Dynamics 365 Portals: A brief introduction to a brave new world

With the advent of Dynamics 365 and the acquisition of ADX Portals, Microsoft have introduced Dynamics Portals to the already bulging feature set, but what can you currently achieve using the release version?

Firstly, a very Happy New Year to you. As we enter the new year the world of Dynamics 365 has begun to open up new opportunities and also a whole stack of new questions for clients and partners alike as to what the new capabilities can bring to the table, one of which is Dynamics 365 Portals.

Dynamics 365 Portals allows external users access to CRM/Dynamics 365 content via a contact record and allows specific content to be accessed based on their web role(s). The solution enables the CRM Administrator to use CMS style functionality from with the Dynamics application.

In the course of investigating the suitability of the solution for a proposed client delivery I have collated some information on a number of key areas, which I have detailed below;

Supported Deployments

Dynamics 365 Portals should be available for organisations with subscriptions to Dynamics 365 (Fall Wave) and MS Dynamics CRM 2016 Online Update 1 (Spring Wave).

Dynamics 365 Portals is not compatible with MS Dynamics CRM 2013 or 2015 (on premise or online) or Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 (on premise and online).

Though it should be possible to add Dynamics 365 Portals as a subscription for MS Dynamics CRM 2016 Online Update 1, you may have a little difficulty – i.e. the solution is not displayed as a preferred solution, especially when working with a licensing provider/enterprise licensing. If so contact your CSP or MS Support.

For more information on preferred solutions see; https://technet.microsoft.com/library/dn878909.aspx

Dynamics 365 comes with 1 portal and you can purchase more portals as an when needed.

What Can I Achieve Using a Trial?

If you have not upgraded to the latest release (Dynamics 365) and still want to check out the Dynamics 365 Portal solution then you can add the preferred solution to a D365 Trial with access to the full product suite. I added this to a non-customised version so I was able to work with configuration items easily.

By default your portal is made available against the “microsoftcrmportals.com” domain.

Authentication for Dynamics 365 Portals

D365 Portals provides authentication built on the ASP.Net Identity API. Users will require a username and password to sign-in and it is possible to have two-factor authentication using email or SMS. Non-D365 users are associated with a Contact and it is possible to send an invitation to contacts previously created in the system to allow them to register.

dyn365portals_access

Tiered Access for Customer Users

Not all users are created equal, and nor should they be. As part of the security access configuration for Dynamics 365 Portals you can set up different web roles. These web roles are applied to a Contact (the primary record for your portal user) and can allow them to perform specific actions or access restricted content. Default web roles can be created. You can get more details on web roles in the link; https://community.adxstudio.com/products/adxstudio-portals/documentation/configuration-guide/content-authorization/web-roles/

A Rose by Any Other Name; Differences in Features

It is important to remember that as things stand Dynamics 365 Portals is not ADXstudio Portals, though they are built on a similar framework there are differences in the features and deployment methods.

This means we cannot assume that because a feature was supported using ADX v7 that it will be supported by Dynamics 365 Portals (v8.x). Adoxio Business Solutions (which continues to function after the Microsoft purchase of ADXstudio) published a feature comparison table here; https://www.adoxio.com/crm-portals-and-crm-portals-feature-comparison/

Some of the notable omissions from Dynamics 365 Portals are; Issues from the “Communities” feature set, Conference/Events management from the “Marketing” features and E-commerce – when compared to ADX v7. Which leads me on to the next point…

SharePoint Integration

The comparison table provided by Adoxio includes the item “SharePoint Integration” under integrations, and then supplements this with “leverage SharePoint’s secure document management”.

After unsuccessfully attempting to get this up an running in a trial version of Dynamics 365 and using this walk-through; https://community.dynamics.com/crm/b/microsoftdynamicscrmsolutions/archive/2016/08/17/crm-portal-and-sharepoint-integration

I encountered this alert when accessing my portal page;

dyn365portals_sperror

So, I put the question to a Senior Partner Consultant over at Microsoft and the response I received was that the product team confirmed that the SharePoint integration does not work with CRM Portals (v8.x).

They did mention that it’s in the roadmap for a future release, but there is no confirmed release date yet. It is tentatively expected in the Spring Release in 2017, but not firmed up at this point in time.

So it would appear that for now there is no SharePoint capability, if this is important, especially for external parties such as customers or partners then you may be able to implement a custom web component to handle the display of documents in the portal.

