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Introduction to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Plugins

Posted by Nitin Dhawan on July 4, 2012

Introduction
Whenever we need to extend the OOB functionality of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. We can write custom plugins which can run before an event performs it operations and after an event completes its operations. It can be executed synchronously or asynchronously from managed queue. With the help, can perform data validations; integrate with other legacy applications, auto number generations and writing complex business logic. We can write custom plugin in Microsoft .net 4.0 framework writing code in Microsoft C# or VB .net.
 
We can register the Plugin or custom workflow activity using Plugin Registration tool. It can be registered in online and offline mode [Microsoft Dynamics CRM for Outlook with offline access client]. However, registering custom workflow activities with Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is not supported using the registration tool.
 
The Plug-in Registration tool is provided as a source code sample in the Tools folder of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM SDK download. Review the instructions provided in the Tools/Plugin Registration/Readme.docx file for more information about the tool and instructions on how to build the tool.
 
Framework
The Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 event processing subsystem executes plug-ins based on a message pipeline execution model. A user action or an SDK method call or other application results in a message being sent to the organization Web service contains business entity and core operation information. The message is passed through the event execution pipeline where it can be read or modified by the platform core operation and any registered plug-ins.
 
The below figure depicts the overall architecture of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 platform with respect to both synchronous and asynchronous event processing:
 
 
 
The plugins registered synchronously will be executed immediately whereas plugins registered asynchronous will be queued with asynchronous service and executed later. The event pipeline is divided into 5 stages are as follows:
 
Stage# Stage Stage Name Description
10 Pre Event Pre Validation – It execute before the main system operation.
– It may execute outside the database transaction.
– The pre-validation stage occurs prior to security checks being performed to verify the calling or logged on user has the correct permissions to perform the intended operation.
20 Pre Event Pre Operation – It execute before the main system operation.
– It could be executed in the database transaction.
30 Platform Core Operation Main Operation – This stage used for internal use only.
– It handles main operation such as create, update, delete etc.
– No custom plugins can be registered in this stage.
40 Post Event Post Operation – This Stage execute after the main operation.
– It could be executed in the database transaction
50 Post Event Post Operation [Deprecated] – This Stage execute after the main operation.
– This stage only supports Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 plugins.
 
The Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 execution pipeline is organization specific. Server can host multiple organizations. There will be virtual pipeline for every organization. This means a plugin must be registered with each organization execution where it has to execute. We can register plugin in sandbox or outside sandbox. The difference if plugin registered within sandbox [known as partial trust] it will not have access to external endpoints other case if plugin registered outside the sandbox [known as full trust] it will support on-premise and Internet facing deployments. Whereas for online deployment plugin must be registered in sandbox only.

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Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Beta Released :)

