Extreme CRM 2012 Wrapup
October 3, 2012 – Another October, another Extreme CRM. This was my third Extreme, and their best attended conference yet with nearly 500 attendees. John Verdon, Bryan Tuttle et al: thanks for the best Extreme yet!
I presented on two topics: Goal-Oriented CRM, and Advanced Topics in Business Processes. There was some talk about posting the slide decks, and although I can’t find them on the site now I’ll post an update when I do. Both of my sessions were on Tuesday (10/2) and then I ended the day chairing a panel discussion with some of my favorite people: Barry Givens of Avanade, Steve Neil of Grand Canyon University and Josh Behl of Summit Group Software. I was a little tired after that but I rallied and had what I thought was excellent Korean BBQ with my friend Jonathan Lee (Jonathan Lee of the Riics Corporation, that is), who only thought it was average and promised to show me really good Korean BBQ back in Chicago.
As I was waiting for my return flight in McCarren Airport, I had a few minutes so I wrote a quick summary of my Extreme CRM 2012 highlights.
First, from the Goals Session
One apparent limitation of goals is the hardwired nature of the goal period. Consider the following figure:
How can a goal with a name like “Daily Page Views, Q4 2012? have a time period from 10/1 to 12/31? The problem here is that these dates are hardwired: you have to put actual date values in the From and To fields, and cannot use any date functions like Today, This Week and so forth. Daily page views are definitely goal-worthy…but are they worth creating 365 separate goal records? Doubtful!
Fortunately, we can use a Rollup Query to solve the problem. Here’s the Goal Criteria section of this goal’s form:
And here’s what the rollup query looks like:
Cool, right? In this case, the from and to dates don’t determine the page view records that roll up to the goal; these are determined by the more binding constraint in the rollup query, where we can use date functions such as Today. This is a good example of when you need a rollup query. Sometimes they narrow the rollup recordset, sometimes they broaden it – obviously, here the rollup query narrows it down to just what we want: today’s page views.
One attendee asked how you’d track the history of these “dynamic” goals. Good question! Answer: because this is a strange kind of goal, that’s not “out of the box” so to speak. That is: normally a goal is for the hard-wired period supplied by the from and to dates. In those cases, you can deactivate the goal at the end of the period, and that causes rollups to stop happening, and gives you your historical data point of how you did against the goal. In this dynamic style goal, you lose that snapshot feature, at least as far as the goal record goes. But it’s not much of a loss, since you have the page views data on which the goal is based. (I haven’t been publishing much on http://www.DynamicsCRMTrickBag.com lately, so it’s too embarrassing to show my daily page views, but they’re all there!)
I wrote up a more complete treatment of Goal Criteria and Dynamic Goals if you want more info on that topic.
Second, on Workflows
Ever wonder what the In function does in the workflow designer?
Well, to tell you the truth, I always wondered about that too! Today, I (finally) learned what it does, courtesy of Bryan Tuttle. (Thanks Bryan!) Suppose you want to assign new accounts based on which state they’re in. WA, OR, ID, CA, AZ, AK and NV go to the west coast rep, TX and OK go to the Texas rep, and so forth. An In condition will be satisfied if the value of the state field is any of those values. Think of it as a semi-colon delimited list, and the condition will return true if the value on the record is in the list. There’s a Not In, also. Well…how about that? One of the most popular new feature requests for Dynamics CRM (on http://connect.microsoft.com ) is available in the workflow designer but not in advanced find!
This is worth a more complete treatment; more on this one later!
Best in Show
Normally I rush out at the end of a conference, but not today (thanks to United somehow coming up with a $500 fare difference between the 5:50 flight I was scheduled on and the 3:30 flight I wanted to switch to). Fortunately, it gave me a chance for some in-depth conversations with ISVs that I wouldn’t otherwise have had. Two in particular I thought were very impressive:
Visionary Software Consulting has a very impressive application called CRM Rules! for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. They describe it as “the Jscript Generator”, and say it allows you to “customize CRM 2011 form behavior without coding”…and that’s a pretty good description. Essentially, you can make declarative customizations (similar to no-code customization of CRM forms) to do the following:
Basically, you define the conditions you want to check for, associate them with form events, and then specify the actions that should take place when they’re satisfied. CRM Rules! generates the Jscript web resources, associates them with the appropriate form (multiple form support no problem!), and you can publish when ready. They have pre-built actions for all of the dynamic form stuff you’d need (hide/show fields, change field requirement settings, hide/show sections, hide/show tabs, populate fields from parent records, perform math functions on fields to create a calculated field, populate dependent picklists…), but then they’ve added a bunch of other cool stuff and are adding more (total up values for fields on child records, for example).
After a 30-minute demo, my impression is that CRM Rules! will definitely be accessible to a power user, say, the kind of skillset you’d need to be productive in the workflow designer. I’ve got a client now, for example, that wants the case form dynamically customized according to various values entered by the user…and wants a no-code customization approach, accessible to power users, to create the rules-driven customizations. I’ve been thinking about that requirement for weeks, and I think CRM Rules! pretty much has it.
Mscrm-addons.com is another application that addresses a very well defined requirement, and appears to do a very good job of it. In this case the requirement can be easily stated: create presentation-quality documents from information on Dynamics CRM records. The out of the box Word mail merge is quite complex even for a relatively simple scenario (e.g., merging information from the single contact entity to create labels or emails), and if you need to include lists of related child records (e.g., a quote or order form)…fugedaboudit, as they say in the Bronx or wherever it is they say that. The DocumentsCorePack template builder is super-clearn, and lets you easily insert fields from the primary record, parent records or records with an N:N relationship. It also lets you insert tables of related child records, with sub-totals, and lets you create calculated fields (e.g., concatenating text fields, performing basic math functions on numeric and so forth).
And as with CRM Rules!, productivity with DocumentsCorePack does not require code and will be within the reach of the power-user set.
The Best of the Rest
In the previous section I zeroed in on CRM Rules! and DocumentsCorePack because they’re good, but also because they’re new to me. There were plenty of other great add-ons at the show, of course, including:
- ClickDimensions for email marketing, marketing automation and social integration. If you’ve read any of the many articles I’ve written about this application, you already know how much I like it so I won’t risk raving more about it here.
- Shan McArthur, a founder and principal of Adxstudio and the smartest CRM guy I know, scolded me for never including their portal product in the CRM add-on surveys I push out from time to time. I told him he’d have to think up a way I can frame a survey question so that AdxStudio would have competitors, since a category with only one add-on isn’t very interesting. Seriously, though: AdxStudio is the best (only?) product in a niche that’s going to blow up in the next couple of years (customer/partner portals with Dynamics CRM on the back end, with the contact as the security principle).
- Resco.NET. The only native iPhone mobile app that works like an iPhone mobile app should. (search for contact; touch to dial; complete call; record closed phone call activity.)