Feb

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Top 10 Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Features

Thought It might be nice as we approach the launch of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 on-Premise on the 28th February to put together what we think are the top 10 features of CRM 2011. It’s quite a difficult task as there are several areas that I feel are ‘stand out’ enhancements and new features, so the following is my list. I haven’t done it in any order it’s just my favourite 10.   

Dialogs

Dialogs are a new feature that goes hand-in-hand with Workflows. In essence, Dialogs are interactive forms which can be used to collect information, or perhaps script a process out.

They could be used in a support environment for example for 1st line technicians to gather initial information before case escalation. They may be of benefit to your sales team for first contact to a prospect.

Once a dialog is finished, the record is saved within the record type it was created from, so if you start it from a case, the record can be viewed from the relevant case:

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Option Sets

Option Sets are an absolute triumph. They give you the ability to create pick lists that can be used multiple times, and by multiple entities.

For example you may want to create a pick list of countries or sales regions to keep data uniform. In the past, you may have to create it for all the entities that need it.

Global option sets enable you to create it once and re-use wherever needed. Very useful, and time saving option.

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Then just call it from the form:

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Built In BI and Dashboards

BI and Dashboards are a vital part of any CRM system, so having them built in to the system as they now are in CRM 2011 is a great step forward.

The nice thing about the way it’s been integrated in 2011, is the ease of use. Building a new chart is really as simple as clicking Charts in the entity, and deciding where you want it and what it should look like:

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You also have the ability to create your own dashboards, pulling in from a number entities and records:

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You can add views or iFrames to a dashboard, and the ability to drill-down to individual records gives you a fuller BI experience.

Improved Security and Audit

The ability to Audit changes to records is a nice, and sometimes vital feature of Line of business applications.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 has some great new security features including Audit.

CRM 2011 allows you to switch the audit capability on or off and choose what you want to audit:

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Once this is enabled, any changes can be tracked:

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You now also have the option to apply field level security to attributes, enabling you to decide if a user has permissions to Create, Update or just Read. This might especially be useful if you don’t want certain personnel to see, for example financial information.

Tighter Outlook Integration

One of the biggest selling points I have always felt with Microsoft CRM, is the tight integration with Office and in particular Outlook. The integration between CRM 2011 and Outlook 2010 is tighter than ever. You don’t feel in any way that you’re ‘dipping’ out of outlook in to another application. CRM records are viewed right there in outlook within reading panes for example.

Sending KB articles, Sales Literature or using Email Templates can now be done right in Outlook.

I’ll pick just one nice feature, that I think will be used over and over again. Conditional formatting.

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Conditional formatting enables you to take a view of records, Opportunities for example, and format that view right in the grid in Outlook based on a criteria. So in the example below said that if the Opportunity Expected Close Date is within a week, the details in the view will be Red:

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The logic you use s very similar to Advanced Find, so getting something like the results above is very easy, but can be very useful as a quick memory aid.

I think Conditional Formatting will become a greatly used feature.

SharePoint Integration

In the old CRM 4.0 days Smile there were a few ways to integrate SharePoint with CRM. Most of them home grown, and nothing ‘official’. CRM 2011 gives you the ability to integrate SharePoint (Full blown SharePoint or WSS)- by way of contextual libraries – right in the application:

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Building Document libraries for your Accounts gives you some great flexibility, and all the nice features of document control SharePoint gives you.

Web Resources

For those of us who are heavy users of additional development of CRM, including custom aspx pages and JavaScript events, the addition of Web Resources in CRM 2011 is an absolute bonus.

In part, the SDK defines Web resources in this way:

Web Resources represent files that might normally be placed on a web server to extend Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Web Resources can be used in Form customizations, Sitemap or the application ribbon because they can be referenced using a URL syntax.

Because Web Resources are stored in the Microsoft Dynamics CRM database and are solution components, they can be easily exported and installed to any Microsoft Dynamics CRM deployment - both for On-Premise and Online. Web Resources are also available to users of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM for Outlook with Offline Access while offline because they are synchronized with the user’s data.

You can use the Form Editor to add and configure form enabled Web Resources into your entity forms.

Text based Web Resources (JScript, CSS, XML, XSL and HTML) can be edited and saved within the application. HTML Web Resources can also be edited using a basic HTML Editor in the application.

For most of us that means that all the JavaScript OnLoad, OnSave and OnChange events we put together for 4.0 that had to be exposed for every entity and field, can now be called from a central location – Change for one -  Change for all!

 

Role Tailored Forms

Role specific forms really does make CRM 2011 the Line of Business application for all parts of your Organisation. Imagine the different roles in your organisation: Do your sales team need to see all the same information as you service team? Going even deeper, do all your service guys need to see the same information? For example does the 1st line support need to see as much information as the 3rd line?

Role Tailored forms give you the opportunity to reduce the clutter for people that don’t need to see it.

Data Enhancement/Re-Import

I’m going to be very careful what I say here, as the ability to re-import data that has been exported from CRM was in the beta for 4.0 then removed on production (although you could still get to it if you knew where to look Winking smile)

Enhancing data can be very useful sometimes. Being able to edit it in something like Excel, then push it back in is a great feature.

Just export to Excel as normal and choose the option to make the data available for re-import:

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Personal Views

Finally personal views give you the ability to adapt system views and add/take-away columns as you want.

As an added bonus, you can then set default views, so whereas 4.0 the default view was set Organisation-wide, you can now set your own view as the default view.

AndFinally……

The purpose of this post wasn’t to provide an exhaustive view of these 10 features. It was just to wet the appetite of anyone using  or planning to use Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011.

I’m sure another CRM consultant may choose other new or improved features, but my aim was just to start to highlight what a great tool Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 promises to be.

If you want a demo or more information, give Chorus IT a call on 01275 398900


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