, we take a very customized and service-oriented approach.  Every one of our Private Cloud customers are special, and we treat them that way. Thus, we are able to assist companies with just a few users who have interesting needs, as well as large enterprise companies that would rather farm out the server and application management because they have enough going on already. And of course, the large number of companies that lie between those extremes. Wherever you go next, please take the time to investigate thoroughly plans like the ones we offer, so you have a full picture of what is available.

The key to determining whether you are one of those companies that requires this level of service is to ask yourself some of the questions represented by those bullet points above, and then educate yourself as to what is available by reading articles like this one, and visiting sites like ours.


How to get started with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 with nonprofit pricing

Nonprofits Can Win Big with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016

If price is the only thing holding you back from using Dynamics CRM 2016, then this article is for you.

The nonprofit pricing for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 makes it a very easy choice.

  • Standard CRM 2016 price: $65/user/month
  • Nonprofit CRM 2016 price: $15/user/month

That’s right – you save $50 per user, per month!  And you aren’t getting some pared down version of CRM Online.  You get the same feature-rich version that everyone else does.

How do I get started?

The first step in the process is setting up a trial – and why not?  This results in even more savings – 30 free days of Dynamics CRM Online for up to 25 users.  You get full functionality of the software and all your data is saved as you go.  Microsoft uses this trial period to confirm your nonprofit status for their records.

There are a few steps to signing up for the trial, but I promise they are worth it. You’ll need to have an Office 365 account. Each Office 365 tenant is classified by its domain, which will resemble yourdomain.onmicrosoft.com.  This is chosen when you first create your Office 365 account (which is completed when you create your CRM Online trial).  This leaves two scenarios:

Scenario 1: You have an existing Office 365 tenant that you would like to add Dynamics CRM to.  Be sure to login rather than creating a new account.  In the image below you can see there is a small ‘sign in’ option at the top.  This will save you time creating the account, allow you to use the same credentials to login to CRM, and have everything organized in a single Office 365 portal.  You will have all your cloud products, billing information, email – all housed in one easy place.

How to get started with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 with nonprofit pricing

Quick Note: Dynamics CRM is not compatible with the O365 portal provided by GoDaddy and is also not compatible with the ‘small business’ O365 plans (which have mostly been phased out.)  If you are still on a small business plan, you can upgrade your O365 portal using the Switch Plans Wizard (see more about that here: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Switch-to-a-different-Office-365-for-business-plan-73318661-8f33-478b-bcc7-fb8d69dbb22a?ui=en-US&rs=en-US&ad=US).  You will pay the same price and, in some cases, get additional functionality.  If you’re using GoDaddy for Office 365 and would like to retain all of your information in the same Office 365 tenant, then you will need to migrate over to Office 365 with Microsoft.

Scenario 2: You don’t yet have an Office 365 account.  You will use the following link to start your trial: https://portal.office.com/partner/partnersignup.aspx?type=Trial&id=49c018b8-d949-4541-9edc-d280250efc17&msppid=565380.  The process is simple and you will just need to enter your information when following the trial creation steps.

How to get started with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 with nonprofit pricing

If you have any problems creating your trial, just give us a call.

Finishing Up

Once you complete the process it will take about 30 minutes for your CRM instance to provision.  You will receive a few confirmation emails from Microsoft and at this point you can get started with your full Dynamics CRM access.

Confirming Non-Profit Status

Now that you have your trial setup you just need to reach out to Microsoft to have them approve your nonprofit status.  Reach out to their billing support either by phone or via a chat here https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/contactus?forceorigin=esmc, and go to ‘Accounts and Billing’.  Be ready with your company name, CRM Online trial domain, contact name, address, phone number and email.

Transitioning from the Trial to Paid Subscription

During your trial Microsoft will reach out via email with confirmation to turn your trial into a paid subscription.  At this point just follow the instructions to activate and you’re all set.  The full power of Dynamics CRM at a great rate just for nonprofits!

