Thursday, July 29, 2010

CRM 2011: Picking Apart the Demo Video

The Demo

For those of you that don’t already know (you should be following my tweets, then you would). There is an hour-long video going through some of the key enhancements in CRM 2011 (the new name for version 5, pronounced twenty-eleven, like seven-eleven).

Here is a link to a summary and the video itself:

What Bits Got Shown But They Didn’t Mention?

As Andrew Bybee mentions in the video, he could spend another 6-8 hours going through the product it has so much CRM-goodness. I thought I’d have a closer look at some of the screens presented in the video to see what he didn’t have time to get to.



Things of note:

  • We can mark as won or lost straight from the ribbon. Does this mean no more un-editable popup box for closing?
  • Where are Quotes? (they seem to have moved up to the blue tree thingy in the information section, along with products)
  • History has become ‘Closed Activities’
  • There are things called Connections and no more Relationships.



Thankfully, Andrew opens up the Connections screen, although the role of ‘friend’ is not set up so he quickly moves on. It seems relationships has been converted to ‘Connections’ and given we can now set up a connection between an email and a user, it seems they’re a bit more generic than before where we could only set up relationships between Accounts, Contacts and Opportunities.

We also have a start and end date on Connections if we want for relationships that don’t last.



Andrew opened up a received email and the thing which I noticed was the ‘CRM Field’ bit on the ‘Show’ section. I cannot imagine what this would do. Does it somehow know the email contains words which came from a CRM database?


By deftly right-clicking on an email in Outlook, Andrew brought up the right-click menu. I noticed the Track in CRM and Set Regarding are now at the bottom. Noice.


When we create a new email, Andrew showed us how to add an Article but we can also add Sales Literature. Finally we can make use of our document repository in CRM (just in time for it to be superseded by the Document feature).



They no longer have CRM as a set of sub-folders within mail but have it separated out in its own section. Given the section is given the Organization name, perhaps we can have more than one Organization attached to the client now?



Dashboarding in CRM 2011 is very exciting. What is interesting is they seem to behave like views in that we can have system dashboards and our own dashboards. Looking at the buttons at the top we can also share our dashboards with other users or assign them. We can also set one as the default, suggesting a user-defined default dashboard when entering the area.

No More Preview Pane?

pickapart8_no blue triangle

The blue triangles are gone. No more preview panes?

Extended Process and Dialog Features


The one that stands out for me here is ‘Query CRM Data’. Can we get a response to our dialog and then use this to bring back a value from the CRM database?

Definable Activity Types


In Andrew’s customised solution he has an Activity Type of ‘FanBoard Message’. No more recycling Fax and Letter activities?


It also seems we can add them to queues, promote them to responses and convert them to other entity types like we could the usual activities in version 4.

Dashboards With Grids


In the CRM4Legal solution we must tread carefully as there is code behind some of this but it appears that we can not only add pretty graphs to dashboards but also interactive grids.

Dynamic Lookups


It could be simply a case of some clever jscript but the form allows for a lookup to a company or individual as the client on what appears to be a custom entity. Could CRM 2011 allow us to use the customer lookup as part of our configurations?

There is also a preview-like pane at the top of the record which repeats information seen in the form, most strange.


There is lots to be excited about in CRM 2011 and it will take even seasoned veterans a bit of time to get their heads around all of the features (I’m still reeling at the concept of completely open Connections, do we need N:N any more?). There is no doubt that Microsoft have been listening to the gripes submitted on Connect because so many have been addressed (able to send Sales Literature, a robust call scripting feature in the dialog function, dashboarding etc.)

The open beta is coming out in September and hopefully they will package it up as a VPN or put it online for us to play with. For me, it’s going to be like waiting for Christmas to come only it will be coming twice this year because Microsoft will also be bringing CRM Online to Australia at the end of the year! Perhaps I should get out more.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dynamics CRM vs Salesforce: User Adoption


With the recent announcement of CRM 2011 and the suggestion that it will challenge the dominance of Salesforce, I thought it would be a good time to look at the history of the number of users of both products and how they stack up.


