Saturday, February 27, 2010

Microsoft CRM and Great Plains implementation: freight forwarding business automation example

In this small article well show you business automation example, where Microsoft CRM and Great Plains are integrated and customized to fit Freight Forwarding business processes

Microsoft Business Solutions offers several ERP applications: Great Plains, Navision, Solomon and its own CRM solution Microsoft CRM.  Targeting to automate all business operations, Microsoft CRM is now integrated with Microsoft Great Plains and in the close future it should have integration with Microsoft Navision.  In this small article well show you business automation example, where Microsoft CRM and Great Plains are integrated and customized to fit Freight Forwarding business processes.

  • CRM.  Central Customer and Vendor records place.  Assuming you have agents across the USA and internationally CRM, being web-interface application and so, could be used across the globe with good internet connection.  The nice features of this product are central emailing you send email from MS CRM and receive responses from your clients back in CRM, where they are permanently stored and documented.  You can issue Quote and Sales Order directly in CRM if needed or could have them issues in Microsoft Great Plains with propagation to Microsoft CRM (deploying MS CRM-Great Plains integration tool BizTalk based connector).
  • Accounting/ERP.  Microsoft Great Plains could play this role, being integrated with Microsoft CRM and with industry-specific business system.  In the case of Freight Forwarding/Transportation this business system could calculate fees and charged, associated with MBL/HBL and posted against agent accounts.  You could deploy SQL triggers for instant integration or stored procs for scheduled batches.
  • Great Plains Customizations.  Freight Forwarding specifics require Shipment tracking with SOP and POP invoices posted and tracked against the shipment and probably regular/monthly Agent Settlement report, where you match customer and vendor invoices, associated with the agent shipments and create AR or AP document, depending on positive or negative balance.  This is Great Plains Dexterity customization or web-development (if you need your agents lookup features from remote locations)
  • Microsoft CRM Customization.  Assuming that you have Shipment Tracking system, which might be SQL or Oracle based you need shipment lookups for your order takers and customer support personnel from Microsoft CRM screens.  Being designed for easy web customization Microsoft CRM allows you to incorporate .Net web application into its screens, such as Account, Contact, Lead, Opportunity, etc.  You use Web Forms and Microsoft CRM SDK to penetrate into MS CRM security realm and then ADO.Net to call third party MS SQL Server or Oracle data
  • Implementation Advices.  Microsoft CRM should be probably tried as in-house pilot implementation with 5 users license and then you can purchase additional license as you have your users trained.  If you need MS CRM SDK C# or VB.Net programming you could subcontract.  Great Plains requires consultant help to be implemented and integrated, because it has sophisticated tables structure and documents flow mechanism.
  • Data Conversion.  We recommend you to deploy Great Plains Integration manager to import Vendor and Customers plus open documents.  Historical transactions, if needed should be moved by outside consultant.  Microsoft CRM has import tool try it first and subcontract more complex attachments, for example.

Good luck with implementation and customization and if you have issues or concerns we are here to help! If you want us to do the job - give us a call 1-866-528-0577! help@albaspectrum.com

Andrew Karasev is Chief Technology Officer in Alba Spectrum Technologies USA nationwide Great Plains, Microsoft CRM customization company, serving clients  in Chicago, California, Texas, Florida, New York, Georgia, Arizona, Minnesota, UK, Australia and having locations in multiple states and internationally ( http://www.albaspectrum.com ), he is CMA, Great Plains Certified Master, Dexterity, SQL, C#.Net, Crystal Reports and Microsoft CRM SDK developer. You can contact Andrew: andrewk@albaspectrum.com

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Microsoft CRM implementation & customization: MS CRM Fax Gateway

With this small article we are continuing Microsoft Business Solutions CRM customization, development, modification, setup and implementation discussion.
Microsoft CRM at this moment doesnt have advanced fax automation you can register the fact of fax receiving or sending, but it is not sufficient for your daily work with your clients. User should be able to send and receive faxes in her/his work environment it is in MS CRM

