Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Today I attended the CRM 4.0 partner readiness tour and I took the opportunity to ask the technical specialist from Microsoft headquaters a lot of questions. In regard to my entry yesterday concerning licensing, we had an interesting discussion on how it can be managed and how it is handled in CRM 4.0.

In general the same licensing limitations apply as I described in my previous post. The new "light"-userlicense I described bellow will be a read-only user license with a reduced price. The external connector will also be available at a substanially lower cost.

However, we found some technical workarounds that the Microsoft representative actually said were ok but I havn't asked a Microsoft sales rep and I don't know if I should...

If you want to create dynamic reports based on CRM data, what you must do is to replicate all the data that you want to base your reports on to your own database. Then create all the reports based on this database, which can be called datawarehouse or something similar.

The same "intermediary" database can also be used when you have, for instance, an internal support page where you can submit your support issue, which is then added to the CRM as a Service case. Let the application write to a database and then create an service that periodically (like every minute or so) reads the new data, and writes to the CRM webservice. There are other similar ways of doing this (like sending emails from the form to a support que) and I think you get the general idea.

The legal workaround using a subsidary company with an external connector license is also valid, but will require you to buy the external connector which has a non trivial price.

I feel this is very strange, that you using a technical solution can bypass some licensing rules that actually should be changed.

Gustaf Westerlund
CRM and SharePoint Consultant

Humandata AB

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Licensing of CRM and external software

During Convergence 2007 in Copenhagen, it got into a discussion with some Microsoft empolyees concerning the licensing issues when creating applications that directly or indirectly access CRM-based data.

According to what I have heard, it boils down to the fact that a user license is required for all users who interact with the data in any way. This means that no user license is required for a static report displayed in, for instance, SharePoint, but, as soon as there is any interactivity with the data, as for instance, drill down, a separate user license is needed.

So, if you want to display data in SharePoint that comes in whole, or part, from the CRM-database, make sure it is a static report, so that no special user license is required. Creating a report (with for instance SQL Reporting Services) that has drill-down, will require each user to have a user license.

This rises the question of what kind of licensing is needed to access OLAP cubes that are assembled from a data warehouse based on data from many different system, among these, Microsoft CRM. As far as I have understood a full user license is required for all users who can access the OLAP-cubes.

This issue will probably change in CRM 4.0 when there will be a new "light-user-license". Exactly what this means is still unclear and I have heard no details from Microsoft.

When creating any outside interaction with CRM, like a web based tool for submitting service cases, the separate "External Connector" license is needed. This is independant of the magnitude of the application or number of external users (company employees cannot use the external connector). It is also independant of if each user actually uses a named user or some common system user. I am unsure of the exact price for the external connector, but I believe it is somewhere around $40 000.

So, what does this mean for CRM-developers? That we have to have some basic understanding of the licensing modell and what limitations there are to it, so that our customers don't have to pay unnecessary license fees just because we thought that drill-down was a nifty feature in our report that is published on a SharePoint portal.

As many of you, I think these limitations are non benificial for Microsoft since they greatly restrict the possibilities of creating nice Mash-up applications and portals, something Microsoft technology is very good at and something I would view as a great advantage in comparison to Microsofts competitors.

I would also like to point out that I might be wrong in understanding some of these details, and I would be greatful if you could leave a comment if you know or think that I might have understood something wrong.

Gustaf Westerlund
CRM and SharePoint Consultant

Humandata AB / Soon Logica CMG/WM-Data

Friday, October 26, 2007

Common performance problem

Now Convergence is over and I feel stuffed with info and experiences. There is so much I would like to write about and so little time. I will try to spread it out a bit.

During one of the sessions Clint Warriner, an Escalation Engineer (he writes hotfixes) held a very interesting chalk-&-talk about CRM system maintanance and performance best practices.

It was crammed with goodies, and I will write more about it later, but one interesting thing he talked about was the possible delay in loading forms. He said this, most often, depends on the SQL server. When loading forms the list of which reports are relevant and so on, are also loaded from the Reporting server. This can, in some cases, take some time, and in some bad cases, really afect the load time of forms.

They have created a hotfix for this, that can be requested from Microsoft support (no cost) if you give the referece: KB 941592. It simply caches the information on what reports exist so that the request to the SQL-server doesn't have to be executed every time.

I will get back to the subject of performance tuning later.

Gustaf Westerlund
CRM and SharePoint Consultant

Humandata AB

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Convergence EMEA 2007 in Copenhagen

I am writing this posting from my hotell room in Copenhagen on the end of the second of the three days of the Convergence event.