Year Subscribers Customers Average Company size
2009 2,100,000 72,500 29
2008 1,500,000 55,400 27
2007 1,100,000 41,000 27
2006 646,000 29,800 22
2005 393,000 20,500 19
2004 227,000 13,900 16
2003 127,000 8,700 15
2002 76,000 5,700 13
2001 53,000 3,500 15
2000 30,000 1,500 20

image image image

Getting the numbers on Salesforce is pretty easy. Here are my sources:

Salesforce was launched in 1999, according to the first source, if you need a zero data point.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Year Subscribers Customers Average
Company size
Jul-10 1,400,000 23,000 61
Apr-10 1,100,000 22,000 50
2009 1,000,000 21,277 47
2008 500,000 11,000 45
2007 400,000 10,000 40

The company size and customers for 2009 is a guess by me as they only said they had reached 1 million subscribers (users). 47 seemed like a reasonable guess.

image image image

Getting the numbers for Dynamics CRM needed a bit more detective work. Here are the sources.
Convergence 2010 

Despite being released in 2003, I struggled to find numbers pre-2007.

Things of Note

The first thing that stands out is the average customer size (subscribers/customers). The average Dynamics CRM customer is around 50% larger than its Salesforce equivalent. In both cases the average company size is growing but it is difficult to know whether this is due to both products appealing to larger companies, as they are proven in the market, or whether its simply a case of existing customers increasing the number of employees using the software.

The trend for subscribers and customers, in both cases knows no bounds, suggesting the market is far from maturing, but the average company size, in both cases, does appear to be tapering. In the case of Salesforce, the average company size appears to be approaching 30 and for Dynamics CRM 50 (although the more recent data bucks this trend).

The other thing of note is that Salesforce has a big lead on Dynamics CRM. As of 2009, Salesforce had about twice as many subscribers and three times as many customers. The gap is narrowing though. This can be seen by considering 2008 where Salesforce had three times the subscribers and five times the customers. The gap was less in 2007 (three times the subscribers and four times the customers) but still more than the current position. This suggests Dynamics CRM is catching up.

When (and if) Will Dynamics CRM catch up on Salesforce?

It is an excellent question and very difficult to answer given the rate of growth in both companies knows no bounds. However, we can speculate. Considering the percentage growth of subscribers and users, Salesforce is growing at around 50-60% year on year.

For Microsoft, the data is too patchy. Even if we include the months of release of the statements, we get a bit more data to play with but it is still difficult to get any consistency.

Year Subscribers Customers Average
Company size
Jul-10 1,400,000 23,000 61
Apr-10 1,100,000 22,000 50
Jul-09 1,000,000 21,277 47
Mar-08 500,000 11,000 45
May-07 400,000 10,000 40

The best I could do was feed the data into Excel, assume exponential growth and see where the numbers ended up.


The graph says Salesforce will run away from Dynamics CRM. However, given factors such as a finite market size and a changing marketplace, I do not consider this a prediction by any means but it will be interesting to see if Salesforce makes 3,000,000 subscribers by October 2010 and whether Dynamics CRM will make 1,500,000 subscribers by December 2010.

What’s this about a changing marketplace?

One of the assumptions in interpreting the above graph involves the market the two products find themselves. Salesforce has been offering its service worldwide since at least 2003. Dynamics CRM has had an international version since the release of version 4 in December 2007 but a Microsoft-hosted international version is yet to be released. We now know, thanks to the worldwide partner conference, that Dynamics CRM 2011 will be released in 40 markets and 41 languages.

In other words, it can be argued that the growth of Dynamics CRM has been hampered, to date, through a lack of access to the international market which Salesforce already accesses. Alternatively, it could be argued that Salesforce has grown due to a lack of a viable competitor (assuming Dynamics CRM is one). With the release of Dynamics CRM 2011, the two products, in terms of a vendor-hosted CRM solution, will be on equal footing and then it will be easier to make growth comparisons. In fact, it could be argued that with the ‘power of choice’, Microsoft will be able to access markets inaccessible to Saleforce i.e. companies that insist on an on-premise solution.