Other articles you might like:

Getting the Most Out of Your CRM Online Trial http://blog.xrm.com/index.php/2013/01/getting-the-most-out-of-your-crm-online-trial-getting-started/

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Discounts for Charities http://blog.xrm.com/index.php/2014/01/microsoft-dynamics-crm-online-discounts-for-charities/

3 Simple Tips to Tailor Microsoft Dynamics CRM to your Business http://blog.xrm.com/index.php/2016/03/3-simple-tips-to-tailor-microsoft-dynamics-crm-to-your-business/


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Can’t Get Interactive Service Hub to Work in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016?

You aren’t alone. But we have a solution for you.

Interactive Service Hub is new feature introduced in CRM 2016. However there’s currently a bug that causes the app to get stuck on loading and become unusable.  If you click on ‘Experience it now’ you will be taken to a non-working URL. Very frustrating!

Interactive Service Hub Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016

What’s Wrong?

The issue is that the app does not handle properly SSL offloading which is a common configuration used on many platforms. The workaround provided by Microsoft was to disable SSL Offloading, but this breaks connectivity with CRM Outlook client and causes other issues in ADFS so this isn’t a desirable solution.

Isn’t Microsoft Fixing It?

Microsoft has acknowledged that this is a bug, and they are working on a solution.  However, the fix from Microsoft may take some time. In the meantime, we at xRM have created a solution that adds the link to the service hub in a ribbon button available in all entities.

Interactive Service Hub Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016

Our solution has been tested and works for the following system scenarios:

Office 2013
Windows 10
CRM 2016

Android 5.1

Office 2016
Windows 8.1
CRM 2016

Contact us today to get this fix.

Want to read more about the Interactive Service Hub feature? Here are some handy links.

And check out our Success Portal, a library of over 400 free educational Dynamics CRM videos.

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Track your Brand Easily with Social Engagement in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Track your Brand Easily with Social Engagement in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

As part of xRM’s effort to help clients “get social” with Dynamics CRM, we are providing a series of blogs around the social features available to you. Our last post centered on a free CRM tool, Insights, that allows you to look up key contact, revenue and social profile information about your clients and prospects.

This week we turn to tracking your brand. Why do you need to track your brand? Well in today’s instant-feedback society, you are only as good as your most recent review. And if you don’t know what you clients are saying about you, you can’t react appropriately by addressing any concerns that arise and publicizing the kudos you get. Dynamics CRM makes it easy to monitor your brand “sentiment” with Social Engagement.

What Is Microsoft Social Engagement?

Microsoft Social Engagement at its core is a social analysis tool. You may have heard it referred to as Social Listening in the past, but the name has been updated. It is used primarily to measure sentiment around specific queries or key terms you define. For example, you release a product called “Widget X”. You could use Social Engagement to monitor how #WidgetX is being discussed on Twitter.

Track your Brand Easily with Social Engagement in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Notifications and data visualizations can be set up for this hashtag so you will be immediately aware if its sentiment score is dipping, which helps you take action quickly. You can find more details including Microsoft Social Engagement pricing on our site.

How Does It Work?

Social Engagement comes with the Professional license of CRM Online. The CRM Online System Admin can enable Social Engagement in the Administration area of CRM Online. See Microsoft’s TechNet post for instructions.

Dashboards can then be set up that monitor key words and terms on Twitter, Facebook, or blogs.

Track your Brand Easily with Social Engagement in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

What Is It Not?

Social Engagement is not a sales solution in the sense that Insights is. It won’t import data on individuals or companies—it isn’t a lead generation tool.

What Does It Do Well?

Social Engagement is the perfect solution for monitoring your company’s social presence on Facebook, Twitter, and in blogs. Think product releases, announcements, support, marketing initiatives, or general engagement with customers. The solution can provide meaningful, real-time metrics around sentiment and social engagement levels.

Contact us if you would like Social Engagement for yourself!

Like this article? Check out our xRM blog for more tips like this and our Success Portal, a library of over 400 free educational Dynamics CRM videos.

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The One Free Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Tool Your Sales Team Needs to Start Using Today

Does your sales team struggle to find current company and contact information for prospecting? And maybe you don’t have the budget to subscribe to Hoover’s or Dun & Bradstreet services. Well if you own Dynamics CRM Online, we have some great news for you. You already have access to a free tool that provides contact, revenue, size data and more.

