Dynamics_crm_logoRecently, I worked on a project that required me to programmatically set up Field Security in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. Field Security allows you to designate selected fields (of selected entities) to be “secure” – which means only a certain group of users can have access to it. This access is made up of three operations: read, update, and create, each of which can be granted separately. MSDN does a pretty good job giving an overview of how it works: https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg309608(v=crm.5).aspx   Read More…
Attachments, Notes, and Annotations

How do you handle document storage and management in CRM? While this is a prominent feature in SharePoint, it is not as obvious or as easy to use in CRM. However, if you have a need to attach and manage documents in CRM, there is a provided option.

CRM offers a Notes field that can be turned on and associated to any entity. This Notes field is actually a reference to an entity called Annotation. The Annotation entity holds your file attachment and a reference ID back to the entity that the attachment belongs to. This feature is turned on by default for some of the default entities, but you need to turn it on yourself for custom entities.  Read More…

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is an interesting and powerful business application. A core out-of-the-box (OOTB) benefit of Dynamics CRM is the ability to extensively tailor the application to address business needs, and here there are two approaches to consider: development or customization. Determining which approach to take is the key to maximizing the benefits of Dynamics CRM while keeping costs low.

Dynamics CRM is a basic web user interface fronting a SQL Server database that manages relational data. However, it is flanked by a built-in array of basic analytical tools and extensive administrative features, such as auditing, which give it enterprise-level credentials. Throw in a customizable user interface (UI), and you have a tool that is capable of supporting both small businesses and multinational corporations. So it would be logical to assume that Dynamics CRM has a developer-friendly, structured architecture to support customizations.

However, the reality is a little more complicated and brings up some curious paradoxes about Dynamics CRM. Read More…

2013 was a great year for AIS — we worked on exciting projects for our terrific clients, built some cool apps and won some cool awards. We were honored with the 2013 Microsoft Mid-Atlantic Cloud Practice Award and are among the first Amazon Web Services partners to earn a “SharePoint on AWS” competency. And throughout the year, we wrote and blogged about our passion for cloud computing, SharePoint, going mobile, and doing “more with less” for our government and commercial clients.

Here’s a round-up of 2013’s most popular posts and series, in case you missed them:

We have big plans for the blog for 2014 — more posts, more events and more compelling content from the entire AIS team. Stay connected with us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and check out our Events page for details on our free presentations and webinars.

Happy holidays, and thanks for reading!

Microsoft has revamped its licensing model for Dynamics CRM 2013.  Here’s a summary of the information from the latest Microsoft documentation.

There are three basic versions of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013, and each has its own particular licensing requirements:

  1. Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 On-Premises: Most useful for organizations that do their deployments in-house.  You must purchase a license for each server that will run the CRM Server software.  You must also purchase Client Access License (CAL) for each user or device that will access the software.
  2. Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Online: Used for solutions that will be hosted in the cloud. You must purchase a User Subscription License (USL) for each user that will access the solution. USLs are assigned to a named user, which means that USLs cannot be shared. A single USL licenses the user to access any instance of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 or earlier associated with the same tenant.  (USLs do not include use rights for Yammer or Skype.)
  3. Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 SPLA: Used by service providers and independent software vendors who license CRM to provide solutions to customers. You must purchase a Subscriber Access License (SAL) for each unique individual user who is authorized to access or otherwise use the licensed products. SALs are assigned to a named user, which means that SALs cannot be shared. A SAL will authorize a user to access any number of instances of CRM 2013 or earlier running on the organization’s servers. Read More…
My decision to join AIS six years ago was a revelation. After almost seven years spent working as an embedded IT analyst for various government customers, I joined AIS to support a customer who was implementing SharePoint.  I soaked up everything I could about this (at the time) brave new world of SharePoint. I loved it.

SharePoint 2003 had been available for use in my previous office where I had initially set up out-of-the-box team sites for working groups to support a large department-wide initiative. I found it empowering to quickly set up sites, lists and libraries without any fuss (or custom coding) to get people working together. Working with my new team, I gained insight into what we could do with this tool in terms of workflow, integration and branding. It got even better when we migrated to SharePoint 2007.  We made great strides in consolidating our websites and communicating to those who were interested exactly what the tools could do in terms of collaboration and knowledge management.

