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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Editing Multiple Records in CRM Online with Excel Online

Editing multiple records in Microsoft Dynamics CRM at once hasn’t always been the easiest of tasks. It’s a common request of our developers at xRM (www.xrm.com) to find ways to update existing data without third-party solutions. Bulk editing has always been supported, but every included record had to take the same new value. If you wanted to make non-uniform changes, this required exporting records to an Excel spreadsheet that was capable of being reimported back into the system using a template. Previously, the template was often finicky, making the process frustrating at times. Fortunately, CRM Online Update 1 introduced a welcome new feature: Open in Excel Online.

This feature is often billed as a means of performing ad-hoc analysis—take a look at this Microsoft Dynamics CRM Help & Training page—rather than an editable grid. Clients of ours at xRM oftentimes don’t even notice the feature, let alone know it can be used an import tool. However, Open in Excel Online can be a tremendous timesaver. The key is to know how to use it. Please note that this task requires an Office 365 license.

Let’s use an example of updating Account records in CRM Online. We have a set of Accounts that have the state in their address entered inconsistently or incorrectly. This can lead to inaccurate reporting and unreliable search results, among other issues.

Editing Multiple Records in CRM Online with Excel Online

If we want to update these we can click the Export to Excel button in the command bar, and then click Open in Excel Online. However, if we want to make other modifications to the data we need to make sure that all of the fields that need to be modified are represented as column headings in the view. For example, if we want to edit the cities and change ownership of these accounts we need to add Address 1: City and Owner as columns before exporting to Excel Online. This can be easily done by using the Advanced Find feature, found in the upper, right-hand corner of the browser.

Editing Multiple Records in CRM Online with Excel Online

In the Advanced Find window, we click Edit Columns in the ribbon. In the Edit Columns window that opens, we click Add Columns, select the fields we want to update, and then click the OK button. We should see a preview of the columns you have selected and click OK once again. Back at the Advanced Find window, we must be sure to save our changes before closing the window.

We should now be back at our view with the newly added columns. If they aren’t visible, we can always refresh the web browser and the changes should take effect. We are now ready to click Export to Excel, and then select Open in Excel Online. The browser will refresh, and the CRM records will be rendered as rows in an Excel spreadsheet. We can now update the data inline as if we were updating any normal Excel data, by clicking a cell and typing. We can even use Find and Replace, Copy and Paste, or other Excel editing functions as needed. As we update records, we want to be sure that we are following the data type of the respective fields. For example, we don’t want to enter “Fifty Dollars” into a field that tracks currency. The correct entry in that example would be “$50.00”.

Editing Multiple Records in CRM Online with Excel Online

As you can see in the image above, we’ve updated our records and even assigned some accounts a new owner. For the reassignment to be successful, it’s important for the name in the Owner column to match the exact spelling as the name of the User record in CRM Online. I know that Liz’s name is spelled correctly, but if I enter “Elizabeth Smith,” the reassignment will not be successful. The same goes for any lookup reference when using Excel Online to update records.

The data is ready, so we can click the Save Changes to CRM button. We should see a notification like the image below:

Editing Multiple Records in CRM Online with Excel Online

We can click the Close button and return to the CRM Online interface. The changes will not happen immediately. They are brought in as an import, so it will take a minute or two depending on the size of the update.

Editing Multiple Records in CRM Online with Excel Online

After we give it a moment, and then refresh the View, we see that the data was successfully updated.

You can 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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xRM Joins the 2015 Inner Circle for Microsoft Dynamics

We are most excited to announce that xRM (www.xrm.com) has earned membership to the 2015 Inner Circle for Microsoft Dynamics. The Microsoft Dynamics Inner Circle represents an elite group of Microsoft Partners from around the globe, with sales achievements that rank them in the highest echelon of the Microsoft Dynamics global network of partners. These partners are recognized for their exceptional overall company performance in delivering valuable solutions to Microsoft Dynamics customers.

The team at xRM is honored to be recognized as a member of this prestigious group and will strive only to build on our achievements.

 

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CRM Minute – Outlook Filters

We at xRM (www.xrm.com) want to remind our customers of a feature that is easy to overlook in the CRM for Outlook plugin—user filters. Filters allow users to control what exactly gets synchronized between Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Outlook. Below is a “CRM Minute” video to show you where you can control these filters.