Why aren’t more sales teams using this free tool? It’s been hidden with a title of “Insights”.  Pretty vague, hmm? Previously referred to as Social Insights, this tool is powered by InsideView, a powerful stand-alone data aggregator that has been fully integrated into Dynamics CRM.

Like it or not, when some salespeople hear “social”, they tune out. But the word “social” has taken on new meaning in the last 10 years. It has different implications and definitions depending on the context. We at xRM are frequently asked about “Social CRM”. What does it mean? And how does social integration work with the platform?

When it comes to native social integration with CRM Online, there are two primary offerings:

  1. Insights for Microsoft Dynamics CRM
  2. Microsoft Social Engagement

In this discussion, we’ll focus on Insights, the free tool, powered by InsideView.

Insights for Microsoft Dynamics CRM

What Is It?

Insights is a free solution that can that pulls company, contact, and social data into your CRM database. This data comes from a sources such as Reuters, InsideView, and Equifax. So salespeople can search for any company or person and find everything from company size, revenue, key people, recent news, and more. And, for contacts in your CRM database, Insights gives you easy access to Facebook profiles, LinkedIn profiles, and Twitter feeds. This is where we see confusion about the concept of “Social CRM”—but more on that in a bit.

How Does It Work?

Insights is free with a Pro license of CRM Online, but it doesn’t come preinstalled. Global administrators or CRM Admins manage the installation from the Office 365 portal. Microsoft TechNet provides useful installation instructions.

Once the solution is installed and configured in CRM Online, users will find an Insights area on forms of the following entities: Accounts, Contacts, Leads, and Opportunities.

The One Free Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Tool Your Sales Team Needs to Start Using Today

Insights window embedded in main Account form

The One Free Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Tool Your Sales Team Needs to Start Using Today

Insights window expanded from the form


Insights provides users with general info, financial data, employee information, and newsfeeds regarding companies where it can find a match. Much of this data, such as phone numbers, address, description, ticker symbol, and company logo, can be pulled directly into CRM Online records. As you can see in the image, you can even profile similar companies with the click of a button.

What Is It Not?

Insights is by no means a social network sales platform. By that I mean it is not a solution that integrates directly into your existing social media accounts and allows you to import your connections and contacts. It is not designed to push posts or tweets to social media platforms either. Microsoft makes no attempts to advertise Insights as true social platform.

What Does It Do Well?

Insights is a superb solution for B2B sales. Users can research accounts, research people associated with those accounts, monitor news feeds, and setup watch lists. When a user identifies an account they would like to reach out to, they can see contacts related to the account and potentially pull up their LinkedIn and Facebook profiles within Insights. This allows the user to see if they have any connections with that person, making reaching out that much easier.

The rich data Insights provides is what it does best. It is easy to sync with the Insights database to enrich your CRM Online data as well.

Learn how use Social to Track your Brand Easily in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online in our next blog.

Check out our xRM blog for more tips like this and our Success Portal, a library of over 400 free educational Dynamics CRM videos.

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3 Simple Tips to Tailor Microsoft Dynamics CRM to Your Business

Deploying Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online can be intimidating, especially for smaller teams. The platform has seemingly endless configuration possibilities, so knowing where to start may be difficult. At xRM, there are a set of common configurations we frequently apply to new deployments. A common theme in these configurations is familiarity. Changing CRM Online to match your business’s terminology and style can go a long way to easing new users into the system.

Here are three simple configurations you can make to tailor CRM Online to your business:

Simple CRM Tip 1. Customize Your System Views

What are views? Views are like reports, or an Excel table. “Active Accounts in California” is a view. Every record type, or entity, in Microsoft Dynamics CRM comes with a number of default system views—about 10 or so on average.

System views are available to all users, while personal views are created by individual users and can be shared with coworkers. The stock views that come with Dynamics CRM are good at showing you how views can be used, but typically aren’t very useful in your day-to-day operations. For example, “Opportunities Opened in the Last Six Months” is an out-of-the-box system view that rarely gets used.

