Special New Features for the Microsoft CRM Developer
When diving into a quick hour training on various areas of Microsoft Dynamics CRM as an application it is sometimes easy to forget that almost every Dynamics CRM rollout is configured to fit a specific business. This configuration can also lead to some intense extensions. As mentioned earlier in this chapter, Microsoft has embraced this xRM Platform concept and is adding more features and functionalities to support the senior software engineers and developers.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 has a new concept called solution management. Solution management enables you to bundle all your solution customizations into one managed or unmanaged package. You can also pick and choose what goes into a solution. For example, if you want to share customizations from one organization with another, you can do so via solutions. Solutions support the xRM process and are similar to software company release bundles. Solution management is ideal for companies and partners who want to produce solutions and sell them or reuse them as packaged solutions for other projects, or for partners who want to sell their solutions on the new Microsoft Dynamics CRM marketplace, and so on.
There are two types of solutions: managed and unmanaged. A managed solution can be edited only by specific users, and if it is exported and imported at another organization, users of the other organization will not be able to edit or modify the solution. Managed solutions are fully secured and cannot be edited.
An unmanaged solution can be edited by any user who has an appropriate user role. Unmanaged solutions are usually fairly dynamic from a usage perspective and are a great feature for the multi-developer teams. Unmanaged solutions should be the developers default until mastery of both managed and unmanaged solutions is achieved.
Import and Export Data
The import and export of data from Microsoft Dynamics CRM has been expanded to significantly enhance what an end user or CRM administrator can do when it comes to getting data into the system or getting data out of the system in a variety of formats.
The first milestone for importing is that you can import from an XML format, which means you have much more flexibility for data migration. The .csv offering in previous versions still exists but has always been more limiting. In addition, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 now offers you the option of exporting an Excel spreadsheet template with all your data fields in the order you want, which can then be populated and reimported. This helps standardize the data import process when you’re collecting data from multiple sources and is a big win for users doing data organization and data cleansing. Yet, there is still more in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011: You can create new entities while importing. This saves a number of steps during the build process and offers even more power once the system is running. In addition to the whole entity you can dynamically create fields to map against source fields in source data files, such as Excel spreadsheets. Data import has taken many of the formerly preparation steps and moves them to real time interaction with the importing tools (see Figure 3.13).
Figure 3.13. Imported data files.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 now integrates with SharePoint out of the box, with no development or custom code needed. Ben Hosk shares his enthusiasm for the available information on the feature and some of the configuration. You can read Ben’s post here: http://crmbusiness.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/crm-2011-how-to-setup-sharepoint-integration. Integration addresses a couple of key areas. The first is the management of all that unstructured data that comes with business process: managing and editing documents, sharing documents, and doing key word searches against blobs of text. Additionally you get the ability to show CRM structured data in SharePoint web pages or to take some of those great graphs and share them via web parts. This marriage between SharePoint and Dynamics CRM existed as part of the back channel culture in the Dynamics CRM v4 days, but now it is fully embraced by Microsoft. The bridge between these two product groups is extremely exciting, particularly when you start thinking about automating business processes. See Figure 3.14 for a snapshot.
Figure 3.14. SharePoint configuration.