I will start this blog post by saying I love CRM 2011 and all of it’s improvements. I think it’s a great improvement from CRM 4 and is the start of Microsoft dominating the CRM scene, especially when you combine it with the improved online support (e.g. loads of servers to host CRM 2011 online with) and the fantastic monthly subscription offers it is enticing people with (big easy offer etc). I will also mention that although this is a list of things which I can be improved, if I had written the list for CRM 4 it would be considerably larger.
but CRM 2011 is far from perfect and has lots of room for improvement and today I was thinking about what is missing.
1. NO AUTO NUMBER
yes I had to write that in capitals because it’s so totally crazy that Microsoft has not added in an auto numbering facility in entities other than accounts and orders. Seriously do you not think an auto numbering system wouldn’t be useful in other entities??? So instead I have to write an auto number plugin and thousands of other people also have to do it.
2. Online reduced functionality – no LINQ or custom workflows
I appreciate it is a great leap forward that we can have plugins in CRM 2011 online but the things we aren’t allowed seem very prohibitive. It seems with one hand CRM 2011 gives us LINQ and other enhancements and then with the other hand you are told you can’t use LINQ with CRM 2011 plugins and you also can’t have custom workflows with CRM 2011. Personally this involved me rewriting the plugin’s and replacing the LINQ queries with query expressions.
3. Dialogs – You can’t save dates or bits
I have written a blog post – Dialogs can’t store dates, which basically tells you can’t stores Dates, bits or lookups. I do love dialogs and they are a great improvement it just seems the functionality needs a bit of polishing.
5. No small enhancements from the CRM community
Microsoft have added the marketplace but because it’s going to cost you a few thousand pounds to certify your plugin, accelerator this has basically destroyed the app market place. The alternative is to try and sell your application on your own website or give it away free on codeplex. I will personally say there is a fantastic amount of brilliant work given away free on codeplex by the CRM community and I am very grateful for that because it has saved me hours of work (just last week I was using a brilliant audit plugin for CRM 4 – https://crmbusiness.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/free-audit-plugin-for-crm-4/) I have also mentioned many CRM 2011 codeplex plugins on my blog. The point I am making is rather than creating a system where these people could be rewarded in a small amount for each person using the plugin (e.g. apple app type scenario) Microsoft has basically stopped this by making the certification process cost so much.
6. Reporting in CRM 2011 and Bids/Fetch XML reporting
This seems an odd thing to add to a list of improvements but I have used the new bids reporting in CRM 2011 and although it is easier than using XML it also isn’t straight forward. Firstly it takes a bit of time to setup and then I had problems with custom reports not working. The major problem I have is the fetch xml you create whilst doing an advanced find it’s really linked to the reporting software. You have to export the advanced find, download it and then copy it somewhere else and then paste it. On top of that the reporting software in CRM 2011 is far behind the leading the reporting software out there (Business objects/cognos etc).
7. CRM ASYNC Service still a potential problem
The CRM Async service is great, it does all the CRM processing in the background whilst not affecting the main CRM web application. This is a great system until something goes wrong and then all of a sudden CRM Async jobs are backing up and being suspended and you realise how reliant you are on the service. You will also notice that it seems the ASYNC table slowly fills up and starts to clog up (unless you run a piece of SQL to clear the table).
I’m sure there are some other areas which CRM 2011 could be improved but off the top of my head I can’t think of them whilst I a writing this blog post. I would be interested to hear if anyone else has anything else they don’t like about CRM 2011