Power BI Free Preview for Microsoft Dynamics CRM

In the event you are not aware, you can obtain a preview instance of Power BI for free.  When you go to the Power BI sign-up page it will ask for a work or school email address.  The sign-up process will complain if you try to use a personal email address.  In the event you don’t want to use your work address, you can spin up a CRM trial instance and use that email address to sign up.  That is the approach I took and it worked well.  The nice thing about that approach is that you can connect Power BI to your trial CRM instance with just a few clicks.  Let’s take a look.

After signing in to Power BI you’ll see Microsoft Dynamics CRM in the left navigation window.  When you select it a Connect button will appear.


Select the Connect button and you will be asked to enter your Dynamics CRM OData Service URL which can be found in CRM under Settings, Customizations, Developer Resources.


Copy and paste the OData URL into the Power BI field and select Next.


You’ll be presented with sign-in options.  Select oAuth2 from the list and Power BI will connect to CRM.  The initial data load will take several minutes but once complete you will see a Dashboard, Reports and Datasets section.


You are now ready to begin exploring Power BI.  Check out this Power BI getting started article for a host of information to include working with Datasets to create charts (drag and drop), creating reports and dashboards, sharing dashboards and a whole lot more.

You can also download and try out the Power BI for Mobile App, Power BI Designer Preview and Analysis Services Connector Preview.


Keep an eye out for future articles as I begin exploring all that Power BI has to offer for Microsoft Dynamics CRM analytics.

Microsoft MVP Virtual Conference 2015

In case you haven’t heard, Microsoft is hosting the first US MVP Virtual Conference on May 14th and 15th.  The really excellent news is that we will have a Microsoft Dynamics CRM session. 

That’s right, I will be hosting an Ask the Experts session and we will be talking about your favorite subject this time of year which is the CRM Spring release, CRM 2015 Update 1 aka 7.1.  You can find the session information under the IT Pro track.


We have a panel of superstars ready to deliver their knowledge, tips and tricks related to CRM Online 2015 and we will, of course, be taking audience questions.  Panel experts include Dynamics CRM MVP’s Alex Fagundes, Chris Cognetta, Matt Wittemann, Shan McArthur,  and me, as the host and moderator.

In addition to our session, there are many others that you will most likely find interesting.  Topics like Azure, PowerBI, Skype for Business, and Windows are sure to be high on everyone’s list and you definitely don’t want to miss out on the keynote delivered by Steve Guggenheimer, Corporate VP & Chief Evangelist at Microsoft, on Thursday, May 14th at 8am PST

Check out the Agenda page to get a complete view of the event schedule for both days.

I’m really looking forward to connecting with my fellow MVP’s to discuss the latest release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, share our product knowledge and tips with you and respond to your questions.  Bring your coworkers and all your tough or even easy questions and we’ll be happy to respond.  I hope you can join us on May 14th at 5pm PST. 

We look forward to seeing you at the event!

Microsoft Dynamics CRM, SharePoint & One Note Step-by-Step Integration

With the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Spring 2015 release just around the corner, I wanted to try out the OneNote integration. The setup is amazing easily.  If you would like a preview, check out the step-by-step article I wrote for the Microsoft MVP Award blog site.

I think this integration is definitely going to make the most frequently used, new feature, list.


Inspire the Next

At Hitachi Solutions one of our logos displays the phrase, Inspire the Next.  

Hitachi corporate logo

The Merriam Webster’s definition of inspire is, “to fill with courage or strength of purpose”.  I personally love the phrase because it points to inspiring whatever is next; in life, in work, in play… and applies to every day, hour and minute.   

It’s not always easy to inspire ourselves or others because life can be challenging at times.  That is why I think it is important to share our inspiration with others whenever we can and celebrate those times when we’ve been able to achieve positive results. 

I recently had an opportunity to do just that and shared my story on the Microsoft MVP Mentor Blog site. I hope you take a few minutes to read the story and you are inspired by how we can work together to support one another to achieve our life aspirations and dreams. 

When life or work gets tough, you can always bring yourself back to this simple yet vibrant and full of promise, affirmation; “Inspire the Next”.  I hope it helps to lift you to a better place during challenging times and keeps you there when things are good. 

I look forward to hearing your stories about how you inspired yourself and others along life’s journey.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Ribbon Workbench

Scott Durrow’s Ribbon Workbench has been out for a few years now.  I recently had a project where I had an opportunity to use it.  I was quite impressed so thought I would share my experience and provide an example of its capability.

I obtained the tool from Scott’s site.  For those of you that have not visited the site, he has done a really great job of providing everything needed to get started including, getting started videos, a forum to post issues and lots of documentation.

The first step is to read and carefully follow the installation and setup instructions.   Spending a little extra time on this step will save you some potential pain and frustration later.  The first thing I did after installation was to create a solution file with the entities I planned to modify and exported the file for backup and recovery.  It is important to ensure you keep the backup file in a safe place so that you can restore it in the event something unexpected occurs.

