Application Server Evaluations – Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, Overview

This is the kick off to my review of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, the successor to CRM Version 4. This will be an on-premise installation. Sorry, I just have to get involved at the system level. Of course once the application is set up; it’s all about driving the application. Users care about functionality and not about how it’s set up or how it works behind the scenes – but I do.

Once CRM 2011 is up and running, we can look at the product as though it were an online offering ( For information, visit any of these web sites:

CRM Marketing

BPOS OnLine Service Offerings

CRM360, new “360” offerings

CRM OnLine Trial signup

When I evaluated the Dynamics CRM V4 product I found the following two publications extremely helpful in getting to know the product from an end user as well as a administrator and developer’s perspective. The same authors published revised works through Microsoft Press for the 2011 product. Here is the first one: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Step-By-Step by Mike Snyder, Jim Steger, Brendan Landers, Microsoft Press, Copyright 2011.

The book begins with an overview of the site navigation, page views, working with data in views, filtering, sorting and the like. This is enough to get you comfortable with the look and feel. Of the application.

The authors clearly define the three business entities that comprise CRM: Accounts which are business entities like a company, which may also be related to other business entities such as divisions within a parent company or subsidiaries, Contacts which are people, and Activities which can be defined as things that involve contacts. The Contacts (people) are generally related to an Account (company) but they may be stand-alone like a direct customer as in a consumer sale. An important concept to remember is that Contacts may be shared with other users or teams.

Linking contacts to accounts provides for a roll-up view of activities and notes. Activities are business interactions, like phone calls, tasks, appointments and email messages. Activities are integrated into the Outlook calendar to allow you to manage your time. They are covered in detail in Sales & Marketing and Service sections.

The Dynamics Web Application is browser-based and has the familiar “Ribbon” along the top of the screen, an expandable Navigation pane along the left side of the screen and Content in the center portion. Various customizable views are located in the Content area.

Dynamics CRM for Outlook & Dynamics CRM for Outlook with Offline Access offer the same functionality as the Web Application. Think of the Outlook client as a shell for the Web Application. Personal Outlook content is kept separate from Dynamics CRM unless imported in a group or individually. Once a contact is imported into CRM, the software then keeps CRM activities synchronized with your Outlook client.

Dynamics CRM for Outlook with Offline Access gives you the flexibility to work with your data when you are disconnected from your network. The software is installed on a laptop and is useful when traveling. The program uses a copy of SQL Server 2008 Express Edition to store your Accounts, Contacts and associated records. Going offline and back again synchronizes your CRM data to the server.

Dynamics CRM 2011 like Dynamics CRM V4 may be installed “On Premise” This requires network infrastructure to include an Active Directory domain, a Windows 2008 Server running IIS and a server running SQL Server 2008. The CRM application must be available on the Internet to enable a mobile workforce. The other deployment options allow Dynamics CRM 2011 to be hosted by Microsoft ( by a 3rd Party Provider.

With regard to Sales & Marketing, CRM supports Leads which represent potential customers that need to be qualified or disqualified by sales people; while Opportunities on the other hand, represent potential sales opportunities linked to qualified prospects or existing customers. Individuals familiar with the Sales and Marketing process will find that CRM supports all forms of activities associated with this including generating Marketing Lists and creating and managing Campaigns.

Dynamics CRM 2011 extend the customer relationship post-sale with Service offerings. After completing a sale and gaining a customer, it is important to continue the post-sale relationship with the customer. This is accomplished with Service Requests, the use of a Knowledge Base and establishing Contracts for services. Cases represent incidents that allow activities to be tracked and followed up to resolution. Additionally, activities may be analyzed to determine common cause of problems and develop appropriate solutions. Service contracts are used to define support terms offered to a customer during a specified time period or on a number of cases or hours. Queues are used to group incidents and assign them to appropriate teams. Contracts define through line items the type services and charges offered.

Good management, requires access to information in many forms from detail journals to highly summarized reports. Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 provides this through Reporting services native to the application and in addition to it through SQL Server Reporting Services. Since Dynamics CRM accumulates a large amount of data, the application provides tools that you can use to search through data to find records and drill down into your data using filters and charting tools. In addition, pre-defined and custom dashboards allow for the presentation of various data sets in a single screen. The Report Wizard allows you to use SQL Server Reporting Services to create custom reports with options to group, filter, sort and summarize results in to customizable formats. Dynamics CRM also has the ability to export data to Excel worksheets statically or dynamically. You can also use the Bulk Data Import Wizard to import, contacts from various sources into Dynamics CRM.

The other reference mainstay is the book: Working with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 by Mike Snyder, Jim Steger, Kristie Reid, Microsoft Press, Copyright 2011.

This book is intended as a reference for IT Administrators, Implementers and Customizers. This is not a book for end-users. Refer to the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Step-By-Step book for training and documentation provided by your Administrators.

The book focuses on how you can modify Dynamics CRM to match the way your business works. You as an Administrator or Designer are able to extend the application by adding new data fields, creating reports and dashboards and automating business processes by creating workflows.

The Overview includes such topics as server hardware / software requirements, CRM product licensing both for On-Premise and Cloud-based implementations. CRM installation and setup are included covering such topics as setting preferences, application default settings, email, document templates and Security to manage access to information and users. Dynamics CRM is role-based which means that the ability to access information, and perform operations is based on membership in groups assigned to pre-defined roles in the application. The Overview also covers topics such as how Dynamics CRM supports the organization of the business in terms of the functionality and access to data.

Solutions and customizations are coved in great detail in the book. The section begins with en explanation of the Solution Framework including the components, implementation details and things to consider in the deployment. The book goes into details covering: Fields and option sets, Forms, Views & charts, and Relationships. Also covered are Reports and Dashboards.

Spending some time with these two books or purchasing them to add to your library will give you a basic overall understanding of Customer Relationship Management in terms of the support it provides the business and an insight into customizing the application to provide additional functionality.

This posting is provided “as is” with no warranties, guaranties or any rights whatsoever. All content is based on the author’s experiences and opinions and is not intended to influence the actions of the reader.
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