As you can expect, a lot of focus is on the new CRM 4.0 and all the brilliant new features of it. The other Dynamics products, mainly NAV and AX are also getting some of their well deserved air-time, but for me, it is all CRM! :)

So, anything interesting? Yes, a lot. I will be digging deeper into some of the topics later but would just like to write a little bit about everything I have seen and thought about thus far.

CRM 4.0 - What's new?
Well, a lot.

Multi, multi, multi!
Most of the focus is of course on Multilanguage, multicurrency and multitenancy. I personally feel that from the perspective of where I usually work, the two foremost "multis" are the most interesting. Multitennancy is maybe most interesting from a large enterprise view or hosting environment view

Internet facing
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 (as it formally is called, I will just call it CRM) has the ability to work as an Internet facing application, which CRM 3.0 wasn't (appart from CRM 3.0 SPE). This is really good news since it is really to be expected of the product. I havn't been able to get any info yet on how this works with MS ISA running reverse proxy (like you do in SharePoint) but I would imagine that it works (it didn't work very well in CRM 3.0).

Better Outlook client
The outlook client has gotten a major workover, and is now more stable and has a better interface. Some features to mention in that it will show a progressbar when loading and won't block the usage of Outlook during this time. It also allows for syncronization of other activity entities that just email, contacts, calendar and todo's, like for instance phonecalls and faxes. I havn't seen this in action yet.

The email subject tokens are gone! Exaclty how it is handled in CRM 4.0, is still unclear for me, but it is probably handled in the mail header somehow. Emails can also be converted to leads and cases directly.

Autocomplete in lookup fields
One very timesaving feature is that the well know autocomplete/intellisense function has been enabled on all lookupfields, vastly reducing the clickyness of CRM. Good job!

Multi language
A lot can be written about this, but in general it uses one server installation language (default language) and then MUI-packs can be installed on either the server or the client to be able to run CRM in another language. Multi language is supported for picklists, sitemap, isv.config and more but not for CRM content. This might not seem like a problem but it is, since for instance products and subjects are CRM Content. If you are looking into using this feature you had better look into it thoroghly.

The tenant is set up with one Base currency that will be used as such and will for instance be the currency used in reports. Pricelists are in several currencies and exchangerates can be set using the webservice.

Mail Merge
The mail merge has been improved a lot. Web client based mail merge has been activated (is only available using the Outlook client in CRM 3.0). Language specific mail merge templates can be created. Mail Merge has been enabled for custom entities.

CRM - Excel
Excel connections can be either iqv (like CRM 3.0) or ODBC. Refreshing of data is supported and a very very powerful feature of enabling updating back to CRM is also supported including creating new objects. This is very powerful since it can be used to clean data and do imports in a simple manner.

Office Communication integration
Office Communicatior has been integrated and you will get presence info in CRM. Very useful!

Resource Center
A new feature called the resource center has been added that allows role based info to be shown to the client. I don't know the specifics of what can and cannot be done yet.

New licensing
Two new licensing methods will be supported. Per device licensing and a "simple" user license, to be used for users who might only need to view CRM data shown in SharePoint in an agregated view. The details of the later licensing method, and what it will be called, is still very unclear. There will be no price difference between the per user and per device license. I will get back to you when I know more about this.

Diagnostics and troubleshooting
There are some additional tools to facilitate diagnostics and troubleshooting. Tools mentioned are Office Client Diagnostics and the possibility to switch on tracing in CRM (very performance demanding). There is also some sort of "self-healing" going on in the client. Exacly what it does is still unclear.

Entity relationships
This has been discussed before in this and other blogs. In short, all that you wanted from CRM 3.0 is there in CRM 4.0 - many - many, 1-1, self referential, system - system. I havn't heard of any limitations to this yet, but I am sure there are some (like maybe relationsships to "order product" or "quote product".

The workflow handling is totally new and has been moved to Windows Workflow Foundation. (.NET 3.0). This is great news since this allows for REALLY advanced workflows.

In short, you don't have to go to the server to create simpler workflows, they can be created from the web gui. A lot more creation options are supported, publishing of workflows is supported, there is a nice wizard, you can create workflow templates.

Also, the "sales process" has been removed and "stages" has been added to normal workflows, and can hence be used in all workflows, for all entities.

Workflows can now traverse relationships, the date-time handling is a lot better and the branching options has been improved a lot with support of "else" and "wait" statements. Dynamic data in forms is also supported using Workflow.