In this example I am modifying the Opportunity entity so I created a solution with the Opportunity to open in the Ribbon Workbench.

To open the Ribbon Workbench you need to go to Settings Customization and select the Ribbon Workbench icon then select your solution file from the list of available options.


After loading the solution you can view the three areas of the entity available to work on; Home, Subgrid and Form. For this example I am working on the Form. I plan to move some custom buttons forward and remove some out-of-the-box buttons from the form.


Find the button you want to move, right click it and select the Customize Button option


This will result in placing a red checkmark on the button. Now you can select the button and drag it to the desired position.

Dragging button


Button’s new position on the form


Since you’ve already created a backup solution in the event you need to rollback changes, you can now publish your changes and when completed, open an entity record in CRM to check your work.  It is important to know that your changes are not saved until you publish them. 

Here’s a tip; if you’re having trouble getting the drag and drop feature to work as expected in Internet Explorer, try the Chrome browser to see if that works better. If not, you can file a support issue in the Workbench Ribbon forum.

Thank you Scott for a great toolset! It makes modifying the Microsoft Dynamics CRM command bar incredibly easier.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Personal Options

Today I created a new CRM Online trial organization to enhance some training that I am taking.  Generally, the first step I take after setting up a trial organization is to configure my personal options.  I’ve done this more than a hundred times over the last few years and realized today that I’ve never shared it in a blog post.  So today I thought I would share with you the options I select.

The first thing we need to do is select the small gear icon in the upper right corner and select Options from the drop down display:


I’ll begin with the general tab and walk through each tab.

General Tab

The first setting is the Default Pane and Tab you would like to navigate to when you log in.  As you will notice, the Default Tab options change based on the Default pane selected.  I select Settings and Solutions for my default login option.

In addition to the login, I change the number of records to display to 250 (maximum allowed), Change Advanced Find mode from Simple to Detailed (saves me a click or two when initiating a search), ensure the time zone is correct, set default currency to US and select the option to Enable high contrast.



For CRM Online trials, I generally deactivate all of the Outlook synchronization filters.  I take that action because I want to control the synchronization of data rather than have it automated.




A different option that I sometimes use it to setup a different Outlook profile and select that profile when installing the CRM Outlook Client.  When using that approach, I leave the default synchronization settings activated and allow the CRM Outlook Client to synchronize records.

The important thing to keep in mind when setting personal options is to ensure you’ve selected the options that support the work you perform most frequently.  You want to automate as much as possible and reduce work when completing your task.  The careful selection of your options will help you meet that objective.


The activities tab is fairly straightforward.  I generally set my default calendar view to weekly and leave the default work hours start and end times.  You can make whatever changes you choose to this area to reflect your needs.



The formats tab allows you to determine how you want to see the format of things like numbers, dates, times, and currency.  When I setup a trial, my options are always set to English and I’m generally satisfied with the default formats provided.  However, you can choose from a long list of formats and you can further refine the display by selecting the customize button.

Default settings for the trials I create


Select the Current Format drop down for a list of available options


Select the customize button to further customize the display


Select the Reset button to return to the default settings


Email Templates

Personal email templates display on the Email Templates tab.  You can also create personal email templates from this area by selecting the New button.



From my perspective, this is one of the more important tabs and you should spend a little time here thinking through your needs. 

By default, the option to allow other users to send email on your behalf is not checked.  This option needs to be check if you have workflows that send emails.  Since almost all organizations have those email notification type workflows that can be triggered by other users, you will most likely need to select the option to allow.

I always select the option to track emails in response to CRM mail.  I choose that option because I’ve found that it gives me greater flexibility.  I sometimes receive email from CRM contacts that I do not want tracked in CRM.  If for some reason I receive an untracked email that I would like tracked, I can always use the Set Regarding option.  Having said that, I’ve found that sometimes organizations prefer to have users set the option to automatically track emails from either email enabled records or from Contacts, Leads and Accounts to ensure important communication is not missed.

I also uncheck the option to automatically create records.  I don’t want CRM to automatically create Contact or Lead records based on the email sender and I generally don’t recommend it for others.  The reason is because CRM is only as good as the data.  When records are automatically created, only a small amount of data is added and users must remember to open the record to add key data points.  I prefer to have users purposely create records when needed to ensure that important data in not missed.



I always set the option to automatically send error reports to Microsoft.  I do that because I don’t want to be annoyed by those pesky Script error messages.  Some people, like developers, choose the Never Send or Ask for Permission to send because they want to see the error message in the event it is something they can fix. I encourage you to select the Automatic send option if you do not planning on fixing Script errors.  My thought is that the more error information that Microsoft receives the better because



You can use the language option to set the desired language display for the User Interface and Help files.  The base language is set at installation and can no be changed.

Now you have all the information you need to set personal options in CRM.  Take a few minutes to review your settings and ensure they are optimized to support you while you work.


Please note that these are my personal preferences and do not necessarily represent “best practice”.  You should configure your user settings in a way that supports the work you perform.