Book Review: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 New Features by Jim Wang and Darren Liu

I've been meaning to post my review of this new book by Jim Wang and Darren Liu, but it's been a very busy few months for me. Apologies to Jim and Darren for the delay! On with the review:

by Jim Wang and Darren Liu
(Disclosure: I know Jim and Darren through Microsoft's MVP program. Jim is a current MVP, and Darren is now working for Microsoft - otherwise he'd probably still be an MVP for CRM.)

I've got to admit that when I first heard about Jim and Darren's book on the new features in CRM 2011, I anticipated that the book might be 50 or 75 pages - after all, in my book, the Dynamics CRM 2011 Bible, I only dedicated about 10 pages to covering the new features that distinguish CRM 2011 from the previous version, CRM 4.0. So I was surprised and curious when I discovered that the book is actually 288 pages in total.

The book is available from Packt Publishing, and is actually includes in-depth information that goes well beyond describing the new features of CRM 2011 as it goes into some detail on how to take advantage of the new features in the platform. It walks the reader through an "XRM" scenario (where "X" can stand for anything, not just "Customer" relationship management). A better title might have been "Exploring the New Features of CRM 2011." But I won't quibble with titles.

Starting with the first chapter, the reader is guided through setting up a development environment so he or she can follow the authors through the process of building out their sample XRM scenario, an "Airline Compensation Management" (ACM) solution. This is a great example of how the CRM platform has evolved well beyond traditional Customer Relationship Management, and can provide a foundation for a wide variety of business applications.

Chapter 1 (Setting up the Development Workspace) covers the tools and software you'll need to have in place to practice what you learn in the book. Chapters 2 & 3 guide you through the initial configuration and setting up some sample data. Chapters 4 through 9 cover programming the ACM solution (client-side and server-side), integrating with SharePoint, layering on some BI with charts and dashboards, and even implementing an integrated portal in Azure. The final chapter helps the reader understand the solution framework and how to use solutions for transporting your customizations between environments.

I found the book easy to follow and clearly written. Jim and Darren do a great job of sharing some of the insider tips they've learned through years of experience with CRM and calling the reader's attention to important tips and idiosyncracies of working with CRM 2011. There are many helpful screenshots and illustrations along the way.

In particular, I found Chapters 5 & 9 to have some great content for developers who are familiarizing themselves with CRM 2011. Chapter 5 has a nice diagram that explains the mechanics of plugins and a useful introduction to the concept of plugin development. Chapter 9's walkthrough of adding buttons to the ribbon, which includes sample code, should be a big help to everyone who has fought the valiant fight with the CRM 2011 ribbon!

All in all, Jim and Darren have done a great job in packing a lot of content into this book and showing a nice real-world example for building a solution on top of CRM 2011. You definitely get a good understanding of the new features in CRM 2011, but you also will learn how to start using them for your own business applications!

Again, I wish I could have gotten around to posting this review sooner, but if you haven't yet availed yourself of this resource, it will make a great companion to the Dynamics CRM 2011 Administration Bible ;-)


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