There is a lot of information out there for Dynamics CRM but it is sometimes hard to find good information aimed at users or non-technical administrators. I wrote an article of resources a little over a year ago (http://leontribe.blogspot.com/2009/08/handy-links-for-non-technical-crm.html) and thought it was time to give it a bit of an update.
Within Dynamics CRM
For this section, I’ll use screenshots from Dynamics CRM 2011 beta (http://www.crm2011beta.com ) but you can find the same resources in the same places in Dynamics CRM 4 (except for the first one which is only available in CRM 4 Online). One thing to consider with the resources within Dynamics is that they only refer to features found in CRM out-of-the-box. Other than the “Help on This Page” which is customisable, the rest will not refer to any configurations or customisations done to your instance of CRM.
The getting started area is available at the top of most list view screens in CRM. For a user starting out it gives lots of handy tips and tricks. If you are a little more experienced with CRM you can hide this with the little up-arrow at the bottom of the getting started pane.
“Help On This Page”
In CRM 4, once you click this you need to specifically select ‘Help on this Page’. In CRM 2011 it goes there by default.
As can be seen, this is a little more comprehensive than the Getting Started pane and worth a browse if you’re not sure about a feature or want to know what a field is for.
Resource Center (http://rc.crm.dynamics.com/rc/regcont/en_us/ophighlights.aspx )
One of the best and least utilised features of Dynamics CRM. I have taught ‘refresher training’ to classes of CRM veterans before and asked them the question “Where can you find the Resource Center?” and been overwhelmed with silence. I have even been accused of adding it just before the training session as users insist it was not there before. For those that still are unsure, the Resource Center can be found at the web address above, or by clicking the button, just below Settings, clearly marked “Resource Center”.
This is the “Google”, sorry I mean the “Bing”, of CRM resources. Open up the page and you are greeted with all sorts of online resources.
Type something into the search box and you’ll be given help sections, videos, forum discussions and all sorts of things.
If you have questions which you cannot answer using the resources within CRM, my next port of call would be ‘The Forums’. These are online discussion areas full of people who use, make money implementing or design Dynamics CRM (yes, the teams at Microsoft involved with Dynamics CRM are active participants on the forums). This is as good as it gets in terms of free, professional support for Dynamics CRM.
The forums are also one of the measures used in determining whether a Microsoft MVP is actively engaged in the community so us MVPs have a vested interest to ensure we are active in the forums and providing good answers in a timely fashion (because if we don’t someone else will).
Activity in the forums is so good that if you are asking a non-technical user kind of question e.g. “How can I add an attachment to an email?” you are likely to get a response within hours, if not minutes, not days.
The CRM Forum (http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/crm/threads )
This is arguably the most popular and most active of the forums. There are actual three main forums (CRM, Deployment and Development) therefore CRM tends to get more user-type questions than the other two, although the rule is not hard and fast and you will sometimes get dev-type questions posted.
Dynamics ‘Ask the Community’ page (http://community.dynamics.com/product/crm/f/117.aspx )
This is not as active as the main forum but does still get some activity and worthy of a search if the main forum does not come through with the goods. There is talk of this being rolled into the main forum but nothing has happened as of yet.
CRM Online Forum (http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/crmonline/threads )
I did not mention this before as I am mentioning it here. The main CRM forum is for any question on Dynamics CRM regardless of deployment, the CRM Online forum is specifically for online deployments of Dynamics CRM 4, although questions do arise on there which apply to CRM in general. If your question is online-specific, this is a good place to go.
CRM 2011 Beta Forum (http://social.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/crm2011beta/threads )
This is similar in purpose to the CRM Online Forum, except specifically for Dynamics CRM 2011 beta. If the new version is of interest, I strongly encourage you to sign up for the online beta at http://www.crm2011beta.com .
CRM Public Forum (http://groups.google.com/group/microsoft.public.crm/topics?hl=en )
Microsoft have made it clear that they no longer are active in the public forums and encourage people to go to the main CRM forum. Certainly the main activity on the public forums these days are non-CRM related advertisements. However, as a historical resource for Dynamics CRM it is worth a search if others have failed you.
Blogs and Twitters
There are many, many blogs and twitters out there dedicated to Dynamics CRM. Here are a couple whose content is often not as technical as others.
Dynamics CRM Team Blog (http://blogs.msdn.com/b/crm/) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/MSDynamicsCRM)
Yes, this is the blog and twitter of THE Dynamics CRM Team at Microsoft HQ in Redmond. While technical articles do appear, there are also plenty of ‘how to’ and ‘here is a feature you may not know about’ type of articles which can keep you using Dynamics CRM to its full potential.
Leon Tribe’s Blog (http://leontribe.blogspot.com) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/leontribe)
It would be remiss of me not to mention my own blog and twitter. While I was a developer a long time ago, my focus these days is on the functional aspects of CRM. Therefore my blog generally has articles on codeless solutions to common problems or general CRM-related articles of interest. It is rare to see code or discussions on things like plugins on my blog.
My tweets are again designed for broad-audience appeal. Often they are links to interesting videos (I have many links at the moment on CRM 2011), the latest service pack or industry analysis on the CRM market. Check them out and if they’re not to your liking, there are many, many others out there, some of which got plugged in my blog post from last year.
There are plenty of resources out there to help you work with and administer Dynamics CRM. If all else fails, reach out to an MVP. We love the opportunity to help people realise their full potential with Dynamics CRM and as long as we can answer your question in an email or 15 minute conversation, you’re almost certainly not going to get an invoice for it.