Let’s Socialize

Lets SocializeBack in November 2011, Activity Feeds became an important addition to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 and CRM Online via a service update. Modeled after the Facebook wall, Twitter feed, and LinkedIn updates, Activity Feeds provide users with an event-driven view of changes and collaborations in your Dynamics CRM organization. However, Activity Feeds are not social CRM, meaning they have nothing to do with social media. With Update Rollup 12 though, that’s about to change.

Microsoft is now integrating the enterprise social network Yammer into Dynamics CRM 2011 and CRM Online. In fact, this latest update is merely the first phase of integrating Yammer as a social layer. As of January 2013, users will be able to post messages from Dynamics CRM to Yammer and vice versa. These messages can relate to records, events, and documents.

The idea is to make collaboration not only easier, but much more effective. As you follow a lead that you are responsible for or are interested in, you can use Yammer to collaborate with colleagues inside your organization or with customers, partners, and stakeholders. These social conversations can take place directly within Dynamics CRM, through the Yammer web and desktop applications, as well as apps running on Microsoft (Windows Phone), Apple (iOS) and Google (Android) mobile devices.

Lets SocializeMicrosoft is further extending this social media experience with the introduction of embedded Skype support. This provides users with additional flexibility in embedded communications on top of the currently supported Microsoft Lync integration. Users will be able to initiate calls to phones and other Skype accounts directly from an open Dynamics CRM form. Before you can take advantage of this capability, you will need to install Skype onto your PC.

With the exponential growth of social media, this integration of Yammer and Skype with Dynamics CRM will no doubt be a powerful tool. We look forward to providing you with relevant tutorials soon here at this blog, as well as at the Success Portal.

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Microsoft Dynamics CRM Consulting On a Budget

A lot of small business owners and managers realize that a CRM solution could make their marketing, sales, and service efforts more efficient and make a major impact on their bottom lines. They frequently put the Internet to work and find the information that they need to pick a CRM product that meets their requirements. Once they make a purchase decision, they often find themselves in a difficult position, however. They have a CRM solution with a vast feature set but lack the experience and knowledge to successfully implement the solution and train their employees to use it well. To make matters worse, they also tend to have tight budgets with little wiggle-room for implementation and training.

To help illustrate this scenario, we’ll pretend that we are running a small real estate business. Our business is growing, and our current system of using Excel and Outlook to manage our customer relationships just isn’t working anymore. We decide that it is time to invest in a CRM application. We want a product that feels like it was designed with small businesses in mind but that isn’t handicapped by a limited feature set. After extensive online research, we decide on CRM Online, the cloud version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, because of its feature set, flexibility, and price.

We successfully get our account set up and provision our users. Because we aren’t Microsoft CRM experts, we have some questions regarding configuration and training. We have a powerful CRM solution, but don’t have a good idea of how to use it to transform our business. We’re a small business with a limited budget. We don’t have any developers or administrators on staff with Microsoft Dynamics CRM experience. Hiring CRM consultants to help us seems logical, but it is also potentially impractical given our budgetary restrictions. What options do we have left?

At xRM, we are sympathetic to the needs of small businesses, which is why we offer a variety of Microsoft Dynamics CRM deployment packages that provide the guidance you need at a low fixed price. The deployment packages offer various amounts of education, training, customization, and consulting time. We also offer prepaid consulting time at a discounted rate. This way, you can buy budget-friendly blocks of consulting time. Whether you need training, configuration, or customization, prepaid consulting time can be a welcome solution for small businesses that need a little bit of help from expert Microsoft Dynamics CRM consultants.

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Getting the Most Out of Your CRM Online Trial – Security Roles

In the first entry in this series, “Getting the Most Out of You CRM Online Trial – Getting Started,” we took the first step towards maximizing the effectiveness of our CRM Online Trial. Now that we are starting to familiarize ourselves with Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online by practicing some tasks we’ve learned from the Success Portal, we are ready to take the next step in our evaluation.

As the primary evaluator of our CRM Online trial, we probably want to see how our employees will interact with CRM. The trial does allow up to 25 licenses to be assigned, and we can start adding real users and inviting our employees to experience the trial. Ideally, real people in our organization would take the time to evaluate CRM Online using the modules and functions that are essential to their tasks. But, what if they are too busy to take the time to evaluate a trial? We can always put ourselves in their shoes and explore CRM Online as a typical sales, marketing, or service user.  

