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September 19, 2014

What is Unified Service Desk for Dynamics CRM?

So one of the major, but under-appreciated features of the Spring release of Dynamics CRM was the Unified Service Desk, or USD. If you work in call centers, you might have known it under its older names, CCA (Customer Care Accelerator), and CCD (Customer Care Desktop). In any case, the USD in an application that allows Dynamics CRM to interact with other applications your employees might need to use.

So what does USD do? Well, it brings a unified interface to all these disparate apps, and a common way to call them together. For example, let’s say you wanted your telephony system to be able to pull relevant customer information from CRM. Most customer support and call-centered phone systems have some kind of API that lets you “talk” to the system, and receive data from it when a call comes in.  Now when that call comes, the USD could pick up the call, recognize the verification information your phone system required to get to support, and load the CRM screen with your customer’s information on it, ready to work. But that’s not just it. Say your CRM only contains your relationship information, but not your transactional information. You could also use that customer ID entered in during the initial phone call to pop the last bill of your customer from your transactional system right beside the CRM information.

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September 17, 2014

Extending CRM for Banks to Regulatory and Government Affairs

From the ashes of the recent financial crisis rose a competitive banking environment with more sophisticated and demanding customers. Today's bank customer demands a seamless, multi-channel customer experience and meaningful interactions. Many banks have turned to CRM systems to provide a holistic customer view and streamline operations. Hitachi Solutions has a CRM for Banking solution that includes bank-specific data and reporting model, best practice business processes, and portal and mobile capabilities.

For banks, it's not just the customer that has changed since 2008. The regulatory environment has changed as well. Fortunately, banks can utilize the same tools they use manage their customer relationships to manage their regulatory relationships. Hitachi Solutions has extended its CRM for Banking to include CRM for Regulatory Relations.


Sometimes referred to as regulatory and government affairs, regulatory relations is about managing the banks’ relationships with regulators, government bodies, and often finance media. These relationships are usually at a senior level and require senior executives to be fully briefed on any material issues in-flight or due to arise.

Continue reading "Extending CRM for Banks to Regulatory and Government Affairs" »

September 11, 2014

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Rapid Release Cycle and Why You Should Try To Keep Up

Since the release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013, the platform has been on a very rapid release cycle. As was announced three years ago, the release cycle now includes two releases a year, a minor one in the spring and a major one in the fall.

For Online customers, you get these updates automatically. For On premises deployments, you have to decide when you upgrade to the new version.

Approaching CRM upgrades with the same mindset you did in 2010 will not serve you or your users well. Back then there were 3-4 years between major releases. It was not uncommon for a company to sit out one upgrade cycle and then upgrade for the next one. But the world has changed. CRM 2013 was released about a year ago, and the next major version, CRM 2015 (Vega), is coming by the end of the year. Here are a few points to consider:

  • If you sit out a version, you are going to make your upgrade much more difficult and expensive. CRM 2013 was probably the last of the traditional upgrades for Dynamics CRM. it was a major change in user interface. The upgrade after 2013 (SP1) was much more iterative. It added great new functionality and refined the user experience, but it was not the user shock that the user experience change in 2013 was. If you upgrade one version, you can typically upgrade fairly quickly. However, if you upgrade two or more versions, your upgrade process is longer and requires multiple environments to upgrade, as the upgrade scripts only work with the previous version.

Continue reading "Microsoft Dynamics CRM Rapid Release Cycle and Why You Should Try To Keep Up" »

September 03, 2014

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Performance: Form\View Load Analyzer

With the release of Service Pack 1 for Dynamics CRM 2013 Microsoft has introduced an analyzer to track performance on CRM form Loads. To take advantage of this feature open a form on CRM and then using your keyboard select Ctrl + Shift + Q to view the performance analyzer. To activate this utility choose Enable on the utility and then using F5 refresh your CRM form, the utility will close, normal behavior.

Once the form has refreshed select Ctrl + Shift + Q again, this time the utility will display showing the performance of the form load.

Some items of note when using this utility.
- Probably a good idea to Disable the Utility when not in use, only Enable when needed
- It appears to only work with IE
- It will work with CRM Online and appears to work on CRM On Premise as well but some have had issues, maybe browser choice.
- This is not restricted to Forms, it will work on Views as well.



