Tag Archives: CRM 2011

Scribe Online: Replication and Integration Services for MS CRM

Scribe Software has historically been a strong player in the Microsoft CRM space, offering a configuration-based, no-code solution to both data migration and integration requirements. 

In this post I have a look at their newer hosted offering: Scribe Online – where from $99 USD / month (and up) you can rent solutions for replication, data migration or integration.  

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This post will give you an overview of the installation experience, introduce you to the configuration process and demonstrate just how easy it is to get up and running very quickly.  I was quite impressed by my first taste of this offering  and would certainly table it as a potential solution in certain customer scenarios.

 

What is Scribe Online?

The Scribe Online solution is a Scribe hosted solution that covers 2 functional areas: 

  • Replication Services, and
  • Synchronisation Services

The emergence of hosted CRM offerings gave rise to a new need that Scribe’s Replication Services product was introduced to meet.  Scribe’s Replication Services allows you to mirror your hosted CRM database down to a local SQL Server database.  This opens up ‘SQL as source’ reporting approaches and integration options.   It is very easy to setup, inexpensive to license and suitably robust.  Think how much easier some requirements can be met when you can do a simple SQL read rather than having too muck around writing web service calls.

Scribe’s Synchronisation Services offers similar functionality to the Scribe Insights product.  It supports one off data migration scenarios and on-going integration scenarios with Microsoft CRM as either Source or Destination system.  Again it’s Scribe hosted, and again it provides support for CRM Online but is equally suitable for an on premise installation of CRM.

 

Installation Process

I’ll keep this brief, I just want to give you a feel for the process.  Scribe offers 14 day free trials from their website for the Scribe Online products so you can easily get your hands dirty. 

Try Scribe Integration and Migration Software

You follow your nose through that trial sign up process, give them some contact details and they then email you a link like this:

https://online.scribesoft.com/account/activate.aspx?id=8924f6b1-d3ed-45ae-b506-175b44865918

That link, directs you to the Scribe Online console.  You’ll be prompted to update your Silverlight if you are not on the latest (the console is a Silverlight app) and then asked to sign in:

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The Console is divided horizontally with Replication Services residing in the top half of the screen and Synchronisation Services sitting at the bottom:

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Now, you do need to install a local Agent in order to use Scribe Online, so it’s not 100% SAS.  The Agent is required for connection to the source and destination systems.  It’s installed as a Service.  

I’m running on a Windows 2008 VM and I just went ahead and installed it locally:

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You can see it installed and running here under my VM’s Services:

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and for those that are curious, here’s what the Scribe Online architecture looks like:

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That’s the install process.  On to configuration…

 

Configuring Scribe Online Replication Services

From the Scribe Online console you kick off a wizard to add a new Replication Services solution:

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You select the Agent that you installed earlier and then provide the connection details to your CRM Organisation and to your SQL Server database.

Your source can be CRM Online, a CRM on premise install or an IFD/ADFS install:

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Your destination can only be a SQL Server database, and you need to create an empty database in advance:

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Next, you select which CRM Entities / SQL tables you wish to replicate:

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And then finally you pick when you want the replication to run.  You have all the normal sort of scheduling options here, you can go daily at a certain time, you can deselect weekends, or have it only run once a month.  You can also have it run every x minutes (but 15 minutes is the lowest number you can go with):

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And that’s it.  The Solution is now listed back on the Console screen and I can kick it off immediately if I want:

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And before too long you will have a nice little replica of your CRM database sitting on your SQL Server ready for you to write reports against or to feed into a data warehouse or integrate into an ERP system:

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To keep the replication going and your local database up to date the only trick is to make sure your Agent Service remains running and make sure you set your schedule correctly.  And if your Agent Service stops running for a period of time Scribe Online will send you an email to let you know.

As at May 2012 the advertised price for Scribe Online Replication Services is $99 USD / month, with an upper limit of 175 million records replicated per annum.  The pricing goes up in step increments from there to e.g.: $475 for 1 billion records.

 

Configuring Scribe Online Synchronisation Services

The Synchronisation Services is Scribe Online’s integration and data migration engine.

Here the process is pretty similar.  From the console we create a Solution and work our way through a wizard:

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You pick the Agent you wish to use and then define at least 1 Map records.  A Map is required for each source-destination table combination. 

For this demo I am going to map a local SQL staging database’s table of Contact records to the CRM Contacts entity (but I could be reading those source records from a text file or other ODBC/OLE DB source).

You pick your data source type:

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And then provide the connection string details:

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Similar story for the destination connection.  The same connection types are offered:

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Here’s my connection:

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Once you have specified the connection paths to your Source and Destination systems you need to provide a few more connection details and explain how Scribe should match existing records and what to do when records are matched.  Lots of options there:

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Last part of the mapping is to drop down to field level and map the individual fields.  It’s a drag and drop experience.  If some transformation is required you can easily add formulas to each mapping through a nice formula editor:

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And we’re done with the mapping.  Last step is to set the schedule.  We see the same options here that we saw earlier:

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And that’s it.  I can wait for the schedule to kick off the synchronisation or I can run it manually. 