This ability for a power user to quickly create a variety of new capabilities exposed a deeper customer need – easier communications with IT.  While we had all this great expertise and firepower to create and maintain IT tools and services, our core customer base did not have an easy way to quickly and reliably communicate their needs in a manner that matched their high operational tempo. It was a problem. We needed a way for our customers to quickly and easily communicate with us in order to really hear what they needed to meet their mission goals and work more effectively. Read More…

Software development is a risky endeavor, with many things that can go wrong. At any moment, you may find that your budget or schedule targets have been completely missed and your developers and customers disagree about the scope and functionality of the project. In fact, numerous studies state that up to 60% of projects completely fail or massively exceed their budgetA recent study by McKinsey found that on average, most software projects over $5 million exceed their budget by 45%, turning that $5 million application into a $7+ million application.  As responsible software systems developers, we have to constantly ask ourselves – how do we prevent this from happening to our projects?  The answer is to reduce risk. Read More…
Dynamics CRM 2013 is about to be released and if you have already made a large investment into SharePoint as a development platform, you may be asking yourself why Dynamics CRM matters.  After all, you are already using a wildly successful platform that underpins collaboration tools, intranets, your ‘corporate’ social media and quite likely a base of custom applications and tools. Why would you need yet another platform if SharePoint is capable of handling everything you throw at it?

First off, let’s clear up a misconception that everyone generally has the first time they hear about Dynamics CRM: it’s not “Dynamics versus SharePoint,” it’s “Dynamics AND SharePoint.” Dynamics CRM offers some pretty significant benefits that are not available when using the SharePoint platform alone. Likewise, SharePoint has capabilities that Dynamics CRM simply wasn’t designed to even begin to replicate. The trick is knowing when and how to best leverage the benefits of each tool. Simply put, both tools need each other to offer a truly complete platform that offers you the best of everything: a collaboration tool, an intranet and content management tool, a repository for unstructured data, an application platform, and a quick and easy way to rapidly and efficiently build applications to manage structured data. Read More…

Law & Order’s Det. Lennie Briscoe & Det. Ed Green

I just finished working on a proof of concept using Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. The application needed to support the activities of a crime investigation unit in the government.

As a devoted Lennie Briscoe fan, I felt I knew my way around a crime scene…but what I didn’t know was CRM. As it turned out, it didn’t matter! Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 was fairly easy to get up and running. I put together a cloud-based implementation that included:

  • CRM Online w/Office 365
  • Azure VM for the installation of the e-mail router
    • SMTP Server: SendGrid
    • POP3 server: Gmail

All were “free” (free as in “trial”). All were in the cloud. All played nicely together.

That said, there were several confusing bits to sort out regarding the e-mail configuration. I’ll share what worked (and what didn’t work) for me. Maybe it can be a timesaver for you. Read More…

Creating SharePoint Sites From a Dynamics CRM Plugin

With more and more companies adopting both Dynamics CRM and SharePoint into their corporate technology stacks, I’ve found myself integrating the two technologies more often than ever before. It’s quite cool. These are two extremely powerful systems and they both do what they are designed to do very well. I’m not going to go in-depth about what the differences are between these products…they are in totally different software “genres.” Apples and oranges. However, I want to point out one thing SharePoint gives you that many clients ask for again and again: Subsites.

Subsites are SharePoint sites that belong to a root SharePoint Site Collection. An example of this would be a corporate intranet SharePoint Site Collection (https://intranet) with SharePoint Subsites for each division in the corporation, e.g. Marketing (https://intranet/sites/marketing), Accounting (https://intranet/sites/accounting), etc. There are pros and cons to breaking these Subsites out into their own Site Collections (so they can have their own content database), but quite often you see this hierarchical approach.

Another very common use of SharePoint Subsites is for things like item level management, for instance a project. You may have a SharePoint Site Collection named Projects (https://projects), and you may require a new SharePoint Team Site for any new projects that come online so as to provide an environment where a team can collaborate on said project, and maintain any data or documents about the project in a central location. This can best be described with URLs —https://projects/sites/Project1, https://projects/sites/Project2 and so on.

So how does Dynamics CRM play into my scenario?  What if you’d like to leverage this same functionality for things like Accounts, Contacts or Leads?  Pick an Entity from CRM — for the purposes of this blog the Entity is somewhat arbitrary, but we’ll use the Account Entity so we have something to focus on. Every new Account I create may or may not require an environment where teams can collaborate and store data and documents for this new Account. Dynamics CRM gives us SharePoint Document Management out of the box. But what if I need more? What if my company maintains a site ‘template’ that can be used to create a new, standardized website (SharePoint Subsite) for any new Accounts that come online? A place where a team can collaborate and have the freedom to deal with unstructured data and content in a central location?

In this blog I’ll show you how to leverage the SharePoint Client Object Model in a Dynamics CRM Plugin to create a SharePoint Team Site for new Accounts that come online.

Read More…