Dynamics CRM 2015 / 2013 New Feature Summary

I did a compilation of the new features if CRM 2013 and 2015 to update the training materials and to recertify. If you are making the upgrade from CRM 2011or upgrading your certifications, here is the summary of new stuff the team gave us:

Dynamics CRM 2015 New Features

  1. Interface
    1. Hierarchy Visualization
    2. Enhanced Mobile Sales Offline & Dashboard
    3. Outlook and Sync Enhancements
  2. Customization
    1. Entity
      1. Field Types:
        1. Simple Calculated
        2. Rollup
      2. Enhanced Business Rules.-
        1. If – Then
        2. Server Side – Plugin replacement
  3. Processes
    1. Enhanced Business Processes
      1. If then else
  4. Config
    1. Security Enhancements – hierarchy security model
    2. Field Level security available on all fields
  5. Application
    1. Search multiple entities
    2. Sales Product Taxonomy
      1. Family
      2. Bundle
    3. SLA Enhancements
    4. Microsoft Social Listening is now available for on-premises systems

CRM 2013 New Features

  1. Interface
    1. Command Bar
    2. Simplified Navigation
    3. Flat User Interface
    4. Auto Save
    5. Office 2013 Support
    6. Skype/Lync
    7. Apps for IOS, Win 8 PC
  2. Customization
    1. Entity
      1. Business Rules
      2. Image field type
    2. Forms
      1. Social Pane
      2. Quick Create Forms
      3. Quick View Forms
    3. Integrated Maps
  3. Processes
    1. Real Time Workflows
    2. Business Process Flow
    3. Actions
  4. Configuration
    1. Assign Security Roles to teams
    2. Server Side Sync of email

Steve Noe

Posted in CRM 2013, CRM 2015 | 1 Comment

Dynamics CRM Customization Course available on YouTube

In the process of updating my Dynamics CRM customization course, I reviewed all this video and realized (most of) it was still relevant to CRM 2015. In general, most everything you knew about CRM 2011 works just the same in CRM 2015. Once you get to the customization interface, it even looks the same.

There is a list of new features for CRM 2013 and CRM 2015, and I am working on that content before re-recording the entire series.

Check out the video playlist “Training: CRM Customization Topics” on BizITPro YouTube Channel 

Enjoy!

Stephen V Noe

Posted in Configure, CRM 2011, CRM 2013, CRM 2015, Customization, Training | Tagged | Leave a comment

Why it’s good to upgrade to Dynamics CRM 2013/2015 despite the interface changes

AKA: The (Recent) Evolution of Microsoft Dynamics CRM

I’ve been noticing a lot of customers have elected not to upgrade Dynamics CRM beyond the 2011 version.  Most of them have seen the new interface and have concerns on the impact on their users, similar to the concerns of many organizations when the new Microsoft Office ribbon came out.  In this blog, I will show why it is worth the effort and cost of moving to the most current Microsoft Dynamics CRM release within about 6-12 months of it’s release.

I started working with Dynamics CRM 3.0 in 2005. At the time, was a significant improvement over CRM 1.2, which some of my associates remember all too well. Dynamics CRM 2013 and 2015 are also significant improvements over previous versions and provide better usability/flexibility to techies and users alike.

Recently, I began updating my teaching slide decks for both applications courses and the technical courses from Dynamics CRM 2011 to CRM 2015.  I had expectations that I might have to do a complete rewrite of the decks due to all the changes. Once I got started, however, I realized that this was not the case.  I had to update all of the screen shots, but most the functions of CRM remained consistent. Sure, I had to add new sections where new features had been added and deal with the navigation changes, but the basic functions of Dynamics CRM still work the same way they always have except for the improvements. Yay!  The job took much less time than anticipated, always a plus!

So why is that important to you if you haven’t upgraded to CRM 2013 from CRM 2011?

The benefits

  • The 2013/2015 versions more productive & feature rich allowing faster and easier enhancement as well as more productive for users.
  • Much more powerful forms now let you include fields from parent entities on a form and much more
  • Can use new features such as calculated fields and rollup fields to reduce and eliminate custom code
  • More focus and support for current versions, especially if interfaced to other software

The drawbacks

  • Must retrain users on the new interface, but the new interface looks more intimidating than it actually is
  • Unsupported code won’t work without changes or in some cases rewrites. This also means testing all the changes before going live

I have to admit, I was intimidated by the new interface when CRM 2013 came out, but even without training, I was able to get up to speed pretty quickly.  That said, about 2 hours worth of user training and a day or two of use gets most end users up to speed on 2013/2015. As far as the techies are concerned, review the list of changes, watch some videos and you’ll be fine. I took all of the recorded partner training for CRM 2013 and 2015 in about 16 hours and did fine.

