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Monday, March 06, 2006

Moved: New Blog Site

I have moved to a new Blog site:

See you all there.

Frank Lee
Microsoft Dynamics
CRM MVP since 2006

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Which One: Microsoft BCM or Microsoft CRM?

This question often comes up from small business owners and sales executives - which one is better for me to begin with - Microsoft Business Contact Manager (BCM) or Microsoft CRM?

Here are five points to consider:

1. BCM is intended for SINGLE user of Outlook; granted you can have someone else log into your system and share it that way - but it is not efficient

2. If you are the primary Sales person for your business AND you don't need a Customer Service system, then BCM is a good tool for you to try out

3. Currently there is no "simple" way to upgrade BCM to CRM; it can be done via normal data conversion process

Note: Both BCM and CRM Outlook client can co-exist on the same user's Outlook

v3.0 Update: Microsoft CRM v3.0 Small Business Edition will have a Data Migration Wizard for Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 with Business Contact Manager

4. If you don't need customization and can work with "Out of Box", then BCM is a good choice to check out

5. If you have very limited IT resources/budget, then BCM may be more appropriate - it is part of Microsoft Office!

Another link to BCM vs. CRM


Frank Lee
Workopia, Inc.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

A Must Do: Implement Microsoft CRM Right The First Time!

This is one of those Microsoft CRM projects that could have taken only 5% of the actual implementation cost to date IF the client didn't have to RE-WORK their whole darn thing, no names will be revealed... This was NOT one of our clients - Workopia was called to help bail them out and we did - took a lot of "brain cell" efforts!!! I needed a lot of sleep afterwards to recover from it...

Here is the sad scenario - The client's initial Microsoft CRM deployment was executed by "low priced but inexperienced" resources - the result was predictable - End Users and Management HATED their entire CRM experience and the results even worse!!!

Want a few gory details?

1. Crystal Reports were never able to run correctly from DAY ONE - end users never saw a single Microsoft CRM report!!! The first time they saw a working report was after we installed a clean Microsoft CRM "Test" environment. This is a classic of "you just don't know what you don't know!!!" or "suckered" to be blunt... How come reports didn't work right initially - isn't it part of the installation? The original installation most likely was executed incorrectly... Oh well... It is a good practice to view reports after any Microsoft CRM installation (part of Workopia's Microsoft CRM installation validation check!)

2. Very difficult to use the "Advanced Find" because the field labels were not matched to the form's field displayed name. This was caused by the field display name and label being different (from Form customization) which confuses the end users when trying to look up records. On top of this, the previous Microsoft CRM consultant used existing schema fields to capture "inappropriate" data (i.e. Lead object's Revenue to store Department info - should have created a custom field instead). No custom fields were created. Did the consultant know about the custom field extension capability??? The design was a mess...

3. End users were confused about how to enter records into Microsoft CRM because they didn't know the definition of a Lead, Contact, Opportunity, or Account, at their company. This should have been part of their CRM business analysis and design, plus their end users' training. Hello?? Did someone totally forget about these major project components??? Each department ended up with their "own" definitions.... Oh well, more things to re-align and clean-up.

4. Users did MORE data entry with their new Microsoft CRM system... Their original processes were never analyzed. For God Sakes - the users weren't even trained properly - they ended up piecing it together themselves using a pathetic "trial and error" approach which sucked time away from their primary job functions. How did they managed it? - well, they stayed late for weeks just so they could "catch-up"... (I don't think pizza or dinner was provided to compensate for staying late... bummer!) Yup, their anger is totally understandable.

There was more, but you get the picture - this project was a real mess! Many "pissed-off" users!

From our many "bail 'em out" Microsoft CRM projects, here are some "must haves" to turn around a Microsoft CRM Project from Hell:

1. Client's Executive Management commitment to stick with Microsoft CRM - they understand it is the right CRM package but they just got burnt with substandard implementation.

2. Client needs to hire the best Microsoft CRM resources possible and don't "nickel and dime" such an important project - No professional Microsoft CRM consultant with the "right stuff", will jump into a fire and turn it around "cheap". There are much better opportunities out there for top-notch Microsoft CRM resources without stressing themselves out on these type of projects.

Side note: Most good consultants won’t jump into a “bail-out” situation. It takes a gigantic amount of extra work over and above setting up a new system, not to mention fending off the angry end users' "abusive" comments until things are turned around (could be for a while....). Luckily, most of us don't take it personally because we are professionals...or maybe we’re numb from it all??

3. Client needs to be flexible and don't fight the system. The Microsoft CRM consultant they've hired should be able to present "creative" ways to meet their requirements - that are both affordable and easy for end users to adapt which will maximize end users' acceptance.

To share the happy ending of the story above - it took quite a bit of money, but eventually the client's end users are enjoying their Microsoft CRM v1.2 system and the client's project is highly referenceable!

They are using the exact version 1.2 they started with, except this time it was implemented correctly - painful, expensive but still worth it. Going forward, they don't have to worry about their CRM platform for many years to come, because it will accommodate them as they grow.

Frank Lee
Workopia, Inc.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

How To: Creating Merge Fields within Microsoft CRM v1.2 Workflow

Here is an excellent undocumented knowledge that has been very useful - field merges within Microsoft CRM v1.2 Workflow. I am not talking about using templates either.