Fax software automation market is very mature and we dont have to re-invite the bicycle here. All we have to do is integrate one of the reliable solutions into Microsoft CRM. Lets look at the technical aspects of the integration:

  • Modification should be based on the standard event Fax Activity logic alteration. Standard CRM version allows in- or out-going fax info saving into SQL database. Alternative form should have additional parameters for fax delivering
  • Immediately after the moment of fax saving into CRM database, Albaspectrum MS CRM Universal Fax Connector takes over the logic, more precisely its fax sending portion of the logic, realized as MS CRM Post-Callout, registered for Fax Activity addition and update. At the moment of new fax activity creation, our module considers attached documents as subject to be transferred to the addressee.
  •  Depending on the fax application/extension you use, call parameters are transferred to the appropriate plug-in, which in turn communicates with fax application.
  • Fax sending might be done through specialized systems or direct hardware control via MS FAX API.
  • Initially we plan to support GFI FaxMaker and Captaris RightFax via their printing & integration system with email servers MS Exchange and Lotus Domino
  • Documents, delivered or received through fax extension could be integrated into MS SharePoint via our proposed product Albaspectrum MS CRM Document Gateway. This allows you to revise and versionize document with automatic fax delivery to the addressees involved
  • For incoming faxes we suggest capturing via special handlers on the MTA (MS Exchange or Lotus Domino) level their task is to take over fax transfer and saving it for the addressee in CRM and Fax Activity creation in MS CRM
  • This approach provides seamless incoming and outgoing fax document workflow in MS CRM.

Happy programming, implementation, customization and modification! If you want us to do the job call use 1-630-961-5918, 1-866-528-0577! help@albaspectrum.com

Andrew Karasev is Lead Software Developer in Alba Spectrum Technologies USA nationwide Oracle, Navision, Microsoft CRM, Microsoft Great Plains customization company, serving Chicago, California, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Georgia, Florida, New York, Canada, Australia, UK, Russia, Europe and internationally ( http://www.albaspectrum.com ), he is Oracle, Unix, Microsoft CRM SDK, Navision, C#, VB.Net, SQL developer.

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IT Strategy for Large Corporation: ERP/MRP/CRM, Unix/Linux/Windows, Microsoft/Java

Combining Microsoft Business Solutions Great Plains ERP with non-Microsoft Business System or CRM: Lotus Notes Domino, Oracle, DB2

There are multiple opinions on building your established large business IT system.  Some companies prefer to be Microsoft shop, others prefer to stick to Java world.  In our opinion large company should try balance its ERP in several layers: Hardware, Operating System, Database Platform, ERP/CRM software vendor.  The history always proofs that staking on one thing statistically has a chance to fail, remember Windows/Mac battle in the middle of 1990th?  Then Java resurrected UNIX world in the end of the 20th century.  All these facts just tell us that any prediction of the future should not be accurate, because the factors we could consider in the prediction formula will be superceded by new conceptions.  Good example would be C cross-platform programming language however now we are crazy about thin client so where is C longevity?  So, in 2004 we merged several companies to serve large corporate businesses, positioning us as cross platform integrators and the company, envisioning harmony between multiple computer platforms and conceptions.  Let us give you our bullets below:

  • Microsoft Business Solutions pluses old conception that OS should be separate from the DB platform and from your accounting application doesnt work when we consider modern Microsoft: it now offers all in one: Microsoft Great Plains/Navision/Axapta/Solomon/Microsoft CRM/Small Business Financials ERP, based on MS SQL Server DB platform and all this nice suite is working under Microsoft Windows 2003 Server.  This is very nice to have and the price would be lower, however you are in the business space and conceptions of Microsoft corporation, which really deserves you to consider either ERP or CRM solution to be trusted and handled into Microsoft guys
  • ERP/Accounting/MRP - we suppose that the old days of expensive ERP application are going to the history.  Nowadays we see the trend to use reasonably inexpensive and functionally sufficient applications, based in decent SQL platform.  So, our suggestion is do not pay for high end ERP/Accounting system and rather consider reliable budget solution as a platform for light customization
  • Business System/CRM CRM market should be considered a mature one in 2010, when such pioneers as Siebel will cross 15 years of the existence.  Again in our opinion youd rather pay for small or moderate customization to budget CRM solution to have work done.  Microsoft CRM or SalesLogix would do the job
  • Oracle Financials we are supporters of the companies who decided to go with Oracle Financials or SAP and have their CRM/Business Management System to be placed on the Microsoft Windows platform.  Microsoft CRM would integrate with Oracle smoothly
  • Microsoft CRM in our opinion large publicly traded company should consider using Lotus Notes Domino for document workflow and CRM and when adopting MS CRM it should consider using Domino as primary email server see our MS CRM Lotus Notes Domino email connector description.