The improvements are worth the effort. The new navigation and interface are an improvement, easier to use, out of the way, and work on touch. Many new features provide a more robust customization environment, reducing the need for code and testing.

If you have been waiting, it’s a good time to take another look.

Stephen V. Noe

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Posted in CRM 2015 | Leave a comment

Sharpening the Saw (Certification 2015 style)

OK, I had a gig that lasted 4 1/2 years with a great team.  I got caught up in designing with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 due to project constraints until this year.  Learned a lot, worked with truly great people, completely abandoned blogging & teaching for the duration and …I got to spend some time on the water.

Steve at Helm

sigh.

For those of you who follow my blog, I apologize if my lack of certifying for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 left you in the lurch for a review of the exams and courseware.

So this year – moving into new CRM consulting projects & training, I made a concerted effort to recertify for CRM 2015 and just completed 3 primary certifications for CRM Online/CRM On Premise 2015:

    • MB2-704 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Application (2015)
    • MB2-706 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Deployment (2015)
    • MB2-707 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Customization & Configuration (2015)

I studied for but did not take

    • MB2-708 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Installation (2015)

These are requirements to be a Dynamics CRM MCT and generally the most needed CRM certifications for a partner firm to be a Certified Microsoft CRM Partner.

Those of you who know me, know I am a consultant & trainer from way back. I’m used to learning the material quickly from whatever content is available.  I think that the Dynamics team did it right with the video training courses.  For the first time, all of the material I needed to re-certify as a partner, was there to access, delivered competently and concisely.  I am referring to the training that Microsoft wrote and recorded on the Dynamics Learning Portal site for Partners.

To prep for the 3 exams, I took the On-line courses as specified in the Exam Prep Guides on the new & improved Dynamics Learning Portal. Courseware has not been published on the MCT download site at this time, but I am sure it will be available shortly.

Note: the links only work if you are a partner with DLP access.

These courses, taught by MCT’s recorded on camera, do the absolute best job at delivering the material in short segments clearly. It’s a fire hose, but if you are already experienced or Certified in CRM 2013 or CRM 2011, this seems like the shortest, most cost efficient way to recertify. If I understand correctly, this is included with the mandatory $1000 training plan to required collect Dynamics fees on CRM.

The model has changed since I started training, but the difficulty in funding private training is not any easier.  The partner training plan discount to $1000 will do a good job of helping partner re-certify at low-cost without travel.

Well, now that I have finished certifying, I guess I had better go update some of my CRM slide decks…and get ready for some training assignments and consulting gigs.

Good luck on your re-certification.

Steve Noe, Dynamics CRM Trainer, SME, Solutions Architect, …sailor

Posted in Configure, CRM 2015, Customization, Installation, Training | Tagged | Leave a comment

Registration is now open for Microsoft Convergence 2015

Registration is now open for Convergence 2015, in Atlanta from March 16-19, 2015 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia. I am hoping to see a lot of new material about CRM 2015.

I just registered. If you are going, I hope to see you there!

Steve Noe
Dynamics CRM Solutions Architect

Posted in CRM, Training | Leave a comment

Tracking Certification Activities using a Rules Engine

In our last project for a medical certifying board, one of the challenges was to design a replacement for the legacy code that tracked the activities candidates were required to successfully perform to become certified. Certification related activities included many types, including: Training, Examinations Surveys, CME credits, attestations, work history and references.  There are different specialty certifications and cohorts (a group of candidates during a specific time frame), each with a different set of rules and activity types. The challenge was to support individual rule sets depending on a specialty and a cohort AND to be maintainable over time. 

We proposed a configurable rules engine that would be able to abstract the certification activities and store the rules as CRM data rather than code, using the data parameters to define specific requirements, time frames, prerequisites and the like. After

By the time the project was finished, we built three different engines: Training, Certification and Recertification using Microsoft Dynamics CRM as the data repository.  Each engine handles different kind of activities, supports multiple rule sets and versioning.