However, for your specific deal requirements involve just uploading files, Dynamics 365 Portals also supports Azure storage, which can be a better alternate solution to SharePoint for file storage (upload etc.).

Templates

There is no need to start your portal adventure with a blank canvas, you can leverage some of the ready made templates to act as the basic structure for your portal – including pages and page templates, for instance the Customer Service Portal.

They key benefits of starting with the Customer Service Portal are that by default you can access the following features;

  • Portal Dependencies
  • Portal Base
  • Portal Workflows
  • Web Notifications
  • Microsoft Identity
  • Identity Workflows
  • Web Forms
  • Feedback
  • Blogs
  • Forums
  • Forums Workflows
  • Portal Timeline
  • Customer Service
  • Knowledge Management
  • Microsoft Get Record ID Workflow Helper
  • Bing Maps Helper

After that you can configure the additional elements you need, or disable items as you see fit by creating supplemental web roles, pages and web files. Access to elements such as “Contact Us” and “Submit a Case” are already provided.

Migrating a Portal Instance

It is possible to migrate the configuration made in sandbox instance to production instance using Configuration Migration Utility which comes with Dynamics 365 SDK.

Custom Domains

As mentioned earlier Dynamics 365 Portals can be hosted in the MS domain, however it is also possible to use a custom Domain Name for your portal, for example; “myaccount.company.com”. To do so you will need enter the domain and provide an SSL certificate for the HOSTNAME in the settings/admin area for the portal solution which is accessed via Applications associated with your D365 instance in Office 365.

On Brand; Customise the “Look and Feel”

Your D365 Portal can be tailored to meet your branding requirements using CSS/Bootstrap added as a web file.

It is pretty impressive what can be achieved with the first iteration of Dynamics 365 Portals, users of the existing ADX product may decide to wait for a future release to migrate. It is also unclear at this point how easy it will be to move to D365 Portals for existing ADX customers – if you have any information to share please enter a comment and let me know. It appears to me that these are the first steps into a brave new world. and I will keenly await the announcements for the coming releases and to see how the functionality is dove-tailed by Power Apps.

There is an intro to the configuration of D365 Portals here. Give it a read and spin up a trial, it is well worth a play.

Happy CRM’ing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voice of the Customer for Dynamics CRM Online: Getting Started

Those of you who have been working with Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online in Office 365 will have noticed the ability to install “solutions” form the CRM Online Administration Center. One of which is “Voice of the Customer”, whereby you can add some pretty darn useful Survey functionality to CRM:

What is “Voice of the Customer”? For those of you that haven’t already played with this functionality, VOTC is additional functionality for instances using the MS Dynamics CRM 2016 Update to enable users to create and send surveys to gain feedback from your customers/clients on your products and/or services. The feedback can be used in your sales process or in relation to a case (how well did you do?). Previously you may have needed to implement one of the main ISV solutions such as Survey Monkey or ClickDimensions to do this, but with a few simple configuration steps you can enable the functionality directly inside CRM.

Voice of the Customer can be enabled as one of the new preferred solutions in Office 365 (along with Fantasy Sales Team and Company News Timeline). The official overview of the functionality is below.

“When a customer completes a survey, you can use rules to trigger follow-up actions that occur immediately. For example, if a customer answers a survey question that indicates an interest in one of your products, the system can generate a quote request and assign it to a salesperson. Or, if a customer replies with a complaint, the system can create a new service case and route it to the right queue for prompt handling. You can also send a survey automatically when a service case closes, to track how satisfied your customer is with the service they received.”

Enable Voice of the Customer

It is simple enough to enable VOTC for Dynamics CRM Online from the Administration Center in O365, just follow these steps;

  1. Log in to Office 365 as and administrator and select the Admin tile
  2. From the Admin Center home page expand “Admin Centers” in the left hand navigation pane and then select; CRM
  3. Once the CRM Admin’ Center has loaded select the instance you want to enable VOTC against in the instance picker and click on “Solutions”
  4. From the list of “preferred solutions” select “Voice of the Customer” and then click the “Install” button on the right – the solution will be installed, this may take a few minutes to completePlease Note: You may need to agree to the terms of service in a pop-out, you can do so by clicking “Install” again in this window and the installation will start.
  5. Once completed you will be able to see the additional entities created as part of the solution in the “Settings” area of CRM as well as an additional tile in the navigation bar.
  6. The next thing you will need to do is open the newly installed solution in CRM; Settings > Solutions > VoiceOfTheCustomer.
  7. Once you have opened the solution check the “I agree to the terms and conditions” check box, and then click the enable button.
  8. Close the solution.