Good luck and you can always seek our help in customization, implementation, integration and support.  Call us: 1-866-528-0577 or 1-630-961-5918, help@albaspectrum.com

Andrew Karasev is Chief Technology Officer in Alba Spectrum Technologies USA nationwide Great Plains, Microsoft CRM customization company, serving Chicago, California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Georgia, New York, Australia, UK, Canada, Germany, Continental Europe, Russia and having locations in multiple states and internationally ( http://www.albaspectrum.com ), he is Dexterity, SQL, C#.Net, Crystal Reports and Microsoft CRM SDK developer

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Microsoft Dynamics AX-GP-NAV-CRM: Trends and International Recommendations

Microsoft Dynamics project ? or formerly referred as Project Green should unify and modulate all Microsoft Business Solutions ERP applications: Microsoft Great Plains/Microsoft Dynamics GP, Microsoft Navision (former Attain) Microsoft Dynamics NAV, Microsoft (Navision) Axapta/Microsoft Dynamics AX. The challenge of unification probably will result in quality change for the unified interface, such as Web/Business portal/Microsoft Outlook & MS Office integration, Deployment of new technologies, such as Microsoft Sharepoint with workflow automation. Plus the development platform for Microsoft Dynamics products should shift from proprietary tools, such as Microsoft Dexterity, C/SIDE, MorphX (no confirmation for Axapta yet ? but we guess it should follow) to C# and VB.Net with VisualStudio. In this small article we will try to orient IT managers in Microsoft Business Solutions MRP products selection for international and regional markets.

? Microsoft Dynamics GP. The regional markets for Great Plains 9.0 and following Microsoft Dynamics GP 10.0 version will narrow: United States, United Kingdom, Canada: both English and French speaking, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other English speaking countries in Asia, Africa and Worldwide, plus Spanish Speaking Latin America. Microsoft Dynamics GP 10 will not be available for Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Poland ? the last version localized for these European countries will be 9.0 ? June 2006

? Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Currently Navision has very good presence in Europe, including East Europe: Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Slovakia. Microsoft also localized Navision for new markets, where it just moved in: Brazil for example ? it was interesting development in Brazil ? first Microsoft probed Solomon, then Microsoft Great Plains 7.5 and in 2004 replaced it with localized Navision

? Microsoft Dynamics AX. Microsoft Axapta, opposite to Navision or Great Plains where market shares are gained/divided and competition is based on renovations and product improvements, Axapta has great potential yet to be deployed, coming from its modern and very futuristic system design and architecture. Being targeted to upper mid-market and corporate clients Axapta shows very good progress on emerging markets: in Russia for example the number of Axapta installation is similar and comparable with the number of Navision installations. Plus, in 2005 large number of Microsoft Business Solutions gold certified partners rushed into Axapta consulting arena ? this is seen in the USA, UK, Australia and continental Europe. In Brazil currently MBS in local Portuguese Axapta launching mode ? localized for Brazilian tax code

? Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Is planned as front CRM solution for the majority of Microsoft Dynamics ERP system: integration with Microsoft Dynamics GP is available for GP 7.5, 8.0, 9.0 and CRM 1.2 and 3.0, Microsoft Navision ? through third party integrations, Axapta integration is planned. Microsoft has Microsoft CRM as worldwide product, so you should not have any doubts regarding your regional market.

