CRM “5”: Deploying Line-of-Business Applications
In yesterday’s video I chatted with a few PMs on the CRM platform team. We talked at a high level about some of the problems they’re trying to solve as they think about CRM “5. In today’s video we go a little deeper with Humberto Lezama Guadarrama (Program Manager), Elliot Lewis (Developer Lead), and Scott Head (Developer)
As I mentioned in yesterday’s video, don’t look for any schedule information in here. Also features and feature names may and probably will change before we ship. CRM “5” is still a long way away. We’re talking about this developer-focused stuff early to help developers with design and architecture as they think about future designs.
In CRM “4” you create components (entities, forms, reports, etc) and then there are various means to deploy those components into a customer’s implementation.
In this video we go deeper on a new concept in CRM “5” called solutions. Think of solutions as providing to CRM the same sort of capabilities that Windows has with its capability to add and remove programs and features.
The concept is quite powerful as it allows components to be layered on to the base system but also on top of other solutions (i.e. when there are inter-dependencies). It also provides a way to protect the intellectual property of the components in your solution. It also includes change management and versioning
In a sense ISVs that build on the CRM platform will now have the ability to package up their applications much like you would package up windows applications into MSIs.
Elliot gives a pretty good explanation of the architecture for how this is implemented. Like any good architect he couldn’t resist a blank white board and jumped up to diagram out the way a solution and components. He explains in a clear way how solutions layer on top of one another and still provide for versioning, uninstall and rollback.
Humberto gives us a lap around the UI for creating publishers (e.g. ISVs) and solutions. In doing that he gives a quick look at some of the new stuff coming in form design. That includes some cool stuff like drag and drop and sub-grids. Another feature is the ability to create lookup attributes. This one will save a lot of time and effort.
If, as Humberto joked, lookup attributes will “save you a thousand clicks” then another feature called global lookups or option sets will save you like a gazillion. :) It certainly will make ISV solutions much easier to manage. This will allow you to create pick lists that can be reused across many entities. I know there are many ISVs out there that have been doing this by creating their own entities but in many cases that leads to an inordinate number of entities (sometimes into the hundreds).
Humberto also gives us a lap around some of the new features in the page model. This includes a new way of presenting commands across the top of a form. Another thing that will get some attention is the dramatic reduction in the number of clicks and windows that end users will have to use to work with the UI. (“Less clickiness” :) ). Tabs have been moved to the left hand side and the tab sections have been moved to create one form. Again this reduces the clickiness of the app but makes for a much easier way to get to the information you need quickly.
You can already build some great dashboards on CRM data using SharePoint. Folks that have been waiting for way to provide that sort of capability directly to end-users will love the new inline charting (including pie, bar, funnel charts, etc).
Humberto left one of the more interesting features for the very end. The ability to add Connections to entities provides a way to sort-of tag entities and build unstructured relationships among entities in the system.
Update: Humberto’s Session at PDC where he discusses many of these topics is now public here. Full Disclosure :) : Humberto asked me to help him out with a demo in that session.
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