Here are some written instructions. Note that these settings can be configured from Outlook or the web client:

Outlook

    1. Click File > CRM.

    2. Click the Synchronize button. Two options should appear. Select “Review Synchronization Settings”.

    3. The Synchronization Settings for Outlook or Exchange window opens.

    4. Click the User Filters tab to manage your own filters.

      Web Client

        1. Click the Settings icon in the upper-right corner (looks like a gear).

        2. Select Options.

        3. Select the Synchronization tab.

        4. Click the Filters link.

        5. The Synchronization Settings for Outlook or Exchange window opens.

        6. Click the User Filters tab to manage your own filters.

          If you like this bite-size lesson, you can find plenty more at our Microsoft Dynamics CRM by xRM YouTube channel. We post tutorials, xRM updates, and more videos for our CRM Minute series. We’ve even bundled these up in a playlist for your enjoyment!

          You can 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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          More CRM Online 2015 Update 1 Videos

          Microsoft regularly posts videos pertaining to its Dynamics solutions on the Microsoft Dynamics YouTube channel. Back in March, xRM (www.xrm.com) published a post that bundled some CRM Online Update 1 videos from Microsoft on YouTube since there was no such playlist on the channel. Since then, Microsoft has released 11 new videos that cover Update 1 specifically. Once again, we’ve bundled them together for your convenience. Enjoy!

          Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2015 Update 1 – Customizations New Features – Four key topics are covered: UI changes (including theming), the new DateTime attribute behaviors, calculated  and rollup field enhancements, and new query operators.

          Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2015 Update 1 – Application New Features – You don’t need to be a developer to greatly configure CRM Online. In this video, learn about process action from a workflow, honoring required steps at the platform level, new features for business process flows, and a new capability that allows business rules to clear field values.

          Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2015 Update 1 – CRM Office Integrations New Features – CRM Online integration with Excel has seen some significant improvements. This video highlights points of pain in the integration between Excel and prior versions of CRM Online, it discusses new improvements, and explains how CRM data is translated into Excel.

          Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2015 Update 1 – Folder Based Email Tracking New Features – Folder based email tracking opens the door to a number tracking possibilities. The primary goals of this video are to teach you the following: how folder-level tracking works, how to use the feature to track emails quickly, and requirements as well as best practices.

          Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 CRM for Phones New Features – This video focuses on changes made to the CRM for Phones app as part of the CRM Online Update 1 release.

          Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2015 Update 1 – SharePoint Integration New Features – Server-based SharePoint integration with Microsoft Dynamics CRM was introduced for CRM Online 2013. This feature has now been expanded to on-premises deployments as well. Learn about the benefits of server-based SharePoint integration, plan on how best to move away from the list component (how SharePoint previously integrated with Microsoft Dynamics CRM), and learn what is required to successfully set up a hybrid integration.

          Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2015 Update 1 – Yammer Integration New Features – Microsoft is introducing some Yammer integration enhancements with this update.

          Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2015 Update 1 – CRM Online Administration New Features – As an administrator, learn how to schedule your CRM Online update and how to prepare for it.

          Installation and Configuration for Microsoft Dynamics Marketing Connector for Microsoft Dynamics CRM – This lesson is not exclusive to CRM Online Update 1 deployments, but it is an important lesson with Microsoft Dynamics Marketing becoming an ever more important solution in the Dynamics family. This comprehensive video covers the process of installing and configuring the Microsoft Dynamics Marketing Connector for Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

          Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2015 Update 1 – CRM SDK New Features – This one is for you developers out there. You can review enhancements made to the CRM Online API.

          CRM Online Update 1 is now available only for CRM Online 2015. It will be made available for on-premises deployments later.

          You can 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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          Content Delivery Network for Microsoft Dynamics CRM

          Great news for xRM (www.xrm.com) partner hosted customers—you can leverage a content delivery network (CDN) to help improve the performance of Microsoft Dynamics CRM for your end users. This is especially useful for organizations with users based out of international locations, or even users on the East Coast of the United States.

          For those unfamiliar with a content delivery network, it’s a service that can decrease the download time and improve performance of a website. It is a large system of servers deployed in numerous data centers across the globe. The geographical locations of these datacenters vary by the CDN provider. The idea is to distribute the static content of your website, such as pictures and videos, to locations closer to the people accessing this website. That way, less data needs to travel great distances.

          How do you know if your CRM organization needs a CDN? If your users, especially those located in international locations, are experiencing long load times and poor performance when using Microsoft Dynamics CRM. When users are accessing your xRM hosted Microsoft Dynamics CRM organization from a non-US based location, network latency and congestion adversely affect the overall experience for those users. Internet bottlenecks exist between geographic areas where traffic needs to cross an ocean and between Internet Service Providers’ peering connections.

          Once a CDN is enabled for your Microsoft Dynamics CRM organization, users no longer need to traverse the entire path back to the xRM data center to load all requested data. The CDN has a large presence (130,000 devices across 80 countries) and is a single hop away from 90% of Internet users. It accelerates the connection from the Edge server utilized in the network back to xRM through route optimization, TCP optimization, compression, and content caching. In turn, the xRM servers respond to the closest Edge server, with the data then flowing back to the requesting client via the CDN.