This was accomplished using Dynamics CRM C# plug-ins that are designed to fire on specific status of Certification activity records and apply the rules to the new activity and update the certification status.  This is much easier to write about than to accomplish; the engines were built over a 3 year period. 

Just as the first engine was initially delivered, an unexpected rule change was required. The new  rule change was able to be configured quickly, so quickly that it was apparent that the new rules engine was indeed up to the challenge.  No programming changes were needed and the board users were pleased. This validated our design, and we proceeded to design and build the other two engines.

Mind you, some new rules do require programming.   You can only build in so much at a time, but programming maintenance was reduced significantly. All three engines are now running in production successfully.

Here is an example of a certification status from the Training Rules Engine:

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Here are some of the training rules:

image

For more information on our rules engine designs, please contact us via the contact page at http://www.bizitpro.com/index.php/about-us/contact-us

Stephen V Noe
Solution Architect

CEO-MCT

Posted in CRM 2011, Extending | Tagged | Leave a comment

Lessons learned: Legacy Software Replacement using Dynamics CRM

Background:

For the last four or so years, I have been involved in a legacy (existing) systems replacement project for a certifying board. The legacy  software managed a database of information collected about constituent training, examinations, certification, re-certification and licensure. It involved over 400 SQL tables created over the previous decade or so. 

The prior software platform was old and no longer supported the organizations needs. Due to the tightly integrated nature of the systems it was difficult to isolate the individual sub-systems to allow a phased rollout, although we were able isolate some of the functionality for phased approach.

The tool chosen to build the new system was Dynamics CRM to facilitate rapid application development. The client team was not familiar with the tool prior to this project. We were called in about 1-2 years to work embedded with the client team.   Our roles included requirements gathering, database design , development, Microsoft Dynamics CRM training and mentoring. The project started with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 and was later upgraded to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 for later phases.  I am happy to say the project has gone live and the bulk of the work is complete.  It has been an interesting journey.

Some of the “Lessons learned” include:

1. It’s all about the data! Redesign of the database should consider not only good database normalization (design to minimize data duplication), how the development tools (Dynamics CRM) consume data (in CRM for charts and views),  AND to ensure it is possible to convert from the old data format to the new data format verifiably.

  • Expect that historical data will be flawed, especially data converted in previous upgrades.
  • Use existing utilities (SSIS, Scribe, etc.) to address data migration and synchronization.  Home grown solutions always take much more to do even if it doesn’t seem so at the beginning– scope creep is a given here!
  • Create data maps to help specify source and target fields to assist the conversion team. Be sure to keep them up to date as changes will inevitably happen.
  • Keeping the old and new databases synchronized as you implement can be problematic and more expensive that you might think. Bi-directional synchronization is even worse. Organize your development to minimize syncing as much as possible and wherever possible, group modules around defined interfaces.

2. Training the team in a new tool is fundamental. Train & mentor the entire team to ensure good use of the tool’s supported features.  You will burn more in lost productivity then you will spend in training to avoid it.

  • The solution architect must be an expert with the tool to help guide the team as there are many ways to apply the tool set. If your team is new to the development tool, consider hiring or contracting a solution architect experienced in the tools to be used.
  • Business Analysts and the Quality Assurance team need to understand customizations and processes that can be done using the tool or the solution architect will need to vet their recommendations to ensure efficient use of the tool. One side benefit is that the BA’s can create prototypes for review by end users before any code is written, reducing development changes later.
  • Developers also need to understand the tool to ensure that they don’t code solutions already support by the tool and to ensure they do not code is such a way that they might. Training in both customization and development using the tool is critical.

3. Agile implementation is great, but….the overall database design needs a longer term view to ensure individual modules will interface properly before each sprint is defined.

  • Organize your development to minimize sync’ing as much as possible.
  • Wherever possible, group modules around carefully defined database interfaces.

4. When upgrading to a new version of the tool during a long term project, isolate the tool upgrade to a dedicated sprint and do not add anything else to that sprint.  After the upgrade is tested and validated, then continue with other development.

 

Thanks for reading!

Stephen V Noe
Solution Architect

CEO-MCT

Posted in CRM 2011, CRM 4.0 | Leave a comment