In my example I have a local SQL table containing this data:

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And this is how that data looks once my Scribe solution successfully loads it into CRM:

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Here’s the Job History back in Scribe Online:

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That gives you a feel for what a one-off data migration would be like.   My solution was created with integration in mind though.  I configured a unique key between my source and destination systems and informed Scribe how I wanted it handle updates vs. inserts. 

I’ve also told Scribe to refer to the ‘UpdatedLast’ date field in my source table when performing subsequent synchronisations so that it only bothers to process records where that field is ahead of the last run date (indicating a recent change).

To simulate a subsequent interface run I change the phone number on 2 records and then bump the UpdatedLast field forward:

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I kick the synchronisation job off again and see those 2 source record updates successfully synchronised up to CRM:

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There you go, a quick run through on the basics of Scribe Online Synchronisation services.  I must say I found the whole experience very intuitive and robust.  The user interface and the end-to-end configuration user experience speaks volumes for the maturity of Scribe’s development processes and quality of their application architecture.

As at May 2012 the advertised price for Scribe Online Synchronisation Services is $99 USD / month, with an upper limit of 1.5 million records processed per annum. The pricing goes up in step increments from there to e.g.: $1000 for 100 million records.

Unlike with their Scribe Insight product there is no 60 day license option here to support migration scenarios -  the minimum term is 12 months.  But still, $99 x 12 is not a huge outlay.  Something to consider.

Update:  Since writing this post I have had a look at Scribe Insight, Scribe’s traditional on-premise solution for Integration and Migration.   You can read all about that here.  Scribe Online’s Synchronisation services is definitely a more pleasant user interface to be working in but you also lose a lot of functionality compared to that available with Scribe Insight. 

In that Scribe Insight post I ran through a more complicated scenario where I have both Accounts and Contacts to migrate and the Contacts are parented by the Accounts and the Accounts each has a Primary Contact.  Plus, I have a pick list field with source values that need to be mapped.   I’ve since come back to Scribe Online and worked through the same scenario, here are some notes:

For the pick list mapping I populate a Mapping table in Scribe Online:

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And then when I map my source and destination fields I add a Lookup formula that references this table (similar to doing a vlookup in Excel).  I’d like to show you a screenshot now but my Scribe Online has decided to stop working.  It’s driving me mad just at the moment to be honest.   Anyway, to link the Contacts to their parent Account records there is another type of Lookup formula available which will essentially do a vlookup into your target system.   So, the capability looks to all be there.


 

Please feel free to share your experience and opinions via the comments below.

Smile

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Click Dimensions Email Marketing for Microsoft CRM 2011

After my previous post on the Email Marketing add-ons available for Microsoft CRM the guys at Click Dimensions kindly set me up with a trial license.   In this post I share my experience of attempting my first email newsletter.  I skipped the training and dived in…

So, first off, the installation process.  Well actually, there really isn’t one!   I provided Click Dimensions with a logon to my CRM Online system and they deployed their solution into my CRM system for me.  

They make a use of Microsoft CRM’s solution framework and are certified for Dynamics CRM by Microsoft so you can trust that their customisations comply to Microsoft’s customisation and integration standards:

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Once installed you will see Click Dimension screens under your Marketing menu:

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Ok, let’s see if we can’t get an email newsletter out the door.  

First things first, I reckon I need to populate a Marketing List.   Now CRM has lots of good features here, you can go with a Dynamic Marketing List and essentially have your subscribers drawn from a saved segmentation query, or you can get a bit more involved and manage the members of a Static Marketing List yourself. 

I simply chose 4 Contacts and added them to a Static Marketing List:

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Next, I am guessing I need to create an Email Template, so back under the Marketing Menu I click on Click Dimension’s Email Templates menu item and then click New.  It’s just like creating any other CRM record so everything is feeling nice and consistent so far:

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I give my Email Template a Name and enter a Subject and then select the Block Editor as my Editor Type.  I know from prior research that Click Dimensions’ recently added this Block Editor feature to provide a simplified wizard / configuration style editor, and that sounds exactly like what I want to start with.  There’s also their original Free Style editor and the ability to compose your emails in Outlook if you prefer and support for copying and pasting raw HTML from external sources (such as design firms).  I’ll go with the Block Editor:

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So I enter that header information and click save.  Once saved, the block editor becomes active.  Its built right into the CRM form which is nice.  I click the Layout button and get presented with some layouts to pick from, a similar experience to creating a new CRM Dashboard:

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The Layout populates into the form giving me a header, footer and 2 columns in the body of the email.  Its pretty obvious the next step is to right click on a section of the layout to add some content.  I start with the header:

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Now, for the header I want a banner image and then a title for my newsletter.  The block editor presents some options to me and again its pretty obvious which one I should go with:

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The Block Editor now needs to ask me for the image and the text.  It starts with the image. 