A simple way of doing this would be to create some “dummy” users. By creating a dummy user and signing in as that user, we can examine CRM Online from the perspective of another security role. For example, if I were to sign up for a trial, I might add three users and name them “xRM Sales”, “xRM Marketing”, and “xRM Service”. We can then assign them the default security roles of Salesperson, Marketing Professional, and Customer Service Representative, respectively.

What if we need to make some changes to the organization when we’re signed in as xRM Sales? We’d have to sign out and then sign back in as the administrator. Once we finished making our changes, we’d have to sign out, and then once again sign back in as xRM Sales to see how the changes affected the dummy user. That seems like a lot of unnecessary work.

Never fear, we have created three separate security roles that copy the basic rules of each of these default security roles, except they have all of the administrator privileges. This way, we can explore the functionality of the Marketing Professional security role, yet be able to make administrative changes to the organization as needed. We’ve shared them on the xRM.com Blog SkyDrive for your usage. The file containing the security roles is called TrialSecurityRoles_1.0.zip.

To import the security roles after you’ve downloaded and saved the file, in CRM Online, navigate to the Settings > Customization > Solutions. Click Import in the toolbar and then select the file.

 Getting the Most Out of Your CRM Online Trial Security Roles

Once the solution is imported and we publish the customizations, we can assign these security roles to our dummy users. We can disable the dummy users once we are done evaluating CRM Online.

Hopefully, this will further assist you in getting the most out of your CRM Online trial.

In our next post, we will discuss sample data, how we can augment it, and how we can remove it to make way for our company’s real data.

Good luck and check back soon!

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Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Update Rollup 12

Update Rollup 12 for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 is now available. It can be downloaded from the Microsoft Download Center as of January 10, 2013 or updated through Microsoft Update as of January 22, 2012. This update is available for all languages supported by Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 and resolves a number of updates and hotfixes. It also introduces additional browser compatibility for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. The list of devices, operating systems, and specific browser versions is detailed in the table below.

Platform Internet Explorer Firefox Chrome Safari
Windows XP Version 8 Version 16+ Version 22+ Not Supported
Windows Vista Version 8 and 9 Version 16+ Version 22+ Not Supported
Windows 7 Version 9 and 10 Version 16+ Version 22+ Not Supported
Windows 8 Version 10 Version 16+ Version 22+ Not Supported
Apple OS X 10.7 (Lion) Not Supported Not Supported Not Supported Version 6+
Apple OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) Not Supported Not Supported Not Supported Version 6+
Apple iOS (iPad) Not Applicable Not Applicable Not Applicable Supported

 

Additionally, the update includes new indexes for the following entities in the Quick Find Search Optimization feature.

Entities:

  • Business Unit
  • Cases
  • Competitors
  • Connection Opportunities
  • Connection Role
  • Contact (the Phone Number fields)
  • KB Article
  • Lead
  • Product
  • Sales Literature

Supported operating systems: Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Prerequisites: You must have Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Update Rollup 6 (build 5.0.9690.1992) or a later version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 installed to apply this update rollup.

Important Notes:  Update Rollup 12 for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 has no hotfixes or updates that you must enable or configure manually. You can uninstall Update Rollup 12 from a server that is running Microsoft Dynamics CRM. However, back up your databases before you uninstall Update Rollup 12. You cannot import a database that was created by using Update Rollup 6 or a later version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 into a deployment of Update Rollup 5 or an earlier version of CRM 2011.

Links:

Microsoft Support: Update Rollup 12 for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 is available

Microsoft Download Center: Update Rollup 12 for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011

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Getting the Most Out of Your CRM Online Trial – Getting Started

By signing up for a free 30-day trial of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, you are taking your first step towards improving your business’ marketing effectiveness, boosting your sales productivity, and enriching your customer service interactions. But how do you effectively measure and evaluate this application’s contribution to your business in just 30 days? We’re going to help you do just that with this series of posts. 

When we sign in to our CRM Online trial for the first time as our organization’s administrator, we might be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data available to us. We’ll see dashboards containing various charts, a sales pipeline representing seemingly arbitrary dollar amounts, activities that mean nothing to us, and a button that says, “Get CRM for Outlook”. 