There is no doubt that Salesforce has a first-mover advantage. They released their software four years before Microsoft and even then, Microsoft did not have a hostable solution until 2007. It will not be until the end of the year that Microsoft will be offering their product internationally and hosted by themselves. If we assume nothing is going to change, it is not obvious how, when, or if Dynamics CRM will catch up.

However, markets are finite, Microsoft have deep pockets, they are notorious for leveraging the ‘stack’ to sell in other Microsoft products and they will soon have a product that competes in the same market as Salesforce. If nothing else, the next 18 months should make for very interesting times.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Book Review: Teach Yourself Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4 in 24 Hours


This is the second book SAMS asked me to review, authored by Anne ‘The CRM Lady’ Stanton. Again, the only compensation for the review is the book itself. In terms of knowing Anne, she is someone most of the CRM MVPs know given she used to be one, although I’ve only met her once at Convergence where she presented, at Microsoft’s invitation, on the benefits of the xRM platform for business.

I did indirectly assist Guy Riddle with the chapter on security (Chapter 5), bouncing ideas for subject matter (the writing was all his though). Also, I just discovered, I was quoted at the end of Chapter 1 from my What is CRM? post. We at least know Anne uses great references and has excellent tastes in blogs ;)

Overview of the Book

Anne Stanton and other well known figures in the CRM community (Irene Pasternack, Darren Liu, Curt Spanburgh, Guy Riddle and Scott Head) have compiled a book to give a foundation on what Dynamics CRM is about and what can be done with it. The book is broken down into 24 chapters (or ‘hours’ as they’re called). The thinking being that reading each chapter and doing the exercises and quizzes should take about an hour.

I have not road-tested the claim but each ‘hour’ is about 20 pages long so if you’re looking for something to read ‘in the gaps’, this should work well. To get the most benefit from the book, I’d recommend having a demo version of CRM to play with as you read. This probably means you’ll spend more than an hour on each chapter but you always learn the quirks from doing rather than being told. Also, as Anne admits herself, the screenshots are not the greatest. You have small font, small book form-factor and greyscale all conspiring to make you lean in about 2 inches from the page so you can see what is happening. Having a demo system in full colour on a monitor eliminates this issue.

If you have access to PartnerSource, you can download the demo VPC, or you can sign up for a trial of CRM Online.

Book Structure

The book is grouped into six parts:

  • Business Use of Dynamics CRM
  • Structure of Dynamics CRM
  • Getting Started
  • Using Dynamics CRM for Support
  • Reporting
  • Expanding the Application

This is good if you want to focus on one particular area e.g. ‘how does reporting work?’ or ‘when the IT department tell me they can’t expand the product, are they lying to me'?’. However, as explained below, some areas do overlap so look at the specific hours before writing off a whole section.

Part 1: Business Use of Dynamics CRM

Comprising of:

  • What is Dynamics CRM?
  • The Vocabulary of CRM
  • Matching Business Process to CRM
  • Infrastructure of CRM

Rather than leap straight into the technology, Anne starts with the business process. So many technology projects fail to consider the alignment to business and it is essential for CRM projects which are as much about change management as they are about technology. CRM is simply a tactic to meet a strategy. To put it in the language of the book, Anne talks about the importance of considering people, process and technology for the success of a CRM project.

She then moves on to describe how CRM describes elements of business process and how this process can be captured for the purposes of managing it with CRM. She even puts in a sample business case at the end of hour 3 to get the reader used to putting on the consultant’s hat. All very practical.

She ends the chapter talking about the infrastructure needed to support CRM. While this is very high level (no direct mention of the requirement of Active Directory for authentication) it does give a good overview of the deployment options for CRM, what Microsoft call ‘The Power of Choice’.

