Thursday, October 13, 2016

Creating a new Documents view in CRM to display SharePoint documents

Integration between SharePoint and Dynamics CRM allows you to link documents to Dynamics CRM entities but the documents will be stored in SharePoint instead of the CRM database (See Using SharePoint Online to store Dynamics CRM Online Documents for more information). This allows you to take advantages of the strenghts of both platforms but one of the things missing is how you can surface metadata/document properties from linked documents in Dynamics CRM.

In  Showing SharePoint document properties in Dynamics CRM views I  already explained how you can adapt the standard Associated Documents view to show extra document properties from documents stored in SharePoint document libraries. In this post, I will explain how you can create new views for the SharePointDocument entity.

If you just create a new view and try to make it work out of the box you will see that this not works. You will need to export your CRM solution. You will notice that the exported zip file contains three XML files.

  • solution.xml : Contains the details of the solution package including publisher information and a listing of any missing or key dependencies
  • [Content_Types].xml : standard Microsoft export file that identifies the content of the solution. The [Content_Types].xml file type is part of the Open Packaging Conventions (OPC) standard. For more information, see OPC: A New Standard For Packaging Your Data on the MSDN Web site.
  • customizations.xml: this file contains all of the content and mark-up that you will need to change.

Now if you look at the SavedQuery XML from the custom view which I configured in the view editor (left side of the image below), you will notice that it is quite different from the Associated Documents view that I customized previously (See Showing SharePoint document properties in Dynamics CRM views )

For a description of the different XML nodes and attributes used you can take a look at the Saved Query XML Reference but the most notable differences in the Associated Documents grid are the following – and these are also the changes that you need to make in the XML for your custom view.
  • SharePointDocument.RetrieveDocument – the official documentation only states that a string value is expected but not really what value is needed. For integration with SharePoint you need to specify SharePointDocument.RetrieveDocument
  • – defines a set of columns to return in a saved query, it seems that it is necessary to also take over a number of SharePoint specific columns.  (Reference: Saved query XML reference columnsetxml   )
  • (Reference: Saved query XML reference layoutxml )
  • 0  -  0 is for a normal main application view,  2 is for an associated view (Reference: Saved query XML reference querytype )
  • – here you need to specify the additional SharePoint document metadata columns that you want to show in the grid
After you have made the changes to view as outlined above you will see that your custom view will also work correctly. I have added the full savedquery also in Sample SavedQuery download link. In a next post I will outline how you make it possible to modify SharePoint document properties from within the CRM interface.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

So you want to become a data scientist?

It has been over 4 years that the article Data Scientist: the sexiest job in the 21st century appeared and the interest in a data scientist career has probably increased if you take a look at Google search trends – see (although I’m quite puzzled by the high interest in Nigeria).

For those of you out there who have never heard of data science, check out Data science for the rest of us. It has also become easier to get started given the abundance of resources available on the web and MOOC platforms such as Coursera and Edx offer quite a few data science and machine learning courses. Listed below are a number of links to get you started. However keep in mind that if you want to make a profession of this, you will need to put a lot of effort in it – check out this excellent post Stop saying learning to code is easy and just replace “Programming” with “Data Science” and you will get the picture.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Showing SharePoint document properties in Dynamics CRM views

As outlined in a previous blog post, Dynamics CRM provides out of the box integration with SharePoint – meaning that you can upload your documents into SharePoint directly from within the CRM user interface and link them to specific CRM records (See Using SharePoint Online to store Dynamics CRM Online documents for more details). This same integration scenario is also available for Dynamics CRM on-premise and SharePoint Server on-premise deployment.  From Dynamics CRM 2016 onwards it is also possible to use hybrid integration scenarios where as outlined in Setup SharePoint Integration with Dynamics CRM

The preferred method for integration is using Server-to-server integration (See Integrate Microsoft Dynamics CRM CRM with SharePoint) but there are some noticeable differences between the Dynamics CRM List component and server-based SharePoint integration as outlined in Important considerations for server-based SharePoint integration as well as SharePoint Integration Reloaded Part 1 from Scott Durow. From Dynamics CRM

