Common CRM Solution Package Components

As a CRM Solution Architect, one thing that I often try to do is keep the complete solution package with a minimal amount of components in order to simplify the deployment process. In an ideal world, we want to limit a deployment to a solution deployment. In reality, this never happens on complex implementations. The purpose of this article is to point out some of common elements that are typically deployed as part of a CRM solution deployment.

  • CRM Solution: This is the .ZIP file extracted from your development CRM server that contains the system configuration and customizations. As part of a deployment, you typically always have one or multiple CRM solutions to apply to the target environment
    • Steps: Import CRM solution(s) in your target environment
    • Can be automated: Yes, use CRM SDK
  • CSV Files for data import: There is often a need to load master data on the system. For example, if you have entities for “Country” and “State”, you may want to populate them with data before people start using the system. This is easily done with a CRM data import wizard.
    • Steps: Import CSV or XML files in your target environment
    • Can be automated: Yes, use CRM SDK
  • Run Workflow(s) against a specific set of record: This is a technique that is often used to fix data issues. Examples of use: change record ownership, populate new fields created as part of the current release, delete records (data clean-up).
    • Steps: Define the query that will return the records you need to run your workflow against, find them (Advanced find or FetchXml) and execute the workflow against all records
    • Can be automated: Yes, use CRM SDK
  • Perform data load from external source: Loading data is usually done by external system (SSIS, Scribe, custom integration etc.) that have connectors to CRM. As part of a CRM deployment, you’ll often have to run data load/update tasks after configuring your integration service to point to your production server. This is used to do data migration or to enable on-going integration between multiple information systems.
    • Steps:
      • Deploy integration components and/or configure them to execute on your target environment (e.g. install SSIS packages, configure Scribe etc.);
      • Turn on integration jobs
    • Can be automated: Depends on the integration tools used
  • Deploy custom web services and/or web sites: To provide extended integration with CRM, we often need to create our own web services that expose custom operations involving CRM data. We also frequently see the need to build custom web applications outside of CRM to display complex and/or integrated data within CRM screens or to create external portals. These web services and web apps become part of the release cycle of your CRM solution.
    • Steps: Package web services and web sites; deploy them on target IIS server(s) and configure CRM endpoint(s) in Configuration files as needed
    • Can be automated: Yes, depending on how web apps is built and packaged

When delivering enterprise solution deployment packages, one best practice is to always plan to automate the deployment of all components that be can be automated. It shortens the solution package deployment process, limits the possibilities of human errors and helps make deployment administrators happier which results in them having a better relationship with the solution and product (I speak from experience J).

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