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Showing posts from 2013

Salesforce and Dynamics CRM pricing for Charities

Currently I'm working on two separate projects for two different charities - one of them implementing Dynamics CRM, the other implementing Salesforce. As I've said before , the two systems are surprisingly similar in philosophy and features, but there are some differences. Probably the most important one to discuss is price. Both Salesforce and Dynamics CRM offer steep discounts for Charities and Not-for-Profits. This graph of total cost per month versus no of users sums it up: Broadly this shows that Salesforce is actually cheaper (or free) for small numbers of users, although when you get to more than about 16 or 17 users Dynamics CRM Online works out cheaper. The estimated charity price for the imminent new release of Dynamics CRM Online is also shown, but this has not been confirmed yet (see below). This graph hides a lot of the nuances though, so here's a more thorough discussion Salesforce pricing for Charities Salesforce is very clear about its Charit

A closer look at the Dynamics CRM Process Control

The usefulness of Checklists If you use standard 'flowchart' notation to describe how to make a cup of tea, you'll get something very linear, like this: A lot of space in a standard flowchart is taken up describing what order things should happen in. But actually, for some of the steps, the order is not that important. We certainly have to wait for kettle to boil before pouring the water into the mug, but the order in which we add milk and sugar doesn't matter. If we re-draw the process using a notation that allows for certain steps to happen in any order, we get something like this: If you look at real world business processes, you'll probably find the same thing: although there are certain steps that do have to be ordered, a lot of them can be split into 'stages' and then tackled in any order. In many cases a series of checklists is a much better model for business processes than a classic flowchart. The CRM Process Control Someone at Mic

Video demo of Dynamics CRM 2013 from WPC2013

I wrote a few months ago about the coming changes in Dynamics CRM 2013 (previously codenamed Orion). At the Worldwide Partner Conference a few weeks ago, Reuben Krippner did a good demo of the new features. And this time it was a proper live demo, not just prepared screenshots. Its on YouTube : The actual demo starts at 38:55 , before that its roadmap and scene setting. Around 46:20 Reuben uses a custom process called "Unexpected Baby" to great effect to show the flexibility of the new/improved process features. At 49:23 there is a demo of the Surface app, and at 51:18 there is a demo of the iPad app, wherein Reuben treads a delicate path between showing that Microsoft take the iPad seriously, while also making sure he gets in a few jokes at Apple's expense. And when is this coming to CRM Online customers? This post by PowerObjects says that: Microsoft intends to upgrade all CRM Online customers to CRM 2013 between October and early January 2014. An emai

The new Dynamics CRM UI that no one is using (yet)

Microsoft Dynamics CRM has been around since 2003, shortly after .NET launched in 2002, which incidentally makes Dynamics CRM one of the oldest, and largest .NET applications in existence. Looking back at its previous versions , its UI design was largely built around Outlook, and the general Windows Forms paradigm, even though running CRM in a browser has always been an option. The idea seems to have been "lets make it look like a Windows Forms app", hence the browser toolbar is hidden from most windows (so no Back button) and there a a lot of use of pop-up dialogs. Back in 2003, an application that ran in a browser but behaved like a Windows Forms app would have seemed like a good idea - people were familiar with Windows Forms. But in 2013, its entirely the other way round - people are used to web apps, use them every day, and the Dynamics CRM approach of 'multiple windows and no back button' is counter intuitive. Using the current version of Dynamics CRM 2011, i

Charities and Hackathons

Someone asked an interesting question at a charity-focused hackathon I was at last year - along the lines of "This is the third year we've held this event to help Charities, why aren't more of them here with projects?". From what I've seen of (medium to large) charities, the answer would be along the lines of "the technology problems that charities have to deal with can't easily be tackled by a hackathon". Technology problems in charities tend to be things like: Needing to modify existing systems to handle new initiatives Correctly piping data from one system to the other Bringing order to ad-hoc systems that have evolved in Excel Those sorts of problems are hard to take to a hackathon setting because so much knowledge of existing systems, processes and data is needed to handle them properly. Whereas a good hackathon project is generally one that mashes data from X with APIs from Y and Z to make a new self contained app. Hackathons

Salesforce and Dynamics CRM - Unwizzy Wizards

At the moment I am working for two different charity clients, both of whom are implementing CRM systems - one has gone for Dynamics CRM, and one has gone for Salesforce. I like both systems. Both of them present a programmable platform that you can build on, with tons of features ready to go. Both offer steep discounts for Charities. They are direct competitors so there is already lots of discussion around the web about which is better. I don't think I want to get into that debate - they are both very respectable systems with different strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps I'll try and write about the differences sometime. Whats suprising is how similar they are conceptually and architecturally. Presumably this has come about because they compete with each other for feature parity. They both have major entities called Contact, Account, Lead, Opportunity. They both have the concept of Tasks and Events. They both allow point-and-click field and entity customisation. They both hav

Dynamics CRM UTC dates

A quick post: Lets say you're in the UK and you have Dynamics CRM Online, and you extract the data to a local Sql Server database with Scribe Online RS . When you look at the Contact.Birthdate column in the local database, you'll find that some birthdates are as you expected: 1984-04-03 00:00:00.000 But some have an hour subtracted from them, making them 23:00 the day before: 1984-04-02 23:00:00.000 This, of course, is happening because Dynamics CRM stores all datetimes internally as UTC datetimes. The Dynamics front-end converts them to your local timezone so you never notice. But if you push or pull dates in or out using the Dynamics API  then you have to make sure you're using UTC. Scribe RS uses the API so it too extracts dates in their UTC format. UTC generally matches the UK's timezone except for summer months when the UK switches to daylight savings time. If you look at your dates of birth in your local DB, you'll see a pattern: The subtraction o

Scribe Adapter for Web Services and complex structures

If you're looking at migrating data into Salesforce or Dynamics CRM then Scribe Insight is one of your options. Its an integration system like SSIS and many others but its known for its particularly good support for cloud CRM systems. Scribe Insight has various 'adapters' that lets it connect to different data sources/targets. One of the interesting ones is the Scribe Adapter for Web Services (SAFWS). It allows you to connect to an arbitrary web service and then push or pull data to/from it. Can it pull data from any web service? That would be hard to achieve, and indeed it does have some limitations - here's a few that I encountered: It doesn't like .NET DataSets Despite Scott Hanselman's assertion that Returning DataSets from WebServices is the Spawn of Satan and Represents All That Is Truly Evil in the World , sometimes you do encounter web services that do, er, return DataSets. Imagine you've got a strongly typed DataSet with several tables