 One of the great features which is enabled using server-based SharePoint integration is the fact that you are also able to show fields (or site columns) which are added in SharePoint within the Documents view in Dynamics CRM. Site columns or library columns (also referred to as fields or attributes) are used to organize documents so that people can find back the documents they need more easily. Document libraries in SharePoint are like real libraries where you can borrow books, a library has a system in place to search for the books by publication year, author, language, genre, age category, etc… In a SharePoint document library you would use site columns or library columns which would contain this information. This is also called metadata – “data (information) that provides information about other data”.  So if you enable document management on the Account entity in CRM using server-based-integration it would look like the screenshot below.  
 Dynamics CRM uses a number of entities to enable the integration with SharePoint :
  • SharePoint site (schema: SharePointSite): represents a location record in Microsoft Dynamics CRM that points to a site collection or a site on a server that is running SharePoint Server (See SharePointSite entity messages and methods )
  • SharePointDocumentLocation : represents a location record in Microsoft Dynamics CRM that points to a document folder on a server that is running SharePoint Server. You can associate the SharePoint document location records in Microsoft Dynamics CRM with the entity records for the entities for which the SharePoint Server integration or document management feature is enabled. (See SharePointDocumentLocation entity messages and methods)
  • UserMapping : represents a custom claim mapping record in Microsoft Dynamics CRM to use a value other than the default value used by CRM Online for authenticating and authorizing CRM users in SharePoint (See UserMapping entity messages and methods)
Next to these three entities which are documented by Microsoft there is a 4th entity SharePointDocument which is actually quite an important entity since it is in the SharePointDocument entity that you can define additional SharePoint columns that you want to be displayed in the grid. Internally CRM will translate the FETCHXML query to a SharePoint query (CAML – Collaborative Application Markup Language ) – if you are interested to know how this is done you can use JustDecompile and take a look at the code in the Microsoft.CRM.ObjectModel.dll which apparently has the implementation code for the SharePoint integration.

If you look at the SharePoint Document entity in CRM and check out the list of fields you’ll see there are quite a few fields (such as Title, version, etc..) that you can display. These fields will display the corresponding values from columns in a SharePoint document library if you add them to the SharePoint Document Associated View. So for example you can quite easily make the title of a document in SharePoint appear in the CRM view.

This is great for the out of the box fields but if you have modified the library in SharePoint to add additional attributes you’ll notice they are not displayed. So let’s image that you have added a custom field called DocType (of type text) in a SharePoint document library as shown below and you want to show the values of this SharePoint column in Dynamics CRM (I suppose that you already setup with document management integration already setup). You will need to perform a number of steps to accomplish this: 
  • Create a new solution in Dynamics CRM (you can also use the Customize the system option but this is not really the recommended way)
  • Add the SharePointDocument entity and the Document Associated Grid to your CRM solution

  • Navigate to the SharePoint document library that is used to store the documents linked to your CRM record and add a column of type text with name “DocType”.
  • Add a field on the SharePointDocument entity with exactly the same display name “DocType” of type single line of text. Dynamics CRM will use the display name of the fields to do the mapping with the query which is send to SharePoint. All values returned from SharePoint will be of type text except for a date field in SharePoint. So you need to create fields of the corresponding type in CRM.
  • Modify the “Document Associated Grid” view that you added to your CRM solution and add the newly created CRM field to this view. (This will only work with the “Document Associated Grid” view – to make this work with new views you will need some extra steps that I will outline in a next blog post)

Once you fill in the values of the SharePoint fields for the different documents you will notice that they appear in the CRM “Document Associated Grid” as well. This seems to work for the following types of SharePoint fields: text, number,date,choice, boolean,currency and person. I currently only tested the scenario in Dynamics CRM Online ( in combination with SharePoint Online as well as for Dynamics CRM 2016 (Update 0.1) on premise in combination with SharePoint Server 2013 but I guess it should also work in other setups which are using server-based-integration.


Monday, August 22, 2016

SQL Server Management Studio available as separate download

I just finished my first installation of SQL Server 2016 and I noticed that SQL Server Management Studio was available as a completely separate install option and not a part of the main installation. Microsoft decided to make SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) available as a separate download . This also means that SSMS does not require a license anymore. The current release (13.0.15700.28) works with all supported versions of SQL Server (2008 to 2016) as well as SQL Azure. The rationale behind is that Microsoft will be able to update the tooling at a swifter pace than the releases of SQL Server itself.

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Quick tip - using Azure Powershell with multiple subscriptions

If you have multiple Azure subscriptions linked to the account that you use to login – the operations in Azure PowerShell are executed against the “current subscription”. You can use the Get-AzureSubscription PowerShell cmdlet to see all of the subscriptions and also which is the “current” subscription. During a PowerShell session, you will need to use the Select-AzureSubscription cmdlet to choose which subscription data set is used by other Azure cmdlets with the following syntax "Select-AzureSubscription -name "NameOfYourSubscription".

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Friday, April 08, 2016

Software boundaries and limits for Dynamics CRM 2015/2016/Online Part 1

One of the TechNet pages that I consulted quite often as SharePoint architect was the Software boundaries and limits for SharePoint 2013, so I expected the same page to exist for Dynamics CRM 2015/2016 and Dynamics CRM Online. Unfortunately, this is not the case. There is however some valuable insights hidden in a number of interesting white papers and web pages so it might be logical to combine them.