    Votc_Entities_Capture.PNG

Once you have installed the solution you are ready to roll.

By enabling VOTC you can create and publish a Survey from within MS Dynamics CRM, when you publish the survey definition is sent to Azure and stored there (Azure Storage). When a respondent submits a survey, the responses are stored temporarily in Azure Service Bus and are then retrieved and stored in MS Dynamics CRM. Upon storing the responses in CRM, they are deleted from Azure.

It is possible to include CRM data such as customer name, product name, case number, etc. in a survey (within survey elements such as questions, answers, etc.) when rendering a survey for a respondent. When a survey invitation link is generated, this CRM data would be sent out of CRM and stored in Azure SQL Database in exchange for an identifier that is used within the survey invitation link.

This identifier is used to show the CRM data within the survey after the survey is opened using the survey invitation link. The identifiers within the survey link that is sent over email to a respondent is stored in the respondents’ email system.

For more information see the Microsoft Azure Trust Centre; https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/support/trust-center/.

Create a New Survey

VOTC has a user friendly ‘drag and drop’ interface inside of the Dynamics CRM web UI that makes creating a new survey easy.

To do so navigate to; Voice of the Customer > Surveys > then click “New“.

You will presented with a new record screen. Complete the required fields and click save.

survey_capture

You can add your own themes, logo, redirect text, redirect URL, survey completed text, next text, previous text and whole host of other items.

Upon adding the solution you may see a Default Survey Template in the Surveys area.

When you are ready, navigate up to the form selector and click the drop down arrow, here you can select the designer.

Survey_designer_select.PNG

Survey Designer

The next step is to design your survey, and the drag and drop designer makes this easy for end users. By default the user will be presented with three “pages” for the survey;

  • Welcome
  • Page 1
  • Complete

The user can add pages using the rather discrete “Add” button to the bottom left of the window. The elements available for survey configuration are listed on the right, simply drag and element to the page to add.

survey_designer_select

The different elements available out of the box include;

  • Short AnswerA question with one line input
  • Long AnswerA question with multi-line input
  • RatingRating input using; stars, smiles or flags
  • Single ResponseAllows respondents to select a single answer
  • Multiple ResponsesAllows respondents to multi-select answers
  • DateWell, it allows respondents to select a date for their answer
  • Numerical ResponseA question that only allows a numerical response
  • RankingAllows the respondent to rank their answers in preference order
  • Net Promoter ScoreA customer satisfaction metric
  • Customer Effective Score – A customer satisfaction rating on a 5 point scale

The next thing to do is add your survey elements;

  1. Add your welcome text to the pre-created element at the top of the page by clicking on the text box marked “Put your welcome text here”

    Survey_Designer01.PNG

  2. When you have entered your text click the “save” icon. If you need to edit what you have entered you can do so by clicking either the “inline edit” or “edit” icon on the right hand side

    Survey_Designer02.PNG

  3. You can choose another page by selecting the page thumbnail in the left hand navigation pane, you can edit the section header by clicking on it and drag questions to configure from the right.

    Survey_Designer03.PNG

  4. You can drag elements from the right and change the question text, tooltip, requirement level, layout and scoring;

    Survey_Designer04.PNG

  5. You can drag more questions onto the page in the same way as you would fields on the CRM form editor, just drag them to the position you wish them to appear;

    survey_designer05

  6. Update the text on the “Complete” page if required and click “Save” and then click “Publish” in the ribbon – once successful a banner notification will appear with; “Published to server.”
  7. You can then “Preview” a published survey, you can choose “Survey” in the form selector to return to the survey record, the notes and fields should have been updated similar to those in the screen shot below;

    survey_designer06

  8. You can use the “Copy Snippet” function to add a survey link to a CRM Email or Email Template – this could be sent automatically when a case is closed/resolved. Alternatively the string can be found in the Email Snippet field with an Anonymous Link under “Invitations and Actions” in the Survey record.

    Survey_Designer07.PNG

Hopefully this brief intro has been useful, there is far more to the survey functionality including conditions and analytics dashboards to alerts for responses. Have a play around in a sandbox and you’ll soon see the value.

Check out the Dynamics Community for more information.

Enjoy! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dynamics 365 – A view from the Summit

On Wednesday the 12th October the UG Summit ’16 keynote delivered an overview of what is in store when Dynamics 365 is unleashed on the world, and there could be some exciting times ahead.

