You can do a lot with the configuration and customization toolkit that Microsoft Dynamics CRM offers. With the SDK and some lines of custom code, you can do almost anything. There in between lies the territory where the Dynamics CRM community is helping its members manage some of the commonly required tasks without the need for .NET developer resources. This is done through a wealth of wonderful, free tools that make it easier for anyone working with Dynamics CRM to access the power of the platform without getting their hands dirty in tweaking XML files or learning the right SDK calls.
Many of the tools listed here are a permanent fixture I take along with me to any consulting gig, while some are new entrants to the list. If you’ve been actively reading up the posts on various popular CRM blogs, you may well recognize most of them. However, while I personally spend far too much time on social media channels, I realize that not everyone in the industry has the luxury for such a lifestyle and may have therefore missed out on some tools that could have saved them hours worth of work. Therefore, I decided to compile a “Best Of” post to highlight the 10 tools no CRM consultant should be without. (For anyone wanting to stay on top of the latest tools and solutions I come across, you can either subscribe to my Dynamics CRM Links RSS feed or follow the Surviving CRM page on Google+.)
CRM 2011 User Settings Utility
Download from CodePlex.
When setting up new user accounts in your Dynamics CRM organization, wouldn’t it be nice if the system administrator could set their personal settings to match the policies of the organization as well as the likely preferences of the user in question? Things like Time Zone, Records per Page, Advanced Find mode, default home page etc. can be easily configured for users in bulk with the CRM 2011 User Settings Utility by Amreek Singh.
One particular pet peeve of mine related to the default configuration of Dynamics CRM is that new contact records are automatically created from tracked email sender or recipient addresses not found in the database. Well, with this tool you can stop the users from unintentionally populating your database with partially filled contact records not associated to their proper parent accounts by simply configuring the setting to “No” for all users. Beats having to send everyone instructions by email on how to check their CRM profile settings, doesn’t it?
Download from Sonoma Partners website.
It’s not only the user settings that may require you to pop the hood open on your CRM instance. There is a number of Organization Settings as well as Deployment Settings that can be used to either overcome limitations or alter the default behavior of Dynamics CRM. For example, if you’d like to be able to export all of your contacts records from CRM to Excel and not just the first 10,000 then you’ll be happy to know that changing the MaxRecordsForExportToExcel parameter is a breeze with Universal Settings, no matter if you have an on-premises or CRM Online environment.
Another handy limit you can adjust with the tool is AggregateQueryRecordLimit, which will allow your charts to summarize more than 50,000 records at a time, instead of seeing “the maximum record limit is exceeded” errors. Also very handy if you wish to work with more than 50,000 marketing list members in your campaign target group. Unfortunately this tweak is not available for CRM Online, though, as the setting resides in the deployment table rather than the organization table, which is the only one you can update in the cloud.
We’re now stepping into the world of “Mr. CRM Tools” himself, a.k.a. Tanguy Touzard. His awesome Toolbox for Dynamics CRM 2011 is a collection of the various tools developed over the years to help make Dynamics CRM administration and customization more efficient and enjoyable. By downloading the Toolbox you’ll get a number of great tools, but just to ensure you understand why you need them, let me give a quick intro to my favorite ones.
Adjusting the CRM main page navigation (a.k.a. sitemap) is something that you should always perform after you’ve determined what are the entities your different user groups (sales, marketing, etc.) will need to access and what is the logical arrangement of them in the navigation. Trust me, the right answer is not “the order in which the entities were created” nor “alphabetical”. There’s a number of free sitemap editor tools out there, but since XrmToolbox is such a powerhouse, it makes a lot of sense to use the the same tool that you’ll be using for other tasks in the same organization, as you’ll only need to configure the connection parameters once.
Re-arrange, add, hide, group, rename, do basically whatever you want with the CRM menus with this editor without ever seeing a trace of the solution XML file contents.
The latest addition to XrmToolbox is something every CRM admin from a non-English speaking country can surely appreciate. Since most of us still prefer to use the English base language setting in Dynamics CRM due to the awkward terminology of our native language translations in the customization UI (and any potential technical compatibility quirks that come with it), working with the “export/import labels for translation” process is all too familiar to us. Hunting down those strings in the unstructured output file isn’t very pleasant, which is where Easy Translator comes in handy. You’ll get a nicely arranged Excel with just the types of labels you’ve selected for export, which reduces the amount of trial & error in translating fields, values and form labels to the language of your choice. [Read more…]