Posted by Nitin Dhawan on September 9, 2010

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 has a many improvements. As, I have alreday shared many features in different posts on this blog. I will be highlighting all new excisting key feature with usability, advantages and disadvantages in next up comming days on my blog.So Get Ready for a new wonderfull journey with full flying colors.
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Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 – Key Features
Key Features – Productive through improved navigational features.
– Tighter integration with Microsoft Office Excel and Outlook.
– Collaborative by using Microsoft SharePoint.
– Insightful by using public and private dashboards.
– Responsive through improved business process automation.
Navigational Feature Provides new functionality which enables users to more easily navigate throughout the application. For example, if a user were on a particular Account, they could navigate to a different account they owned from the form without having to leave the record and open a separate Account window.
In-record browsing Users can view their most recently viewed records and views.
-HELP- Users can get help easier. By using the Getting Started pane, users can now access tips on how to use a particular application feature or even watch a video on how to use that feature..
Personalization 2011 enables users to better use the application in relation to their job role or roles. With the help of
– Personal dashboards
– Personal default views
– Roles based forms..
Visualizations Users can evaluate data graphically by using charts and graphs available on any personal of public view. This functionality is also available on personalized and public dashboards.
Connections Users can link different records together i.e. connections can be made between any entities.
Recurring Activities Create recurring appointments which can be synced with 2011 Outlook client.
Goal Management Identify, create, and track progress against individual or business specific goals. Using this feature we can track sales, service and marketing goals.
Easier form customizations – Drag fields on the customization form.
– Add, move and delete navigation items to the left navigational area through the customization interface.
– Create custom attributes and relationships from the Microsoft Dynamics CRM customization form directly.
– Change attribute level properties directly from the customization form.
– Configure field level security and roll based forms i.e. Can be configured to have one interface for the sales team and one interface for the customer service team
Option Sets [Picklists] Option Sets can be used on one or more forms i.e. Can also create globally available JScripts which are made available to any entity within the Microsoft Dynamic CRM deployment.
Solution management – The solution provider can control which customizations are modifiable and which customization are not.
– This solution record can be separately imported or exported and managed separately from other Microsoft Dynamics CRM customizations.
– Manage third-party solutions or externally created customizations within their environment.
Current Tools Suport Tools such as:
– Visual Studio 2008/2010
– Microsoft SQL Server 2008
– Windows Azure.
Dialogs – Dialogs and Workflows are part of the “Process” functionality in Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
– Dialogs enable a user to use a “wizard-like” interface to answer questions.
Hardware and software requirements The Microsoft Dynamics CRM Server and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 on x64 operating systems and hardware.
Record ownership by teams Users can assign records and views to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Teams i.e. to control the access of a group of people to a particular record orview, the record or view can be assigned to a team and members can then be added to that team.
Record auditing – Users can view audit history for any particular record.
– customizers can configure the auditing for an entity or an attribute within that entity through the customization module.
Productivity Features – Personalizing Home page
– Tracking recently viewed records and modules
– Easier previewing of records
– “In record” browsing without needing multiple windows open.
– Microsoft® Excel® style views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM views
– Faster learning with Getting Started pane
Collaboration – Users and customizers will be able to incorporate and interact with already existing SharePoint sites and take advantage of the collaboration tools native to SharePoint.
– Can create record specific folders.
NOTE: This is achiveable in 4.0 through code and third party utilities. In 2011, Its a inbuilt functionality.
Analysis and Visualizations – Can create personal inline graphs and charts to better analyze and report on data as preferred.
– Users can now interact with views much like they can with Excel spreadsheets.
– Addition of custom column by column filtering and conditional formatting, users can access and view information as needed and provide a deeper level of insight.
Connections Users can make their own connections between any entities as in MSCRM 4.0 could make loosely coupled connections between Accounts, Contacts, and Opportunities.
Recurring Activities Users can now create recurring activities in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. This functionality will resemble what a user would experience in Microsoft Outlook.
Goal Management Users can create goals for users or teams not just for sales numbers, but on almost any kind of metric.
Customization and Extensibility – Provides a robust default user experience for both the built-in and custom components configured for a solution.
– Default user experience can then be additionally customized for specific solution requirements by using the extensibility hooks.
– Many of these customizations can be performed by using the form and view editors and do not require code i.e. “layout on forms”, “columns on views” and “even sub grids to display related data inline on a form can all be created using Web-based editors and do not require code.
– JScript to handle form events.
– Web Resources can have many content types including HTML, images and SilverLight.
– Silverlight controls that are added to forms run inline and have full access to interact with the form.
– Navigation is a key part of the user experience guiding the user to the solution features by using intuitive paths.
Form Customization Improvement – Reusing global customizations such as JScripts, picklists, and other resources across multiple entities.
– Web Resources which lets organizations register, embed, and consume content such as images, HTML, Silverlight controls, JScripts, style sheets such as CSS and XSL files, and other various resources within Microsoft Dynamics CRM forms.
– Dragging attributes on to the form or to even move fields and sections easily from one location on the form to another.
– Filtered grids (views)
– Record modification auditing
– Field Level security
Customization Management Features Ability to group customizations by Solutions .
i.e customizers can import a specific solution and uninstall that solution without affecting existing customizations such as clientside script, picklist values, and form customizations.
Extensibility features Can extend through:
– Visual Studio
– Windows Workflow Foundation 4 on on-primise deployment.
– Windows Communication Foundation
– Inclusion of the REST Endpoint (Representational State Transfer)for AJAX
– Silverlight
– LINQ [.Net Language-Integrated Query for writing queries].
– Ability to interact with the Windows Azure Platform through coupling the Microsoft Dynamics CRM event execution pipeline to the AppFabric Service Bus in the cloud.
Processes: Dialogs and Workflows Processes include Workflows and Dialogs.
Dialogs Dialogs are synchronous processes and require user inputs to run until they are completed. When you run these processes, a wizard-like interface is presented to the user to make appropriate selections in the wizard pages based on requirements..

