Tip #185: Dude, where is my alert?

If you’ve been paying attention to the most recent advances in server-side CRM entertainment, you are by now should be familiar with alerts. They are system messages that tells you when something is wrong (error), suspicious (warning), or neither (information). Open any server profile or mailbox record, click Alerts link on the left to find out what they look like.

My main gripe with alerts is that they are passive: administrator needs to login and navigate to Sales > Alerts to see if anything’s wrong with the system. (And if your system has been upgraded from 2011 you may be even missing this navigation area but this is totally different subject). Add the fact that alerts are not customizable and here you have it.

To start with, there is no entity called alert. Good news is that there is an entity called trace which seems to be the right one. The second piece of good news is that, while this entity is completely out of reach for customizations, it is possible to build a workflow that will proactively send notifications when bad things happen.

Workflow to send SMS about alert
This simple workflow sending SMS messages to administrator when new alert is raised has been running on our system for the last few days with great results. I no longer have to login to verify that one of our mailboxes has been disabled for inbound processing, I get SMS about that. (And disabled mailboxes is a totally different subject).

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

Tip #184: Use CRM forms in Outlook

From the “Great features that have been in the application for a long time but many users don’t know about” file

In CRM for Outlook user settings, you will see checkboxes for various activity types and contacts.


If these checkboxes are checked, when a user hits the new [appointment/task/Email/Contact] button in Outlook, that user will get the CRM form rather than the standard Outlook form.

This has several nice benefits

  • It ensures that each contact or activity added will be tracked
  • It gives access to custom fields or required fields not included in the standard Outlook form.
  • It is less clicky than creating a contact, saving it, and then tracking it.

Note that there are some limitations to this tip. Checking these boxes does not force the CRM form from all locations in Outlook. If I check the box and go to the CRM tab and click “new contact,” the CRM form will appear. However, if I go to the People list in Outlook 2013 and click the new button, it will still use the standard Outlook form.

So it is not perfect, but with proper user training, it can be helpful.

Alternatively, you can also access CRM fields from the standard Outlook form by clicking the “CRM fields” button on the activity or contact ribbon after the record is tracked.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

Tip #183: Keep batch modifications under control

PloughingNot so long ago we experienced the wrath of an unhappy customer when, with all the good intentions we verified and normalized phone numbers for all contacts in the organization. This particular implementation had sophisticated business processes that kicked in on updates and modified on timestamp was used to calculate some performance metrics. With us barging in as administrators, ploughing through all the records and updating them all, we managed to screw up all the performance metrics business has cared about.

If you are planning any kind of massive batch update, make sure to:

  • consult the business to ensure that there are no important metrics hinging on modified on or modified by attributes
  • temporarily disable plugins and workflows that do not make sense to trigger on artificial updates
  • mitigate some of the metrics “violations” by impersonating either the owner of the record or the last user who updated the record (depending on business expectations)
  • consider schema modifications where resulting data (whatever they are in your case, it was sanitized phone numbers in ours) perhaps are better isolated into a separate “extension” entity so that primary record is not affected
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

Tip #182: Functional roles all deployments should have

New day, new tip, new feature. Today we are proud to introduce new category for our daily tips: Tipping Truckstop. This is where fellow tipping truckies get together to discuss topic du jour and add some collective wisdom to complex and often contentious but always fascinating world of Dynamics CRM. Without further ado.

Today at the truckstop
Chris Cognetta
Donna Edwards
Daniel Cai
Matt Wittemann
Gustaf Westerlund

A Dynamics CRM deployment should include the following functional administration roles. These hats can be worn one or more people, but somebody needs to be responsible for these areas.