The Amalie Arena in Tampa Florida played host to the keynote for the 2016 Dynamics UG Summit and delivered, for want of a better word, a dynamic message on what is in store for the future of CRM by Scott Guthrie, with key demos by; Ryan Cunningham, Marko Perisic, Param Kahlon and a very energetic (and funny) demo from Amir Netz.

I was lucky enough to be among those present for what was a sharply delivered keynote interwoven with demos that attempted to highlight the combined power of Dynamics 365, including but exclusive to;

  • Mobile and cross-platform working
  • Power Apps
  • NAV & AX integrations
  • Document view & generation
  • Customer Intelligence
  • Portal Builder

Key Messages

From the information delivered, working in Dynamics ‘silos’ may become a thing of the past where cloud solutions are concerned. The importance of using Dynamics 365 to span the customer interactions and order processing work streams is clear, with much of the demo time featuring a narrative that crossed these platforms.

The flow of the keynote was structured to deliver the message that Dynamics 365 will be;

Purpose-built: with applications that fit roles, industries and businesses – so organizations can start with and pay only for what they need and grow at their pace to run their entire business in the cloud.

Productive: enabling greater productivity where people need it by seamlessly integrating with familiar tools like Outlook and Excel, surfacing them in the context of their business processes, roles and jobs.

Intelligent: delivering built-in Intelligence with business processes that infuses big data, advanced analytics and “internet of things” to proactively guide employees and customers to optimal outcomes.

Adaptable: enabling organizations to transform at the speed of business. Business leaders can change and evolve their processes in real-time using a modern consistent, and extensible platform – so they are not being held back by legacy technology.

summit16_01

New Features

In addition to the key note and demos the preview airlift content is available on Microsoft Connect. Some of the key features that were woven into the demos and from the material made available in the airlift that have stood out for me were changes to; Business Processes and Automation, Editable Sub-Grids and updated Email and Portal functionality.

Business Process & Automation

  • Concurrent Processes
  • Security & Programming
  • Drag an Drop Visual Designer
  • New Out of the Box actions
  • Charting and Reporting

As well as additional SDK support via the ODATA API, it is interesting to see the current list of functions that have been made available, such as; Add Case to Queue, Add User yo Record Team (useful), Apply Routing Rule and Get Sales Order Products from Opportunity (finally!!).

processui_capture

Editable Grids

  • Home Grid
  • Sub-Grid
  • Nested Grids (On Mobile/Tablet app)
  • Support for JS Events

As it stands editable grid features include support for most data types. Though there are exceptions, including; state, customer type, composites, partlists and lookyp entity related fields.

The ability to sort by or group by any column in the view would also be a welcome one. The support of JavaScript events for home grids and sub-grids OnRecordSelect, OnChange and OnSave will also be very interesting. This is a feature much sought after, and sometimes teased at in previous releases.

Email Engagement

A much lamented part of Dynamics CRM functionality for a long time now, which finally seems to have been given a much needed face lift!

There are welcome additions such as; interactions (opened, link clicks, attachment viewed), reminders, delayed send and template analytics. As well as the ability to use relationship insights and email templates in response to items in Outlook using CRM templates.

email_analytics.png

Portals

From Amir’s demo, the use of portals and configuration of portals for Dynamics 365 was perhaps when of the most powerful potential additions. Since the procurement of ADX Studio I have been keen to see the direction taken for a more integrated portal offering with CRM. The next version of portals – or PRM – is centred around increased collaboration, 3rd party service integrations, knowledge management and search enhancements. With a very exciting looking portal builder UI and the use of Excel style expressions instead of code such as ASP.Net.

Relationship Analytics

Dynamics 365 will have configurable functionality (such as KPIs and health indicators) that can enable your organisation to get a better understanding of the relationship between you and your customer or client.

The functionality should enable the capture of signal data from Dynamics and Exchange to determine the health of the relationship, risks and next actions. The idea is to determine where the effort is being spent and where it SHOULD be spent against your customer/client base to cultivate the opportunities available. Identify your top contacts and work across devices and applications to get the best outcome.

rel_analytics_capture

I am very interested in the use of apps and cross-device working. With demos paying particular attention to using a mobile device (phone or tablet), Outlook and the Dynamics web UI.

Not to mention the use of Financials (NAV light?) and Operations (AX Online) as an integrated extension of the Dynamics application. A similar look and feel for both Operations and Financials allude to a ‘seamless’ user transition between common CRM sales functionality and Order fulfilment.

