Microsoft Upgrades Developer Tools and SaaS Capabilities for Dynamics CRM
Microsoft has released new tools to accelerate development of custom components in Dynamics CRM 2011 solutions. At the same time, they published an update to Dynamics CRM Online that includes better integration with Office 365 and the introduction of social capabilities.
The CRM Toolkit for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 is a downloadable package that becomes embedded within the Visual Studio 2010 development environment and streamlines the creation of custom solution components. Prior to the release of this Toolkit, developers had to work with a series of standalone tools and command-line utilities to create and deploy custom extensions to Dynamics CRM. Now, developers can use Visual Studio 2010 templates to generate Dynamics CRM custom component projects, add code stubs based on the type of custom component being built, and deploy components to either on-premises or cloud-hosted runtime environments. The toolkit also installs an “Explorer” module into Visual Studio 2010 where developers can browse the various artifacts that make up their Dynamics CRM instance.
The availability of the CRM Toolkit came on the heels of the release of Update Rollup 5 (UR5) for both the on-premises and SaaS versions of Dynamics CRM 2011. In addition to leveraging the billing, administration and provisioning platform of Office 365, Dynamics CRM Online now also deeply integrates with Exchange Online, Lync Online and SharePoint Online. This means that SaaS users have the same capabilities as their on-premises peers when it comes to using Dynamics CRM 2011 to track email messages, send instant messages to colleagues, and store content in SharePoint libraries. The UR5 release also brings with it support for identity federation so that Dynamics CRM Online users can use leverage SAML tokens to federate their onsite credentials with their SaaS identity.
UR5 also introduces a host of social components that help the Dynamics CRM platform keep pace with competitor capabilities. However, the social aspects included in UR5 do not make Dynamics CRM a “social CRM” product that interacts with public social media networks to engage with customers. Rather, the social components in UR5 focus on improved internal sharing of information within the team that uses the system. The centerpiece of this offering is the CRM 2011 Activity Feeds which appear very similar to the Salesforce.com Chatter product. Users of Activity Feeds can “follow” a record in the system, post their own individual activities, view a “wall” of activities within the system, and see activities related to an individual record. The point of this capability is to more readily surface key business events and enable quick collaboration to address a user’s need.