          It boils down to this: Performance improvements when enabling a CDN for Microsoft Dynamics CRM include a 20% increase in speeds for users within the United States and a minimum of a 50% increase for users outside of the US.

          If you are interested in leveraging a CDN for your xRM hosted Microsoft Dynamics CRM organization, please contact us.

          You can 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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          Creating Multi-entity Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM

          Data is more abundant than ever today, but what good is all that data if you have no means of sorting through the influx? One of the goals of xRM (www.xrm.com) when helping clients deploy Microsoft Dynamics CRM is to ensure that they can easily understand their data by displaying it in ways that make sense.

          Business Intelligence (BI) applications are purposed to help people make sense of data. A number of BI applications are available. Microsoft now has its own offering—Microsoft Power BI—which integrates directly with Microsoft Dynamics CRM. One of the benefits of Power BI is the ability to easily create visuals with data from multiple tables. For a brief background on this concept, watch the video, Creating Relationships in Power BI Designer.

          However, did you know that we can do something similar to that in Microsoft Dynamics CRM without a BI application? It’s not even necessary to export to Microsoft Excel. We can accomplish it by combining data from related entities on a single view.

          To illustrate this, let’s find the total estimated revenue of all open Opportunities, organized by City. The initial obstacle is that the City field is not found by default on the Opportunity entity in Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The City field resides on the related customer entity, Account in this example. The estimated revenue is found on the Opportunity. So the data we need exists in two different entities, Accounts and Opportunities.

          Let’s open Advanced Find. The button can be found next to the global search feature in the navigation bar of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015.

          Advanced Find requires us to choose an entity to search for. Should we start at the Account or Opportunity entity?

          To answer that question, we need to think about how the entities relate to one another. Each Opportunity record is a child of a parent customer record, an Account in this example. Opportunities can be related to only one Account (N:1) whereas Accounts can have multiple Opportunities related to them (1:N). Advanced Find will only let us grab data from related entities when it is possible to resolve a single record, which can only be done from the perspective of a child record. A child record can only have one parent. Therefore, we need to begin building this view from the Opportunity entity.

          It should be noted that starting from the child record (Opportunity in this example) is not an absolute certainty. A rollup field could be designed and placed on the Account record that calculates all estimated revenue. For the purposes of this example however, we’re assuming this is an unmodified Account entity.

          Let’s design the view now in Advanced Find, starting from the Opportunity entity. We can begin from something like the default Open Opportunities view. From here, we need to click the Edit Columns button in the ribbon, thus opening the Edit Columns dialog.

          Creating Multi-entity Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM

          We can then click the Add Columns button which opens the aptly named Add Columns window. Notice the Record Type drop-down (pictured below). By default, it’s set to the starting entity, Opportunity in this example. This means we can include attributes of the Opportunity entity as column headings, Est. Revenue being an example. However, we can also change the record type to a related entity and add attributes from related entities as column headings. This simple, yet often overlooked, feature is how we bring data from multiple entities into a single view.

          Creating Multi-entity Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM

          When we change the Record Type to “Potential Customer (Account)” (see below), the available attributes change to those of the Account entity. We can now check the Address 1: City checkbox to add it to the view. Note that if we were to export the view to a tool such as Excel to plot locations on a map, it might be a good idea to include Address 1: State/Province. That way, Excel would know if we’re referring to Springfield, MA or Springfield, IL.

          Creating Multi-entity Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM

          We can then move the columns as we see fit using the arrow icons back at the Edit Columns window. When we’re done, we can click the OK button to close the window and return to Advanced Find. Typically, it’s a good idea to click the Results button to make sure the view is to your liking. If it is, we can click the Advanced Find tab in the ribbon, click Save As, and name the view.

          We now have a view that contains data from multiple entities. We can design a chart based on that view that shows us Est. Revenue by City, something we couldn’t do before we designed this view.

          Creating Multi-entity Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM

          If we wanted to export the data to Excel to take advantage of say the Power Map feature, we can do so in a single export.

          Creating Multi-entity Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM

          For many clients we at xRM work with, the primary goal of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM deployment is to improve their decision making. Knowing how to extract and display useful data from the database is crucial in achieving this. There are add-ons and third-party applications that can help in this regard. Microsoft Power BI is an example of such an external tool. However, it’s important to have a grasp on the features available to us directly in Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Something as simple as the Advanced Find tool can be extremely powerful in surfacing data vital in making key decisions.

