Entity Architecture Areas of Change
The architecture within Microsoft Dynamics CRM has a familiar quality and also significant changes. There are some specific new entities and entity sets that we talk about in the following text, and there is a significant shift in the developer’s approach. This shift better aligns with how senior developers who are not working with Dynamics CRM write code.
The new Connections entity enables a user to track complex relationships between any two entities. It is a new feature that is designed to replace the relationships feature in Dynamics CRM v4 and is designed to add more depth and functionality. This functionality includes the relationships between contacts and companies as well as the relationship between other entities that might have overlapping properties. Connections are different than the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 relationship feature (which still exists for backward compatibility). The key difference between relationships and connections is that the connection functionality offers detailed tracking information on the actual relationship and it is considered more robust and flexible. Figure 3.5 shows the connections configuration.
Figure 3.5. Connections access from an account.
Goals and Goal Management
Goals and goal management are new features in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 that support the user’s ability to enter goals that can then be compared to a number of different entities. This comparison model can also change as business needs change without reprogramming or redesign. You can use goals for the more traditional sales goals, but they are also designed for goals that are not sales oriented. For instance you might have a service level agreement goal or a time management goal. Figure 3.6 offers a brief glimpse at goals.
Figure 3.6. Goals.
Changes within the Software Development Process and the SDK
The changes within Dynamics CRM v2011 are significant, so if you have been developing on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM v4 platform, it is critical that you take a long look at what is new. The new features include a new programming model using Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), extended use of Windows Workflow Foundation 4.0, and support for .NET Language-Integrated Query (LINQ).
I strongly recommend that you tap into some of the great free videos and webinars on the xRMVirtual User group found at www.xrmvirtual.com and some of the many developer-focused books on Dynamics CRM. The software development methodologies within Dynamics CRM v2011 are new, improved, more automated, and just plain cool. Additionally more technologies come into play such as Silverlight and SharePoint. A small list of these changes include better handling of transactions for rollbacks, changed support around child plugins, a need to master the ribbon editor, and new sitemap controls, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Any senior developer reading this can now be very excited about the possibilities that they can accomplish with this platform and can just plain ignore any grumblings about CRM v4 as a potentially immature xRM platform.