But let’s first take a look at why such a resource might be needed more than ever. I think that massive Dynamics CRM deployments – in number of users -  are still quite rare especially if you compare it with SharePoint.  This is however quite normal given that both products are covering completely different functional domains and where SharePoint might be used by everyone in a company, Dynamics CRM users are typically still found in customer facing departments (service management and sales & marketing) . This might be one of the reasons why there hasn’t been any need to compile such an extensive list of boundaries and limits for Dynamics CRM. But in an era where winning the customers heart and mind is getting harder and harder – it becomes imperative that companies transform from ‘product-focused’ to ‘customer-focused’ which will put CRM more at the center of your enterprise architecture and which might also trigger larger deployments of CRM both in terms of number of users, transactions and records.

But in the enterprise market we are currently already encountering at what you might describe as “High Volume” systems. A “High Volume” system might have one or more of the following characteristics:
  • High volume data:  more than 1 mio records in the base tables (Contacts,Accounts, …) or more than 5000 activities/day or more than 1 mio/year
  • High volume transactions
  • High volume users/security:  more than 300 concurrent users or more than 1000 teams and business units
Typically these “High Volume” CRM systems take more effort and thought to setup and to keep them up and running smoothly and  unfortunately there is no high-volume switch available in Dynamics CRM to make this work auto-magically.

I also got feedback from another CRM architect stating that there are no real hard limits in Dynamics CRM for on-premise deployments but only scalability guidelines that you should follow. But still when you are doing a large CRM deployment chances are that you might call in Microsoft consultancy to assist you or audit your design they will point you to some specific boundaries and limits that you should adhere to. These guidelines and boundaries and are defined in the Microsoft Product Line Architecture for Dynamics CRM which unfortunately is not publicly available (See Introducing the Microsoft Product Line Architecture if you are unfamiliar with PLA) and although these are indeed no hard limits –if you don’t comply you will be asked to provide mitigating or corrective actions.

To get started you should definitely take a look at the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 Performance and scalability documentation. This download contains the Dynamics CRM Scalable Customizations white paper which describes how SQL Server platform-level issues can occur that create slow Microsoft Dynamics CRM application performance or error messages returned to the end-user. It also provides information about how to optimize a custom implementation and enable better performance that results in better end-user experience. It also contains the Scalable security modeling with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 white paper which describes how security modeling features in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 related to authorization work at scale, the associated implications, and guidance on common and recommended usage patterns for modeling Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 security at scale, incorporating teams as appropriate.  Both white papers are updated versions of the papers which were initially written for CRM 2011 and CRM 2013 because in essence the core architecture as described in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Reference Architecture has not changed significantly in the later versions.

Given the focus of Microsoft on Dynamics CRM Online you might also be faced with a large deployment of Dynamics CRM Online and you have to keep in mind that Dynamics CRM Online does contain some hard limits. I will cover these in a next blog post.  But the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online patterns & principles for solution builders white paper download provides already some solid guidance specifically about building solutions using Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. Also keep in mind that Dynamics CRM Online deeply integrates into Office 365 (Yammer, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Office 365 Groups) and you might also need to the integrate some Microsoft Azure components so you should also have a solid grasp of these components as well as a solution architect.

Last but not least - it is a sad truth that in most deployments bad performance is not due to the number of users, transactions or records stored in Dynamics CRM but mainly caused by bad code – so also take a look at Best practices for developing with Microsoft Dynamics CRM.


Saturday, February 06, 2016

Using filled maps in Microsoft Power BI for provinces, regions and counties in European countries

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post Problem with filled maps (choropleths) in Power BI for Belgian provinces in which I stated that there are some problems with using filled maps for international locations. Thanks to the excellent support of the Power BI team I managed to resolve the issue for the Belgian provinces.

If you ever want to use filled maps with Power BI it is important to use the correct data category and this can be quite confusing for Europe where we have a multitude of different ways of dividing up a country which do not always correspond to the way it is done in the U.S. The data categories for locations that you can use on a filled map are Continent,Country/Region, State or Province and County .

So when I switched the data category for my Belgian provinces to county – the filled map already looked at lot better but not completely since it shows the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (  and not the province Luxembourg ( ) on the map.

So I tried it out for a number of neighboring countries - the next table gives an example of what the different data category labels (in bold in the first row) correspond to for a number of European countries.

I tested it with Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and France. I did not get it the regions to work correctly for  France but this might be because France has officially merged a number of regions since January 1st. France is also subdivided into a number of departments  and these were shown on the map as expected.
Power BI Data Category to use State or Province County Remarks
Belgium Flanders, Walloon region and Brussels Capital region Antwerp, East-Flanders, Flemish Brabant, Limburg, West-Flanders, Hainaut, Liège, Luxembourg, Namur, Brabant-Walloon Province Luxembourg not depicted correctly
Germany The different bundesländer: Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Hesse, Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern,North Rhine-Westphalia
Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein,Thuringia
France   The different departments as outlined on . I removed the overseas departments to make it workable
Netherlands The different provinces: Drenthe, Flevoland, Fryslân, Gelderland, Groningen, Limburg, North Brabant, North Holland, Overijssel, South Holland, Utrecht, Zeeland    
Different German states with the GDP per capita.

French departments with population density.

Dutch provinces with population density