In addition to the graphical view of the load performance you can Copy the stats for a more detailed exam. Included is a sample showing some of the parameter, this captures more rows of data but I have limited the output due to blog realestate.


August 26, 2014

Add Microsoft Dynamics CRM Shortcuts in Outlook in Windows 8

This is one of those little issues related to CRM usability that is probably easier solved by a CRM newbie than someone who has been working with CRM for a while. In order to add CRM folders to Outlook Favorites in previous versions of Outlook and Windows, it was sometimes necessary to modify the registry. Details about that can be found here: http://blog.customereffective.com/blog/2011/03/adding-crm-2011-entities-to-favorites-in-the-outlook-client-.html This scared some people and the registry would sometimes reset so you would lose your shortcuts.

Unfortunately, that trick does not work with Windows 8; dragging and dropping non-Outlook items to Favorites is not allowed. So we had to come up with another method to put commonly used CRM items in a designated, easy-to-access folder. The following process is specifically related to Outlook 2013.

Continue reading "Add Microsoft Dynamics CRM Shortcuts in Outlook in Windows 8" »

August 22, 2014

Overcoming Challenges When Using CRM IFD and ADFS

We had an interesting occurrence with a client this week.  Like many security conscious clients, they have limited ability for their servers to access the internet.  In this client's case, they had a proxy that was required for access.

Fairly typical CRM setup with an IFD CRM, leveraging an ADFS internal server, with an ADFS proxy supplying the gatekeeping for the outside.  CRM was using a standard SSL certificate from a public provider.

Continue reading "Overcoming Challenges When Using CRM IFD and ADFS" »

August 20, 2014

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 - How to Change the Tiles on the Menu

When Microsoft released CRM 2013 with its new look and feel, one of the biggest changes was how to navigate around the product.  The left navigation pane was replaced by the menu/tile user interface.  This menu, designed to take full advantage of touchscreens and tablets, takes a bit of getting used to when using a mouse.  I’m still amazed by the learning curve difference between clients using a table or Surface Pro versus those with a full laptop or desktop.  Touch screen users seem to find the menu navigation very intuitive and easy to advance to and from forms.  Mouse users, seem to be playing catch-up.

Although this blog is not about how or why the new menu UI exists, it is about how to change it.  Before I jump into that, I do want to add a quick tip to all those legacy mouse users:

Useful Tip: Use the wheel on your mouse to ease the navigation through the tiles that span more than a screen width.  Scrolling the wheel up and down has the effect of swiping the tiles left and right.

Let’s a take a look at a vanilla CRM 2013 menu:

Continue reading "Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 - How to Change the Tiles on the Menu" »

August 18, 2014

Lessons Learned Using Business Rules in CRM 2013

By now, you are probably familiar with Business Rules in CRM 2013. If not, check out this post for a nice introduction. Using Business Rules is a great way for CRM administrators to customize Form logic without having to know any JavaScript. They are extremely useful in many situations, but administrators should also know when to use a Business Rule and when to reach for another tool instead.

There are tons of conditions that I can evaluate using a Business Rule before performing certain actions. I can evaluate a field’s value (or multiple fields’ values) and I can evaluate calculated conditions like whether or Field A is greater than the sum of Field B and Field C. I could even multiply a field’s value by a static number as a part of a condition, like shown. Pretty nice feature.


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August 15, 2014

Dynamics CRM Cross-Entity Business Process Flow

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 introduced cross-entity business process flows. Up to five different entities can be combined in the same process flow.

Dynamics CRM includes an example cross-entity process flow called “Lead to Opportunity Sales Process”


In this process flow, the Qualify stage is on the Lead entity, while the develop, propose, and close stages are on the Opportunity entity.

Before a lead is qualified, the opportunity level stages are unavailable to be clicked.


After the lead is qualified, the next stages become available. When you click on the qualify stage, it toggles back to the lead form, when you click on “Develop,” it toggles to the Opportunity form.



So cross-entity process flows enable some really exciting user experiences:

  • They link multiple records together in one process, providing a smooth user experience, as if they were the same record.
  • They make moving between records in a process very easy (easier than popping up another window or drilling through).

Now that you are excited about cross-entity process flows, what about using them with custom entities or other system entities. What is the user experience?

