Thursday, December 1, 2016

CRM, xRM, 365, CDS – are we chasing ghosts?

Business Solutions MVP Jukka Niiranen recently wrote yet another in-depth analysis of the path Microsoft is taking from Dynamics CRM, via xRM to Dynamics 365 and the greater ecosystem including CDS, Logic Apps, Power Apps etc.

The article led to a brief but interesting Twitter-discussion between Jukka and a Swedish colleague of mine, Peter Björkmarker. The discussion ended up in another article posted on LinkedIn.

So I dug into the 140+ character reply (a bit of an understatement, indeed) to try to get a grasp of what lies ahead. I had hopes that I could come to my own personal conclusion and my own view on the future based on the new products available and the indications from Microsoft, combined with my own experience in the field. And of course trying to decode what may be hidden between the lines from this NDA-bound MVP…

Ghosts

Reading these articles definitely gives you a lot of insights.

But the lingering feeling I really cannot let go of is that we are chasing ghosts.

We "on the outside" try to understand where Microsoft is heading. And even an MVP for many years, who happens to be one of the most well known and respected in the field, is literally guessing what the company that dubbed him is up to.

zorro1I am trying to find a valid reason for keeping secrets this way, where is the business value in keeping us in the dark?

Is it to keep the interest alive? Like that tall dark stranger with the mask is the most interesting man at the party?

Is it to avoid leaking secrets to competitors? All of a sudden your hottest new features are released by someone else before it has passed your own UAT?

Or are they simply putting new platforms and features out there to see what happens, and take it from there?

Add some whispers in the dark, throw in a few new buzz words… Have us googling, analyzing, blogging and discussing, maintain the hype for a bit longer…

Cynical

Some may call me cynical.

135000053But I have to ask myself (since there is no point asking "them")

Do they really have that Master Plan we are all trying to figure out?
Or is the secrecy simply a sales stunt?

I honestly think I would prefer it being a sales stunt.
Hiding existing information of this kind from the developer community in general and the MVP group in particular seems a bit too arrogant.

And probably even counter productive. They have a large community of dedicated partners, resellers, developers and MVPs that depend on Microsoft, as well as Microsoft depend on us.
Having us waste time on speculations and ISVs following the wrong guesses is neither an efficient nor a respectful way to do business.

New dimensions

Well, regardless of Microsoft's possibly hidden agenda – of course I have some thoughts on the actual technical aspects too.

I think the xRM platform is really great for a certain type of systems to support processes and information in a business. I do not think xRM will die easily, and I hope Microsoft does not have plans to kill it soon.

The new possibilities opening up with CDS, Power Apps, Logical Apps, Dynamics 365 and the gigantic Azure ecosystem of services adds the means to add a few more dimensions to existing systems.

Our current systems usually have two dimensions – store information and support processes.
Adding tools from the new service flora can add dimensions to open them up and really becoming alive.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Show hierarchically related activities in subgrid

In this article I will demonstrate how to implement a plugin to extend the possibilities for showing activities that are related through account hierarchy in a subgrid on a Microsoft Dynamics CRM form.

In my previous article I showed how to create a simple plugin to show all directly related activities in a subgrid, and not just activities related through the Regarding field.

Objective

The goal is to be able to display all activities (yellow boxes) anywhere below any account (blue box) that is opened in CRM.

Some of you may recognize this model – it is respectfully borrowed from MVP Jukka Niiranen's blog post on this problem: CRM 2011 subgrids ain't what associated views used to be. As this article indicates, this has been a problem ever since we left CRM 4.0 behind.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Show ALL related activities in a subgrid

Microsoft Dynamics CRM offers great capabilities for activity entities, both out of the box and custom activities.
This post will describe a way to extend those capabilities even more, using a quite simple plugin.

During eXtremeCRM in Warsaw last week, a fellow CRMian and frequent user of FetchXML Builder approached me to ask if I knew a way to create "dynamic" queries with some contextual awareness. He had used unsupported methods to inject FetchXML to subgrids, to be able to show all activities related to current record, not just those where the record is related through the Regarding field.

As I will show in this post, this can be accomplished with a simple plugin and a custom view.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Solution Segmentation for entity ribbons

The new feature for segmenting solutions in Microsoft Dynamics CRM is absolutely awesome.
It finally allows you to only include the parts you actually want your solution to change.

For us as an ISV this is a huge improvement. We can now deliver solutions that are completely "plug and play" and still leave a minimal footprint on the whole customer system.

RibbonDiffXml segmentation

There is however one thing that is still not possible to separate with enough granularity. To include the ribbon definition of an entity, you need to check the Include entity metadata checkbox.

image

Unfortunately this also includes the entity display name, plural name, and all other "entity wide" settings such as Notes, Connections, Mail merge etc.

The result of this is that if we include the Contact entity just to be able to add a solution specific button to the command bar, we must also include the entity settings.

Problem

When a customer has developed their own solutions, or got solutions from other third parties, we quite often face the situation where they have changed the name of an entity, e.g. Contact is renamed to Person.

Now importing our solution to add this button to the contact command bar, will also change the name of the contact entity back to default, or rather to whatever it is called in our solution.

Solution

This could be solved by allowing a separate option for the RibbonDiff part of the entity definition when selecting components for the solution.

Vote!

If you agree with this proposal, you can contribute by voting up this item on Microsoft Connect.

Read more

MVP Jukka Niiranen recently wrote an excellent article describing Solution Segmentation in Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Windows app for Microsoft Dynamics CRM in 5 minutes

 

Thanks to open source components for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, you can develop a WinForm application for CRM in 5 minutes.

 

In this blog article, I will go through a few simple steps to get up to speed developing a client that connects to and shows information from Microsoft Dynamics CRM by using two open source spinoff components: ConnectionManager from XrmToolBox and CRMGridView from FetchXML Builder.

 

These four simple steps are all that is required:

  1. Create project and add NuGet packages
  2. Make VS aware of the imported user control
  3. Configure a form with CRMGridView
  4. Add a few lines of code

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Open Source projects and Microsoft Dynamics CRM

How, when and why can we benefit from open source project strategies in Microsoft Dynamics CRM?

I have collected my thoughts and experiences on the subject in article:

The Benefits of Open Source Projects in the World of Microsoft Dynamics CRM


published on MSDynamicsWorld.com.
Open source is not all unconditional hallelujahs

Create advanced views with FetchXML Builder

My first article published on MSDynamicsWorld.com gives a detailed instruction on how to use FetchXML Builder to create advanced views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM – so advanced they are not possible to create using the CRM UI.

Read the full article here.