It presents an image library to me to pick from but also allows me to upload an image into that library on the fly.  It also allows me to just provide the URL of an image hosted elsewhere.   I go with the Upload option and browse to my C drive and select my image:

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Next, it needs my Text, and here Click Dimensions offers up a fairly functional text editor.  I type my text in and then change the font, the size, the colour and the justification.  There are view options at the bottom that I can use to toggle between the designer view and raw HTML, but I can stay right away from HTML if I want to:

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The Block Editor next offers up a preview of the image and text together and then loads the end result back into the main Block Editor form.  At any point during the above process I could go backwards and forwards and tweak things.  And once finished I can easily re-open that block and edit all those same settings.  Click Dimensions have done a good job of the user experience here, there is no re-keying of anything at any point:

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To finish my Email Template I repeat the above process for the 2 columns in the body of my email and for the footer.  After 10 minutes, here’s my end result:

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Ok, so I have my target list and my email template, let’s send the email. 

Back on the Marketing menu I click on Email Sends, then click the New button and start filling in the Email Send form:

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Again, this is all pretty intuitive.  I select the Template to use, the Marketing List to send to, the Subject line to use, the name and email address of the Sender and chose when I want the email to go:

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I also entered a test email address.  To send a test email I just click the Test button built into the CRM ribbon.  This does 2 things, it initiates a Spam analysis, giving you a Spam Assassin Report and it actually sends the email to your test email address:

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I check the email in my inbox and I’m happy.  The Spam report looks acceptable.  So we’re now good to go.

To run the email blast, I return to the CRM Ribbon menu and click Send.  Click Dimensions takes care of the rest, it reads the data it needs from CRM and performs the send using its email servers.

Here’s my email turning up in my inboxes:

Outlook 2010

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iPhone

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iPad

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Gmail

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Now almost straight away I start to get some feedback on the success of the email blast.  I see this in summary on the CRM form:

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And I can drilldown to the individual email events that have been recorded. 

Here I can see each of the individual emails being delivered (or bouncing).  I can see who opened the email and when.  And I can see who clicked which links in the email. 

This click-through data is the important bit, this is where you learn which content is successfully earning the attention of your audience:

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Now these Email Event records are normal CRM records which we can trigger workflow from, report on, and build Charts and Dashboards around.  

For example, here’s a workflow I created to have a CRM Phone Call Activity record created and assigned to a Customer’s Account Manager whenever the Customer clicks through on one of my Marketing emails:

Here’s the workflow rule:

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And here’s an example of the Phone Call Activity that’s created:

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Something else I want to point out, the individual emails that go out are stored in CRM against each Customer in a (custom) Sent Emails entity.  This keeps your 360 degree view in place but provides nice isolation between these generic marketing emails and your direct emails that you manually send/track – e.g. from Outlook. 

 

And there you go, job done!

Now I suspect I have only really skimmed the surface of Click Dimensions here.  I know I could have merged CRM fields into my newsletter if I wanted to.  And I believe there is support for dynamic content as well, allowing you to tailor content to your audience based on their individual characteristics (gender, age, geography, product interest, etc.). 

I also haven’t played with any web stuff yet.  Perhaps in my next post. 

For those of you out there with more artistic skills then me who are horrified by the presentation standard of my email Smile do rest assured that there is full HTML support for high fidelity customer communications.

My overall impression?  Easy.  Intuitive.  Very well integrated.  And a very pleasant user experience.  I’m keen to get back in there and figure out more!

 


 

UPDATE:  Here are a few more of the basics that I overlooked in the above…

Merged CRM Fields:

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Inbox Preview:

(looks like it is only available with the Free Style editor, not with the Block Editor, and was error’ing out for me)

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Unsubscribes:

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And they do support dynamic content via some HTML if/then tags that will suppress HTML content based on rules you specify, such as “if recipient’s gender = male”.

Regards,

Gareth.

Social Integration for Microsoft CRM 2011 with Parrot

Want to integrate your company’s Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn feeds into your Microsoft CRM system so you can view one consolidated feed, react to social conversations by creating CRM Leads, Contacts and Cases, and post your own social messaging to all 3 channels in 1 hit?   If that’s you, then Webfortis have an Add-on for Microsoft CRM that you should take a look at. 

Here’s an overview…

 

Installation and Configuration

Webfortis offer a free 2-user license of Parrot so to trial Parrot you simply submit your details here, then download and install:

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Parrot users are licensed separately from CRM,.  You can have 100 CRM users but only 2 of them activated for access to Parrot.  The 2 user limit won’t be a problem.

The product is provided as a CRM Solution file that you simply import into your CRM system.  What you then see is a Parrot menu option added to your Workplace, which renders the Parrot application within CRM and integrates some Parrot commands into CRM’s ribbon:

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Next step is configuration.  Parrot wants access to your LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook accounts so it can download your feeds and post on your behalf (when you request it to).  So we click on the Parrot Settings button on the Ribbon and add our Accounts:

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Jump back to the Parrot Timeline screen and you can now activate those new accounts via ribbon buttons:

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Features

Once you have authorised Parrot to access your social networks those feeds will now appear in Parrot’s ‘Timeline’.  You will see all of your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn feeds consolidated in the 1 view for easy monitoring:

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So Feature #1 is this consolidated view of your social networks inside your CRM system.  