Getting the Most Out of Your CRM Online Trial – Getting Started

Where in the world do we begin? Before we start clicking away and drilling down into functions that don’t make sense to us yet, let’s plant our feet firmly on the ground by understanding something important: this is a default deployment of CRM Online. It is a newly unwrapped, right-out-of-the-box tool that doesn’t resemble the refined instrument it will become when it is firing on all cylinders for our business.

For example, take a look at the Sales Pipeline. It looks like a functioning pipeline with several color-coded segments that represent the various stages of the sales process. However, it’s a result of the sample data set, and until we make some customizations to our organization, only sample data will display a neat, succinct pipeline funnel chart like this one. That doesn’t mean we cannot build a sales process, we should just understand that we need to mold CRM Online to our business’ needs. And my goodness, CRM Online certainly is moldable.     

Getting the Most Out of Your CRM Online Trial – Getting Started

Now that we understand our starting point, we want to learn some basic functions in CRM Online. To do that, we should stop by the Success Portal by xRM.com. It contains a number of resources, like introductory videos, how-to tutorials, and instructional webinars, all of which will help us make the most of our CRM Online deployment. Check out this Introduction to the Success Portal to learn more.

The first stop in the Success Portal is “Getting Started”. This section contains a number of videos that will help us establish a foundation of basic CRM Online knowledge from which to build. We can use the sample data that comes with our trial by default to practice some of these tasks:

  • Adding Users
  • Assigning Security Roles
  • Creating a Team
  • Importing Data
  • Inviting Users
  • Outlook Client Installation
  • Setting Personal Options

Once we start to get an idea of how CRM Online works on a basic level, we want to know how our employees will use this tool. In the next post of this series, we will add a few dummy Users to our organization, assign them each a Security Role that I’ve created, and then sign in as these Users to help us see CRM Online through the lens of our employees.  

Good luck and check back soon!

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Microsoft CRM Training Videos on YouTube

If you have heard about the Success Portal for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, but haven’t been sure if you should sign up or not, head over to our Success Portal YouTube channel.

We’ve uploaded more than 140 sample Microsoft Dynamics CRM training videos to give you an idea of the breadth and depth of the training we provide through the Success Portal.

Each of the videos on our Success Portal YouTube channel is an abridged version of a full-length video from the Success Portal.

If after viewing some of the sample videos on YouTube, you decide that you or someone in your organization could benefit from Microsoft Dynamics CRM training, you can sign up for a Success Portal account. It’s free.

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Dedicated Hosted Environments, the OTHER Cloud

Dedicated hosted environments allow organizations to enjoy many of the benefits of the cloud, while providing improved security and greater flexibility.

Most people are now familiar with the concept of the public cloud. Indeed, when “the cloud” is mentioned in the media, it is invariably the public cloud that is referenced. In the public cloud, companies provide software and storage from remote servers that are shared across many users. The cloud delivers its services via a web browser or another client application; the user owns neither the server hardware nor the software itself but instead subscribes to the service as one would a magazine, accessing it for a monthly or yearly subscription fee.

Despite the media’s focus on the cloud as the future, security and compliance issues continue to raise concerns for IT decision makers. No other issue comes close. Although security in the cloud can be, and usually is, very good, questions linger about the ultimate safety of data on public servers. Sixty-two percent of executives surveyed ranked public cloud security as a “serious” or “extremely serious” issue1. The 2011 version of ISACA’s IT Risk/Reward Barometer—US Edition found that 41% of its respondents felt that the risks of cloud computing outweigh the benefits2.

Compliance is another major consideration for IT decision makers. In the United States, a combination of governmental and non-governmental organizations requires companies in industries such as health care and financial services to maintain strict segregation of personally identifiable information (PII). The regulations regarding PII complicate the decision to utilize the cloud. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and Sarbanes-Oxley all serve to make cloud adoption more complicated for IT decision makers.

Recently, another type of cloud has made a splash in the media: the private cloud. Private clouds have never received the publicity of their celebrity public sibling, but have become an appealing option for many companies. Unlike in the public cloud, the servers and software in a private cloud are dedicated to one company. Private clouds address many of the concerns that IT decision makers have with the cloud, and IT decision makers prefer private clouds to public clouds for handling sensitive information about 8 to 1. Indeed, 57% of executives indicated that they believe a private cloud will be the best way to manage IT deployments even in three years’ time. Only 7% said the same about the public cloud3.

