Posted by: Charles Maitland | Tuesday 14 February, 2012

Is LinkedIn getting data from Facebook?

I try and keep my online activities separated.

LinkedIn is focused on my professional information and contacts. Facebook is totally focused on my close family contacts and twitter is mainly focused on my techie comments with some minor personal comments thrown in.

To my utter astonishment today I was updating my LinkedIn contacts and I saw, in the “People I may know” section my Cousin. Now I have Zero professional contact with her. She is a semi-retired professional writer who has probably never heard of CRM in her life. We have zero shared connections in LinkedIn and zero shared groups.

So how did LinkedIn connect me to her. Well the ONLimageY connection I have to her is through Facebook.

I don’t have her email address in my contacts, she doesn’t, to my knowledge have a twitter account  I can think of no other mechanism other than my Facebook data is leaking into LinkedIn a scenario I am NOT happy about!

Posted by: Charles Maitland | Monday 1 August, 2011

SharePoint Going Away?–My Take

Firstly a disclaimer. I am not a SharePoint Professional. Dynamics CRM is my pitch so I have no deep knowledge or axe to grind on this subject.

This post was prompted by a very interesting discussion over on Marc Anderson’s Blog entitled SharePoint Is Going Away – Another County Heard From.

Now Marc IS a SharePoint Pro and an MVP to boot so I respect and largely agree with  his opinion.

In Marc’s post he identifies that there will come a point, either suddenly or gradually, that SharePoint as a product will come to a natural end of life. He identifies that there are a whole range of issues and questions about how the SharePoint brand will evolve.

I want to just add my perception (and only mine) to the discussion.

A a pre-sales consultant I have a lot of conversations with clients, not just about Dynamics CRM but about the wider Microsoft “Stack”. When it comes to SharePoint the overriding question is “but what is it?”

SharePoint has grown from fairly simple roots to now encompass:

  • Document Management
  • Records Management
  • List management
  • Social Media
  • Collaboration
  • Intranet
  • Extranet
  • Web Content Management
  • BI Delivery
  • Data Aggregation
  • Digital Rights Management
  • Development Portals
  • Project Portals

And probably a dozen or more besides.

The problem this causes is that in response to the question “What is it” the only answer is “It Depends” or even worse “What do you want it to be?”. This is NOT a value proposition that can be easily taken into a business.

As SharePoint has grown its feature set and swallowed up other technologies it has become so big that it is no longer possible to define what the technology does in a business focused manner.

So my take on where SharePoint will morph to is that it will fade into the background as a brand at Microsoft to be replaced by a set of Modular “Products” that will sit on the foundation of what is now SharePoint.

We will move to a place where there will be a “BI Portal for SharePoint Foundation”, “Document Management for SharePoint Foundation” etc. This  will allow Microsoft to then segment their market based on the number and type of modules available and the price of each module.. E.g. Free = 4 Modules, Pro=8 Modules, Enterprise = Unlimited.

The key difference is that businesses can be presented with a specific module with specific functionality to solve a specific business need.

I know that this is how many of the successful SharePoint consultancies have achieved their success but from the Microsoft Point of View this approach allows them to extend their penetration into the partner ecosystem and continue to drive the take up of the underlying foundation which is tied to the wider Windows “stack” and that is their core goal.


Posted by: Charles Maitland | Tuesday 26 July, 2011

Visual Studio LightSwitch and Dynamics CRM–Why this matters.

Microsoft have released a new component for Visual Studio called LightSwitch.

This is a set of tools that is designed to allow semi-technical users to easily build user interfaces to databases using Silverlight.

I have been following this product through its beta phases and I believe that it will make a massive impact on the on-premise Dynamics CRM world.

The reason I feel this way is that there is a new licencing option available in Dynamics 2011 that is the Employee Self Service CAL (ESS).

The ESS CAL allows users to interact with Dynamics CRM 2011 but NOT to use the native UI. So what better way than through an easy to build Silverlight application? The same applies (to a lesser extent from the UI capability PoV) to external users licenced under the External Connector Licence.

So if you have not looked into the LightSwitch capabilities, you should.

Posted by: Charles Maitland | Tuesday 26 July, 2011

View Layout Replicator for Dynamics CRM 2011

One of the great things about Dynamics CRM is the huge ecosystem of developers and partners who extend the toolset that is available for the platform.

Many of these toolsets appear in the Dynamics Marketplace but many of them are released under open source licences on CodePlex.

An example of these tools is the View Replicator. This lets you build a view and the layout of a view and then replicate it. There is a walk through on Donna Edwards’ blog.

This is one of a number of great tools that Tanguy has written and really add to the power of the Dynamics CRM platform.