Parts 2-3: Sales and Marketing Plus Some Other Bits

Part 2 comprises of:

  • Security
  • Capturing, Importing and Converting Leads
  • How Accounts Work
  • The Sales Funnel (pipeline)
  • Marketing Campaigns

Part 3 comprises of:

  • Capturing and Converting Leads
  • Configuring the system (Changing forms and views)
  • Capturing Contacts and Activities
  • Emailing from CRM
  • Doing Word Mail Merges From CRM
  • Outlook Integration
  • How to Set up Workflows

While Part 2 is labelled as ‘The Structure of Microsoft Dynamics CRM’ and Part 3 as ‘Getting Started Using the Software’, there is obviously some crossover and overlap here. Both sections have an area describing lead conversion and configuring workflows. One has a section on accounts, while the other has a section on contacts and activities. There is also information in these chapters on importing data into CRM and Mobile Express, although it is not clear where from the part descriptions or hour descriptions.

Despite the taxonomy being a bit confused, the information is excellent and covers the essentials. The only exception I can think of in the entire two parts is a section in the Outlook Integration specifically talking about tracking is missing. The tracking feature of the Outlook client is one of its key value propositions, and while Outlook-CRM synchronisation is discussed, how to track and the ‘regarding’ property of tracking is not. 

Part 4: Support

Part 4 covers all aspects of the support module in CRM and is well contained. If you need to know about how CRM handles tickets/cases, contracts for services and service scheduling, this is three hours well spent.

Part 5: Reporting

This comprises of:

  • Using Excel (including how to use Advanced Find)
  • Using SRS Reports

Very nicely put together and even covers some of the ‘gotchas’ such as dynamic exports not working for online without the use of the Outlook client. You could spend an entire hour (or day!) just on Advanced Find but this definitely gets you on the right track for your own learning and discovery. Similarly the SRS section covers the essentials. It even mentions the little-known features of using the reports mechanism for displaying files and web sites and creating report snapshots.

Part 6: Expanding the Application

This comprises of:

  • Integration to Other Applications (including CRM’s importing tools)
  • Useful Add-ons
  • CRM as a Development Framework

If you wanted to boil down ‘CRM 4 Integration Unleashed’ into one hour, the first chapter in this section would be it. It talks at things to consider in an integration rather than specifics, although vendors for general integration and, more specifically, integration to Dynamics GP are listed.

The add-ons section covers areas of CRM which are generally considered ‘lightweight’ out of the box and it discusses third party add-ons to ‘beef up’ the functionality. Overall it does a pretty good job of covering the gaps. The only criticism I can lay at its feet is not calling out codeplex in its own section (although it is mentioned in passing) and not listing solutions for product and price list configuration, which can be difficult for businesses which have anything but the most basic of pricing schemes.

The last hour is spent on customisation. Configuration of forms and views was covered earlier in Part 3. This section is all about scripting on the client and server sides. There is no depth here but if you want to know what can be changed, in what way and how, this gives you the high-level concepts. It also mentions the accelerators but does not say where to go (hint: the missing section on codeplex would have covered it).

What I really liked about this section was the section on considering the aspects of CRM which make it a good fit for a development project and when CRM needs additional elements to make it practical. Calling out the key questions to ask makes it easy for a business to decide to go with the ‘CRM team’ or the ‘.NET team’.


Despite my odd complaint, overall this is an excellent book of high quality. If you are looking for ‘deep dive’ this is not the book, and that is hardly surprising given the approach the book takes.

However, if you are new to CRM and want to get an understanding of CRM’s approach, the book does the job. If you are a new user looking to understand the basics of operation, you will not be disappointed. If you are considering using CRM as a development platform and want to know its capabilities and limitations, this is also a great place to start.

Definitely worth the price of entry and if you want a copy here is the link.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Book Review: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4 Integration Unleashed


The good folk at SAMS Publishing asked me to review a couple of books back in November. Having had a baby daughter I didn’t see the email until February and, when the books did arrive, they sat in my ‘to do’ pile for quite a few months. I can only apologise to Andrea and the hard-working team at SAMS and here is the review I promised.

