Archive for March 31, 2010

Using the Outlook Add-In for Dynamics CRM in Office 2010 Beta

My risk barometer may be a bit skewed – I’ll be the first to admit that. Anyway, please don’t be shocked when I tell you that I decided to try uninstalling Office Professional 2010 Beta from my business PC because I wanted to switch from 64-bit back to 32-bit.

Why would I do such a thing, knowing full well that Beta products are notoriously difficult to uninstall? Simple – I love the Outlook Add-In for Dynamics CRM. Without it, I just don’t use the thing (i.e. I forget to share valuable information with my colleagues). The Outlook Add-In only works with 32 –bit Outlook clients. I decided it was worth the hassle, and I might learn something.

First question: how difficult is it to uninstall Office 2010 Beta?

Usually, there is a quite a bit of information out there on the web about challenges related to uninstalling a beta product. However, that information is not out there. There is an FAQ sheet which recommends that you simply Uninstall the software from the Programs and Features section of Control Panel – you know, like this was an RTM release. It can’t be that easy, I said.

Actually, pretty close. I also had Visio 2010 and Project 2010 Beta installed – that was the only catch. I was not aware (and still am not certain) that there is a preferred order to this. What I did was:

1. Uninstalled Office 2010 Professional Plus Beta

2. Restarted the machine

3. Attempted to Install Office 2010 Beta for 32 –bit. This complained that I still had 64 bit components, namely Project and Visio. So…

4. Uninstalled Project 2010 – the installer complained that it was not able to finish

5. Uninstalled Visio 2010 – again the installer complained that it was not able to finish

6. Restarted the machine

7. Installed Office 2010 Professional Plus for 32-bit

I did not get any complaints on the install of 32-bit and everything seems to be working well. Even Communicator is happy again – no Outlook Integration errors.

Right now, I am downloading Project and Visio 2010 for 32-bit – I’ll update this accordingly if I discover an issue.

Invalid Action Response from Microsoft CRM 4.0

My Marketing team was suddenly experiencing issues with our production CRM, reporting “Invalid Action” in the UI.

When I took a look at the Event Log I saw quite a few error entries that looked like this:

Event Type:    Error
Event Source:    MSCRMKeyGenerator
Event Category:    None
Event ID:    18949
Date:        6/11/2008
Time:        4:59:35 PM
User:        N/A
Computer:    D-4526
Description:
Current active key (KeyType : CrmWRPCTokenKey) is expired.  This can indicate that a key is not being regenerated properly.  Current Active Key : CrmKey(Id:6e254808-b21d-dd11-9041-001d7d22e1af, ScaleGroupId:00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000, KeyType:CrmWRPCTokenKey, Expired:True, ValidOn:05/09/2008 10:23:58, ExpiresOn:06/11/2008 10:23:58, CreatedOn:05/09/2008 10:23:58, CreatedBy:NT AUTHORITY\NETWORK SERVICE.  Key Setting

At first I questioned whether or not we were using a Trial License Key, but this was not the case. In the end, I found Nishant’s blog on bing:

http://nishantrana.wordpress.com/2008/06/11/invalid-action-error-microsoft-dynamics-crm-40/

Thanks a bunch to Nishant for blogging this fix for me!

5 Quick Illustrations of Document Management in SharePoint

Here is another write-up I did today for a BlumShapiro client. This time, our client is looking for us to illustrate (for the Board of Directors) what the new Document Repository will look like after we migrate the company’s obtuse File Share to SharePoint Online. Rather than try to read his mind, we decided to focus on common pain points which we have seen with other clients, and focus in on how SharePoint solves these problems. Hopefully this is both extremely succinct and will provide food for thought.

When analyzing a file share which is “departmentally managed”, we see 5 common problems:

1. I am looking for the latest version. How do I know which document is the best?

2. I have new information about Product X. I know where this goes in Product Y’s folder, but they didn’t do the same thing for Product X?

