This is the first post in a series I intend to create around the MB2-712 certification. I will try to make these posts detailed enough for the CRM novice to gain the required knowledge whilst still informative enough for the experts out there to use these posts as revision guides.
The customization and configuration certification seems to be one that developers tend to target, however the exam is also a useful learning objective for CRM functional consultants and Business Analysts.
The skills measured are split into four sections.
Configure CRM – covers elements such as configuring email but also has a key focus on the security model.
Manage and implement CRM entities, entity relationships and field – tests your knowledge of CRM entity creation and configuration. And also newer features like rollup field and hierarchical data views.
Create and manage CRM, forms, views and visualisations – This section does focus on the presentation of data in forms, views, charts etc. But will also cover managed and unmanaged solutions.
Implement business rules, work flows and business processes – Will cover business rules, workflows, dialogs, CRM actions and business process flows.
If you are new to CRM, you will probably find that this certification is going to challenge you as you’ll need to learn loads of new concepts. But it will be fun. J
If you are a seasoned CRM expert who may have completed previous exams you will still find interesting facts covered, as the exam will focus on newer features. But if like me you have passed multiple variations of this exams you should hopefully find the new topics are a logical extension of your existing knowledge. But a little revision on key topics will do you no harm!
I have listed the skills measured from the Microsoft site below. I suggest as you start your revision that you read these very carefully. If something is listed here expect to get questioned on it but also be mindful that your preparation stays focused. Don’t spend hours and hours learning something not listed!
As I start my revision, I like to print the skills measured. I go over them with a highlighter pens. Highlighting each all the points I know need some focus. These might be things I don’t use very often or areas that are new to me. This helps me target my revision on my weakest areas. When I think I’m ready to take the exam I repeat this process. (And hopefully I can see a reduction in highlighted items!) If you do this don’t worry if the page turns yellow! It will simply be an indication that you need to plan plenty of revision time. Don’t rush into the exam unprepared!!!
Configure Microsoft Dynamics CRM
Configure Dynamics CRM settings
- Configure auditing, document management and collaboration; configure business units; perform user management; configure email; manage teams
Manage Dynamics CRM security
Understand security roles; define permissions and privileges; configure access levels; configure security roles; assign security roles; work with multiple security roles; manage access; manage security hierarchy
Manage and implement Microsoft Dynamics CRM entities, entity relationships and fields
Manage Dynamics CRM entities
- Manage entity ownership; manage entity properties; understand system and custom entities
Configure field customizations
- Understand and configure fields; configure field properties; use calculated fields; use rollup fields; configure global option sets; create alternate keys; configure field-level security; understand status and status reasons
Implement entity relationships
Understand relationship types; understand cascading rules; work with hierarchical data; understand and configure entity mapping; create connections and connection roles
Create and manage Microsoft Dynamics CRM solutions, forms, views and visualisations
Create and manage Dynamics CRM solutions
- Understand solution components; identify solution types; create managed and unmanaged solutions; configure publishers and versions; work with multiple solutions; import and export solutions
Customize Dynamics CRM forms
- Understand the form structure; build a form; use specialized form components; use access teams and sub-grids; work with navigation; understand form types; use multiple forms; implement form customizations and mobile clients
Implement Dynamics CRM views and visualizations
Understand view types; manage system, public and personal views; create, modify and delete views; customise views; customise charts; customise dashboards; use themes
Implement business rules, workflows and business process flows
Implement and manage business rules
- Understand when to use business rules; understand business rule scopes; understand how business rules are triggered; configure business rules, conditions and actions
Implement and manage workflows, dialogs and custom actions
- Implement workflows; identify workflow types; implement dialogs and custom actions; identify when to use business process flows, workflow dialogs and custom actions
Implement and manage business process flows
- Understand business process flows; enable business process flows; work with steps, stages and categories; work with multiple entities; use conditional branching; implement role-driven business process flows
Before I dive into posts covering the specifics of the four topics to be covered it probably makes sense to look at an overview.
Overview of Customizing / configuring CRM
I hope you know that CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, as you are about to prepare for an exam about it! CRM is built around the three core modules of sales, marketing and service. CRM really is all about managing interactions with customers in order to better serve them. This might include following up on leads, progressing sales opportunities. Or it might extend into servicing the customer by using cases to resolve the multitude of problems they might face. The MB2-714 and MB2-713 exams will test your knowledge on the specifics of sales and service features within CRM.
CRM is built on the Microsoft XRM framework. This framework can be used to extend CRM well beyond its out of the box focus on sales, service and marketing. In many implementations you can consider the “X” to mean anything! The XRM framework not only allows developers to not only customize / configure existing system entities but to also create new ones. Some of which could be completely unrelated to the core focus of Dynamics CRM.
The nice thing about this framework is that it lets you extend CRM but maintains core components for handling security, workflows, reporting etc. So regardless of how you extend CRM the core concepts of how the entities are created, relate to each other and how CRM is configured around these remains consistent.
I have implemented CRM in many companies and only once have I seen it used in a completely out of the box manner. More often than not a company will need to tailor CRM it fit its needs. The extent of the changes may range from simply creating a few reports and views to a complete re-imagining of core CRM functions. The XRM framework supports these two extremes and anything in-between!
Customization v configuration
These terms are often interchangeable but you will need to be aware of the difference. Configuration suggests making simple or basic changes. This could include changes to how data is presented or using out of the box functionality to define goals, manage emails or implement security roles. When we say customization this implies using inbuilt tools to actually alter the application, maybe by adding new forms or views or maybe even creating completely new entities. I personally like to think of configuration as set-up tasks and customization as development tasks. (Although you may find some grey area between these!)