          If you would like to learn more tips, tricks, and tutorials such as this one, 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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          Update Rollup 2 for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Service Pack 1 (SP1)

          xRM (www.xrm.com) hosts many versions of Microsoft Dynamics CRM to meet its customers’ various needs, including Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 with Service Pack 1 (SP1). We will soon be applying Update Rollup 2 to those instances.

          Update Rollup 2 for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Service Pack 1 (SP1) was originally announced in a pre-release article in November, 2014. It’s finally available in February 2015, and it was worth the wait. It fixes many issues; the Microsoft knowledge base article lists 153 (see link below).

          If you have CRM Online, and have not opted in to upgrade to the 2015 version, you will effectively remain in the 2013 (SP1) version and should automatically get the equivalent code to Update Rollup 2 when Microsoft deploys it to the CRM Online servers. Note that CRM Online has its own code update stream with updates that are similar to, but not necessarily exactly matching the ones described in the knowledge base articles for on-premises and partner-hosted servers. Microsoft typically does not announce its CRM Online updates unless there’s a major version change, such as 2015.

          Links

          If you like CRM tips, tricks, and tutorials, 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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          How to Format Field Labels

          The Form Editor in Microsoft Dynamics CRM offers a plethora of configuration options to administrators. One of the easier configurations to achieve is creating a custom field. A common question clients of ours at xRM (www.xrm.com) ask us is, “How do I get the whole label to display?” Take a look at this screenshot Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 to see an example:

          How to Format Field Labels

          The custom field’s label, “Total Number of Members,” is cut off. Not only is it not aesthetically pleasing, but it can lead to confusion when filling out the form. Luckily, there are three solutions for this problem.

          Solution One: Reword the Labels

          An important part of good interface configuration is choosing label text that is short, sensible, and easy for users to read. For example, “Total Number of Members” could be, “Members,” or “Member Total.” However, sometimes the label simply cannot be reduced. In those situations, Solution Two or Solution Three can help.

          Solution Two: Adjust Field Label Position

          The first solution is to format the field labels so that they appear above the fields. This is done from the Form Editor. To get there, click the More Commands button (it looks like an ellipsis) in the command bar, and then select Form. Please note that you’ll need a Security Role of System Customizer or equivalent privileges to see that in the menu.

          How to Format Field Labels

          When the Form Editor opens, double-click the section of the form containing the field whose label was cut off. The entire section should be highlighted in a blue line when you double-click it.

          How to Format Field Labels

          The Selection Properties window opens. Click the Formatting tab and scroll to the bottom. In the Field Label Position section, select Top. Then click the OK button to accept the changes and close the window.

          How to Format Field Labels

          Back at the Form Editor, click the Save button. Then click the Publish button. The Form Editor can be closed once publishing is complete. Before the changes can take effect, the browser must be refreshed.

          Once the window refreshes, notice that the field label appears in its entirety:

          How to Format Field Labels

          Solution Three: Field Label Width

          This solution gives more space for the label to appear and keeps it on the same line as the field. Open the Form Editor once again by clicking the More Commands button and selecting Form.

          How to Format Field Labels

          When the Form Editor opens, double-click the section of the form containing the field whose label was cut off. The entire section should be highlighted in a blue line when you double-click it.

          How to Format Field Labels

          This time, when the Section Properties window opens, stay in the Display tab. In the Field Label Width section, increase the pixels to widen the allotted space for the field labels in this section. This might take some trial and error to get it to the ideal width for the form in question. To preview the changes without publishing them, click the Preview button in the ribbon and select Create Form.

          How to Format Field Labels

          After the pixels are set, save and publish the changes. Once the Form Editor is closed, refresh the browser to see the changes.

          How to Format Field Labels

          This particular example required 150 pixels to make all of the field labels fully visible. This number will vary depending on the number of characters in the longest field label and the width of the column in question.

          All solutions covered in this post are perfectly valid options for making field labels fully visible, though one is preferable over the other in certain situations. Solution Two is better if the goal is to make better use of horizontal space. Placing the labels above the fields does not eat into the fixed width in pixels for the columns on the form. However, this solution will extend the vertical space occupied by the section, thus requiring users to scroll vertically slightly more. Solution Three conversely is ideal for conserving vertical space. However, extending the field labels in width eats into the space allowed for the data in the fields. This can lead to the data itself being visually cut off rather than the label. If the tab on the form containing the modified section is one or two columns in width, this may not be an issue. But in three to four column tabs, horizontal space becomes more limited. In summary, there is no perfect solution. It depends on the form and the interface experience you as an admin are trying to create for your users.

          If you would like to learn more tips, tricks, and tutorials such as this one, 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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