Continue reading "Dynamics CRM Cross-Entity Business Process Flow" »

August 11, 2014

CRM 2013 Quickstart Excerpt: Dynamics CRM Quick View Forms

I recently had the opportunity to collaborate with some of my MVP friends on a new book called CRM 2013 Quickstart. This book is a follow up to the CRM Field Guide and is designed for someone who is familiar with earlier versions of Microsoft Dynamics CRM and wants to get familiar with the new features of CRM 2013. See the table of contents here.

You can buy the book at http://www.crm2013quickstart.com. Enter code JoelLindstromQuickStartBook for a discount at purchase.

The following is an excerpt from chapter 3—customizing CRM forms. this chapter covers the new form types and form layout, with best practices for configuring good looking forms.

Continue reading "CRM 2013 Quickstart Excerpt: Dynamics CRM Quick View Forms" »

July 25, 2014

Accessing Controls within Composite Control Flyouts Using Javascript

One great new feature in Dynamics CRM 2013 is that certain fields are displayed as a composite control with a flyout to edit the individual parts of the composite field. This blog post on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Blog gives details on how they work.

Controls within the flyout require special consideration when dealing with them in javascript. For example, imagine a scenario where address fields on some contacts are integrated with another system and shouldn't be edited in CRM. Instead of being able to write


you need to find the controlid for the address 1 line 1 field inside of the flyout. The format for these controls appears to be "CONTROLNAME_compositionLinkControl_ATTRIBUTENAME" In this case, the composite control's id is "address1_composite" so the "address1_line1" control in the flyout's id is "address1_composite_compositionLinkControl_address1_line1" so you'd need to use


One easy way to access the flyout control without dealing with the cumbersome control id is to iterate through the controls of the attribute instead of going to the control directly using the id. This can also be handy when you have an attribute that is bound to several controls and you want to manipulate all of the controls for that attribute at once.

Xrm.Page.getAttribute('address1_line1').controls.forEach(function(c) {


July 23, 2014

Editing the size of the Social Pane Notes control on a form

The Notes control in CRM 2013 is now specialized to display Notes, Activities, and Posts in one control to preserve real estate on the form. I have encountered instances where customers would like to resize the Social Pane area that contains the Notes control (highlighted in yellow below). The size of the Social Pane section is dictated by the Notes control in that section which is usually already on the form.


Typically, you can set the Number of Rows the control consumes on the Formatting tab of the Properties dialog. In the screenshot below, you see that the area below “Layout” is blank and that is where you typically see the “Row Layout” section which allows you to set the number of rows value.


To solve this issue, one needs to remove the existing Notes control from the form and add the Notes control back to the form and that option will appear.

First select the Social Pane control and the border of it will turn blue (highlighted in yellow below). Note that the form may automatically scroll so you will only see the blue outlined box.


Now click the “Remove” button in the ribbon and the Notes control will be removed from the form.


Now make sure that same Social Pane section is selected (outlined in blue) and click the “Insert” tab in the ribbon. Both are highlighted below.


With the Social Pane section selected, double click the “Notes” control in the controls area of the Insert tab in the ribbon.


This will now add the Notes control to that section. We are close to being done but there is still some clean up to do as you will notice the label is on the left (see below). We also need to set the size of the control which is why we started on this journey!

Click the Home tab in the ribbon (see below).


With the new Notes control selected (outlined in blue), click the “Change Properties” button in the ribbon.


The properties dialog will appear as seen below. Uncheck the box next to “Display label on the form” to hide the label for the control. You can also set the default tab that gets displayed.


NOTE: If you wish to keep the label of the control displayed but move it above the control, that setting is determined by the section the control resides in. You would need to select the Social Pane section and choose properties and change the setting of where to display the labels of the controls.

Now click the “Formatting” tab and you will see that you can now change the number of rows the control consumes on the form.


Be sure to “Save” the form and “Publish” the form. Now you are all set.

Please be aware that while you can set the “Number of rows” value to to low single digits, such as 4 or 5, this will have an adverse effect on your users.  Using too few rows causes the buttons on the Notes and Activities forms to not be readily visible and you need to scroll to see them.  That can confuse your users.  If you are only showing Notes with this control, I have found that 8 is the lowest number you can use and still see the Attach and Done buttons for notes.  If you are using Activities as well, I have found that 13 is the lowest number where you can still see the OK and Cancel buttons.

