CRMOnline: The Case of the Rolling Roll-ups

CRMOnline. I personally (and professionally) love it. I use it. I have many clients that use it. It’s a great thing. Because of many factors, but probably mostly because of pure scale, CRMOnline gets updates on a rolling basis. With on premise we do roll-ups on our own: we get notice, we download, and we push go. But since Microsoft hosts the online instances, they do those things on our behalf. Not a bad deal really. (In my head I imagine some big huge server room with a drone that moves from machine to machine pushing go on the updates and just an ever moving update machine until all instances have been updated and then the drone starts all over again.)

This is normally no problem. These updates for the most part are subtle. We got a load (LOAD) of updates in November, but other than that, really not things you’d notice unless you were waiting for them. I want to think that is by design. CRMOnline is a solid product, but why not use the technology available to implement those tweaks, hot-fixes, upgrades, etc on a more regular basis. Most CRMOnline users don’t juggle several instances like I do. But as more and more xRMy things are out there, more and more people will have a development environment and a production environment. It’s the smart way to work when you do things of any scale.

I had a “simple” data conversion and implementation gig last week. The firm was pretty much CRM for the sake of CRM. Add a few basic custom attributes here and there, but no special code or anything that would make you think twice about possible hiccups. I did the customizations, a few text fields, some money items, some dreadfully long picklists. Customer logged into our dev environment said the customizations looked perfect, push to production. It’s what we all love to hear.

So I export. On my attempt to import I get this error.


Ugly ain’t it?

It didn’t make any sense. I wasn’t doing much, especially to leads. It was a dozen or so new attributes and no changes to mappings. So I quit. Try it again, maybe it was a wrinkle in the matrix at that exact moment in time and it would be fine on my next try. No such luck. Ok, re-export and try again. Yes, I was beginning to curse.

The error talks about mappings. I now do a line by line compare of the mappings between the sending and receiving instances. Low and behold, the sending CRM has more items mapped, system mappings. This tells me that the receiving system had not yet gotten the same updates at the sending system. Ugh.

Submit support ticket. The folks at support are great, but I get the feeling they had never encountered such a problem. Oh, this is a holiday week AND the client had a hard stop on their old system that was 4 days away. Several frustrating communications and escalations later, we had determined it is not mappings, it is address fields. The error mentioned address fields, but it was at the end after what looked like gobbly-goop (there’s your lesson in reading the entire error message).

Support suggested that I make sure sending and receiving instances have the same field length for address lines 1, 2 and 3 on Lead (address1_line1 and so on). Ok, done. Re-export. Try to import. Grrr, no go again.

I was able to de-select Lead, Accounts and Contacts from my import and that worked. But I still needed those customizations to Leads, Accounts and Contacts. Then came the epiphany (I seriously heard trumpets and saw a white light). Leads feed into Accounts and Contacts. They probably all had to have matching lengths for the address fields. So, I go in to the sending org, make all lines 1, 2 and 3 for address1 for Leads AND Accounts AND Contacts all the same (for this instance is was 400 characters, yours might be different). Save, publish, re-export. It worked. With 1 day to spare.


Dynamics CRM SDK for the iPhone

A friend of mine (Thanks Paul) sent me this link.  I do not have an iPhone.  I do not want an iPhone.  (happy to explain why, just it doesn’t apply to this particular post) However, it doesn’t make this any less cool for those iPhone-ites out there.  Paul suggested I pass this along after I xRM-ify it.

I have a different idea.  Let’s all xRM-ify it.  What could you do on an iPhone with CRM?  Since I am not an iPhone-ite, enlighten me.

(for the record, I have not evaluated the level of supportedness of this, so make sure to do that on your own if you choose to use it, but it’s still a cool thing)

Magnetism Blog > Dynamics CRM SDK for the iPhone

Top 10 Microsoft Dynamics Stories of 2009 from guess who is on the list??

Ummm, WE ARE!!  How cool is that?  Item four on their list is the xRM expansion and the first thing they mention is xRMVirtual to help define that movement.

Ok, yes 2009 has been xRM EVERYWHERE.  But sometimes you are so engrossed in what you are doing that your view from the inside no longer resembles the view from the outside.  To see an outside source validate what is important to you is a spectacular feeling.