The first book they sent me to review was ‘Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4 Integration Unleashed’ by Marc J. Wolenik and Rajya Vardhan Bhaiya. Given they have just released chapter 15 onto MSDN, which looks at Azure Web Service Integration, a review is probably quite timely.

Incidentally, if you want the sample code from the book, chapter 3 and the index, you can also go here.

As a disqualifier, I know neither of the authors personally and the only compensation I’ve received for this review are the books themselves (which given the delay is response, Andrea may ask to be returned).

The Lay of the CRM Land

The first 100 pages outline the CRM ‘territory’. That is how one extends the application, design considerations such as the available authentication methods and deployment scenarios as well as licensing considerations. Given some of the solutions available at Convergence, this last section on licensing should be a must-read for any development team looking to release a real-time integration piece with Dynamics CRM. While the finer details of licensing are not covered (SPLA implications, for example) the guiding principles are there.

Those Familiar Integration Scenarios

Then, up to page 265, it goes into specific detail about common integration scenarios including:

  • Silverlight
  • SharePoint
  • BI (SQL Analysis Services, SQL Reporting Services and PerformancePoint Services)
  • Phone integration (TAPI/SIP/OCS/Cisco Unified CallConnector/c360 CTI)
  • Social networking (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter)
  • Mapping technologies (Microsoft Live Search Maps, MapPoint, Google Maps)

Phone integration piqued my interest given the recent release of the customer care accelerator where you have to develop your own phone integrations but, unfortunately, while high-level concepts were discussed and screenshots were provided for the commercial products, no sample code was provided for TAPI, SIP or OCS.

It is not all doom and gloom though, the BI walks you step-by-step through creating cubes, there is a nice walkthrough, including code, on creating a document store in CRM with SharePoint and also having the Search Center talk to the CRM DB. In fact the SharePoint section appears to be quite comprehensive.

Social Networking provided brief examples for ‘iframing’ the social networks and similarly, if you’re looking for a pointer on embedding a mapping technology into CRM, you’re given the code.


Chapter 11 is a bit of an odd one in that it reviews the accelerators available for CRM on codeplex or, at least, a few of them. Specifically:

  • Analytics
  • eService
  • Event Management
  • Extended Sales Forecasting
  • Newsfeed Business Productivity
  • Notifications

This is not the complete set of accelerators (workflow extensions anyone?) and is pre-customer portal but for the ones listed it reviews their purpose and walks through their installation.


I don’t know either of these technologies very well, so it is hard to comment on these sections. The SCOM chapter talks about the importance of monitoring CRM performance and walks through installing the CRM 4.0 Management Pack onto SCOM to do this. The VSTS chapter gives a comprehensive sample solution for integrating CRM and Team Foundation Server for case management over 50 pages (that’s 9% of the book!)

Middleware Integration

Pages 405 to 540 talk about integration to middleware solutions such as:

  • BizTalk
  • Azure (others may object to the classification of Azure as middleware, however it suits my taxonomy for the purposes of the review)
  • Scribe

BizTalk has a bit of a reputation when it comes to integration so the sample of linking CRM orders to GP (including code) is great. Sample code is provided for creating an Azure .NET application and showing it in a CRM iframe and Scribe gets a whopping 3 chapters (overview, components and templates). That’s 90 pages of Scribe (15% of the book). If you didn’t know what Scribe was for before reading them, you will afterwards.

Other Integration Tools

The last section talks about other integration tools available including:

  • The GP Adaptor (unreleased at the time of writing)
  • c360 tools
  • Semantra tools
  • Nolan
  • eOne

This is more of an overview chapter for CRM-GP solutions.

Overall Thoughts

This is not a book of code snippets. Some code is provided in some sections but the primary purpose of this book is to give a plain English overview of common integration scenarios for Dynamics CRM. Given recent changes to the SDK, this is probably a good thing.