  • Trainer: The trainer is responsible for training new and existing users. Will be busiest around deployment and upgrade time.
  • Business Analyst: The Business Analyst  is responsible for streamlining and automating processes, identifying manual processes as candidates for automation in CRM,  researching, identifying and suggesting improvements, and ensuring the company achieves an ROI. This role oversees the documentation and rationalization for implemented business processes and is responsible for change orders. This role needs to be able to communicate both with business end and technical end and be the right hand to the project manager during and after the implementation.
  • Application Support: This has a server and client aspect. When users have an error message or performance issue, initial troubleshooting should be conducted on the client to identify if the issue is in the client or server side. Server side support will do tasks like checking SQL resources, checking event logs, and running server performance traces. Work with Microsoft Support as needed to resolve issues.
  • SQL Admnistration: The SQL admin will be responsible for backups and ongoing SQL maintenance, such as rebuilding indexes, and management of SQL Reporting Services. Not needed for Online deployments..
  • CRM Server Administration: The CRM server admin will be responsible for applying update rollup patches to the CRM servers and monitoring server performance. Not needed for Online deployments.
  • CRM Deployment Administrator: The deployment admin has permission to log in to the Deployment Manager on the CRM server. By default, this is the user who installs CRM. Additional deployment administrators should be added. The deployment admin is needed whenever licenses are updated, plugins are deployed, organizations are created/imported, or something characteristic is changed with your deployment architecture. not needed for Online deployments.
  • CRM Client Administration: The Client admin will be responsible for deploying the CRM Outlook client and applying patches as necessary. Also responsible for deploying tablet app.
  • Exchange Administration: The Exchange admin will be responsible for the email router or server synchronization. Also responsible for troubleshooting emails with incoming or outgoing email and verification that new users mailbox settings are correct.
  • AD Administration: If auto group management is turned off, the AD administrator will need to add people to the appropriate AD groups before they can be added as users in CRM. Not needed for Online deployments.
  • Integration Administration: The Integration Admin will be responsible for the scheduling and monitoring of CRM integration jobs
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

Tip #181: Your new favorite keyboard shortcut

If you are using CRM 2013 SP1, there is a great new keyboard shortcut to get performance metrics for a form. Open a record and press CTRL+Shift+Q.

When you first press it, you will see the performance center, but it will be empty. Click “enable,” then click “refresh.”

The form will reload and you will see some really snazzy performance metrics for the form load. Much more convenient than running tools like Fiddler.

performance center

Thanks Adam Vero for this fantastic tip!

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

Tip #180: Don’t use that name

Microsoft Dynamics CRM restricts some words from being used for organization names. On Premises customers can find the list by running the following query:

use mscrm_config
select reservedname from reservednames

The following is the restricted name list in CRM 2013:


Thanks Feridun the CRM Sherlock for this tip.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

Tip #179: How to change CRM Online password

Concerned about bleeding heart’s effects and decided to change your CRM password from pass@word1 to something a bit more robust? Nothing could be easier, right? Right, unless you are not an administrator and you have only CRM license assigned in which case instructions do not apply simply because mentioned menu is not there!

“Easy”, say you, “I’ll just go to https://portal.microsoftonline.com“. Since you do not have anything but CRM license, you will be redirected straight to your CRM home page. Same applies to https://portal.office.com.

“Well”, say you, “I’ll just open my user record in CRM and follow the admin link”:
Demo user account record in CRM

Since you are not an administrator, everyone is very sorry:
Sorry, we can't process your request.

The solution? Just bookmark the following URL:


Not guaranteed to work forever but it does work at the moment.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

Tip #178: Do you know what a wildcard is?

From time to time I discover that not everyone on this planet knows what the wildcard is or how to use it. Just the other day I overheard a conversation between two [reasonably advanced] business users that went along the lines:

I was looking for this guy in our CRM but couldn’t find him. I remember his name has “Dumble” in it but I’m not sure if we recorded Dumbledore or van Dumbledwarf or something else. But I learned how to use OR condition in Advanced Find so I’ll use that to locate his record.


Just type *dumble into the search box.