Feature #2 is the ability to post to all of your social networks at the same time, from Microsoft CRM.   The post composer sits above the Timeline.  You can easily toggle which of your social networks you want your message to post to and you can see the number of characters remaining (constrained to the lowest limit of the networks selected):

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Feature #3 is the ability to search LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter’s feeds for keywords.  Search results appear in Tabs and you can have several on the go and can pin them for on-going reference:

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Now so far, apart from having all of this sit inside you CRM system, we are not seeing anything too different from what Hootsuite offers, and Hootsuite sets the standard for social network dashboards:

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Except, we are in CRM, and where that really makes a difference is with these little buttons here:

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That’s right, with a click of a button you can create a new Lead, Case, Contact or Account in CRM based on a social media post.   That’s Feature #4 and I think its kind of interesting.

If we create a Lead for Mark Smith’s LinkedIn post we get a CRM Lead record like this:

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The Lead record retains an association back to the social media entity it originated from – in this case the profile of an Individual on LinkedIn – and this linkage is leveraged on the Lead form to provide an integrated view of that profile, in CRM:

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That’s enough from me for today.  Hopefully  this has provided you with a useful overview of the Webfortis offering.  I recommend having a look at Parrot.  Best case scenario: it will meet your requirements.  Worst case scenario: it will provide a useful perspective on what is possible and help you refine your social network integration requirements.

 

HTH

Gareth

 

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(p.s. How cool is Hootsuite’s enterprise Owl in his little suit and with his handsome side parting)

Introduction to Demo Builder for Microsoft CRM 2011

Last week I got an early look at Microsoft’s new Demo Builder utility for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and Office 365.  Expect to hear an announcement on this next week.  The utility is a provisioning wizard that quickly deploys an integrated demo environment in the cloud to showcase Dynamics CRM, SharePoint, Lync and CRM-powered portals on Azure.

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Here’s the URL:  http://demobuilder.cloudapp.net

Why should you care?  Well if you are selling this SAS stack then this is definitely going to be useful.  But even if your focus is solely Microsoft CRM there is still benefit, as a Microsoft CRM demo can really sing when you include a little SharePoint and Lync integration.  And there’s some other cool functionality showcased in the packaged demo that you will like.

Now I tend to prefer creating demos in a VM because there is no 30-day expiry period, no risk of internet connectivity issues upsetting you on demo day and because my VM environment is faster then CRM online.  But for the benefits mentioned above I will utilise Demo Builder in some cases in the future and I will always have an environment up and running so I have the various demo features up my sleeve.

Here’s a run through on the configuration process:

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  • Click the Run DemoBuilder link and follow the prompts to install the utility locally
  • The DemoBuilder wizard will then fire up automatically (or can be launched from your Start menu).  Work your way through the screens (it’s all pretty obvious).  You will be asked for a unique name for Windows Azure, use the unique name of your CRM Organisation:

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  • Continue through the wizard:

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After an hour or so the process will finish and you can click a link to be sent an email containing all the URLs and logons you need.


Here’s what you get:

  • CRM’s native SharePoint integration configured and working:

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  • CRM’s native Lync integration configured and working (several user accounts are provisioned in CRM Online and Office 365 so you can demonstrate Lync’s presence and chat functionality during a demo (you just need to create local user profiles on your laptop):

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  • More CRM demo data, dashboards, sample workflows and dialogs:

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  • A few UI mash-ups (Inside View, Montage, Bing Maps):

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  • Microsoft’s Customer Portal accelerator, hosted on Azure, running over your CRM Online instance, offering Lead Capture, Submit Case, Search Knowledge Base, Event Registration, etc.:

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  • Microsoft’s Partner Portal accelerator, hosted on Azure, running over your CRM Online instance, offering Account and Contact creation, Opportunity Bidding, Opportunity Registration, etc.:

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And a script is provided that guides you on how to setup and demonstrate all of this. 

My favourite part of the demo is where you launch SharePoint from a CRM Opportunity and quickly create a collection of proposal documents from organisation templates.  You then browse a slide library in PowerPoint and select some slides that you want to incorporate into your proposal and with a click of button copy those into your proposal.   Very nice.

 


The tool is still very young but it works ok and I’m glad it’s here.  There’s promise from Microsoft of more functionality to come, including some industry templates.  The tool doesn’t replace the need to personalise your CRM demo to your customer’s business processes and it doesn’t help you once you actually sell the solution and need to implement, but it will allow you to quickly and easily show off some of CRM’s harder to setup capabilities.

 

UPDATE:   If you find you get this error clicking the Document link on the Opportunity form when using the Outlook Client (but don’t get it on the Account form or when using the web client)…

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… make sure your CRM and SharePoint URL’s are added to your Trusted Sites and then enable this Misc. option under the Trusted Sites’ Custom Level settings:

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Email Marketing add-ons for Microsoft CRM 2011

Microsoft CRM 2011 supports basic email capabilities that allow sending of bulk emails to customers and prospects.   However, if you want to track the receipts/bounces/clicks on those emails or want a tool for creating rich HTML emails or Landing Pages you will need to pick up one of the many 3rd party products that have been integrated into MSCRM.

Not sure whether this is of value to you?  Start with this video and see if the features presented resonate:  http://www.clickdimensions.com/video.html

 

Functionality Available


Ok, lets start with a quick run through on the sort of functionality that is available to you!

