Solution Management in CRM5

I keep on describing the innovations that are expected in the next version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Every company engaged in the Microsoft Dynamics CRM projects implementation, sooner or later faces the problem of different components and settings compatibility. There are many questions while migrating customization (system settings and components) from the test server to production environment.

Here are the most common issues:

  • entity with the same name is already in target system (but is used for other tasks and has different fieldset);
  • component (a form, client script, workflow rule, etc.) depends from another and it's quite difficult to track corresponding changes or add changes on production server;
  • vulnerability of your customization from modifications by third party;
  • complexity of deploying comprehensive solutions.

Even harder on those who are working on a projects in collaboration with other companies. Delineate settings in the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 you can only by changing the prefix in the name of custom entity (for example, use «isv_» instead of the standard «new_»). Independent software vendors faced with the same problems.

According to the Microsoft's plan in the fifth version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM will be a new approach to system customization – Solution Management – enhanced ability to manage the system configuration. As I wrote earlier now there is only manual version control of your customization components.

The new concept would be similar to the installation and software management in Windows: ie application components check dependency and warn of version incompatibility or need to install additional modules.

The main advantages of this solution is the ability to share components and modules in complex solutions.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 5 Solution With One Component

This allows to allocate layers within a single solution. For example, basic functional module (core ISV solution), on top of which will operate a number of specific modules of the same manufacturer. An important feature will be solutions and modules dependency manager – installing one solution will be possible only after a pre-installing depending solution. And you will not able to install a top level module, without setting specific version of a base module at first – all of these dependencies will be checked automatically.

Moreover, this approach will also allow to create plug-ins and modules based on third-party solutions (provided that they are not protected, as will be discussed later).

Solution of one manufacturer will include a number components. Installation package of the solution – ZIP-archive to be imported into CRM. System settings as solution in whole, combined in modules will consist of:

  • customization:
    • entities (moreover, exported solution will not include system entities and attributes, if they are not affected, also will be possible to export individual attributes of entities),
    • forms (including client scripts),
    • views;
  • workflow definitions;
  • templates:
    • email,
    • Microsoft Word Mail Merge,
    • service contracts;
  • security roles;
  • component assemblies (plagins and workflows) – this is open question.

All of these components will be considered as a solution as whole. While upgrading that solution it will be possible to revert to the previous version.

The presented solution will also allows to protect the components and settings from interfering in their structure, which can lead to a denial of the whole module or the entire solution. At the moment it's just a flag in customization, but at release will present encrypted package. And at the design stage export without content protection will be available.

So, much of the new approach of the Solution Management is now in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0, but in the next version will be the most important – meaningful methodology.

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