2009 for xRMVirtual was huge, well, to be honest it literally all began in 2009.  xRMVirtual started as just an idea.  I have been active in the developer community for some time now, working with INETA groups all over the world.  Then we published our xRM book last year.  The response from readers, to include their questions and desire for more showed us that the need for a user group was more than apparent.   But quite honestly the geographic separation of the folks was just too much to allow a traditional group.  Virtual it is.

We all know it takes more than a good idea to get something off the ground, someone has to actual do some work.  I had no problem doing the work, with two exceptions.  Time.  Full time work, full time student, two teenagers, etc.  Skill.  I don’t write code, how would I (??) get such a big deal off the ground on my own?  I needed help.

Shan McArthur and ADXStudio to the rescue!  Easily now my favorite Canadians :) .  Shan and I chatted and decided to go for it and make a group, oh and since Convergence is coming up in a couple weeks, let’s launch it there.  Color me skeptical.

He and I worked our contacts with our friends on the Microsoft team to help us get a donated instance of CRMOnline to be able to use ADXStudio’s extensions to make our site and customize CRM to allow for member management.  Wow, it was fast and the site looks great, eh? 

Fast forward to now….

28 meetings, total of 995 attendees and recordings viewed another 934 times.  That’s better than many traditional groups I know of.  We know of at least 5 spin off groups that meet in person, covering 4 continents.  Our membership is at 983 as of this morning.  It’s been a pretty good year.

Looking ahead to 2010 is pretty exciting too.  xRM now has some street cred to work with, so that gives us more as well.  CRM5 is scheduled to come out, and with the previews that were seen at PDC09 it is looking pretty cool and even more targeted toward xRM development (still with a strong CRM foundation).  xRM conferences, I know of at least one virtual and one onsite conference planned for 2010 with xRM as the focus.

So now here is my sincere thanks.  Thanks to everyone that helped us get to this point and thanks to all that will continue to help us move ahead.

The link here has the entire list, you’ll need a (free) login to see all the details.

ADDING****  you can't see this part til you login, there are click thrus to more content, but here's the part about xRMVirtual

The expansion of the xRM story in 2009 was unmistakable.  Between the launch of the XRM Virtual User Groups, new books, demonstrations, and products coming to market in 2009, the broader CRM developer and partner ecosystem began to see what only a select group of Dynamics CRM experts understood in the past: Dynamics CRM is a bona fide platform for line-of-business applications, and Microsoft will try to make it even easier to develop and deploy xRM applications in future CRM releases.

Our Top 10 Microsoft Dynamics Stories of 2009: Team Blunders, the Cloud, Integration, Discontinuations, and Upgrades Dominate |

Goodbye to a Decade from Hell?

I have been a subscriber to Time Magazine for what seems like forever.  This issue got my attention, Decade from Hell?  Really?  My 00’s have been pretty good.  (link to the Time story at the end)

It’s easier to start with the “bad” cause that list really is short.

  • Dad died- but he had suffered and is now at peace, so not really all that bad.
  • Divorce- yea, not sure it was bad, the marriage was bad, the divorce opened so many doors and my eyes to so many things and gave me the chance to raise my kids in an emotional healthy home.
  • Dystonia and tremor- kinda a pain in the ass but not life-stopping.  Reducing my stress is the best way to control it and how could less stress be a bad thing?

Ok, the good….

  • My children are amazing and to be able to spend the time I can and watch them grow up to be some pretty awesome people is such a blessing.
  • Dave- to marry your best friend is just something you can’t understand unless you’re there.  It’s cool, trust me.
  • My education-finally finished the Bachelors and Masters (ok, the MBA will be done 31 days into 2010, but I’m counting it!).  I did those for ME and it’s a great feeling.
  • Professionally things have never looked better.  Got some books under my belt and got some awesome recognition for my work, INETA Champ, MVP.  I feel like I am doing what I should be doing.  Nice stuff.

Those are the big ones.  I challenge you to make your decade in review list.  What would you change?  I don’t know that I’d change a thing in mine.

Goals for the next decade?  That’s another blog post I think.