Note: I have taken screenshots to illustrate the concepts, but each feature is not necessarily unique to the product displayed, most of these features are common…

HTML Email Designers:

(image: Click Dimensions)

Design high quality emails incorporating images, links, text and dynamic content from MSCRM.  A point and click designer experience plus support for direct HTML entry.

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Analytics on Opens, Bounces & Clicks, per Email Send:

(image: Campaign Monitor)

Gain insight on how many of your email recipients opened the email, how many clicked a link, and how many of those emails bounced.  Learn who is opening your email and when.  Learn which links are being clicked and how many links each recipient is clicking.

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Opens, Bounces & Clicks per CRM Contact/Account/Lead:

(image: Core Motives)

View against CRM customer record not only what emails have been sent but which of those emails did they open and what links did they click.  Plus support for opt out tracking and enforcement.

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Email Client Display Tests:

(image: inxmail)

Preview your email in a number of email clients, including Outlook, Gmail, Hotmail, and iPhone.  Address any formatting issues to ensure the maximum impact of your email regardless of where your customer opens it.

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Website Analytics:

(image: Click Dimensions)

View site visits, link clicks, and referral information on how visitors came to your website.  Where the visitor has identified themselves on your website and they exist in your CRM see all of that history associated to their CRM record.   See anonymous visitors associated to Organisations based on IP address and view how many visitors from that company are viewing your site and learn what they are looking at.

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Landing Pages and Web Forms:

(image: Click Dimensions)

Design and build the campaign landing pages that you direct customers and prospects to in your email campaigns.  Use a Word style format editor or copy and paste in raw HTML.  Configure forms and embed those into your website and have the data captured written directly into MSCRM.

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Products Available


Now that you know what features are available, here’s an overview of the difference vendors with offerings in this space:

 

Exact Target

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Exact Target is the big daddy of email marketing, they do it all, and they work with all the big CRM applications.   Their pricing is at the top of the end of the scale.  Their integration to Microsoft CRM is mature.  The selection of your target list and then send of the email can be executed from within Microsoft CRM.  The design of the email and landing page are performed in ExactTarget but can merge data from CRM and conditional content rules can refer to CRM segmentation information.  If highly personalised email campaigns are your thing or you are after an enterprise level solution then Exact Target is for you.

Website:  http://www.exacttarget.com/

CRM integration info:  http://blog.exacttarget.com/blog/always-providing-information/exacttarget-for-microsoft-dynamics-crm-2011-integration-documentation

 

Click Dimensions

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Click Dimensions is a specialist email marketing product for Microsoft CRM.  They seem to be quite popular in the US, at least amongst my company.  They look to be the most integrated into Microsoft CRM (I don’t think you can use their product without MSCRM).  I expect Exact Target beats them on overall product functionality, although Click Dimensions looks to pack a lot of capability and there ease of use looks excellent and I suspect they may have a couple of MSCRM specific features that Exact Target is missing.  I would have Click Dimensions on my short list and be looking hard for a reason why to go with something else.

Website:  http://www.clickdimensions.com

10 minute product overview video:  http://www.clickdimensions.com/video.html

 

CoreMotives

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Website:  http://coremotives.com/

CoreMotives is another email marketing add-on that is dedicated to Microsoft CRM.  It appears to cover the same areas as Click Dimensions but I suspect it is the inferior product.  Check out both companies’ websites and you will see what I mean.   On the surface I would prefer to use Click Dimensions, but maybe there is a feature difference or a price difference that’s in CoreMotives favour.

 

Inxmail

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Inxmail are a big player in Europe and have 1000 customers worldwide.  They provide an email designer, inbox testing, landing page designer, email delivery, and integration to several CRM systems, including Microsoft CRM.  Their product is not as tightly integrated to MSCRM as the above offerings but it does have a bunch of functionality.  I was disappointed that they could not arrange a trial with my CRM system.

Website:  http://www.inxmail.com/

Features:  Overview of Functions

CRM integration info: http://www.inxmail.com/en/products-services/ms-crm_integration.php?navanchor=1010043

 

Campaign Monitor

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Campaign Monitor is aimed at designers.  Designers can either construct their emails externally or use Campaign Monitor’s authoring tool.  Campaign Monitor supports email format testing across a range of email clients, email delivery, and email tracking.  It doesn’t appear to support landing page generation or dynamic content.  Their MSCRM integration is a via a 3rd party and doesn’t look very mature.

Website:  http://www.campaignmonitor.com/

CRM integration info:  http://www.campaignmonitor.com/downloads/microsoft-dynamics-crm/

 

BizMiners’ Mail Chimp Integration

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I love Mail Chimp!  It is just the coolest little web app ever.  It’s suited more to the mid market and small business but it could not be easier or more fun  to use, yet still offers a bunch of functionality.  BizMiners have developed integration between Microsoft CRM and Mail Chimp, but being a 3rd party integration its an inferior experience to the likes of CoreMotives and Click Dimensions.   If you want something simple, easy and cheap then this may be the answer. 