The book is designed for people who know how to code but may be unfamiliar with the products being integrated to. In this regard, the book is a resounding success. If you want a general overview of how product x talks to CRM, this is a good place to start. Once you understand how things should be done you may need to look elsewhere for specific code to meet your business need or you simply write it yourself leveraging the examples provided.

If you want a copy of this book, you can buy it here:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Using Google Trends to Predict CRM Market Sentiment

What I present is far from science but more of an interesting observation. For those that don’t know about it, Google have a neat tool called ‘Google Trends’ ( you basically put in comma separated search terms and Google tells you how popular those terms have been relative to all searches or relative to themselves. For example, if I was looking at MySpace vs Facebook (,+myspace&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all&sort=0)


I would see that which most of us already know. Facebook is hugely popular compared to MySpace. Here is the interesting bit. Let’s compare this graph to page views for the two sites (


The crossover is in the early part of 2008 in both cases. This is not massively surprising. It makes sense that people wanting to go to these sites would use a search engine like google to find them.

So let’s try something else. How about software sales? how do the sales of Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 stack up? (


Well qualitatively it still makes sense in that the order of release matches the order of google hits. While I couldn’t find anything on the sales of “Windows 7” yet, I did find a reference for Windows XP and Vista (


In this case the transition on Google Trends is around the last quarter of 2006 while the sales graph is first quarter 2007. Not bad.

So now for the CRM bit. We know, according to Gartner that back in 2008, Dynamics CRM was 4th in terms of CRM software revenue ( after SAP, Oracle, and Dynamics CRM. Let’s see how and Dynamics CRM compare (if you add SAP and Oracle to the query the popularity matches market share but they swamp the results because they are more than just CRM)


Despite being around since 2003, the product used to be called “Microsoft CRM” which is why it is off the radar until the end of 2005 when version 3 came out. Here is the thing, it is slowly gaining ground on, although the rate of gain appears to be slowing. Given the Gartner data is about a year old and given Dynamics CRM got their first million users in 6 years as opposed to 9 years for ( it should be interesting times ahead.

How to Find the Total Number of Records in an Account, Contact or Lead view

If you are here, you are probably aware that the most rows you can achieve in a CRM view is 250. Moreover, the views in CRM do not tell you the total number of records. Therefore if, for example, you want to know exactly how many contact records do not have the ‘gender’ attribute filled in (or whether it is male or female) it becomes a tedious process of getting the total number of pages, taking away 1,multiplying by 250 and adding the total number of records on the last page.

Here is a workaround.

Step 1: Create a Marketing List


Step 2: Add Marketing List Members using an Advanced Find Query that mimics the rules of the view in question


Step 3: Click the Find button and Add All Members Returned to the Marketing List


Step 4: Take a Good Look at the Marketing List Members Section of the Marketing List Record


There it is, above the action toolbar, the total number of members in the marketing list; in this case 1785.

Leon’s Quick Codeless Auditing Tool

The workflows in Dynamics CRM 4.0 are very powerful. Here is an example of an auditing tool which can be implemented without code, without additional attributes or additional entities and if you just need an audit log to roll back when people make mistakes, it should do the job.

Step 1: Setting up the Workflow

The workflow is pretty simple. All you do is create a note when a new record is created or when a specific field is changed.


In this case I’m auditing the first name attribute of the Contact record. The details of the note are thus:


That’s 90% of the work now done. We publish and the engine is in place.

Step 2: Make some changes

When we create a new contact or change the ‘First Name’ field, a new note will be created against the contact showing the current value. To determine the previous value we look back through the notes.


If there are extensive notes, we can use Advanced Find



We can even save the Advanced Find as a View and while there is no simple way to access the log through the interface, we can always go to Advanced Find – Saved Views.

Each time you need to audit a new field you just create a new workflow. If you are monitoring many fields, a plugin may be a better option but if you need an audit tool to manage a few key fields and don’t want to spend a lot of time messing about, this should do the trick.