Private clouds take two basic forms—internally-managed private clouds and dedicated hosted environments.

An internally-managed private cloud is built by a company for its own use, and the company owns the hardware and software and manages the deployment. In the internally-managed private cloud, software and infrastructure is delivered as a service through the company’s network. Internally-managed private clouds differ from traditional on-premise deployments because they make use of several cloud characteristics, including machine virtualization, redundancy, automated provisioning, and an application programming interface (API).

Dedicated hosted environments, or partner-hosted private clouds, are the other form of private cloud. Although they function similarly to internally-managed private clouds, dedicated hosted environments differ from the internally-managed private clouds in a few key ways. First, an outside partner builds, hosts, and manages the dedicated hosted environment for the company that will use it (the subscriber). Second, in a dedicated hosted environment, the subscriber does not have to buy the hardware to build the private cloud or the software running in the environment. Instead, the company subscribes to the software and infrastructure as a service, just as it would in the public cloud. An additional benefit, explained further below, is that the subscriber has the option of deploying additional software in the dedicated hosting environment, not just the software to which the company is subscribing.

There are several reasons that IT decision makers are embracing dedicated hosted environments.

First, dedicated hosted environments provide a greater level of control over security and compliance than the public cloud. The system is not shared as it would be in a multi-tenant, public cloud deployment. Private clouds enable companies to maintain the necessary data segregation and control over privacy and security. In a private cloud, a firewall exists between the network and the Internet, and the user’s software and data is physically separated from other users’ software and data. Users of private clouds can maintain data encryption and restrict access to the system by IP address.

Second, dedicated hosted environments are much more flexible than their public cloud counterparts. Public cloud providers typically restrict the hosting of applications to the providers’ software or to a limited number of trusted partners, but in a dedicated hosted environment, subscribers are free to load any software that they wish onto the dedicated servers. Dedicated hosted environments offer the ability to host unmanaged code such as custom web applications, customer SQL reports, and other applications within the environment. Dedicated hosted environments are also particularly useful for integrating legacy line-of-business applications with CRM platforms such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Although the subscriber is responsible for the unmanaged code, the flexibility of being able to host it within the environment is a huge advantage over public cloud deployments.

Third, dedicated hosted environments are scalable. Companies can add server space to meet demand much more easily than is possible with traditional on-premises deployments. Also, machine virtualization allows the managers of private clouds to reallocate the resources in a private cloud as necessary. In a standard on-premises deployment, each individual server needs to have excess capacity in order to handle peak loads. In a private cloud, the virtualized machines within the private cloud share the capacity of the entire cloud. By sharing resources, private clouds are more efficient than traditional on-premises deployments, and less excess capacity is required to handle peak loads.

Fourth, dedicated hosted environments allow smaller companies to leverage the expertise of professional hosting companies, accessing experience and knowledge that they may not otherwise be able to afford in-house, while also enjoying the benefits of a cloud.

Fifth, dedicated hosted environments give the subscribing company access to the latest software while removing the burden of managing the hardware and software to which the company has subscribed. Dedicated hosted environments also give the company the freedom to add other unmanaged software if desired. Additionally, the pace of innovation in the software industry is increasingly making it unlikely that companies can continue to use software licenses long enough to make it more economical to buy software licenses and deploy them in an on-premises environment than to subscribe to software in a dedicated hosted environment.

Private clouds provide a slew of other benefits as well, including single sign on. Read more about the benefits of a dedicated environment hosted by xRM.com.

1 Lange, Larry. “The big dilemma: Security versus scalability”. 24 Oct. 2011. Web. 17 Nov. 2011. <http://www.pwc.com/cy/en/Issues/Assets/cloud-computing.pdf>
2 “2011 ISACA IT Risk/Reward Barometer—US Edition”. 9 May 2011. Web. 17 Nov. 2011. <http://www.isaca.org/sitecollectiondocuments/2011-risk-reward-barometer-us.pdf>
3 Lange, “The big dilemma: Security versus scalability”.

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