The good folk at SAMS Publishing asked me to review a couple of books back in November. Having had a baby daughter I didn’t see the email until February and, when the books did arrive, they sat in my ‘to do’ pile for quite a few months. I can only apologise to Andrea and the hard-working team at SAMS and here is the review I promised.
The first book they sent me to review was ‘Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4 Integration Unleashed’ by Marc J. Wolenik and Rajya Vardhan Bhaiya. Given they have just released chapter 15 onto MSDN, which looks at Azure Web Service Integration, a review is probably quite timely.
Incidentally, if you want the sample code from the book, chapter 3 and the index, you can also go here.
As a disqualifier, I know neither of the authors personally and the only compensation I’ve received for this review are the books themselves (which given the delay is response, Andrea may ask to be returned).
The Lay of the CRM Land
The first 100 pages outline the CRM ‘territory’. That is how one extends the application, design considerations such as the available authentication methods and deployment scenarios as well as licensing considerations. Given some of the solutions available at Convergence, this last section on licensing should be a must-read for any development team looking to release a real-time integration piece with Dynamics CRM. While the finer details of licensing are not covered (SPLA implications, for example) the guiding principles are there.
Those Familiar Integration Scenarios
Then, up to page 265, it goes into specific detail about common integration scenarios including:
- BI (SQL Analysis Services, SQL Reporting Services and PerformancePoint Services)
- Phone integration (TAPI/SIP/OCS/Cisco Unified CallConnector/c360 CTI)
- Social networking (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter)
- Mapping technologies (Microsoft Live Search Maps, MapPoint, Google Maps)
Phone integration piqued my interest given the recent release of the customer care accelerator where you have to develop your own phone integrations but, unfortunately, while high-level concepts were discussed and screenshots were provided for the commercial products, no sample code was provided for TAPI, SIP or OCS.
It is not all doom and gloom though, the BI walks you step-by-step through creating cubes, there is a nice walkthrough, including code, on creating a document store in CRM with SharePoint and also having the Search Center talk to the CRM DB. In fact the SharePoint section appears to be quite comprehensive.
Social Networking provided brief examples for ‘iframing’ the social networks and similarly, if you’re looking for a pointer on embedding a mapping technology into CRM, you’re given the code.
Chapter 11 is a bit of an odd one in that it reviews the accelerators available for CRM on codeplex or, at least, a few of them. Specifically:
- Event Management
- Extended Sales Forecasting
- Newsfeed Business Productivity
This is not the complete set of accelerators (workflow extensions anyone?) and is pre-customer portal but for the ones listed it reviews their purpose and walks through their installation.
SCOM and VSTS
I don’t know either of these technologies very well, so it is hard to comment on these sections. The SCOM chapter talks about the importance of monitoring CRM performance and walks through installing the CRM 4.0 Management Pack onto SCOM to do this. The VSTS chapter gives a comprehensive sample solution for integrating CRM and Team Foundation Server for case management over 50 pages (that’s 9% of the book!)
Pages 405 to 540 talk about integration to middleware solutions such as:
- Azure (others may object to the classification of Azure as middleware, however it suits my taxonomy for the purposes of the review)
BizTalk has a bit of a reputation when it comes to integration so the sample of linking CRM orders to GP (including code) is great. Sample code is provided for creating an Azure .NET application and showing it in a CRM iframe and Scribe gets a whopping 3 chapters (overview, components and templates). That’s 90 pages of Scribe (15% of the book). If you didn’t know what Scribe was for before reading them, you will afterwards.
Other Integration Tools
The last section talks about other integration tools available including:
- The GP Adaptor (unreleased at the time of writing)
- c360 tools
- Semantra tools
This is more of an overview chapter for CRM-GP solutions.
This is not a book of code snippets. Some code is provided in some sections but the primary purpose of this book is to give a plain English overview of common integration scenarios for Dynamics CRM. Given recent changes to the SDK, this is probably a good thing.
The book is designed for people who know how to code but may be unfamiliar with the products being integrated to. In this regard, the book is a resounding success. If you want a general overview of how product x talks to CRM, this is a good place to start. Once you understand how things should be done you may need to look elsewhere for specific code to meet your business need or you simply write it yourself leveraging the examples provided.
If you want a copy of this book, you can buy it here: