CRM 2011 – Improvements for CRM 2011 – The CRM 2011 gripe list

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.


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.

4. Javascript is completely different

Microsoft completely changed the way the Javascript worked and this was a massive learning curve for me.  It was basically a case of all the Javascript your used before will soon not be supported (although it will for the first couple of years).  Basically you need to be using the new Javascript way of coding and actually once you do you will learn to appreciate the improvements.  The reason I have mentioned it here is because it’s just very different and to begin with this makes it difficult.    Almost every week the most popular blog post (out of 227) is almost always – CRM 2011 – Javascript basics, although I would also recommend the Javascript cheat sheet blog entry and the comparison between Javascript CRM 4 and CRM 2011 .  The point I am trying to make here is practically every developer needs help with Javascript coding because the fundamentals have changed and Microsoft have not provided many examples to help you.

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 – 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

13 thoughts on “CRM 2011 – Improvements for CRM 2011 – The CRM 2011 gripe list

  1. Jamie Miley May 9, 2011 / 2:19 pm

    I don’t quite understand on #6. The fetchXML report It’s something that was added to address the fact that you could not do a custom SSRS report in CRM 4.0 Online because you couldn’t talk to SQ Server. For on-premise you can still use filtered views, but this does add a lot where there was just no options previously. (Besides the report wizard, but don’t get me started on that)


    • Hosk May 9, 2011 / 3:06 pm

      Well what I was trying to say is it is good you can paste the FetchXML into SSRS the only problem is it involves lots of downloading XML files and pasting it into a report window and then renaming aliases. It feels like a workaround and added onto the side of SSRS. Rather than Microsoft actually integrating it properly into SSRS (e.g. why can’t we do the advanced find in SSRS).

      It’s a small grip on something that is an improvement, if that makes any sense?!


  2. LaughingJohn May 9, 2011 / 2:32 pm

    I would add alternative browser support very high up that list too!


  3. Nick May 9, 2011 / 7:16 pm

    Thanks! While I like what I see in CRM 2011, there are a few things I don’t like. I just spent a day trying to figure out how pre-filtering works in FetchXML reporting and still don’t have definite answers (the documentation around this is lacking). Also, call me old fashioned, but I hate the ribbon. Give me a good old menu anyday.


  4. Jamie Miley May 9, 2011 / 7:49 pm

    I can agree with that. BIDS itself is in terrible need of an upgrade in general. I think that is part of the problem. I hope once Denali or whatever they are calling the new SQL Server addresses this.

    As for your comment LaughingJohn, I think it would be a cool idea. It’s really annoying for MAC users who need to use parallels in order to use CRM. Not to mention I am so in love with Chrome it’s not even funny. Everything is just faster with Chrome, it’s made me really impatient when it comes to other browsers.


  5. Jukka Niiranen May 9, 2011 / 9:06 pm

    Good article and I agree with many of the pain points mentioned. The dialog limitation boggles the mind, as does the inability to add dynamic URLS to entities in workflow emails. Yes, there are workarounds, but CRM Online is becoming the new default and things are still a bit more limited on that front.

    Support for other browsers than Internet Explorer is really turning into a major handicap for Dynamics CRM these days when most other web apps are indifferent of the browser they are used with. The end user will simply not understand why he can’t open his CRM Online invitation email link in his default browser, which is increasingly Chrome or Firefox. With the recent announcement from Microsoft on the release roadmap for Dynamics CRM beyond 2011 RTM, it looks like we would see a HTML5 UI by Q2/2012 release the latest. Q4/2011 will introduce some new features already, but I’m not getting my hopes up on the browser issue being something that could be fixed in less than one year schedule.

    Regarding the Dynamics Marketplace, I don’t really see the certification process being a big issue for CRM community content distribution. The reason is exactly what you have mentioned: there’s no lockdown from Microsoft’s part on releasing open source code and enhancements through other working channels, such as Codeplex. I can totally understand why the quality standards for the official Marketplace are higher (well, at least the process is more formal), since many of the users browsing the content over there will not be Dynamics CRM professionals, but rather key users of the CRM solution at the customer’s business. What they should be exposed to is “safe” downloads that can be expected to work as products on top of the core Dynamics CRM platform, just like in the app stores that have become familiar to them on their smartphones. The CRM developer community and the consultants are a different audience that will surely be able to find free plugins and sample scripts for their projects through other existing channels.


  6. LaughingJohn May 10, 2011 / 12:17 pm

    Here’s a couple more:

    1. Better debugging support for Plugins (and workflows when they arrive). The only way I’ve found to debug the damn things is to throw an exception and look at the trace. Hardly ideal.
    2. Being able to set optionset values using the label and retrieve the label value without any extra calls (I think you mentioned that in another post).



  7. LaughingJohn May 10, 2011 / 12:17 pm

    I should add I was referring to 2011 online with the debug support suggestion


  8. Massimo May 10, 2011 / 2:29 pm

    Regarding Dialogs, I’d add these:

    — You can only execute a dialog against an exisiting record. So to use a dialog to create a record you have to use a dummy record.
    — You cannot open dialogs to external users. It is only open to CRM users. So self-help scenarios cannot be met (and add to that lack of other browser support)
    — When you call a child dialog, you cannot add any other steps afterwards. So a child dialog can only be the last step, but worst, you cannot use the Previous button to go back from child to parent. So the whole hierarchy is of little use. So I cannot do something like this: Define a standard dialog to be reused in other dialogs to say get a client’s address.
    — No persistence: If the browser is closed, you lose your session
    — You cannot hand over the a running dialog to another person (very common in Call Centers)
    — Calls to WF are async, so I cannot call a WF to run something (e.g. query some external system or service) and based on the result, ask a different question in the dialog


  9. Fergus Prone May 11, 2011 / 9:47 am

    Re: Regarding Dialogs.

    To get around the issue of only being able to execute dialogs against an existing record it is possible to register the dialog against the systemuser entity as all sessions will have this record. We have employed this technique to create records from dialogs without the need for dummy records and then add a ribbon button to launch the dialog.


  10. Mike May 11, 2011 / 3:09 pm

    State Drop Down List
    Multiple Browser Capability
    Transfer of Lead Notes to Opp and Account (Seriously this should be so obvious)
    Data Import Process is still so unrealiable, cumbersome


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