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Dynamics CRM Orion- Pie in the sky or Henny Penny?

With the celestial code names we get how could I resist writing this blog post?

I love (LOVE) new technology. Is it perfect? Nope, far from it, but that’s part of what I like about it. Finding those deficiencies, working around them to find my solutions. Learning new things, teaching new things. It’s all a huge part of what I love about my job.

So for Orion/2013 with just about everything from a UI perspective being new, I am giddy. I am so giddy that I can likely get past any deficiencies we may (will?) discover along the way. Lots of changes under the hood too, but for most users they will never know, but that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Users don’t care HOW it works, just THAT IT WORKS.

And they want it to work the way they think, and that’s one reason I am really liking the process-based focus we will be getting. I was not too happy with it in Polaris, it seemed half finished (if I am being generous). I heard many people say it was advertising what was coming next. Well, based on that advertising, no one should want what’s next. However, with what I’ve seen and read, we SHOULD be happy with Orion and the process-based experience. Thinking from a single entity point of view seems really short-sighted, this true 360 view will go far. Before 360 was a marketing term, now it can be used to more accurately define the user experience.

I am a hopeful skeptic when it comes to the extensibility of Orion. I honestly have not had enough exposure to make a call on it yet, good or bad. But since at this point of the game I have little if any influence over it, I just need to learn it and learn how it works FOR me and AGAINST me, then adapt.

I am looking forward to building custom business processes for my use and that of my customers. I can’t wait for the cool ideas I get from my untainted CRM newbie students. They have the best ideas because they don’t know the limitations yet, they only see possibilities.

For me, Orion is certainly more pie in the sky than Henny Penny. I think that the partially finished Polaris update we had made people (rightfully) scared for the next release. If Orion were simply a grown-up Polaris, I would be skeptical too. But, it is not.

Just for fun, some history. CRM version 1.0 had no code name, but its official name was Microsoft Business Solutions Customer Relationship Management v1.0. There was no CRM v2.0. CRM 3.0 had a code name of Danube Phase II. CRM 4.0 was known as Titan (but was actually Kilimanjaro internally first, but that’s too hard to spell). CRM 2011 had no code name but was CRM vNext or CRM 5.0. And then the updates started getting those code names too…Polaris and Gemini for updates to CRM 2011 and now CRM 2013 came from Orion. Our next two updates have been named Leo and Vega. So as far back as Titan, we’ve had pie in the sky names.

Tag! You’re the new CRM guy (or girl!)

Even before I began to deliver professional training, I knew the value of it. I’d like to think that I am never finished learning and if I can bring that out into the professional world I live in, that’s great.

Like any new endeavor starting in Dynamics CRM can be tough. Sure, it looks, feels and kinda acts like Outlook, so you feel comfortable as soon as you log in, but do you really know what you’re doing? How not to break things? Where do you get training? There is certainly not enough material available for CRM training and there is a distinct lack of organization around what is out there. I will try to give some pointers and a path for folks needing to learn.

1. Regardless of your role on the CRM team, you need to know how it works. There’s a few courses at Pluralsight that I made that gets you in the door on that. At a minimum, you need something of this level. I hate when a new developer works so hard making this great thing, only to find out it’s already in CRM and that is time wasted. We are still working on making more CRM-focused content for Pluralsight. (Full disclosure: it is a paid service and I do get royalties based on views of my course(s).) The product team has a YouTube channel, others have loads of how to’s on YouTube as well. But, I haven’t found a curriculum outlined anywhere. So finding the content and its relevance to you could prove challenging. And by the time I did the research and gathering of info and put it into a curriculum, we’d have a new CRM version and need new training.

2. Join user groups. There are a few ways to do this. I co-run xRMVirtual. It’s for CRM developers, and as the name suggests, we’re virtual. The group meets monthly and covers a wide range of current topics for CRM developers. You could also join the folks at CRMUG. They cover other parts of the CRM team experience. User, admins, etc. They have virtual groups, regional on-ground groups and paid training available. Then there’s always good ole traditional .NET developer user groups, head over to INETA to find one near you. Oh, and besides joining, you need to attend the meetings, ready to learn!

3. There is no better lesson than doing something wrong. So, get a trial of CRM and mess around. Try out your new ideas, see how things work. Screw it up, then fix it.

4. Look at the sites where people have questions. You might learn something. When I have a question, I head to the CRM forums. Chances are if you have the question, someone else will too. And if by chance you’re the first, ask it here, there are loads of smart people that respond. In no time, you might just be that smart person answering the questions too.

5. Learn enough about the product to offer suggestions for enhancements, then offer them.

6. Find a way to do what you want if the suggestions you make don’t happen.