? Competition. Oracle is on the way with Oracle Fusion project, aiming on Oracle Financials/Applications/E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, JDEdwards and potentially Siebel integration. SAP with the purchase of new mid and small market ERP: SAP Business One and Mendocino ? for SAP R/3 is catching up

Andrew Karasev is Chief Technology Officer at Alba Spectrum Technologies ( http://www.albaspectrum.com http://www.greatplains.com.mx http://www.enterlogix.com.br ) - Microsoft Business Solutions Great Plains, Navision, Axapta MS CRM, Oracle Financials and IBM Lotus Domino Partner. Please do not hesitate to call or email us: USA 1-866-528-0577, 1-630-961-5918 help@albaspectrum.com

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Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 Lotus Notes Domino Connector ? Overview For Consultant

We have reworked the original material, dedicated to Microsoft CRM 1.2 and first version of the Connector, now we are very close to make it work with Lotus Calendar events and support Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0.

Microsoft Business Solutions CRM and IBM Lotus Notes Domino, being two groupware products from competing software development leaders, however could coexist within one organization computer network and even work together in collaboration. There maybe multiple reason why corporation would use both products: licensing, commitment to IBM Lotus Notes as legacy product, risk balancing ? staking on both Microsoft and Java/EJB/J2EE platforms, deploying Lotus advanced workflow to automate document management, etc. The need to synchronize MS CRM and Lotus Notes Domino databases is dictated by the ERP market and the connector is available. In this small article we?ll answer on the frequently asked questions.

? Messaging. Can MS CRM use Lotus Domino instead of Microsoft Exchange? Yes. MS CRM Lotus Domino connector allows you send messages from MS CRM objects: Lead, Account, Contact and all the future object, including Sales and Service modules

? Outgoing Messaging. When Microsoft CRM send email from Account, Contact, Lead ? connector takes control over and sends email through Lotus Domino server. It has Java Agent at the Lotus side and MS CRM SDK custom piece at the MS CRM side. If you compare outgoing messaging with standard MS CRM Exchange connector, then mechanism is slightly different. Microsoft CRM Exchange connector places GUID in the message header and uses this GUID to identify the object in the responding email to push it back to CRM and attach. MS CRM Lotus connector doesn?t use GUID ? instead it scans MS CRM objects (Accounts, Contacts, Leads) in smart cached way

? Incoming Messages. When Lotus Domino server receives email ? Java Agent side of the connector triggers checking with MS CRM if addressor email matches with any Contact, Lead or Account email. In the case of the match ? email is transferred into MS CRM in the form of activity of email type. Again ? please note that connector doesn?t use GUID mechanism. We found that matching is better approach and we have Microsoft CRM Exchange advanced connector ? which works with matching, without standard GUID mechanism.

? Microsoft CRM & Lotus Notes Events synchronization. Future version of the connector will synchronize MS CRM and Lotus Notes objects: Calendar, Appointment, Fax, Phone Call, etc. Please, note that Lotus has different objects ? we have the matching table, please check with us.

? Lotus & MS CRM Versions. Lotus should be version 6.0 or higher. The reason for this is simple ? version 6.0 supports Java Agent technology. MS CRM should be 1.2 or 3.0. Lotus could work in multiple hardware & OS platforms, such as Windows Server, AS/400, etc.

? Product Pricing. It is US$3k basic pack, including 30 users and then $75 each additional user. In Europe price is proportional in Euro.

? Support. Product is installed Worldwide and supported in Europe from German office, in the USA and Canada from Houston and Chicago, in South America, Africa, Australia, Asia, New Zealand from office in Sao Paulo Brazil.

Andrew is Great Plains specialist in Alba Spectrum Technologies ( http://www.albaspectrum.com http://www.enterlogix.com.br http://www.greatplains.com.mx ) ? Microsoft Great Plains, Navision, Microsoft CRM Partner, serving clients in California, Minnesota, Illinois, Washington, Florida, Arizona, Texas

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