An interesting note from the speech delivered by Scott Guthrie was the use of the term; “xRM” – remember that? Those of you who have been around CRM long enough will remember xRM was all the rage but then the landscape and the messaging from Microsoft in particular changed. Well it is back, and I would expect to be hearing it again. It appears it will be focused around making Dynamics 365 ‘yours’, whatever you are doing.

Some Questions

As with any glimpse of new functionality or a change in direction, the information conveyed at the UG Summit did leave some pertinent questions, such as;

“How will I transition my CRM Online organisation to Dynamics 365 as an existing customer?” and “Is a migration required or is Dynamics 365 going to be supported on the same online infrastructure with processes and additional links to Azure?” and of course; “How much of this will be available On Premise for the initial release and when?”

Other questions would likely include; “How easy is it to configure integration between sales, financials and operations in Dynamics 365 and are custom entities supported?”

Unfortunately at the time of writing those are answers that I don’t have, however if you have registered for access to the Dynamics 365 Beta, there are downloads available for On Premise versions of Dynamics CRM from Connect (https://connect.microsoft.com) as well as the airlift content.

One thing I am convinced of is that I and few others will have a decent amount of upskilling to do, and as always the future looks to be exciting.

Happy CRM’ing.

 

 

 

Upgrading MS Dynamics CRM 2011 to CRM Online

For organisations still operating Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 a move to the cloud could be appealing, but what is involved in upgrading to CRM Online from CRM 2011?

I have previously blogged on items to consider when contemplating moving from MS Dynamics CRM on premise to CRM Online via Office 365. Once you have had the green light to move however, what exactly is involved in getting there?

The move isn’t as simple as backing up a solution, or migrating a backup of your database, but it can be broken down into a few suggested steps;

  • Assess – Your Current State
  • Prepare – Customisations and Data
  • Upgrade – Your On Premise version
  • Review – The updates
  • Migrate – The Solution and your Data

In the following sections I will attempt to provide a little more information on these steps based on current experience and the CRM upgrade path.

  1. Assess

    It is important you take time to assess the current implementation of CRM to identify any current issues which could affect your ability to upgrade successfully.

    It is also advisable that any custom elements such as; JavaScript, Plug-ins, Reports and Third Party Tools are assessed for suitability prior to upgrading CRM.

    Custom JavaScript will need to be updated and optimised for later versions of MS Dynamics CRM due to code changes and cross browser support*, the size of this task will vary depending on the volume of JavaScript involved in your solution. There is a custom code validation tool that can be utilised in this task which can be downloaded here. You can find more information on checking JavaScript here via msdn.

    Third Party Tools & Integrations will need to be assessed in order to decide if they can be replaced with the latest CRM Online features or indeed if they are supported for CRM Online and if they themselves require an upgrade.

    Integrations could benefit from the new CRM Web API, for information on the API and limitations please see this MSDN article; https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-gb/library/mt628816.aspx

    Reports may not be compatible with CRM Online, for example there may be reports built in SSRS, which is not available with CRM Online in Office 365. But you may be able to agree a strategy to replace some of these in Power BI.

    Data volumes will be an important part of the assessment; what can be cleansed? What data is required? How much storage will you need to purchase? How will attachments and documents be managed?

    *It is very important to identify which browsers are going to be used/suggested for users when accessing CRM Online as updating the legacy JavaScript to support many different browsers and the subsequent testing could be time consuming and/or costly.

  2. Prepare

    Once you have assessed the size of the task at hand it is time to begin the preparation for the upgrade – the data will be crucial to your end result, so it may be a good idea to start a data cleanse as soon as possible to ensure it is completed on time.

    If possible take a back-up of the current Production or an up to date Test instance
    and use this as an assessment/development instance. This means your current Production instance will continue unaffected until you are ready to move.

    Before the upgrade begins, obtain any product keys required. In later versions of Microsoft Dynamics CRM the server and client keys are combined so that only one key is required. It may be a good idea to review the need for a Bing Maps key for CRM too, keys can be generated here; https://www.bingmapsportal.com

  3. Upgrade

    There is no supported direct upgrade path to CRM 2016/Online from CRM 2011, therefor the upgrade will involve multiple steps in order to reach your target version. To upgrade you will need to take the pre-prepared version of CRM 2011 to CRM 2013, then 2015 and finally to CRM 2016.

    migration

    This means you will create a CRM 2013 environment with an instance of SQL Server that is supported, such as SQL Server 2014. This step may take some time depending on the size of the CRM database involved, this is because of the number of significant changes to the database when moving between CRM 2011 and 2013. You may want to review the upgrade at this point to check for any issues and insure the latest CRM 2013 roll-up is installed, if you are happy then you can move on to the upgrade to CRM 2015 (use the latest update version) and then finally 2016.