Website: http://mailchimp.com/

CRM integration info:  http://www.bizminers.com/eng/product/mailchimp-dynamics-crm-2011-integration-tool/


If I have missed a product that you think should be here or you think there is a key differentiator I need to call out just let me know.

UPDATE: Here’s a couple more products that you might want to check out:

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(here’s a picture of Mail Chimp just cause I think he’s cool)

GT.

Resco MobileCRM vs. CWR Mobile CRM

Here’s a side by side comparison of the 2 best mobile offerings for Microsoft Dynamics CRM – Resco MobileCRM and CWR Mobile CRM – with a focus on the iPhone or iPad as the mobile device.  I have no affiliation with either vendor, this post is a summary of my research and my opinions.

A significant difference between the 2 vendor’s offering is Resco has the Resco MobileCRM Studio – “a developer platform fully integrated with Microsoft Visual Studio that includes Resco designers and components and controls”.  If you want to build a Mobile Dynamics CRM app that you can extend with custom UI components and custom business logic then Resco is the only way to go (aside from bespoke custom development).  Resco’s approach though is to give you the source code and a development framework so you are not just tacking customisation around their product like you would do if customising Microsoft CRM.  So going down this path is not for the faint hearted.  Unfortunately neither CWR or Resco have a lightweight extensibility model yet. 

For the purpose of this article I am not looking at the Resco MobileCRM Studio but rather comparing CWR and Resco’s offerings from a configuration perspective.  Both vendors have invested significantly in providing a configurable application that lets CRM Administrators rather than programmers configure out the forms, views and user experience.  Most CRM customers out there will not have an appetite for mobile application development so let’s see what Resco and CWR have to offer them:

Last updated: 18 July 2012 (Resco v5.4.0.0, CWR v5.0.1.7)

 


Firstly, here’s how the 2 mobile apps look on the iPhone:

Home screen:

Resco MobileCRM

CWR Mobile CRM

IMG_2676 IMG_2679

Mobile Dashboard:

Resco MobileCRM

CWR Mobile CRM

Not available on iPhone.

iPad:

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Opportunity List View:

Resco MobileCRM

CWR Mobile CRM

IMG_2677 IMG_2680

Opportunity Form:

Resco MobileCRM

CWR Mobile CRM

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The mobile experience is similar on both apps.  CWR Mobility have aligned their app to the look and feel of Microsoft Dynamics 4.0 (which is even more evident in their configuration tools I will talk about later). 

I definitely prefer Resco MobileCRM’s Form layout – e.g. the Opportunity form you see above.  CWR Mobility’s Mobile CRM forms are in desperate need of a face lift. 

The user experience works on both apps but the Resco UI is definitely a nicer place to be hanging out.

For those customers that are concerned about storing customer data on the mobile device Resco has the edge with its ‘always online’ option.  However with CRM 2011 soon to support Safari on iPad, customers who don’t want offline capabilities may be better to just use the native web client on iPads rather than pay additional licenses for a mobile client.  The same option will exist for Windows 8 tablet / Surface users.

 


Here’s how the 2 mobile apps look on the iPad:

Firstly Resco:

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And here’s CWR on the iPad:

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Resco make a lot better use of the real estate available on the iPad.  In a generic CRM demo where I want to show off that CRM can run on iPads I will always go with Resco you get a much better wow factor response.

 


Device Support Comparison:

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Whilst CWR and Resco support a similar set of mobile platforms there are some differences…

CWR supports the following mobile devices:

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Resco supports:

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The big differences there are:

  • Only CWR supports Blackberry (do business still make their staff use BlackBerrys?  Are they that cruel?)
  • CWR’s Android support does not include Tablet support.  Resco has separate mobile apps for Android phone and Android tablet.
  • Resco supports the older version of Windows phone (Windows Mobile 6.5)
  • Resco has a mobile apps for Windows 7, XP, Vista
  • Resco has a mobile app for Windows 8
    Resco having a mobile app for Windows 7, XP, Vista and Windows 8 is very interesting to me.  This offering gives you an alternative user experience for your laptop/desktop workers.  It includes offline support.  This is an interesting client option, it sits somewhere between the native web client and the Outlook client.  If using Outlook is an issue but offline access is required then this could be of interest.   It looks pretty slick too, here it is running on my Windows 7 laptop:

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Interestingly enough it sounds like this sort of ‘app’ like user experience is exactly where Microsoft sees Microsoft CRM going in future releases as they embrace the Windows 8 Metro user experience.