Whilst the XRM framework provides many tools to extend CRM being aware of the built-in functionality remains important. There are some areas which simply work a certain way and will be hard or impossible to alter. One example of this might be the process to resolve a case. As the dialog used in case resolution cannot be changed. If you needed to alter this, you’d have to recreate the case resolution logic in its entirety. Another example might be marketing lists, as they can only contain leads, accounts or contacts, you have no capability to add new entity types to marketing lists. For the exam I doubt you need to understand all of the situations when built-in functionality can’t be changed. But it might be important to simply understand that you have to work within certain constraints.
CRM Architecture. Deployment options include CRM online and On-premise. Online is easy to deploy and can be implemented in situations requiring a very small number of users of a very large one. But sometimes you may have very specific needs, maybe in areas of integration. In these situations, CRM can be deployed on premise. An on-premise deployment will need an architecture to support it, including things like IIS, SQLServer etc. One advantage of an on premise installation is the ability to have multiple CRM organizations running on the one deployment of CRM. Using a multi-tenant on premise architecture hosting companies can also provide CRM to multiple organizations running on a single environment.
It is important to understand that an on premise deployment requires a comprehensive architecture that can support it. Meaning several support technologies come into play. Including SQL Server, SQL reporting services, Internet Information Services (IIS), Active Directory, Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS)m Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Exchange and Azure. Some of these components are optional for on-premise, some like SQLServer are prerequisites. I doubt the MB2-712 exam will test your knowledge of these supporting technologies in detail but you should be aware of their existence. You should try to become familiar with what each one of these technologies provides.
Licensing options include;
Essential, for light-weight users who only access custom applications. They can work with CRM activities and custom entities but do not interact with system entities found in sales, marketing or service modules.
Basic, an entry level license. Each Basic License includes read / write access to CRM activities, contacts, leads, accounts and cases in addition to custom CRM entities and personal dashboards. Basic licenses only provide read only access to sales opportunity records.
Professional, the recommend license for sales teams and anyone needing full CRM functionality. It provides full access to sales, service and marketing. Includes additional capabilities such as Unified Service Desk and FieldOne.
Enterprise, offers the full range of capabilities provided by the professional license. Also includes access to Microsoft Dynamics Marketing, Parature, and extended social engagement capabilities.
The concept of these licenses is common to CRM on premise and CRM online.
The users can experience CRM via several clients. Including web client, outlook client, phone & tablets or even a completely custom client. Whilst customizing CRM you need to be aware of these clients and consider the implications for users. For example, in a future post I will cover the mobile forms capabilities of CRM.
The web client is going to be the most commonly used interface for accessing CRM. Supported browsers include Internet Explorer version 10 & 11, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Apple Safari on IOS devices.
There are two flavors of the Outlook Client. A traditional Outlook client requiring the CRM for Outlook client to be installed on the desktop or using the newer App for Outlook that doesn’t require a client install. App for Outlook works with online outlook and OWA. One advantage of the full outlook client is that capability to take data off line and synchronize changes back to CRM.
Mobile clients include tablet access and phone application. Customization changes will impact the mobile clients. There are two different clients for mobile access. On tablets the layout differs to phone and include dashboards and you can open data in full forms in a browser. When creating forms for mobile clients we can hide or change formatting of fields differently for phone or tablet access. For example, commonly we might want to hide some fields on a phone due to its smaller size.
Another client worth being aware of is Unified Service Desk (USD). This is a desktop application which allows that creating of a custom interface with all the configuration done on the CRM server. Its capabilities are aimed at contact center operators.
Platform / Database Layers
It is important to know that the CRM architecture has a layered approach. The platform layer is where all of your customizations will be applied. It in turn will interact with the database layer. Accessing the database layer directly is not supported. (With one exception of filtered SQL server views used for reporting.)
The platform layer acts as an intermediary between the software developer and the database. It preserves the security model for CRM and controls access to the database. Except for reports, all applications that interact with CRM do so through web services in the platform layer. This provides the entire infrastructure required to implement a complete CRM application.
Extending Dynamics CRM
You will need to understand how to deploy customizations from development, to test and finally into production. Using CRM solutions. Solutions might also be provided by independent software venders. Soluitions can be managed or unmanaged. Typically, you work initially with unmanaged solutions but as you deploy to production that are imported as managed solutions. (As managed solutions can be removed!) A solution file is basically a .zip file that packages up a set of customizations.
It is also important to understand and manage the level of complexity of customizations. The chart below shows how changes might range from simple changes all the way to advanced changes.
Items you might need / want to customize could include;
- Forms, you can change the layout of existing forms or create new ones.
- Views, system views can be amended or created to meet specific business requirements. Including changing columns shown, sorting and filtering.
- Dashboards / charts, charts and dashboards can be created to help visualize data.
- Processes & Automation, including business process flows, business rules, workflows and custom actions. All of which help automate business processes.
At this point don’t worry if you don’t fully understand some of the concepts mentioned in this introduction. It is just an introduction in later posts I will cover the details you’ll need to understand on each topic. Such as how to customize forms, views, create workflows etc etc.
So you have read the skills measured, worked out which areas you are strong on and which need some revision effort. And you’ve read this introduction into the configuration / customization of CRM. Great. You are ready to progress to the next stage and start to dive into the detail. Which is what I will start to do with my next post.