    For more on the MS Dynamics CRM Upgrade path please see the following article; https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh699716.aspx

  4. Review

    After any successful upgrade of the CRM Server application you will then no doubt want to review the form layout, fields and workflow processes, as well as testing and updating any necessary JavaScript. The exact steps to take should be well defined from your assessment phase.

    Form layouts, fields capabilities and navigation of the application in the web UI changed significantly between versions so user acceptance testing and end user involvement in the review and configuration is key to successfully upgrading your solution.

  5. Migrate

    Once you and your user groups are happy with the changes it is time to migrate to CRM Online in the Office 365 cloud. This will likely involve the following;

    – Creating a new CRM Online instance in your Office 365 tenant
    – Exporting and Importing the CRM 2016 Solution from your On Premise version
    – Migration of cleansed CRM data (a third party tool may be required*)
    – Update and Test CRM plug-ins for CRM Online
    – Test your upgraded CRM solution (yes again)

    There may be some additional complication added to this step for any integrations that are affected by the move to CRM Online. Where possible this should be factored in using the CRM Web API.

    In order to allow users to authenticate with CRM Online using their organisational Active Directory credentials your administrators can enable Active Directory Sync’, single sign on can also be implemented using ADFS.

    *The size of the task involved in migrating the data to CRM Online will vary depending on the volume of records and if activities and other more troublesome items such as attachments are required – the recommendation is not to bloat the CRM Online database  with attachments, it may be a good idea to consider SharePoint online for documents storage.

Hopefully this post allows you to get started on your own upgrade plan, check out MSDN for lots more useful information and speak to your Microsoft Partner who can help you through the process.

Happy CRM’ing.

 

 

 

 

 

IE Performance Setting – page load in CRM

Sometimes an instance of MS Dynamics CRM can rely heavily on JavaScript, and ‘On Load’ this can have an effect on page performance.

If this occurs then it can be very frustrating for a user point of view and lead to support calls or disgruntled users. Thanks to a colleague who had spoken to Microsoft about this issue when encountered in IE, there is something you can do on your local machine to improve performance.

Whilst it is suggested you try and avoid the over-use of JavaScript or other performance affecting configurations On Load of an entity form, this happens from time to time.

So what is the fix?  

The fix is to increase the maximum number of connections per server from 2 to 10 on the local machine/PC, the steps to complete are as follows (please note this applied to Internet Explorer);

  1. Start Registry Editor.
  2. Locate the following key in the registry:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\MAIN\FeatureControl\FEATURE_MAXCONNECTIONSPERSERVER

  1. On the Edit menu, point to New, click DWORD Value, and then add the following registry values:

Value name: iexplore.exe Value data: 10 Base: Decimal Note  – set this value to the connection limit that you want for HTTP 1.1 connections. By setting the value to 10, you increase the connection limit to 10.

  1. Locate and then click the following registry sub-key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\MAIN\FeatureControl\FEATURE_MAXCONNECTIONSPER1_0SERVER

  1. On the Edit menu, point to New, click DWORD Value, and then add the following registry values:

Value name: iexplore.exe Value data: 10 Base: Decimal Note set this value to the connection limit that you want for HTTP 1.1 connections. By setting the value to 10, you increase the connection limit to 10.

  1. Exit Registry Editor
  2. Close and Restart IE.

If you do not have admin’ rights to your local machine you may need to speak to your IT service desk. Hope this helps some of you out.

Happy CRM’ing

ClickDimensions error after importing customisations

If you work with ClickDimensions with Microsoft Dynamics CRM you may or may not have discovered that there is an issue caused by exporting a solution for use in another instance.

ClickDimensions is a wonderful tool that is still one of the best ways to extend the Marketing Module in Dynamics CRM. If you haven’t already investigated the product offering take a look here; http://clickdimensions.com/

ClickDimensions is delivered as a managed solution in CRM, with a unique key given to the specific organisation it is purchased for, this key is saved to the CRM sitemap when it is installed. If you haven’t edited the sitemap for your CRM instance then this itself isn’t an issue. But what if you have?

