Saturday, February 20, 2010

Marking an appointment as finnished from Outlook

One of the best features of Dynamics CRM is the integration to Microsoft Outlook. In comparisson to competing CRM systems, this is really one of the strongest unique selling points of Dynamics CRM.

However, even though it is really good, there are some parts of it that could use some touchups and until that happens, some workarounds would be good.

One of these issues, is that appointments can easily be created from Outlook and mapped to some object in CRM. This is easy and very few click. Nice. But, when this appointment is completed, it is a bit more complex and a lot more clicky. First you have to open the appointment in Outlook, then open the appointment in the CRM form. From there, you can press the "Save as completed" button, which is a bit tedious and many users find this a bit strange and I am having a hard time explaining why you have to do it this way, it isn't very obvious or logical. The best solution would be that the CRM addin had a button which could mark appointments and other activities as completed. But that just isn't there yet.

So, is there a workaround, yes, of course there is. It isn't perfect, but it will work.

Define some text, like for instance "Completed" and then tell the users to put Completed as the last text in the description field or in the subject field.

Then create a workflow in CRM that triggers for updates on the field where you expect the text. Then let the workflow check if the end of the content of that field is "Completed" and if so, set the appointment as completed.

The same functionality could of course be implemented in a plugin instead, but that requires a bit more programmatic skills.

The functionality of adding a button to Outlook can of course also be developed with Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO), and that could of course be used to automatically update the appointment as completed.

So, that might help you out a but I really hope that the CRM Client for version 5 will deliver this functionality since it isn't very hard to do when the rest is there.

Gustaf Westerlund
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Chief Architect


Friday, February 19, 2010


A few weeks ago a new colleague started working here at the Dynamics CRM group at Logica Sweden. His name is Fredrik Strandin and he is a very skilled developer. He mentioned that part of the reason he contacted Logica for a position was that he was following this blog and liked it. A huge complement and I am very grateful for it. It is hard to know how many people actually are following this blog and what I write, so please leave a comment if you like. The best inspiration to writing more on the blog is praise from readers of the blog.

I would also like to point out that I really enjoy working for Logica. It is a very friendly company with a very good customer approach. Of course, no company is perfect and a company with 40 000 employees can sometimes be a bit bureaucratic but then again we have resources to approach the largest, coolest and most difficult of CRM projects. So, if you, like Fredrik would like an opportunity to come work with this most extraordinary team of Dynamics CRM professionals, please contact me, we are always looking for driven and skilled people. Just call the main Logica phone number and as for Gustaf Westerlund in Sweden. We have offices in about 40 countries around the world, so it doesn't really matter where you live :).

Gustaf Westerlund
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Chief Architect


Back to old times

Today I got involved in a project I havn't been working in for about 2 years, a CRM 3 project that now was upgraded and there were some issues with callouts not executing properly on the production system but there were no problems on the test system. So, there probably wasn't a code error.

After activating the crm tracing (alway a good thing to do when CRM is missbehavn') it was quite clear that it couldn't find the dll Microsoft.Crm.Platform.Callout.dll which of course is required by CRM 4 if you want to execute workflows since this assembly contains the classes that are inherited from in the callouts. It is a bit strange that this dll isn't included in CRM 4 since callout are supposed to be seemlessly upgradable to CRM 4 and this is the one little stich that is missing. So, just had to dig it up and deploy it to the GAC and the callouts started working as they should.

During this I also thought there might be errors in with the assembly being unsigned and after some looking around, I found that in Visual Studio 2003 it isn't found in the project settings so you have to fix it manually in the assemblyinfo.dll. However, this doesn't seem necessary event though it doesn't hurt.

So, what did I learn?
1. When in doubt, switch on CRM tracing.
2. Make sure you have a good store of all dll:s that CRM uses so that you quickly can find them. How many of you have the Microsoft.Crm.Platform.dll in the CRM 3 hosted version? It is quite rare and can be found on the installation disks but not anywhere on MSDN. If you need it, drop a comment. I approve all comments due to all the #¤#¤¤# comment spammers so you can enter your email and ask me not to publish the comment, and it wont be subject to email harvesters, if you want me to email you the file.
3. Don't take promises of seemless upgradablity too serious. MSFT have done a great job with CRM, you don't even have to recompile (and consider that CRM 3 uses .NET 1.1 and CRM 4 .NET 2.0 from an IIS perspective) so always do a test upgrade a couple of times before you do it live and make sure to write down all the steps you are taking. Let's hope the upgrade from CRM 4 to CRM 5 will be truly seemless!

Gustaf Westerlund
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Chief Architect