Leon's CRM Musings: Book Review: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Administration Bible
By way of a disclaimer, back at the MVP Summit last year (end of February), supremely nice guy and CRM MVP Matt Wittemann asked me if I would review his new CRM book. I said I was happy to and it has sat on my desk for the last six months waiting for me to come through on my promise. Today is that day. Given I have to look him in the eye at next year’s summit, it is the least I can do.
If you are unfamiliar with the book, here it is.
Matt Wittemann I know well. To call an MVP a ‘nice guy’ is something of a tautology, given the reason you get the award is for being friendly and sharing knowledge. In Matt’s case though he is really, really friendly, but not in a creepy way. He works at Click Dimensions (who make a really great marketing add-on product for Dynamics CRM) and was the source of my LinkedIn integration post earlier this year.
Geoff Ables, the other author of the book I do not know.
Other than a beer at summit if I am reasonably complimentary, I will receive no compensation for this review other than keeping the review book.
Overview of the Book
The book is a sizeable tome weighing in at 778 pages and, given you can get it on Amazon for US$30 or on kindle for $23 that is great value.
The first thing I noticed was the foreward. Most forewards I ignore but this one was written by Paul Greenberg. Paul wrote ‘CRM at the Speed of Light’ back in 2001; a seminal work on CRM as a philosophy and a technology. The book coined the term ‘xRM’ ten years ago! It should take pride of place on any CRM worker’s desk. It would on mine if someone had not stolen it.
If you think I talk up Matt, you should see what the ‘godfather of CRM’ says about him (all of it true). Paul also gives the book his seal of approval, which is enough for me to read on. He implies that the book will assist in ensuring a successful implementation of Dynamics CRM and I tend to agree with him.
Structure of the Book
The book is divided into nine parts:
Part 1: Laying a Solid Foundation
Nice work Matt and Geoff! This section is a ‘Whitman’s Sampler Tour’ (no surname pun intended) of the product. They cover aspects such as:
Part 2: Installing Dynamics CRM
The title explains it well. Aspects covered include:
Part 3: Administering Dynamics CRM
Part three begins where part two left off, setting up those post-installation system settings and some best practices. Aspects include:
Part 4: Using Microsoft Dynamics CRM
This section is essential reading for staff looking to support the out of the box features of the product. Aspects include:
Part 5: Customizing Dynamics CRM Through the User Interface
This is where I do most of my work; configuring the system through the user interface. As the book says you can get 90% of where you need to be through the front end configuration tools without sacrificing a single curly brace or semi-colon. Aspects include:
Part 6: Customizing Dynamics CRM with Custom Code
Starting where the previous section ends, this part talks about how the product can be enhanced through code. Again there are some curious entries in here but, to give an idea of how the system can be altered the section does a good job. Aspects in the section include:
Part 7: Visualizing Your Dynamics CRM Data with Charts, Reports, and Dashboards
An area I am passionate about. If you are going to spend all this time setting up a system to centrally capture information, make sure you and your users have a way to extract it in a meaningful way. The section covers:
Part 8: Extending and Integrating Dynamics CRM
A very high level review of how to approach having other systems talk to Dynamics CRM. Aspects covered include:
Part 9: Appendixes
This section talks at advanced SharePoint integration and provides a table of online resources. The table of web links is a collection of the authors’ favourite CRM administrator and third-party tool links. Worthwhile and, hopefully, they will stay active.
The SharePoint section is very interesting as it gives an overview of common integration points between the products with some common examples. If this is on the cards for your CRM implementation, this is definitely worth a look.
If you know someone who is about to take on the administration of a CRM in the new year, this is a great stocking filler (and at 750+ pages it better be a big stocking). The book is specifically written to give an administrator enough knowledge to do their job and enough to ensure the others they need to interact with (e.g. consultants) are doing theirs.
My only complaint is, as is inevitable with such a book, there are some things which are out of date. The first, and most obvious, are the screenshots which are taken from the pre-released version. I expect this was all the authors had to work with at the time of writing. Fortunately not a lot changed from pre-release to production, so this should not distract in any significant way from the usability of the book. Also, the information about licensing is a little dated, referring to enterprise and professional licensing and not mentioning the ESS license. Again, I imagine this was a function of timing. Given licensing is one small aspect of this very large book this is not a big deal (here is the definitive licensing guide if you are interested).
Overall a really well crafted book. Where I see this book having its ‘sweet spot’ is with smaller implementations (either on-premise or online) who have one person being a ‘many hats’ administrator i.e. someone who manages security, users, configuration and needs to work with a Microsoft partner or customiser. I guarantee you, if you are such an administrator, buying this book will be a great investment the next time someone from the business says ‘how could we make CRM do this…?’
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