July 22, 2014

Naming Records Using Real-Time Workflow in Dynamics CRM 2013

If you are a Microsoft Dynamics CRM user, there is a good chance you have come across a view that looks a lot like this:


There are records in the view, but no indication of what the data represents because the records are not named, and the only other column in the view is the Created On column. Dynamics CRM 2013 (and previous versions) use these two columns by default – and sometimes administrators neglect to update these views which can make them pretty meaningless to the average user.

Continue reading "Naming Records Using Real-Time Workflow in Dynamics CRM 2013" »

July 21, 2014

From a Cocktail Napkin to Global Recognition: Hitachi Solutions Honored at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference

The Hitachi Solutions team is very proud to announce that we have been recognized by Microsoft as the Global Dynamics Partner of the year in addition to our Global Dynamics CRM Partner of the Year Award we received in June. As a Global Systems Integrator, we are excited to also announce that Hitachi Solutions was also named the Dynamics Partner of the Year for Japan and we also received Microsoft IMPACT Awards for ERP and Business Intelligence in Canada.

Additionally we are in the Microsoft Dynamics Inner Circle which is comprised of the top 60 partners worldwide, and the Microsoft Dynamics President's Club in the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), Canada and Japan.

Finally, we also received the US Professional Services Partner of the Year and the US Financial Services Partner of the Year Awards.

“As I walked up to the stage to receive these awards I was overcome by emotion and a vivid recollection of the 2003 Partner Awards Ceremony in New Orleans where I was captivated by Orlando Ayala’s passion for partners and customers as he announced the winners. In 2003, I was evaluating the business opportunity available and the products that would eventually become Dynamics AX and Dynamics CRM. I listened intently and wrote frantically capturing Orlando’s words on the back of a cocktail napkin. Orlando described each partner, their accomplishments, and their focus on successful customer adoption. I was ‘inspired’ and I wanted to be a part of creating a company that would embody the spirit that Orlando described that night. Soon after, Gary Peterson, Greg Carter and I created Iteration2 as an entrepreneurial venture with its vision written on that cocktail napkin. A year or so later, I saw Orlando and I showed him that napkin and told him how that night inspired the creation of Iteration2. That vision lives today in the hearts of each of the 1,300 people that share our cause at Hitachi Solutions. Whether someone has joined our team more recently as Hitachi Solutions or as part of an acquired company like Iteration2, Edenbrook, Hitachi Consulting, Ideaca, or most recently Customer Effective – we share a common passion for customers,” says Mike Gillis, Chief Operations Officer for Hitachi Solutions, “Oh, and by the way, I still have the napkin.”  

How to work around the Web Resource file type restriction in Microsoft CRM

Have you ever been developing a custom HTML/JavaScript/CSS page in CRM 2013 using Web Resources and come across the need to use a file type that doesn’t seem to be supported by CRM? Ever felt hampered and restricted to only use file types from the following list of explicit Web Resource content types when developing any type of custom HTML Web Resource page?

Web resource types

Well if so, fear not! We have unlocked the potential to do more with custom Web Resource development by utilizing the following work around when trying to upload and use files that do not seem to be supported by Web Resources in CRM.

Continue reading "How to work around the Web Resource file type restriction in Microsoft CRM" »

July 18, 2014

Sending Text Message Alerts from CRM 2013

I often find users are looking for ways to alleviate the email overload.  Sometimes important emails are missed due to a hectic day.  In some situations a remedy I like to incorporate is the ability to text message a user for events or status changes the user really cares about.  Leveraging Microsoft CRM and cell phone carriers' email feature, we can offer users the ability to receive critical alerts via text messaging in addition to normal email.


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July 07, 2014

New Shoes and Dynamics CRM Upgrades

So as I mentioned in my previous blog, there is so much going on and so many new features for Dynamics CRM that it can be hard to keep up. So I have put together a cheat sheet with descriptions of the majority of the new features and enhancements (some more technical or smaller ones were left out). But before we dive in, let’s talk about the upgrading process in general and why upgrading and the concerns involved is like buying the newer version of your favorite pair of shoes.

In the last year, I have invested in a new version of an old pair of favorite designer shoes that I absolutely love, but the process was not as easy or as simple as just “shopping”, much like the decision to upgrade to the new CRM isn’t as simple as just “deciding”.