This is also an area that has been re-written a lot. Reports are now run directly on the CRM server, which gets rid of all Kerberos delegation issues. There is a nice end-user report wizard that is about as hard as creating an advanced find saved view. Reports are language specific (if you want them to be). There is support for scheduling directly from CRM. There is support for offline reports.

There is now a nice wizard for importing data and it is possible to save and export the datamapping. It supports all entities. It supports backing out of an import, even several weeks later.

Duplicate detection
An advanced and customizable dupicate detection exists that allows for cleaner data.

As promised, all supported customizations are supported for uppgrading, including callouts. There is a nice wizard that checks for possible problems before. Even though there are nice promises, I would really like to see this work before I believe it! It is almost to good to be true!

The exporting of security roles is now supported. When exporting all customizations, even all dlls that have been added as plug-ins are included. This will enable the movement of an entire solution from one server to another. (Ex. test to production).

Scale out possibilities
CRM has been split up into several services that can be distributed to several machines, so workflow, for instance can be moved from the front-end web servers to dedicated servers allowing for better scale-out options and greater performance.

The metadata webservice now enables writing, so new attributes, entites etc. can now be created programatically!

Create users in bulk
This has also been discussed in other blogs, but in short, it allows for the bulk creation of many users at once.

Well, that was a short overview of some of the new features in CRM 4.0 and I have hardly mentioned plug-ins.

I have attended lots of different sessions and will write a lot about it soon! As for now, the dinner table is calling (as is my belly!).

Over and out!

Gustaf Westerlund
CRM and SharePoint Consultant

Humandata AB (soon WM-Data)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Microsoft Virtual Earth Demo

Integrating with map services like Microsoft Virtual Earth, Google Maps can bring your CRM or SharePoint application great increases in features at a relativly low cost. Microsoft uses Microsoft Virtual Earth internally and the Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies Team Blog has written an interesting posting about this which includes a reference to a codeplex project including all code for the internal project.

I havn't checked it out, and it is used for SharePoint in the example but I believe that a lot of the code probably can be used to develop a Virtual Earth driven map service in Microsoft CRM.

So, without further ado, please read the posting and check out the codeplex project if you are interested!

Gustaf Westerlund
CRM and SharePoint Consultant

Humandata AB

Monday, October 15, 2007

Mr Dave writes some about Plug-In development

Mr Dave has written an interesting blog in plug-in development, which is the replacement for the callout-techniques used in CRM 3. There are a lot of architectural differences between callous and plug-ins. If you are planning to use plugs, dig in:

I hope to be writing some postings of my own concerning CRM 4.0 soon, but I still havn't got my hands on a version :(

Gustaf Westerlund
CRM and SharePoint Consultant

Humandata AB

Stunnware on CRM 4 development

Michael Höhne who runs the site Stunnware has written an interesting blog posting on how development differes between CRM 3 and CRM 4. It is very interesting and very usefull. If you plan to develop using CRM 4, I highly recommend that you read it.

Next week is Convergence EMEA in Copenhagen. If you are planning to go there and would like to meet, please drop me a line and we can arrange it.

Gustaf Westerlund
CRM and SharePoint Consultant

Humandata AB

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

CRM 4 VPC available on partner source

Ben Riga has made a CRM 4 VPC available on partner source. In other words, you have to be a Microsoft Dynamics Partner to be able to download it. Unfortunatley, I am not, yet, so I havn't had the possibility to download it. When I start at WM-Data/Logica CMG, I will be however, and look forward to checking it out!

Here is the link if you have access:

Gustaf Westerlund
CRM and SharePoint Consultant

Humandata AB

Thursday, October 04, 2007

crm 4, Crm 4, CRM 4, CRM 4!!!!

Very exciting times...
Lots of CRM 4 related information all around. Microsoft UK CRM Blog has some interesting information:

And if you havn't been there already, keep a steady eye on The CRM Teams blog:
They have added some links to videos of CRM 4.

Here is also an interesting blog containing info about CRM 4. It details a bit more the Import/Migration tool included in CRM 4.

I still have some unanswered questions:
1. Is there support for global javascript includes (like globalcustom.js)?
2. Is there a VPC out yet?
3. Other javascript support?

I would also like to look deeper into the offline API that is included.

And callouts have been renamed to plug-ins, and are "Tennant"-specific, meaning that they can be assigned to only one of the installed companies on the CRM server. Very nice indeed!

When I know more, I'll get back to you!

Gustaf Westerlund
CRM and SharePoint Consultant

Humandata AB

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I'm moving on!

