Configuring Dynamics CRM 2011

I’m aware that I’ve deviated from Siebel recently. I’m really interested in technology and expanding my horizons, so I really want to finish up with Dynamics CRM before I get back to the Siebel upgrade. I’m hoping this is useful to readers as there really is now some serious competition to the Siebel CRM space!

I wanted to just quickly share my experience with configuring Dynamics CRM 2011. I mentioned before some of the common tasks associated with a Siebel config job:

  • Field and database changes
  • Applets
  • Workflow

And I had a brief look into how easy such changes are in Dynamics. The answer? Really easy! Puts Siebel Tools to shame!

Dynamics CRM 2011 has, for those with appropriate access, a ‘Customize’ ribbon button. From here, you can pretty much do anything:

Customize Entity is like checking out the BC, it’s corresponding Links, Applets and Views in Siebel Tools. From here, you can:

  1. Configure localisation, defining ‘display values’ for various aspects of the entity
  2. Add fields (backend database is handled for you – no need to define underlying columns) and define translations for the field names into any language or dialect of your choosing.
  3. Modify forms (Applets to you and I) with simple drag and drop
  4. Define relationships with other entities (think Link definitions)

The list goes on – there’s pretty much everything here that you’d find in Siebel Tools. Pretty impressive considering this is still looking at the Thin Client. Here are some screenshots of the various configuration pages:

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Deploying changes is as simple as clicking the ‘Publish Entity’ or ‘Publish All’ buttons – this will make your changes instantly available to users. No mucking around with Repositories, SRFs and manual steps. It really is impressive.

As far as Workflow and automation is concerned, I’ve not delved deep enough to understand the possibilities and limitations. Perhaps later on in the year we can take a look.

From now, let’s get back to Siebel and the upgrade process. I hopefully have a 7.8 to 8.2 project coming up very soon so I’ll be keen to share my experiences with you then!

MS Dynamics CRM 2011

I am an avid user of Microsoft Technet. This brilliant subscription service allows me to download and test almost ALL of their application, operating system and server technologies. Combined with Oracle’s VirtualBox, I’m able to pretty much set up and try out any combination of enterprise and small business applications out there.

I noticed recently that Microsoft have released Dynamics CRM 2011. As a dedicated Siebel-ite, I couldn’t resist downloading it, setting it up and comparing it to my beloved Siebel CRM. I have to say, I’m really impressed.

Set up is relatively straight forward. You’ll need a domain controller / AD server set up and hosting a domain – I’ve gone for the imaginatively entitled ‘oli.com’. You’ll need a falvour of Microsoft SQL Server for the database side – I went for SQL Server 2008 just because I could! Again, a benefit of the Technet sub. Essentially, it’s as simple as:

  1. Build a couple of Windows Server 2008 R2 VMs
  2. Install SQL Server 2008, including the database server and reporting server components on one VM
  3. Set up and OU on the AD server for use by Dynamics
  4. Install Dynamics 2011 on the second VM, specifying the SQL Server host and AD OU as requested
  5. Use the IIS site created by default or install the ‘thick client’ Outlook plugin on host machines

It’s really that simple!

The result is pretty nice to look at: familiar ribbon based UI that fits well into an organisation already using Microsoft Office 2010. There’s Sales, Service and Reporting in there as standard – Case Management is also in there out of the box. Could this give Siebel a run for it’s money for Small to Medium Enterprises (SME)?

I’m going to dig further into this, mainly around the configuration options in comparison with Siebel. I’m hoping to discover the basics around:

  1. Extending the database schema
  2. Modifying and extending the UI
  3. Workflow and automation
  4. Data migration
  5. Scripting

Now, don’t get me wrong – I love Siebel. Siebel bought me my house and several new cars! It’s an awesome piece of technology that, in the right hands, delivers ROI to customers large and small. However, in recent times it seems to have grown so complex as to become a double edged sword: many implementations seem to be so complex as to add cost and maintenance effort rather than reduce it.

I’m interested in the alternatives – I hope you will be too.