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Migration and Upgrade Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 to 2011

Posted by Nitin Dhawan on July 16, 2010

Solution Management The concept is quite powerful as it allows components to be layered on to the base system but also on top of other solutions (i.e. when there are inter-dependencies). It also provides a way to protect the intellectual property of the components in your solution and includes change management and versioning.
Plug-In Transaction Support In CRM 4.0 you could register a plug-in to run either before (pre-event) or after (post-event) the CRM platform operation. However, you were not able to run as part of the transaction itself, so you had to write your own compensation logic in the event the CRM platform operation failed. CRM 5.0 addresses this limitation, and you can now choose to register you plug-in as part of the platform operation. The CRM 5.0 plug-in registration tool has been modified to support this.
Automatic Plug-In Profiling CRM 5.0 will keep track of how a plug-in is executing, what resources it consumes, if it is causing unexpected exceptions and whether or not it is violating security constraints. If a particular plug-in fails a number of times it is automatically disabled from executing, helping to maintain system integrity.
ADO.Net Data Services and .Net RIA services support Enables an easier data access for web applications, AJAX and Silverlight
Workflow Up gradation
Workflows in CRM 4.0 will be migrated automatically to CRM 5.0 as part of the upgrade process.
Running workflow instances in CRM 4.0 will resume at the point they were stopped once the upgrade process has completed.
Custom workflow activities written for CRM 4.0 will continue to run in CRM 5.0 after migration, and will be wrapped by the new WF interop activity.
Also can replace Plug Ins by Workflow since workflows provides Pre and Post Image as wells as Input and Output parameter in Workflow Context.
Claims based Authentication and Federation CRM 5.0 will enable us to integrate transparently authentication with other applications either On-Premise or on the Cloud.
Unstructured Relationships CRM 5.0 allows you to define ad-hoc relationships between any two entities.
Team Ownership Entities in CRM 4.0 were either User Owned or Organization Owned. Now Team Owned entities are added in CRM5, and integrated into the role-based security model.
Native SharePoint Integration Integration with Windows SharePoint Services for document management, which includes site and document library provisioning, document metadata, item security, and check-in/check-out capabilities.
Others
User friendly analytical tool which includes new dashboards.
Tighter integration with Outlook
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Release dates for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011

Posted by Nitin Dhawan on July 16, 2010

Microsoft is gearing up to provide early adopters with the Beta development milestone of the next iteration of Dynamics CRM in just a couple of months. At the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2010, the Redmond company demonstrated the new capabilities that are in stored for the evolution of its next-generation customer relationship management (CRM) solution. According to the software giant, customers will get to try the Beta of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 in September 2010.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Beta Drops in September 2010
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Microsoft Demonstrates Next-Generation CRM Release at Worldwide Partner Conference
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Microsoft Launches Preview of Dynamics CRM 2011

Posted by Nitin Dhawan on March 25, 2010

Microsoft has delivered a new Community Technology preview (CTP) of the next generation of the company’s Microsoft Dynamics CRM software, codenamed “CRM5.” It’s preview Released Worldwide, On Premises and Online.
Microsoft Dynamics “CRM5” Technology Preview Released Worldwide, On Premises and Online
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Microsoft Releases Technical Preview of Next Generation of Microsoft Dynamics CRM
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Microsoft Unveils Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011
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Adding alternating row color to SSRS report

Posted by Nitin Dhawan on June 27, 2009

Steps:

  1. Goto Report Designer in SSRS Solution
  2. Go to the table row’s BackgroundColor property and choose “Expression”
  3. Add expression

             =IIf(RowNumber(Nothing) Mod 2 = 0, "Green", "Transparent")

With this approach we can target any area in report.