3. I am trying to find all specifications for our products. Where are they?

4. I want to focus on content relevant to me. How can I filter out the things I don’t need?

5. I need to ensure that HR policies are reviewed before release. How can I maintain control of my content without locking my people out?

Here are some easy, innovative solutions which can be quickly achieved with SharePoint Technologies.

Version Control

Documents in a SharePoint library can be versioned. When a document is checked out for revision, it is clearly noted -no more indecision.

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Site Templates

Let’s standardize a simple organizational structure every time we need to create a new product repository. Decide ahead of time what a Product Site looks like and save it as a Site Template. When new sites are created, users will have the opportunity to provision the site using a template which prescribes the preferred document organization, or Taxonomy.

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Content Types

A content type gives definition to unstructured content.

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This has three important benefits:

· Document managers can enforce metadata standards, workflow policies and even assign a document template for content which is frequently re-created

· Content Authors can add metadata directly within Office 2007 clients. The Document Information Panel (DIP) provides seamless integration between content types defined in SharePoint and the user’s experience of authoring content in Word or Excel.

· Content Browsers can quickly find all documents of a certain type (regardless of library or site location) through the use of the Content Query Web Part. For example, a Product Specification Web Part will display all content defined as a “Product Specification”, effectively making a “one-stop-shop” for all company product specs, wherever they are stored.

Views

Document attributes, such as those we defined for our content types above, can be used to create custom views which enable ready access to documents which meet certain criteria. Now, instead of hundreds of spreadsheets, I see only the ones I need regularly. This filtering method is much easier to implement than a complex hierarchy of folders.

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Workflow

Some content managers may require a formal workflow process for documents saved to a particular location, or any content within the corporate intranet which is defined as a “Policy”. Utilizing a simple Approval Workflow, content managers can maintain control over the documents published to SharePoint; new versions do not appear to Read-Only users until they are approved.

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Fearing the Cloud

I had an interesting discussion with a client yesterday about Microsoft Online Services. This is a client whom I have been advising for about a month now. At first glance, they appeared to be an excellent candidate for moving productivity services (email, portals, collaboration, IM, etc.) off-premise, chiefly because they were far, far behind on the Application Platform IO model, and really needed to keep technology squarely focused on supporting the core business functions. I have been a strong proponent of Microsoft Online Services and, after evaluating the Exchange Hosted Encryption capabilities to support their HIPPA HITECH requirements, the senior management team was in full agreement.

Then something happened. The HIPPA Audit services firm stepped in and raised concerns about the Cloud in general, questioning whether or not it should be considered a Mature Technology. This motivated the COO to do some research; he discovered this article about the concerns which Cloud Computing Technology raises:

http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9171438/Why_is_cloud_computing_hard_Top_tech_execs_explain?taxonomyId=17&pageNumber=1

The article is even-handed, I think, with no obvious bias towards Google, Amazon, Microsoft, or any particular technology platform. To the authors point, cloud technology forces senior technology executives to confront some challenging concepts, most importantly security. Most CIO’s that I know could not explain PKI security in even the simplest terms – the same goes SSL, certificates, Trusted Root Authorities, etc. Instead, they rely upon technologists and security professionals to confirm for them that “the data is secure”.

However, I would respectfully submit that the majority of concerns around security are rooted in application development scenarios, not email. Email and other communications services have existed in multi-tenant environments for a decade or so now. Microsoft Online Services offers a significant step-up in Operations and Security from Free, Online Services at a small step-up in cost.

From my perspective, there are 2 significant challenges:

First, cloud providers must ensure that the application framework they are providing (for Microsoft, this is the Azure platform) can ensure isolation. Microsoft is betting the house that they can provide this.

The challenge that arises for application developers is that, quite frankly, custom application development projects are often extremely sloppy. The final deliverable depends upon having strict control over the hardware; the “configuration” is not neatly packaged into a single configuration file – there are often system dependencies in the registry, on the file system, etc.

So yes, the cloud is challenging to application development teams: they need to re-orient their thinking to accommodate the fact that they cannot walk up to the server and fix configuration issues.

I’m interested in your thoughts on this.