November the 9:th will be my last day at Humandata here in Sweden. My new employment will be at WM-Data/Logica CMG where I will be working as a consultant with special focus on Microsoft Dynamics CRM development.

This means that I will focus even more on MS CRM and less on SharePoint. Don't get me wrong, I really like SharePoint and will probably use it for integration purposes with Microsoft CRM many times. This new employment will give me the opportunity to work with some of the largest MS CRM implementations and I will also be assisting in building a team of (hopefully) excellent MS CRM developers and consultants. If you feel that is you, please let me know, and we'll meet and discuss it. It will also be very interesting and instructive to work with the very experienced CRM professionals at WM-Data.

I will still be activly blogging to get you the latest and most useful tips, but I will focus more on Microsoft CRM, even though an occational SharePoint posting might occur.

I would also like to say that I feel very sad to leave the company Humandata which is a great place to work and it has been a privilage to work with some of the most competent people in the business. If you are a skilled SharePoint consultant (or want to be), please contact Göran Husman (SharePoint MVP and owner of Humandata), I promise you wont regret it!

Gustaf Westerlund
CRM and SharePoint Consultant

Humandata AB

Problems with Peoplesearch in MOSS 2007

Today I ran into some problems concerning People-search in MOSS 2007. My customer was using https for their main sharepoint site and I had installed the mysite host on the same web application (in https://servername/mysite) according to the specifications found around the net.

Well, my customer just couldn't get the people search to work, and I had heard that there were some problems with using it on a site that runs on https (http with ssl), so I wasn't very surprised. As a bit of backgroud, the peoplesearch is set up as a contentsource in the search using sps3://servername. The server in this case should be the web application hosting mysite.

Well, how to solve it. First of all I tried to just create and extension of the sharepoint application on http port 2000 (http://servername:2000). It worked just as it should, when I browsed it, it worked and I was also tranfered to the default site (https://servername).

I tried adding this as a content source instead of the old one, in other words:
sps3://servername:2000, sadly it didn't work.

As a matter of fact, we had got it to work previously in the same environment. We had first installed sharepoint on http://home and then added with an extension and an alternate access mapping. The later was used as the address to be used from the outside, by using MS ISA as a reverse proxy. After a while, the customer complained about problems with people copying/emailing url:s that didn't work from the outside. (the url was http://home/... and not, so not very strange. This resulted in the action of removing the alternate access mapping of http://home (the original one) so that only remained (and was hence set at the default). This worked great, people could enter "home" in their IE and they would reach the site

However, when I removed the alternate access mapping for http://home, people search started failing.

So, the remedy, I added an alternate access mapping for http://home:2000 in the zone Intranet (doesn't really matter, which zone as long as it isn't the default), re-indexed the search server and made a full crawl that worked like a charm! The point of using TCP port 2000 was that is is very unlikely that a user might just happen to enter that, it could just have been 1234 aswell...

Gustaf Westerlund
CRM and SharePoint Consultant

Humandata AB

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

First Titan/CRM 4 screenshots!

If you, like me, havn't been able to test or have a look at the new Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4 (code named Titan), you can now. I havn't seen any VPC out yet public but will let you know as soon as I know.

In the meantime, have a look at Stunnwares/Michael Höhnes site where he writes about the many new features of CRM 4. It's been a long wait, but it has been worth it! CRM 4 seems to be great!


Monday, October 01, 2007

MS CRM 3 and Exchange 2007

As many of you probably have customers running Exchange 2007 or are considering running Exchange 2007, careful consideration has to be taken to the fact that the current CRM Email router does not support Exchange 2007 due to the fact that it is a 64 bit program, and the router is not. This is going to be fixed in CRM 4. For more information have a look at the CRM Team Blog:


Interesting feature in SharePoint webpart properties

I am currently developing a customized search webpart for a customer and I wanted to move all environment specific variables to the webpart public properties so that they can easily be changed and the same dll can be used in all environments (dev and production). One of the properties was Scope, which defined search scope to use. It was defined in the following way:

private string scope;

[Browsable(true), Category("Settings"),




Description("Define Scope of search"),

XmlElement(ElementName = "Scope")]

public string Scope




return scope;





scope = value;




Well, just to be on the safe side, I set the web part property to "Documents", which is also what I had used as default. I was very confused the next time I opened the "Modify Shared Webpart" menu and found that the field was blank! First I thought there was some error in how the property was defined, but after a while I found that it actually blank the field if it is set to the value defined as default (in this case "Documents").

So, if you run into this little "feature", don't be afraid, everything is just as it should be!