Typically customisation of the sitemap isn’t  uncommon, i.e. when you need to create additional navigation areas outside of Sales, Service, Marketing etc. and when this has taken place in a sandbox, you would simply add the sitemap to a solution in the “Client Extensions” area and export it for use in a test or production system.

In this scenario, if you had for instance a sandbox with s licensed version of ClickDimensions, then it would include the account key embedded in the sitemap and it would be imported into the target CRM instance with the rest of the customisations. The resulting error when trying to navigate to your ClickDimensions settings would be something like this;

crmerror

If you get this error and don’t have a backup of the original sitemap with the correct key, then you can contact the excellent ClickDimensions support team by logging a case here; http://help.clickdimensions.com/ or if you have made a backup (as you should), you can import the old sitemap back into CRM.

For future updates you then need to make note of the correct account key in the sitemap – you can use a find/search in the customisations.xml file and look for; accountKey=.

Publishing the customisations will update the sitemap and you should be able to navigate to Settings> Extensions > ClickDimensions Settings as normal.

Once you have the unique ID for the organisation used ClickDimensions, you can then and this back in each time you need to export the sitemap from one instance to another by updating the tags in the customisation.xml file prior to import.

Happy CRM’ing.

 

 

Multi-Tenancy or Multi-Instance with CRM Online?

A belated happy new year to you all! Since the Christmas break I have been involved in some interesting client discussions over the possibility of using a “multi-tenant” approach in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. During that discussion it became apparent that there are a few points to establish when considering what is possible.

Sometimes within an organisation there is the possibility that one area of the business works in an entirely different way to another, or have different data constraints based on their location, even though their may be a common data set meaning that the maintenance of a single instance of CRM isn’t palatable. With an On Premise deployment Dynamics CRM can be handled in a multi-tenant scenario with some legwork, but how would this work with CRM Online and Office 365?

Firstly we need to establish what we mean by multi-tenancy:

“Traditionally Multi-tenancy is an architecture in which a single instance of a software application serves multiple customers. Each customer is called a tenant. Tenants may be given the ability to customize some parts of the application, such as colour of the user interface or apply differing business rules and processes – without customising the code used by the application.

Multi-tenancy can be economical because software development and maintenance costs are shared. It can be contrasted with single-tenancy, an architecture in which each customer has their own software instance and may be given access to code. With a multi-tenancy architecture, the provider only has to make updates once. With a single-tenancy architecture, the provider has to work with multiple instances of the software in order to make updates.

In cloud computing, the meaning of multi-tenancy architecture has broadened because of new service models that take advantage of virtualisation and remote access. A software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider, for example, can run one instance of its application on one instance of a database and provide web access to multiple customers. In such a scenario, each tenant’s data is isolated and remains invisible to other tenants.”*

So we can see that the economical aspect of operating multi-tenancy deployments of an application such as CRM could be attractive, also the additional flexibility provided. However what does this mean when we apply the concept to Office 365 for CRM Online?

Well, from a Microsoft standpoint we need to clarify what a tenant means in Office 365;

“For Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, a tenant is the account you create in the Microsoft Online Services environment when you sign up for a CRM Online subscription. A tenant contains uniquely identified domains, users, security groups, and subscriptions and can contain multiple CRM Online instances. The tenant created for you has a domain name of <account>.onmicrosoft.com. For example, contoso.onmicrosoft.com.” – TechNet

So – when you sign up for CRM as a service in Office 365 a tenant is created for you, to which you can log in using the administration portal and from here you can manage subscriptions, user and their access and add multiple “instances”. Which is the key element of that description.

In Office 365 an instance is defined as;

“When you sign up for a trial or purchase a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online subscription, a CRM Online production instance is created. Each additional production or non-production (Sandbox) CRM Online instance you add creates a separate and isolated Microsoft Dynamics CRM organization on the same tenant. An instance has the URL format: https://<URL name>.crm.dynamics.com. For example, https://contososales.crm.dynamics.com.” – TechNet

So from this we can see that a typical CRM Online deployment includes one tenant only. A tenant can include one or more CRM Online instances; however, a CRM Online instance is always associated with a single tenant, as per the diagram below.

Users can be granted access to more than one instance of CRM under your Office 365 tenant and each instance will have it’s own specific URL and friendly name – which can help with brand identification.

o365_tenacy

So it is important that we establish the ‘need’, if what the client needs are in fact multiple instances, then this can be achieved within the O365 framework, however the data would sit in separate CRM databases underneath the main ‘tenant’ and would have different URLs, this would mean managing each business area as its own separate CRM environment with its own SQL database.

