Tuesday, 2 October 2012

CRM Field Guide - The Review

Ok, so I've pretty much speed read the CRM Field Guide and I have to say, I'm very impressed with it after a first read. For me this is the kind of book that's been missing for a long time - a user guide, an installation guide, a "bet you didn't know CRM did this" guide, a "you're not doing development correctly until you've read this" guide! And want a little confession? 6 or 7 chapters in and I started to realize how much I didn't know about Dynamics CRM!

So a little breakdown on what this book offers. It leads you in with a gentle pat on the bottom by breaking down the interface for you, explaining what each section does or where each link takes you. It gives you just enough information to start on without scaring the living bejaysus out of you, and finishes off chapter 1 with a very solid list of tips from the MVPs themselves.

Next up you learn how to install it. You might say, isn't this the wrong way round? Shouldn't you tell me how to install it before taking me through the interface? Actually no, I think for once somebody has got it right. You get presented with "What CRM is" before you get unleashed with the beast (for lack of a better term). Even though it might seem like I'm pointing out a very simple thing I quite liked this approach, that much that I felt like pointing it out.

After a crash course in installing and using some out of the box features they take you on, well yet again, for lack of a better term, a semi deep-dive. (I really need to learn more terms apparently). They lift the hood a little on how to get the most out of this beast. From optimizing servers to troubleshooting common problems, they've covered it. It's actually quite impressive what they squeezed into this book without going over the top. It seems like they've covered 80% of CRM that most people use and not bothered with the rest. Apart from maybe a brief mention of a few bits if they are worthy of it.

By this stage I'm loving it. I'm getting a little insight into these MVP's heads and I'm not slowing up. I'm reading about processes, solutions and customization's and things are really beginning to hot up. Although, to be honest I'm generally just nodding my head in approval at this stage, because I imagine most CRM developers should already be practicing most of this stuff. But good stuff it is. Cue rapid development and I think to myself this is the bit I've been looking forward too. What approach do you take to customizing those entities and writing web resources? How do you guys organize, not just your CRM solutions, but your Visual Studio solutions and associated plugins and scripts? What coding tips and tricks can you share with us developers? Alas, this is unfortunately the one place that I find this book lacking a little. Granted, they share an abundance of links with you to get any of the information you require. But you left me wanting!

If I could add just 2 more chapters to this book it would be a JavaScript deep-dive and a Developers 101 to CRM.SLN. It didn't need to be overpowering, just some guides on attaching JavaScript events, writing HTML/Silverlight web resources and maybe a little crash course in VS plugins and custom workflow activities. Just a little bit of depth here would have made it a perfect book for me.

But don't let this deter you, as it is a very minor criticism. This is still one awesome book in my opinion. Even if it doesn't go to the technical level I felt it needed to in regard to development, this still is a must read for every developer, implementer and even every user of Dynamics CRM 2011. There's so many little things I have learnt from this book that will improve what I take to each implementation of CRM 2011 I tackle in the future. In short, this book will be a staple in my CRM diet for Dynamics CRM 2011.

All in all good work MVPs!

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