Here is a comparison chart of the features of the mobile apps:

(As at 13 Jan 2012: Resco v5.1.2.0, CWR Mobility v5.0.1.4)

Feature

Resco MobileCRM

CWR Mobile CRM

Supports offline access

Y

Y

Can run in ‘always online’ mode so no data is stored on the device

Y

(new April 2012)

N

Manual synchronisation

Y

Y

Automated background synchronisation

(to a schedule)

Y

(new April 2012)

Y

Automated background synchronisation

(on launch and/or following updates)

Y

(new June 2012)

N

Mobile user can remove unwanted entities from their menu

Y

N

Mobile users can create new records

Y

Y

Mobile users can view related records from e.g. the Opportunity form

Y

Y

Mobile users can add new related records to e.g. the Opportunity form

Y

Y

Supports iPhone rolling Date picker

Y

Y

Supports lookups for e.g. Regarding fields

Y

Y

Supports drill through on e.g. Regarding fields

Y

Y

Has a Calendar view of CRM Activities

Y

N

Calendar integrates with iPhone calendar

N

N

Has an Action for closing Opportunities

Y

Y

Has an Action for completing Activities

Y

Y

Has an Action for converting Leads

Y

Y

Has an Action for resolving Cases

Y

Y

Has an Action for converting Activities to Opportunities

Y

(new June 2012)

Y

Has an Action for converting Activities to Cases

Y

(new June 2012)

N

Entity views support Search

Y

Y

Support for multiple Views per Entity

Y

Y

Default view definitions filter out inactive records

N

Y

Can click to dial on phone number fields

Y

Y

Can click to SMS on phone number fields

N

Y

Can click to email on email fields

Y

Y

Emails initiated from within App are tracked in CRM

Y

N

Mobile dashboards

N

(iPad app: Yes)

Y

Standard CRM dashboards are viewable on the mobile device with data pulled from the server at run time to provide a real time visualisation

N

Y

Can configure mobile dashboards

N

(iPad app: Yes)

N

Map view of multiple CRM records

Y

N

From a CRM record you can easily see the record’s address on the mobile device’s Map based on address coordinates stored in CRM

Y

Y

Capture GPS location of records

Y

N

Existing records are displayed via a Read Only form initially on which the user can then click to Edit

Configurable

Y

Mobile users can define offline filters to control volume of records synched to the mobile device

N

N

Mobile users can view synch status of individual records

N

Y

Mobile users can view their access rights in relation to individual records

N

Y

I found it annoying that Resco’s default view definitions do not filter out inactive records (I would rather not have my closed leads and opportunities and inactive customers showing up in my lists).  However, it only take 5 minutes to change this configuration. 


And here is a comparison of the server side configuration tools that you use to configure the Mobile Apps :

 

Feature

Resco Woodford

CWR Mobile CRM

Can be accessed from Microsoft CRM

Y

Y

Can be installed and run locally

Y

N

Derive entity icon from CRM

N

Y

Entity icons are maintained separately but can be changed (or in the case of custom entities: added)

Y

N

Can select which entities are made available to the mobile device (including custom entities)

Y

Y

Can define the home page list of entities

Y

Y

Home page can be divided into Areas

N

Y

Can define mobile views (columns, search fields and filter conditions)

Y

Y

Can define multiple view per Entity

Y

Y

Can define Mobile CRM Charts and Dashboards

Y

N

Can configure which fields appear on CRM forms (including custom fields)

Y

Y

Support for field groupings (e.g. sections / tabs) on Forms

Y

Y

Can define synchronisation filters globally to limit which records are mobilised

Y

Y

Can auto-create Entity views and forms based on CRM from and view definitions

N

Y

Can define individual fields as read only

Y

Y

Can set requirement level for fields

N

Y

Can define which related record types should be accessible on each form

Y

Y

Can define which columns appear in lookup views

Y

N

Can define fields to search against in lookup views

Y

Y

Can remote wipe CRM data from a mobile device

Y

Y

Export/import support for deploying configurations between dev / test / prod environments

Y

Y

Can define iframes on mobile forms and append entity field values to the iframe URL as query string parameters

Y

N

Can add Map views to mobile forms that render address coordinates of the CRM record on the Map

Y

N

Can execute customer searches on a Map rather than in a List View

Y

N

Define different Mobile CRM configurations per CRM Security Role and have users inherit these based on a prioritised hierarchy

Y

N

Define multiple Mobile  CRM configuration profiles and specifically assign each user a profile

N

Y

Can define Filtered Lookups

Y

N

CWR clearly spent a lot of time and effort aligning their user experience here to match Microsoft CRM 4.0.  It looks good, its intuitive and feels robust but now that we have CRM 2011 it suffers from looking a little out-dated.

View configuration in CWR is a more familiar and robust experience then it is in Resco with the one exception of defining filters where Resco has a nicer UI (but the functionality is much the same). 

Resco’s iFrame functionality is very interesting and could push the app ahead of CWR Mobility’s in some scenarios providing an easy integration mechanism.

In general the CWR configuration application feels more robust, with little quirky events in Resco leaving me feeling cautious about the maturity of the product, although this visibly improves with every release. 


Here’s a look at Resco’s configuration tool (oddly named “Woodford”)…

Home Page Editor:

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View Designer:

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Form Designer:

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And here’s CWR Mobility’s configuration tool…

Main menu:

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Site Map editor:

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View Designer:

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Form Designer:

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Deployment Options

Ok, the mobile apps just get downloaded by end users for free via the App store, the user punches in the connection details you would provide to them and on first synch the mobile app picks up your company’s particular configuration, that bit’s easy.