Here is an example requirement:

1. Automatically send out an email of any newly created Leads to the Sales Management Team.

2. The Email Subject field needs to contain the Lead's company name and the size of the deal (a custom field in the Lead object); this is not possible using templates

3. The Email Description field needs to contain general Lead record info such as Company Name, Contact Name, Contact Phone Number, Email and Mailing Address

4. The Email To field needs to make out to members of the Sales Management Team; this is not possible using templates

To achieve the above via the out of box Workflow Manager, you can use the following undocumented syntax within any Workflow Rule Activity type definitions:

&[object name].[schema field name];

example>> &lead.companyname;

Just insert this anywhere in the definition.

The area that does not seem to work is in:

1. The Sales Process/Sales Process template definition (under Workflow Opportunity object).

2. Cannot retrieve the Picklist or Boolean field type display value

Enjoy and please comment!

Frank Lee
Workopia, Inc.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

A Must Have: Scribe Software - Data Migration Tool for Microsoft CRM

So, it is the 11th hour on a super big and high visibility Microsoft CRM project and guess what - the client decided they need to migrate a “just identified” legacy system's data over to their new Microsoft CRM (Please note that this is NOT one of our Workopia's clients, but someone else's project that we are lending a hand to help - name will be undisclosed to protect the innocent!) And on top of that - their primary Microsoft CRM consultant on the project is no longer with the company.... You also probably asking how come they "didn't know" about another legacy system earlier??? Oh well...

So, you get the picture - 100% reaction mode!!! No easy way out of this one either, the timeline is FIXED!!! Now, I know the more experienced consultants out there know that this sort of situation happens all the time in our industry (not on my watch!). But, no biggie right! "Just go in and fix it" and if it was easy, they wouldn't need folks like us...

Long story short, the whole team pulled through. I have to say - that the folks I'd worked with on this project exemplified some of the top-notch, get things resolved characters I'd respect. No BSing around, get straight to the point, make the needed decisions and get on with it!

Ok, reading up to this point, you must be asking what the heck does this have to do with Scribe Software??? Well, speaking from my 12+ years of experience in this field, data migration at the 11th hour requires a few "must" haves without one checking oneself into a “mental” motel afterwards:

1. Someone that really knows how the "whole" data migration process works, been in the trenches and SURVIVED so that the team feels confident during the "dark, dark hours" of data migration journey

2. A tool that is quick and easy to work with - so your team doesn't spend time "fighting the tool" and guess which tool I'm talking about and recommend - yup - Scribe Software!!! And make sure that someone in your data migration team KNOWS and is TRAINED on how to use the tool properly.

11th hour on a project and the Scribe tool performs like a champ... I will elaborate more on this later...

3. If you have questions or needed data, your team can get'em ASAP, even fast is not good enough! No long paperwork or time barriers here - can't afford to! If they don't know what they want and can't give you access to it at the 11th hour.... then they ain't gonna get it... (and you should just walk away to avoid being abused!)

OK, so more on Scribe Migration tool - for $495, your client get to use its feature for 45 days, not bad at all! Let's face it, the cost of most data migration project is on the 80/20 rule - 80% on the people's time! So spend the money and get this tool. It is Graphical!!! Mature and Flexible.

Two things on this Microsoft CRM project that Scribe really stood out:

1. Certain field ("responsiblecontactid") in the Case (incident) object is not accessible by the out of box Data Migration Framework (DMF) tool... Oops. But Scribe could.

2. Very flexible as it allows "multiple" ways to bring data in. For example, we've tried one approach but it didn't turn out well AND we don't have much time to trouble-shoot (remember it is the 11th hour!), so we've tried another approach and it worked. This really helps because Scribe doesn't lock you down to one way, and if that way doesn't work, you have "options" - great for the 11th hour project!

Now, what about the out of box Microsoft CRM Data Migration Framework (DMF) vs. Scribe Software tool you'd ask? Here is my take on it:

1. DMF is faster than Scribe since Scribe uses 100% Microsoft CRM SDK to access and manipulate the Microsoft CRM data, how much faster? – I don't know, never benchmark it yet. So, on large data migration volume with millions and millions of records, the speed of DMF maybe of an advantage

2. DMF is not Graphical and thus require more "training", requires more SQL knowledge (not a bad thing for Complex Data Migration projects)

3. DMF is "FREE", well, included with your Microsoft CRM license anyway

So, the bottom-line - I think that if you can use Scribe for your data migration as the first tool option, USE IT, and if it doesn't work then use DMF.

Frank Lee
Workopia, Inc.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Quick Start Guide: Microsoft CRM v1.2 on Microsoft Small Business Server 2003

Here is an excellent document (PDF format) produced by Mighty Microsoft on setting-up Microsoft CRM v1.2 on Microsoft Small Business Server 2003. Guess who contributed to this Microsoft CRM article... (credited on the last page) You guessed it -- yours truly.

Microsoft CRM v1.2 on Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 Quick Start Guide

As with any Microsoft Guide of this type, there is no direct support. However, I will try my best to respond to your posting on our Microsoft CRM Forum where I moderate.

Also here is a link to other good online Microsoft CRM Discussion Forums.

Frank Lee
Workopia, Inc.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Inside MS-CRM Blog

Great link for those readers that like to dig deeper into Microsoft CRM!

Inside MS-CRM by Mike Miller.


How To: Adding a custom field to Microsoft CRM Contact object

This is one of the Microsoft CRM Customization How To Articles that I've written. My aim is for these articles to be very reader friendly (MSCRM beginners and up) with step by step instructions and lots of screen shots.

How To: Adding a custom field to Microsoft CRM Contact object

Enjoy and please comment!