The End of the 2000s: Goodbye to a Decade from Hell - TIME

Need a job? xRM Developers are HOT right now

I am not at all exaggerating when I say I get emails DAILY looking for xRM developers.  I wish I could clone some of the people I know and work with, I’d be a gazillionaire from referral fees.  xRM Developers is a NEW and HOT specialty and in demand, qualified xRM devs can practically write their own ticket.  So, what to do now?

Are you already a .NET developer?  Great, you’re more than halfway there!  You know code, you already THINK the right way, you just need a little boost.  Here’s your to-do list:

  • Join a user group.  I just happen to have one to recommend, xRMVirtual.  It has a strong base of almost 1000 developers to learn from, meets a couple times a month online, all meetings recorded and available on-demand.  Oh, it’s free to join and participate too.  Look on the page of in-person groups, there might be one near you to try also.
  • Get a couple of books.  There are a few, I have some favorites.  xRM as a Rapid Development Platform is excellent for programmers that need to learn CRM as a platform.  Teach Yourself CRM in 24 Hours is great to give you what you need to understand CRM concepts, the different moving parts, get your mindset in a CRM way, etc.
  • Go get your hands on some CRM.  Sign up for a free trial account at CRMOnline.  It’s a 30 day trial, no credit card needed and a great way to just try it out.
  • You need a mentor.  This will take some effort on your part.  Spend some time lurking in  the forums.  Read the Q/A exchanges between the experts.  You will find someone that you seem to understand better than the others, click better.  Drop them an email.  I know these folks, they are eager to help, it’s why they are on the forums to begin with.  If that doesn’t work, drop me an email, we’ll chat, I’ll help you with an introduction.

Even if you’re not looking for a job right now, maybe your boss came over and said, “hey, go learn this xRM stuff and make me some software”, this list will help you too.  Then when you’re the expert, you can ask for that raise ;).

xRM Acceleration Lab in Chicago still looking for participants

This is a great program, and now heading from the CRM world into the xRM world. 

There have already been a couple of acceleration weeks for CRM fast starts and now this xRM one will offer a chance to POC your ideas, get expert help and feedback.  And it’s free too.  A few folks from your company head to Chicago (you will have to pay your own travel, but that’s not too bad,eh?) and spend the week being all xRMy.

You’ll get 1/2 day of training (I hear they have a  pretty good reference book available), then 3 1/2 days of active POC-ing and a wrap up with “judging” and feedback from a panel of industry experts.

Interested?  Sanjay has details on is blog, or holler at me, I’ll pass you along.  If you are interested and they wind up full or it’s a bad time/place for you…let’s talk too, maybe we can get Sanjay to do another one :)

Evangelism for Microsoft ISVs, BizSpark Startups & Network Partners : xRM Acceleration Lab from 12/14/09 - 12/18/09 in Chicago

Rocky Mountain Tech Tri-fecta v2 registration now open

Are you looking for an excuse to come to Colorado?  A business trip with an extra day to go play in the mountains?  Yup, I thought so.

February 27, 2010 we are hosting v2 of our all day FREE (imagine that word in big shiny flashing red lights, k?  keep reading) tech event.  I am usually one that says if something sounds too good to be true, than it must be, but this one is put on for the professional community by the professional community.

We’ve all heard of Code Camps and PASS Camps and Windows/ITPro Camps…that’s what we have, but all on the same day, same place.  And new this year, a beginner track.  Seriously beginners, you know that you want to code, love tech but don’t know where to start?  Come see us, we’ll get you going and introduce you to some pretty cool people.  We’ll try to feed you some pizza too.

I’m not one that likes to hide details, so here it is…we have space for 1038 attendees.  Let’s fill the place.

Here’s my take on last year’s event. Blog post  We took the feedback you gave us and made a few tweaks.  Sessions are longer, 75 minutes.  We’re trying to hook up some coffee for the morning.  Let me know what else we need?

So, if you want to speak, drop me an email, I’ll make an introduction for you.  If you want to sponsor, drop me an email, we talk.  You want to volunteer, let me know cause I am learning to delegate.  You want to attend, click the link below and register, then show up.

Click to Attend