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July 03, 2014

Microsoft - SFDC Announcement: This Cloud Has a Silver Lining

It's been one month since the announcement of the Microsoft and Salesforce.com partnership agreement. It was understandably shocking to most of the Microsoft CRM community. Benioff was our foil, and now he was literally next to our new CEO, smiling and extolling the virtues of the Microsoft cloud. And because of the ExactTarget acquisition, Salesforce.com, like our company Hitachi Solutions, is now a global Microsoft partner (more on that below).  It was odd, some of the press releases seemed cryptic, but time has given some clarity and some silver lining is shining through.

  • Further validation the MS Cloud. Benioff and his minions can no longer question Microsoft's commitment to the cloud. Benioff spends a good portion of his public speaking time knocking his competitors. In the announcement, Benioff said (among other niceties) that Microsoft is "doing a lot of the right things" in relation to the cloud. He also admitted that they have been using Microsoft products successfully since SFDC's inception. With Benioff no longer knocking Microsoft, the channel will have one less layer of FUD.

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July 01, 2014

Keeping up with the ever growing Dynamics CRM roadmap and more

Microsoft has been consistently offering new technologies and amazing upgrades to existing ones. Their product team has done an excellent job filling in the gaps and identifying areas to expand on current products to make them even more functional, and the CRM Spring 2014 upgrade is no exception. But with all the new products and or services they are bringing to the table and some names changes,  it’s easy to lose your place. In order to help keep it straight, in this blog I am going to share some info from my cheat sheet for Microsoft Dynamics products, and in a follow up blog I am going to share my cheat sheet specifically for CRM versions and new features.

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June 27, 2014

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Business Process Flow Lessons Learned

I’ve had the pleasure of completing multiple upgrades to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013, and one of the most popular new features for our clients is Business Process Flow. BPF is a great way to see where you are in a process, and it gives users a helpful guide for what needs to happen to close a sale, resolve a case, or complete many other types of processes.

In the “process” of implementing BPF, I’ve seen many areas where process flows work great, but I’ve also seen some situations where certain configuration choices may not be optimal for Business Process Flow.

Benefits of business process flow

  • Provides visual indication of where we are in a process.
  • Gives users a guide to what should be done at each stage.
  • Works consistently across all interfaces, including tablet app.
  • Can provide actions that are required to complete before the process can be moved to next stage—good for things like approvals.
  • Can tie two or more entities in the same process together—for example, the Lead to Opportunity process flow connects a lead with its converted opportunity. Users can toggle between the lead and opportunity, making a previously disconnected process seamlessly connected. This is one of my favorite things about BPF.
  • Allows users to indicate what phase the record is “in” currently, while also looking ahead to see what needs to be done in future phases, or what was done in previous stages. This behavior may be confusing to some—they think “if I click the close stage, it should move to close stage.” However, I appreciate the design choice of having a definite action to move the phase ahead by hitting the next phase button, because it allows me to plan for what I need to do in the future without moving the current phase.

Continue reading "Microsoft Dynamics CRM Business Process Flow Lessons Learned" »

June 26, 2014

CRM 2013 – Outlook Synchronization by choice, not by ownership

Earlier this year, my colleague and Microsoft CRM MVP, Joel Lindstrom, blogged about A Better Way to Control User Synchronization Settings In Microsoft Dynamics CRM.  In his blog, he discussed how the use of the (free and fully supported) XrmToolBox for CRM can be used to help enhance the Outlook synchronization capabilities within CRM.  I’d like to build upon his blog with some experience I had with a recent project.

Several months ago, I was wrapping up a CRM 2013 project with a large private insurance company.  The project was focused on Sales and I was working closely with the Sales Director and Team Leaders.  One of the Team Leaders and a Senior Sales Rep. had worked there for a pretty long time.  Since part of this project included a pretty massive data migration, having their perspective and experience dating back to the last time they migrated from an old (non-Microsoft) CRM system to MS CRM 3.0 proved to be useful.  This time, they were moving to (the more enterprise-worthy and dramatically enhanced) Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013.

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June 24, 2014

Querying Report Definitions

Have you ever been in the process of replacing or modifying a field and wondered what reports will be impacted? It is possible to run a query that lists out reports that contain certain text in their definition using the attribute BodyText which has the definitions for both Report Wizard Reports and SSRS RDL file reports.

For example, say that my entity new_asset has a field called new_value. We are planning on splitting out cei_value into two fields for different methods of measuring the value of the asset and want to review reports that may need to be updated.

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