For Resco, the Woodford configuration tool is supplied as a Silverlight application that you can run locally or if on CRM 2011 you can import into your Microsoft CRM organisation as a managed solution and then run from a new link on your CRM menu:

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Resco store’s its configuration information in your CRM database.  There is no middleware for Resco, the mobile app connects directly to your CRM system.  The synchronisation logic sits in the mobile app.  The mobile app reads the MobileCRM configuration definitions from the CRM database via the CRM web services and then synchronises data the same way.

What this means is your CRM system needs to be internet accessible.  Either you need to be running CRM Online or be partner hosted or have IFD / Claims Based Authentication configured on your on premise system.  i.e. if you can’t access your normal Microsoft CRM system from an internet cafe without VPN then you won’t be able to use Resco either.

The CWR Configurator is a standalone web application that CWR Mobility allow you to launch from the CRM menu:

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CWR Mobility took a different approach with their application architecture (or more correctly, Resco took the different approach as CWR Mobility were around first).  CWR Mobility have a middleware component – the CWR Mobile CRM Server.  They offer this as an on premise offering or they can host it for you.  The below table explains the configurations they support:

 

CWR Mobile CRM Hosted

CWR Mobile CRM
On Premise

CRM Online

Supported

(note: this offering will be provided by Microsoft in the future, see the end of this post)

Supported, the CWR installation needs to be made internet accessible

CRM On Premise

Supported, the CRM system needs to be IFD/CBA enabled

Supported, the CWR installation needs to be made internet accessible

The architectural difference is interesting.  Resco tout their lack of middleware as an advantage as  it is a simpler architecture and there is no need for an additional server / server component.  But I have heard colleagues talk about CWR Mobility’s middleware as an advantage as it provides better separation of application roles.  I’m not yet sure either way. 

CWR does offer an architecture though that does allow you to open up your CRM system for mobile access without opening up your entire CRM system to the internet.  Not sure whether a customer would ever have that specific requirement though.


My Conclusions

Previously I had CWR winning this showdown.  As at 11th April 2012 I am less sure.  I had CWR winning because it is the more functional, more robust, more mature product.  However, I preferred (and still prefer) Resco’s UI.  The fact that CWR had automatic synching was a big advantage which Resco has now met.   I still feel CWR is the safer bet for enterprise customers, Resco’s product just needs to mature a bit further.  However, in terms of look and feel and functionality Resco is starting to look like the winner.  It is also very noticeable that Resco are releasing new functionality at an impressive rate and increasing their functional lead over CWR.

I will add though that Resco as a company seem to be more about custom Mobile CRM application development and the Woodford product they have released probably takes priority 2.  Their Mobile CRM SDK gives them a whole other feature set where CWR Mobility currently has no comparative product, so businesses need to consider whether mobile CRM development is of interest or not.  In my opinion both products are lacking basic jscript support.  Not being able to easily inject jscript into the forms via configuration like you can in the web client is a real problem.

Please share any experiences you have had with either product and correct anything I have wrong.  I will update this post as updates to the products are released.

Update (7 Feb 2012):  Today it has been announced that Microsoft will start offering a Microsoft-labelled CWR Mobility offering from Q2 2012 [delayed to Q4] called Microsoft Dynamics® CRM Mobile:

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The solution will be cloud hosted and charged on a per user per month basis.  You will use the CWR Mobile client, it will connect to this new offering which in turn will connect to your CRM system (which will need to be internet accessible).  CWR Mobility had a cloud offering before and Microsoft are taking this over.  The table below explains when you will buy the CWR product from CWR vs. from Microsoft:

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Microsoft’s announcement suggests closer ties between these companies going forward which will be a point of concern for anyone going down the Resco path.  But then again Microsoft didn’t just go out and buy CWR like they could have so things are still up in the air from my perspective.  The pressure is certainly on Resco to keep pushing out quality product to make customers look beyond CWR’s ties to Microsoft.   So far, they have risen to the occasion impressively.  l can’t wait to see what happens next!

Displaying the Activity Feed Wall on a CRM Dashboard

This put a smile on my face today – I was able to render the new Activity Feed Wall on a Dashboard:

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Takes just 5 minutes to configure this (no coding required).  The Activity Feed Wall is rendered within an iFrame on the Dashboard all you need to know is the URL, which in my case was:

https://nov27demo.crm.dynamics.com//WebResources/msdyn_/PersonalWall.htm

If you are using CRM online simply localise the above URL to your Organisation name.  If running CRM on premise you will need to adjust the web site reference to match your environment – i.e. to something like this:

http://vbox1:5555/PRMDemo/WebResources/msdyn_/PersonalWall.htm

The Dashboard looks like this in the Dashboard Designer:

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With the iframe defined as below:

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Note: Make sure the Restrict cross-frame scripting option is unchecked.  You will need to create a system dashboard in order to this rather than just a personal dashboard (otherwise this option is checked and cannot be changed).

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If you want to show the user profile component of the wall add the following suffix to your URL:

https://nov27demo.crm.dynamics.com//WebResources/msdyn_/PersonalWall.htm?data=HideUserProfile%3D0

This will give you the following Dashboard:

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A quick scan of the CRM sitemap revealed the web resource name of the Wall from which I was able to figure out the URL.

I think this is really cool and will become my home page of choice for demos for the next wee while.

Smile