Clean Them Up

As a Dynamics CRM admin user, you can clean your workspace by deactivating the system views that don’t use. This view cleanup goes a long way in simplifying the interface, making it easier on your new employees.

Modify Them

To modify system views, navigate to Settings > Customization > Customize the System. When the solution window opens, navigate to the entity you would like to change in the left pane. Let’s use Opportunity in this example. Under the selected entity, click Views.

In the View dropdown at the top of the window, choose Active Public Views. We’re about to deactivate views we do not have use for, but system-defined views have functions beyond just segmenting our data. So for starters, it is highly recommended to just deactivate the public views.

3 Simple Tips to Tailor Microsoft Dynamics CRM to Your Business

Once you’ve narrowed the list down to just the active public views, you can select one view one at a time, and then click deactivate to start clearing the noise. Note that you cannot delete out-of-the-box views from the system entirely, but this process will remove them from users’ dropdown list.

Once you are done with this, go ahead and publish your customizations for them to take effect.

Simple CRM Tip 2. Change the Entity Names

Language can be a barrier when adopting new platforms. One of the hardest things for new users to overcome is getting used to labels and wording that doesn’t match their established company or team terminology. As an administrator, you can change the names of the entities without compromising the functionality or structure of the CRM platform. And it’s super easy to do.

For this example, let’s change the name of the Account entity to “Company”. To do this, navigate to Settings > Customizations > Customize the System. In the solution window that opens, navigate to Account under the Entities dropdown. You can then change the Display Name and Plural Name to your liking, “Company” and “Companies” respectfully in this case.

3 Simple Tips to Tailor Microsoft Dynamics CRM to Your Business

Be sure to save and then publish your customizations for them to take effect.

Note that changing the display name will change the entity label in the navigation, but the names of the underlying views, forms, and fields will not change automatically. They will need to be changed individually.

3 Simple Tips to Tailor Microsoft Dynamics CRM to Your Business

Simple CRM Tip 3. Change the Theme

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online now allows organizations to customize the look and feel of their CRM platform. Navigate to Settings > Customizations > Themes. Here you can choose to modify the existing theme, or create one from scratch by clicking the New button.

3 Simple Tips to Tailor Microsoft Dynamics CRM to Your Business

Quick tip—rather than create a theme from scratch, open the out-of-the-box default theme, and then click the Clone button. This will make a copy of the theme which you can then modify yourself.

3 Simple Tips to Tailor Microsoft Dynamics CRM to Your Business

3 Simple Tips to Tailor Microsoft Dynamics CRM to Your Business

Once you have designed your theme to your liking, you preview it, and publish it.

These three customizations are relatively simple and quick to implement, but can go a long way in making your users that much more comfortable with the system.

Check out our xRM blog for more tips like this and our Success Portal, a library of over 400 free educational Dynamics CRM videos.

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Powerful Reporting with Excel Templates

Great news for you analysts and visualization gurus out there! With the recent release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2016, it has never been easier to deep dive into your data thanks to the new Document Generation feature. As expert Microsoft Dynamics CRM consultants, we at xRM can’t wait to help our clients leverage Document Generation to unearth valuable KPI’s in a robust reporting tool like Microsoft Excel.

Excel, Only Better!

Document Generation enhances the Excel Online integration that was introduced with CRM Online 2015 Update 1. Basically, it allows users to upload a templated version of an Excel report to CRM Online. Users can then open the template which is populated with up-to-date data, giving users deep insights into their business at the click of a button. Let’s see how it works.

1.   Preparing the Template

The first thing you need to do is set up a baseline view in CRM Online. In this example, I’ve created a view made up of sample data from an email campaign that captured metrics such as opens, clicks, and unsubscribes. I then click the Excel Templates button in the command bar, and then click Create Excel Template.

Powerful Reporting with Excel Templates

2.   The Create template from CRM data window opens. Notice that CRM Online gives us the option to filter by entities and to choose a previously saved view. Since I’m already at the view I want to use, I’ll leave the defaults selected and then click Download file.

Powerful Reporting with Excel Templates

An Excel file is then downloaded locally to my machine, containing the columns and data from the view. I can then design a report using Excel tools.