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Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 built on .NET 4.0

Posted by Nitin Dhawan on June 23, 2009

Microsoft Corp. is enhancing Windows Server including key components in the .NET Framework 4.0 release by adding significant functionality to the next version of WCF and WWF. The company is also introducing a set of enhanced Windows Server application server capabilities code-named “Dublin,” which offer greater scalability and easier manageability, and will extend Internet Information Services (IIS) to provide a standard host for applications that use workflow or communications.Taken together, these enhancements to the Windows Server application server will simplify the deployment, configuration, management and scalability of composite applications, while allowing developers to use their existing skills with Visual Studio, the .NET Framework and IIS. This new application server capability will be delivered as a separate release of technologies that can be downloaded and used by Windows Server customers. The first preview is available at Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference, Oct. 27–30, 2008, and the exact timing of beta and release-to-market will be based on customer and partner feedback from this community technology preview (CTP).
Windows Communication Foundation 4.0 Windows Workflow Foundation 4.0 Windows Server “Dublin” technologies
Representational state transfer (REST) enhancements
• Simplified building of RESTful services
• Templates to accelerate building Singleton & Collection Services, Atom Feed and Publishing Protocol Services, and HTTP Plain XML Services
Messaging enhancements
• Protocols: WS-Discovery, WS-I BP 1.2
• Duplex durable messaging Correlation enhancements
• Content- and context-driven, one-way support
Declarative workflow services
• Seamless integration between WWF and WCF and unified Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML) model
• Ability to build an entire application in XAML, from presentation to data to services to workflow
Significant improvements in performance and scalability
• Performance gains in all aspects of WWF at design time and runtime
• At least a tenfold improvement in performance
• Improvements in serialization performance and size needs
New workflow flow-control models and prebuilt activities
• New flowchart control model
• Expanded built-in activities: Windows PowerShell, database, messaging, etc.
Enhancements in workflow modeling
• Persistence control, transaction flow, compensation support, data binding and variable/argument scoping
Updated visual designer
• Easier to use by end users
• Easier to rehost by ISVs
• Ability to debug XAML
Provides standard host for WWF and WCF applications
Prebuilt developer services
• Message-based correlation
• Content-based message forwarding service
• Visual Studio templates
Greater scalability and easier manageability
• Enables scale-out of stateful workflow applications
• Enhanced management and monitoring functions
• Tracking store for workflow events
Supports a set of Microsoft’s forthcoming modeling technologies currently code-named “Oslo”
What plans does Microsoft or third-party ISVs have for offering products that support the .NET Framework 4.0 and “Dublin” technologies?
Among the first product groups to announce plans to support “Dublin” is Microsoft Dynamics, with future versions of both the Microsoft Dynamics AX and Microsoft Dynamics CRM applications leveraging the .NET Framework 4.0 and “Dublin.” In particular, the next version of Microsoft Dynamics AX is being specifically designed to take full advantage of the enhanced capability and scale delivered in Windows Server by the enhanced “Dublin” application server technologies. Among third-party ISVs, line of business applications producers, including Dataract Pty. Ltd., Eclipsys Corp., Epicor Software Corp., RedPrairie Corp. and Telerik Inc., and software infrastructure providers, including AmberPoint SOA Management, SOA Software Inc., Frends Technology and Global360 Inc., are some of the first to already announce plans to leverage the .NET Framework 4.0 and “Dublin” technologies.

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Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Screenshots

Posted by Nitin Dhawan on June 18, 2009

Microsoft CRM 5.0 screenshots look modern and Office 2007 with the Ribbon interface.