Posted by: Charles Maitland | Tuesday 26 July, 2011

CRM Outlook Client – Network/Bandwidth Concerns

There are instances where the Dynamics CRM 4 Outlook Client can start to be a network and server hog.

This is a great post by Jon on some of the areas to investigate when diagnosing this.

Posted by: Charles Maitland | Tuesday 26 July, 2011

Microsoft System Centre For Dynamics CRM

Whilst Dynamics CRM 2011 is available as a Microsoft hosted Cloud offering there are still a number of clients who have deployed it as an in-house solution.

For these clients there is now a key component available to them. The ability to monitor and manage their deployment using the same toolset that they use on the rest of their infrastructure, Microsoft System Centre. In fact this is the same toolset that Microsoft use to monitor  and manage their own global data centres!

Now there is a monitoring pack specifically designed for Dynamics CRM 2011. It can be downloaded here.

The key features of the pack are really impressive and should be part of any in –house deployment.

  • Monitors the availability and heath of the following components
    • Microsoft Dynamics CRM Server 2011
    • Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 E-mail Router
    • Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Reporting Extensions
  • Monitors the availability and health of the following component services:
    • Microsoft Dynamics CRM Asynchronous Processing Service
    • Microsoft Dynamics CRM Asynchronous Processing Service (maintenance)
    • Microsoft Dynamics CRM Sandbox Processing Service
    • Microsoft Dynamics CRM E-mail Router Service
    • Microsoft Dynamics CRM Unzip Service
    • World Wide Web Publishing Service
    • Indexing Service
  • Monitors the availability and health of the following application components and functionality:
    • Operability of ISV plug-ins
    • Web application requests processing, SOAP exceptions, and unexpected failures
  • Monitors the performance metrics of the following components:
    • Web application requests processing
    • Database query processing
  • Monitors the system for configuration-related failures.
Posted by: Charles Maitland | Saturday 12 March, 2011

Dynamic CRM unsent email warning

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is very agnostic with regards to the email platform that it works with. Whilst it will of course work very well with Exchange it is happy use any email platform through the use of a separate component called the Email Router.

Today whilst working on a demo machine with no email configured I cam across a nice warning message:

Pending e-Mail warning

Email Warning 

This was warning me that I had created emails in CRM but that CRM had not been able to send them. No surprise as I didn’t have any email set up but it is nice to know that if there is a problem Dynamics CRM will warn you and not leave you blissfully assuming that your business critical email had been sent when it hadn’t.

Posted by: Charles Maitland | Thursday 10 March, 2011

Still using Dynamics CRM 2011 RC? Beware Windows Update

I came across and interesting foo baa today.

I have a demo machine that was built using the Release Candidate version of Dynamics CRM 2011. For a number of reasons I had not yet got round to updating it to the RTM version and it had Windows Update running.

Because it was running as a demo machine on the RC version it did not have any product keys added. Today I fired it up and found that the Outlook client was totally bust. The toolbar would not load and opening a record caused an error.

After a lot of hunting it turns out that the Outlook client had been updated by Windows Update BUT because the Server did not have a product key it had not been updated.

As soon as I added a product key Windows Update detected it, downloaded the update to RTM and after a reboot all was well again.

Posted by: Charles Maitland | Wednesday 16 February, 2011

Upgrading Dynamics CRM? Don’t forget the data

Without good data any CRM system is worthless!

An obvious statement I know, but as I have just posted over on our company blog, I have lost count of the times clients, past and present, have told me that their data quality prevents them from doing what they want. Data has been imported from spreadsheet to system to system without any rigour being applied.

So if you are planning an upgrade to your CRM system then you really should be looking at not just the quality of your data but also the breadth of the data. There are a number of companies that have services that will take your data, clean it and add additional data to it.

Another important thing to consider is how you are going to keep your data clean going forward. Having got your information in a clean state is this the time to implement some system enforced rigor to your data entry. Again there are a number of solutions out there that provide add-ins for Dynamics CRM that will allow users to look up addresses and populate the system with not just the address but also the additional information that comes with it.

So, lets make 2011 the year of clean data.

Posted by: Charles Maitland | Wednesday 16 February, 2011

Dynamics CRM 2011 Released–Early

The Microsoft Dynamics Team have released the on premise and partner hosted software.

What is surprising is that this has been released 2 weeks early as the expectation was that it would be released in March.

What was also interesting is that this was the first major software release by Microsoft, to my knowledge, that went live in the cloud before on premise.

Now my supposition is that this was in part to show their deep commitment to the online platform and to send a clear message about their commitment to CRM online, but it had an additional advantage that they could ensure that all the performance tweaks that come with any new software could be monitored and checked in their own environments where they had control and performance monitoring tools available.

The good news I take from this early release is that the experience Microsoft has had has not had any nasty surprises and that the software will run as well onsite as in the cloud which is good news for all.

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