Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Upgrading Dynamics CRM: Development Improvements

There are many reasons for you to upgrade your Microsoft Dynamics CRM to the latest version, and these extend to new features for development and customization.
Understanding these new features can save you time and money on your upgrade, because they may allow you to skip rewriting code that was needed in earlier versions of the product. 
For instance, each new version has brought increased customization capabilities “code free”
2011 - Dialogs
2013 - Business Process Flows, Business Rules
2015 – Calculated and Rollup fields
Dynamics CRM versions have also Improved the environment for extension coding
2011 – Solution model, form subgrids
2013 – Custom actions
2015 – Mature Enterprise DB capabilities - Concurrency, transactions and trace.
These are just a few of the new features that you may want to tap in an upgrade.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 Upgrade: Time to Consider Deployment Change

If you are upgrading to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015, now is a good time to examine your deployment model as well. 

Moving from on premise to the cloud or vice versa may require architectural changes and programming, so an upgrade is the best time to make these changes since you will be doing some re-architecting of your solution anyway.

You can choose from four deployment models:

1. On premise -- traditional deployment in your data center
2. Dynamics CRM Online -- in the Microsoft cloud
3. Run Dynamics CRM on Microsoft Azure cloud infrastructure
3. Third party hosting -- hosted by another provider

The deployment model also affects your product licensing strategy.  Microsoft offers flexibility which may help with moving from one deployment model to another.  For instance, Dynamics CRM Online subscriptions may be used to cover on-premise licensing while you migrate from on premise to cloud deployment.   The InfoStrat Dynamics CRM cost calculator provides licensing and subscription costs for on premise and CRM Online.

If you are upgrading from Dynamics CRM 2011 (or 4.0), you will likely be rewriting code that is no longer supported in 2015, allowing you to optimize performance for a cloud deployment.   Microsoft provides insights on this topic in What's New for Developers.

Cloud deployment offers different approaches to integration than on premise.  You also have different ways to tune performance in cloud deployment than conventional on premise deployment. 

Tackling deployment options along with your upgrade is a great way to save time and money in the long run.




Sunday, July 19, 2015

Top Six Mistakes in Dynamics CRM Upgrades

Every two years or so, Microsoft releases a new version of Dynamics CRM, packed with features and performance enhancements.  To take advantage of this technological progress, you have to upgrade your Dynamics CRM solution.



Here are the top six Dynamics CRM upgrade mistakes to avoid:

1. Stay one version behind.  Ten years ago customers would intentionally lag behind a version or two.  This approach is no longer viable, so if you upgrade be sure to bring your system to the current version.
2. Keep only one CRM environment.  Whether you are deploying your solution on premise or in Microsoft cloud, you need development and test environments as well as production environments.  Microsoft includes non-production environments for CRM Online if you have enough user subscriptions, or you may purchase them a la carte. 
3. Not using new features.  Each version comes with many additional features (usability, configuration, workflow and process management and developer extensions). Applying new features typically leads to a significant reduction in custom coding and making your system perform better and easier to manage. An upgrade is a prime opportunity to add new features and improve the user experience, so aim higher than reproducing what you already have.  
4. Skip versions. The upgrade path supported by Microsoft does not allow you to skip versions, so in most cases you should step through the versions until your system is current.
5. Skip reading the manual.  Microsoft provides thorough documentation on each upgrade, so be sure to study it.  Pay particular attention to the features from older versions which are no longer supported. 
6. Ignore testing and training.  Upgrades are an iterative process, so you have to test each time you attempt an upgrade before it is released to production. Microsoft fundamentally changed the user experience of Dynamics CRM in the 2013 upgrade, and users will benefit from learning the powerful new ways they can interact with the system with fewer clicks and pop-ups.  Without training, they may reject a system just because it is new.  Besides, how may end users really have sufficient training?

InfoStrat can help you successfully complete your upgrade. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Call InfoStrat to Make Things Right on a Software Project

More often than you might expect, InfoStrat is called to turn around a  software implementation which is in trouble.  After the client has consumed much of the budget and schedule for the project, it is falling behind and the client has doubts that it can be successful.



These turnaround projects are all the more challenging because they must be completed faster and at lower cost than the original project envisioned, and tension is already high at the beginning of the project.

How can we turn the project around?  Each case is different, but some common approaches are:

1. Reduce the size of the project team.  A large team can be a hindrance as time spent on communication increases.  A team is often slowed down by the slowest team member.

2. Use a team that has worked together before. Successful teams have strong cohesion and know each others' strengths and weaknesses.

3. Create a single client point of contact.  Conflicting requirements and feedback can paralyze a software project, and internal client communication and approvals also slow down the process.

4. Abandon failed approaches. Sometimes a project team finds it hard to disregard sunk costs, and sticks with an unsuccessful technical approach too long.

5. Change the project methodology.  If your project approach is more about deflecting blame than shipping a working product, it can undermine results. We have seen many projects with lengthy and well formatted documentation accompanying broken products.

6. Remember the iron triangle which forces tradeoffs among features, cost and schedule. Like the laws of physics, this can only be ignored at your peril.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Don't Use Email When Talking is Better

Email is great for so many things, but that doesn't make it right for everything. In many cases in business, meeting in person or even a phone call are much better than an email.

It's hard to get to know new people exclusively through email or social media.  I know that sometimes my attempts at jokes would come across differently in person than they do reduced to the written word (and I suppose other jokes might work better in written form). 

I am pretty sure that I have never sold a new client on my company InfoStrat without at least a series of phone calls, and in nearly every case, in-person meetings. 

Hiring, promoting and firing employees is best in person, although distance sometimes create the imperative for an HR phone call. This falls under the same rules about breaking up via text message.

After I know someone, an email can be a great way to provide information quickly.  I really appreciate emails with quick status updates, for instance.

So let the medium suit the message, and consider when to use email and when to use a meeting, phone call, or even a text message instead.