Presentation Functionality Administration Developers
Enhanced user experience with the Ribbon interface. Data Filtering available on the List View of records. More customizable form layout options. Custom Code Sandbox
Single page forms – no more tabs!  Pages are links on the left nav bar. Team Ownership security model. More options with filtered lookups in form customization. Plug-in Transaction Support
In-line Reports – allows charts to be embedded where the Form Assistant in v4 typically pops out. Native SharePoint integration. Customize Headers and Footers to display record information. Automatic Plug-in Profiling
Unstructured Relationships – allows definition of ad-hoc relationships. Solution Management – enhanced ability to manage customizations to your CRM build.
Multiple Option Sets, also known as global picklists across multiple entities.
Drag-and-Drop Form Editor
Data Audit capability
8

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Configuring SQL Server Reporting Services

Posted by Nitin Dhawan on June 18, 2009

Prerequisites

  • SQL server 2005 with SP2 or 2008 reporting services  Installed in web server.
  • SRS Data Connector  Installed in web server
  • SQL server 2005 or SQL server 2008

Configuration

  • On the Reporting Server Virtual Directory tab create a new “Reporting Server Virtual Directory” with the  following [Name] and [Website] i..e Name: ReportServer, Website: Default Web Site
  • Select “Apply” and wait for the RS wizard to complete the creation of the reporting server virtual  directory. No changes are necessary for the SSL settings unless the customer environment has SSL configured.
  • Verify that all “Reporting Server Virtual Directory” tasks complete successfully.
  • On the Report Manager Virtual Directory, create a new “Report Manager Virtual Directory” with the  following [Name] and [Website] i.e. Name: Reports, Website: Default Web Site
  • Select “Apply” and wait for the RS wizard to complete the creation of the report manager virtual  directory.
  • Verify that all “Report Manager Virtual Directory” tasks complete successfully.
  • On the Windows Service identity tab specify the “Windows Service Identity” for the report server use the  following settings i.e. Built-In Account: Network Service
  • Select “Apply” and wait for the RS wizard to complete the report server account configuration.
  • Verify that all “Windows Service Identity” tasks complete successfully.
  • On the Web Service Identity configure the RS “Web Service Identity” by creating a new “Application Pool”  for both the Report Server and Report Manager.
    • The new identity was configured as follows:
    • Application Pool Name: ReportServer
    • Select the “Built-In Account” radio button
    • Select the “Network Service” account from the drop-down menu.
    • Select “ok”
      • In the “Report Manager” drop-down menu select the new pool “ReportServer” from the drop down menu.
      • Select “Apply” and wait for the RS wizard to complete the report server web service identity  configuration.
      • Verify that all “Windows Service Identity” tasks complete successfully.
      • On the Database Setup tab configure the database connection and create a Reporting Server database as follows:
        • Connect to the Database Engine that will be used for Reporting Services. Note that this is not the Master database, and is solely for the operational requirements of Reporting Services. Typically this will be a SQL Server 2005 Database Engine that resides on the same SQL Server instance as Reporting Services.
        • Select the “New” button and configure the Reporting Server Database as follows:
          • Server Name: LOCAL <or Designated SQL Server 2005 Database Engine> (should be completed if you successfully connected to the existing database)
          • Credentials Type: Current User – Integrated Security
          • Username: NULL
          • Password: NULL
          • Database Name: ReportServer
          • Language: English
    • Select “Ok” then select the “Apply” button to create the new database and complete the database connection configuration.
    • Verify that all “Database creation” tasks complete successfully.
  • Proceed to the “Initialization” tab and verify that the new database is initialized. If not, select the database and select the “initialize” button.
  • Select the “Apply” button and verify that all “Initialization” tasks complete successfully.

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Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 New Features