If there is a common data set or “master data” set required for more than one instance then the master data would need to be synchronised through all instances under the tenant. This could be managed using integration and data warehousing depending on the scale of the implementation there are a variety of things to consider, for more on this subject see a previous post – Things to consider when moving to CRM Online.

A single Office 365 tenancy can host many business critical applications besides CRM Online, for example SharePoint or Exchange. Each user can then consume a license for one or more of these services.

If the business has divisions that have differing markets or business models or there are legal and compliance considerations, it may be that they are inclined to run separate tenants in Office 365.

In order to run multiple tenants a user would need to have access to a specific Office 365 tenant and then additional access granted where required as per the diagram below. This could be managed by administrators but in this scenario both instances would require separate user accounts and a user accessing both tenant 1 and 2 would consume two licenses. The subscriptions and applications under these tenants would also need to be managed separately.

Each tenant will require a tenant administrator (at least one) with unique credentials to sign in, the instances under each tenant would need to be managed in separate admin consoles (in the O365 portal). Each instance of CRM would have its own SQL database.

Restrictions can include;

  • User Accounts cannot be shared across tenants
  • A single domain can only be federated with one tenant
  • On premise Exchange organisations cannot be split across tenants
  • Cross-tenant collaboration will be limited to Lync Federation and Exchange Federation features
  • Duplicate accounts can not exist across the tenants or partitions in on premise AD

o365_tenacy2

The alternative approach to running multiple instances in CRM would be to segregate users, data and processes within a single CRM instance. This requires strong data governance, a good business unit and security model and a consolidated approach to processes and configuration of the system.

Depending on the scale of the organisation it may be viable to split the business unit structure out under the root (organisation) in CRM as per the example below. Careful consideration needs to be given to security permissions and who has an “organisational” view of data.

This largely depends on the nature of the organisation and the resulting structure of the business. But within the CRM framework users can be given Parent and Child Business Unit access to data as well as Business Unit and User level permissions, and this means users must be placed within the right CRM business unit for their access levels. Sharing and both ownership and access teams can also be used for cross-level data access.

This is very manual in CRM as standard but can be augmented using the development of plug-ins and really depends on the complexity of the requirements.

Changes that affect entities, forms and users would need to be explored and accepted by a change board (CAB in ITL terms), but this is just good practice.

BU

Can an instance of CRM Online be created in a different geographical location to the tenant?

At the time of writing an O365 tenant is created within a region selected when first setting up your subscription – if it was a CRM Online trial created initially it will default to whatever was selected here. All additional instance will automatically be created in the same regional datacentre. However you can add instances to be deployed to another datacentre by contacting Microsoft Support (prior to adding your instance would be favourable). So if the organisation operates in Europe and South America, you can have dedicated instances deployed in a region more sympathetic to connecting to the cloud – or to data legislation for the country of operation.

Can multiple URLs be used for the same instance of CRM Online?

At this point in time one CRM instance cannot have multiple URLs in O365. You can manage/edit the URL and friendly name of a CRM instance in the Office 365 portal however, so if the use of a URL needs to be ‘generic’ or brand agnostic you could edit the default to suit the requirements.

Can an instance be moved to another tenant after it has been created?

Yes, this is possible but you would need to establish your requirements with MS Support in order to do so, it cannot be carried out in the portal by an administrator. It is much easier to get this right at the beginning though rather than remedially.

In conclusion; It is crucial to first analyse the organisational requirements and then define if a multi-tenant or multi-instance approach is required to meet those requirements. It is important to understand the need for unified data or indeed data separation prior to defining the approach and what integration constraints there are – both for the business and the region (i.e. data sovereignty or the use of customer data).

In many cases the operation of multiple production instances under a signal tenant can be a viable option, it is also more than possible for business units with different processes or data to co-exist in a single CRM instance, this just requires a different focus on the use of business units, teams and security in CRM and the decision to run additional tenants will largely come down to how difficult it will be to manage the differences in data, processes and customisations in a single instance.

A single tenant can include up to 50 CRM Online production instances and 75 sandbox instances making it scalable to say the least. There is flexibility with CRM Online but all aspects need to be considered and if the model doesn’t fit – then there is always on premise right? 🙂

Happy CRM’ing.

*The excerpt quoted was taken from a post published by Margaret Rouse in August 2014, see; http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/multi-tenancy for more information.