Good for Newbies and Experts Alike

If you are already an Excel wizard, try applying some of your favorite analytical tools to the data. If you’re new to this, I recommend some analyses that are difficult or impossible using the out-of-the-box reporting tools of CRM Online such as totaling sums and averages, conditional formatting, sparklines, and PivotTables. Don’t forget, you can create multiple sheets in your Excel template.

3.   Upload the Template

One you’ve prepared your report, save it locally. Back in CRM Online, navigate to the Create template from CRM data window. This time however, click the Upload button. Drag the Excel file into the upload box that appears. A confirmation window then appears and you’re good to go.

4.   Run the “Report”

Navigate back to the entity where you want to run the report. This time around, you’ll see your uploaded template which you can then open right in Excel Online, or you can download a copy of the latest data.

Powerful Reporting with Excel Templates

Here’s an example of a report I designed and can access right from the browser. In the first sheet I broke down the data with conditional formatting, something that cannot be done in CRM Online natively.

Powerful Reporting with Excel Templates

On a separate sheet, I have set up a simple pivot table and chart that breaks down the average number of clicks, opens, and bounces per campaign.

Powerful Reporting with Excel Templates

Create for One, or Create for All

These templates can be set up for personal use, or administrators can create templates for all users to consume.

You can let your imagination run wild with the reporting possibilities when a powerful database like Microsoft Dynamics CRM has such seamless integration with an analytical tool like Excel.

Want More Dynamics CRM Tips, Tricks and Tutorials?

Check out our xRM blog and our Success Portal, a library of over 400 free educational Dynamics CRM videos.

Other Helpful Articles

Quick Admin Tip: Share Charts and Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online


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Quick Admin Tip: Share Charts and Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online can be intimidating to new users. It is such a powerful platform with a plethora of features that getting newcomers to adopt it can sometimes be an uphill battle.

Collaboration is a key ally for battling this resistance. Getting every single user to a high level of proficiency with the system immediately is unrealistic. However, getting a smaller number of users to a higher skill level, let’s call them “power users”, can be extremely beneficial.

Power Users Rule

In the early phases of training, we at xRM to emphasize simple shortcuts and features that will make a user’s life a little easier. Power users can make use of these shortcuts and lesser-known features, share them with their coworkers, all without ever needing administrative credentials. This helps those end users who may be reluctant to adopt CRM Online to see how much time they can save and can even get them excited about working with the system.

One of the features we love is the Share charm that can be found in a couple of different places. We’ll look at how to use the Share feature in a sales pipeline first.

Making Sense of the Noise

Oftentimes a complete list of your CRM data can be overwhelming. How do we know which opportunities to target without opening each one?

Quick Admin Tip: Share Charts and Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

That’s precisely why CRM Online has features such as views and charts—they help to cut through the noise. But we don’t need to rely on all of our end users to know how to create their own views and charts right off the bat. A power user can create and share them with the necessary team members.

Step 1

We’ll start by creating a new view using Advanced Find. It should be noted that a system administrator could create a system view that is available to all users that have access to the given entity, opportunities in this example. However, sharing personal views can be done by anyone. Advanced Find can be found by clicking the button to the right of the global search feature in the top-right corner of the browser.

Quick Admin Tip: Share Charts and Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Step 2

Once the Advanced Find window opens, we specify the criteria for our view. We want something that helps users prioritize top opportunities that are expected to close in the near future. Below is an example of a view that filters opportunities down to open records with an estimated close date in the next three weeks, with an estimated revenue equal to or greater than $10,000. Now, it’s time to share this view with a team member. We can click on the Saved Views button in the ribbon of the Advanced Find window.

Quick Admin Tip: Share Charts and Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Step 3

We should then see a list of all of our shared views. We can select the one we’d like to share, and then click the Share button in the ribbon.

Quick Admin Tip: Share Charts and Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Step 4

The Share saved view button opens. Just click on Add User/Team and search for users or teams to share this view with, and then specify the permissions we want to grant them. In this example we are sharing our view with Jane Doe, and we’re giving her permissions to open and share this view with other users. We can share this view with multiple users or teams at once if we so choose.