Posted by Nitin Dhawan on June 16, 2009

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 5.0 is currently on schedule to ship as part of the Office14 Wave (most likely end of 2010), and the team is only part way through the development cycle. There is already much to get excited about. Here is a list of features:
New Features For End Users
Enhanced Navigation I guess it was inevitable, but CRM5 uses the same “Fluent UI” (aka the Ribbon) as Office 2007. This new “command bar” replaces the CRM 4.0 “tool bars” at the top of each page, and is context sensitive. In addition, the “command bar” is fully customizable and you can add your own buttons much like you can with ISV.Config file today. Incidentally, something that isn’t discussed but appears on the ribbon is the “Add to Queue” command, from which I can only surmise that you will be add any entity (including custom entities) to a Queue.
Single Page Forms The form model in CRM 4.0 made use of tabs to divide a form into multiple pages. In CRM5 tabs are displayed in the same way as section, with each form just having a single, scrolling page. As you can see from the navigation page of an Account entity, tabs are now displayed as a series of “quick access” navigation shortcuts under the “Information” link.
Data Filtering One often requested feature is the ability to filter data in grids, much like Excel. Now you can navigate to the “DataView”, click the “Filter” command, and you can perform your own in-line filtering. Again, although not explicitly stated, it looks as though you can quickly save your filters as a View, as well as setting your own Default View.
In-line Visualizations Although not Business Intelligence in the true sense of the phrase, CRM5 allows you to visualize numeric data using in-line charts. This is not SQL Server Reporting Services, but looks very much like the .NET charting solution from Dundas
Team Ownership Entities in CRM 4.0 were either User Owned or Organisation Owned. Now Team Owned entities are added in CRM5, and integrated into the role-based security model.
Native SharePoint Integration Integration with Windows SharePoint Services for document management, which includes site and document library provisioning, document metadata, item security, and check-in/check-out capabilities.
Unstructured Relationships The next generation of “set regarding” and “relationship roles” functionality, allowing you to define ad-hoc relationships between any two entities
New Features For Administrator
Flexible Form Layout We now have much more flexibility in how forms are laid out, for example, we can position sections side-by-side, as well as field labels on top, left or right of each field. Best of all, we can now configure “In-Line Sub-Grids” for child records, so a combination of IFrames & JScript is no longer required to make this work.
Filtered Lookups One of the most requested features has finally made it into the product. Whilst customizing the form, you can choose a pre-defined view or better still you can filter by a related lookup on the same form.
Form Headers & Footers Now that all tabs, sections and fields appear on a single, scrolling form, it is quite possible the form will get become quite long and you will end up scrolling up and down more often to find the information you require. In order to make the most commonly required visible at all times, you can now place these fields in a header or footer so that they will always be displayed regardless of the scrolling.
Solution Management With CRM 4.0, you had to implement a manual process when customizing your solution, to make sure that you didn’t overwrite previous customizations, or disrupt any 3rd party ISV solutions. In CRM5 we had now added the concept of solutions. A solution is a defined set of entity customizations, workflows, e-mail templates, security roles, plug-ins etc. that can be managed as a single unit. Each solution is version controlled so presumably your can have multiple versions of the same solution installed, and roll-back to a previous version if necessary. You can also define solution dependencies where one solution can only be installed if another solution is also installed. For example, you might have a base solution for your whole organisation, with a departmental specific solution built on top of it. Namespace collision is avoided by defining publishers, with each publisher having a unique namespace. This avoids the common issue where the default namespace “new_” is used for all customizations, leading to potential namespace conflict. One final plus point is that you can now specify which attributes will be exported as part of a solution, rather than having no choice but to export the whole entity.
Multiple Option Sets Otherwise known as “Global Picklists”, you can define these at the solution level, and re-use them across multiple entities.
Drag and Drop Form Editor One of the most time consuming customization tasks in CRM 4.0 is the form design. Every time you want to add, remove or re-position tabs, sections and attributes, you have to go through a multi-click process. With CRM5, you can now drag and drop all elements of a form, speeding up the process considerably
Audit Although not explicitly mentioned during the sessions, I spotted an “auditing” setting on the attribute designer form, allowing you to turn auditing on or off.
New Features For Developer
Custom Code Sandbox There is a new server role for running custom plug-in code and custom workflow activities without requiring full trust. This means that it will be possible to run custom code in the CRM Online environment and achieve true parity between On-Premise, Partner-Hosted and Microsoft-Hosted deployments.
Plug-In Transaction Support In CRM 4.0 you could register a plug-in to run either before (pre-event) or after (post-event) the CRM platform operation. However, you were not able to run as part of the transaction itself, so you had to right your own compensation logic in the event the CRM platform operation failed. CRM5 addresses this limitation, and you can now choose to register you plug-in as part of the platform operation. The CRM5 plug-in registration tool has been modified to support this.
Automatic Plug-In Profiling CRM5 will keep track of how a plug-in is executing, what resources it consumes, if it is causing unexpected exceptions and whether or not it is violating security constraints. If a particular plug-in fails a number of times it is automatically disabled from executing, helping to maintain system integrity.

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