When you use asterisk in your search string it acts as a wildcard, i.e. it means any number of any characters. Simple yet infinitely useful. Few things to remember:

  • You can use any number of asterisks mixed with characters. For example, if you forgot the area code and are unsure if phone number was formatted as 80238029 or 8023 8029, just type *8023*8029 – that will cover for any area code and any characters (or none) separating the numbers. Going wild, as in *8*0*2*3*8*0*2*9, will cover pretty much any formatting. Beware that wildcard matches digits as well so you may accidentally match (802)36668029, for example.
  • Wildcard at the end of the string is implied, i.e. there is no difference between searching for *Lebowski or *Lebowski*, both will find “Big Lebowski, The Dude” just fine (including “Small Lebowski, Not The Dude” in the process).
  • Wildcard can be used in any search box including quick find, search box in lookup dialogs and lookup control itself – just type *sample in any account lookup field, press tab and let lookahead feature to figure out if you have any accounts with a word sample in the name!
  • It will apply to all attributes selected for search in quick search system view definition. Type *@microsoft.com to quickly find all contacts with email address from Microsoft.
  • As with any potent weapon, experimenting is the best way to learn how to use the wildcard efficiently.
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

Tip #177: Understand “First Response Sent” for SLA

When you use the new SLA functionality introduced in Dynamics CRM 2013 SP1, it is important to define your success criteria correctly. the success/failure of an SLA is definable per SLA. It can be single field condition or a combination of multiple field values.

A common SLA is time to first response. For example, high priority cases should be responded to within 3 hours. There is a new field called “first response sent” that can be used to record when the first response is logged, but there is nothing magical about this field, and there is nothing that automatically sets this field to “completed.”

If you wish to use this field (or any other field to indicated completion of the first response), a workflow or plugin can be used to automatically set the “First Response Set” to “Completed.” You will need to define what “first response” means to you. Is it the first completed phone call? The first note? You can define any type of event and have it mark the first response sent as “completed.”

A word of caution though, you probably don’t want to make the first email sent regarding the case to set the “First Response Sent” field if you have a workflow process that automatically sends an email to the customer when the case is created.

Thanks to Dana Martens and Shan McArthur for this tip.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

Tip #176: Adminless traceless troubleshooting


When users are presented with a generic error message, URL in a browser address bar sometimes contain enough details about the error to determine the actual cause.

How to fish

“An error has occurred.” How wonderful. We all have seen it at one point of our CRM lives or another.

No administrators allowed

Users unable to login, and instead presented with this message. Note that there are no references to send more information to Microsoft, no option to download the log file. Try again or get out. (I’m not sure why did anyone even bother to add Try Again button, like that ever worked.)

So what is going to happen if you decide to stop using this dialog as an excuse to attend to your facebook page and contact system administrator (presumably, you have one of those)? Troubleshooting of generic messages like this one usually involves setting up a trace on CRM server(s), capturing errors, analyzing, drinking lots of coffee, etc. Depending on size of your company and your relationship with administrator it may take a day or two. Or a week. Or a month. Don’t call us we’ll call you. Troubleshooting, in short.

Surely, there must be a better way and on this occasion there is! Let’s have a close look at the URL:


And after plonking this monstrosity into one of the online decoders:


Error Details: ID1044: An encrypted security token was received at the relying party which could not be decrypted. Configure the relying party with a suitable decryption certificate. Current relying party decryption certificate info:
[Thumbprint] 74864195002BC54673D5D31A852B494D02548DF2&RequestUri=/default.aspx&user_lcid=1033

It looks like AD FS server receives an encrypted request from CRM to authenticate but certificate to decrypt the request cannot be found. Quick check of the certificates on the AD FS server and, lo and behold, some smart administrator installed a replacement certificate but re-configured neither AD FS nor CRM servers. Easy to fix by repeating claims & IFD configuration process.

Lesson: before running for help to the community, your system administrator or, gosh, Microsoft, just have a look at URL. If it’s all foreign to you, at least copy URL and send it to your administrator as part of the problem reporting. Unless, of course, all you want to do is to get back to that facebook page.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+