Quick Admin Tip: Share Charts and Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Step 5

Once the Share button is clicked, the user will find the view listed in their personal views. Just click the dropdown arrow on your View and scroll to the bottom section of “My Views”.

Quick Admin Tip: Share Charts and Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Share Charts Too

Sharing charts works very similarly. Notice below that I’ve already created a personal chart called, “Est. Revenue by Est. Close Date”. It’s broken down by opportunity rating. It can be accessed by clicking on the chart bar on the far right side of the browser window. We can click the More Commands button, which looks like an ellipsis (three dots), and then click the Share button.

Quick Admin Tip: Share Charts and Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

We are then given the same ability to choose which users and teams we’d like to share this chart with, and which permissions we’d like to give them.

Quick Admin Tip: Share Charts and Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Views and Charts Help You Zero in on What Matters

Once we’ve shared these tools, users can easily cut through the noise of the data and zero in on the opportunities that they should prioritize. This is how we help users see the value of CRM Online, and drive user adoption.

If you would like to learn more tips, tricks, and tutorials for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, please check out our xRM blog and our Success Portal, a library of over 400 educational Dynamics CRM videos.

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Query Relational Operator “Gotcha”

As a robust relational-database platform, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online offers numerous tools to sift through data. The Advanced Find tool is arguably the most robust as it allows users to create ad-hoc queries that can be saved and shared with other users. At xRM (www.xrm.com), Advanced Find is often one of the first things we train our customers how to use, because its concepts can be applied to so many areas in CRM Online.

This is not a post about how to use Advanced Find. Instead, this is a warning about one of the key query relational operators in Advanced Find. Knowing this tip can prevent you from overlooking crucial data or designing a faulty Workflow by mistake.

First, you may be asking, “What is a query relational operator?” In layman’s terms, it is the middle portion of a criterion in a query in CRM Online.

Query Relational Operator Gotcha

In a query, such as the one in the screenshot above, users specify the field on which they’d like to filter, the query relational operator, and then specify the parameters of the filter. Using the screenshot above, the query reads,” Show me all Accounts whose Account Name fields have a value that Begins With the letter ‘A‘ or ‘a’.” The available query relational operators change based on the field type. For example, a Date and Time field will present options such as “Before” or “Last X Months”. The query relational operator we’d like to focus on is the “Contains” operator.

CRM Online users learn early on that when searching for records using the quick find bar, the asterisk, commonly referred to as the “wildcard” character, can be their best friend. If when searching for an Account called “Some Sample Company “, a user enters the phrase “sample”, they will not get the Account record they want. If they use the phrase “*sample” (note the asterisk) they will get Some Sample Company in the results.

CRM Online searches based on character order. Since the first search in this example didn’t begin with the word “some” CRM Online didn’t see it as a match. The wildcard tells CRM Online to search the whole string to find a match, much like one would assume a Contains operator clause would behave.

Now we’ve arrived at our “gotcha”. If a user were to write an Advanced Find query like the one seen below, they would not get Some Sample Company in their search results. But why?

Query Relational Operator Gotcha

Because the Contains operator is already acting like a wildcard. The Advanced Find we just wrote above is literally telling CRM Online to search for an Account record that has an asterisk followed by the word “sample” in its name. Users unaware of this often get frustrated when they don’t see the results they are expecting. More dangerously, it can lead to users overlooking key data and making ill-informed decisions.

Workflows, which are automated background processes, commonly use these kinds of queries to trigger automated actions. Perhaps it’s necessary to automatically assign all Account records that contain the word “sample” in their name to a specific user. If the person who designed the workflow used an asterisk, CRM Online would fail to recognize Accounts it should be automatically assigning.

CRM Online is a powerful solution that is capable of meeting the needs of complex organizations and their data. Little oversights such as this one can have potentially harmful ramifications. Don’t be afraid to seek the assistance of CRM Online professionals at xRM to learn how to avoid pitfalls like this one.

If you would like to learn more tips, tricks, and tutorials for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, please check out our xRM blog and our Success Portal. If you would like to receive training from our team of experts, please inquire about our QuickStart Training.

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