Saturday, September 20, 2008

I am a PC

To MAC lovers everywhere I have asked "If they wanted to do a commerical to show Mac users are cool, then why did they not pick a cool guy to be in the commerical??" IMO the MAC guy is a geek and doesn't make me think of Macs as cool machines.

My wife has a MAC G5 and a PowerBook, and I can tell you from firsthand experience that her machines are also no more reliable, no faster, no more resistant to crashes, etc., than an average PC.

Now the Windows team is calling on you to join the "I am a PC" campaign...


Thursday, July 31, 2008

Setting up a “mirror” of a production environment for dev/testing

I recently needed to set up a “mirror” of a production system for use in development and testing. I had worked with the Redeployment tool in CRM v3 and I was interested to see how v4 worked. I was very happy when the v4 tool was *very* easy to use, and here are the steps I followed.

1. Used SQL 2005 to do a backup of the CRM v4 production databases
2. Using the VPC image distributed by Microsoft, I copied the .bak file to the VPC. I then did a restore of the database files to the VPC SQL instance. For some reason the SQL GUI did not work, so I used the following command (Names changed):
restore database OrgName_MSCRM from disk='C:\Temp\OrgName_MSCRM.bak' WITH MOVE 'OrgName_MSCRM' TO 'C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL.1\MSSQL\Data\ OrgName _MSCRM.mdf', MOVE ' OrgName _MSCRM_log' TO 'C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL.1\MSSQL\Data\ OrgName _MSCRM_log.LDF'

3. Once the DB was successfully restored on the VPC image, I fired up the CRM Deployment Manager, right-clicked on the “Organizations” item, and selected “Import Organization”
4. The next step asked me to specify the SQL server, and as soon as I did that the deployment manager found the organization I wanted to import
5. The next screen asked me for a name and a display name
6. Next input was the report server URL
7. The next steps involved the mapping of users. There are several options for this tep, I chose to simply “Manually Map Users”, and the only user I mapped was the Administrator which was mapped to the Litwareinc Administrator on the VPC. I got a warning that “All users are not mapped. Do you wish to continue?” and just clicked “Yes”
8. The next screen was simply the tasks verification screen, so I clicked “Next” and then on the next screen “Import”
9. And that was it! It took a bit of time and at the end I am able to access the org via http://moss:5555/orgname/loader.aspx

You can see the screens here but please note names are hidden:

Friday, July 18, 2008

GM OnStar

Continuing the OnStar story, my wife got set up with GM and received this report via email. Click here for a full size shot!

This service rocks.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

GM and OnStar take customer service to a new level

As a lifelong GM fan, I have observed the company’s recent struggles with sadness. Lately GM has been making some very good cars, but unfortunately public perception is that imports are better.
We recently were in the new car market as our Explorer is getting on 10 years old. We were looking for a car with decent people space, but with today’s gas prices we were leery of a full sized SUV. In the end we decided on a GM CUV - crossover utility vehicle- and in addition to being the car we liked best, we also got the absolute best service from that particular GM dealer. “Leggat Pontiac, Buick, GMC”.
So after buying the car and getting started with GMs interactive service, OnStar, I wonder why GM does not put a lot more energy into promoting this fantastic service.

The other day we were in Niagara Falls taking the girls to MarineLand, and we wanted to find a Starbucks. Our navigation system can find things like that, as can most navigation systems today, but OnStar took it one step further. Without ever taking my hands off the wheel I called OnStar and asked about the nearest Starbucks. The OnStar representative not only found it in about 2 seconds, she then said “Would you like me to guide you turn-by-turn, or should I send the directions to your car?” We asked to have the direction sent and presto! The directions came through on our cars navigation system.

OnStar also functions as a cell phone from the car, they can unlock the doors automatically if the keys are locked inside, they can run diagnostics remotely, and the car can even automatically call for help in the event of an accident.

In today’s competitive market, a service like this that is heads and shoulders above anything any other manufacturer offers is a serious advantage. GM, get the word out!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

MVP For Dynamics CRM

Hello all:

I am very happy to annouce that I have been selected as a CRM MVP for FY 2009.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

CRM Gadget for Vista

I have finally gotten around to updating the Vista gadget for Dynamics CRM v4. You can get the new files here:

Just copy all the files into the accounts.gadget directory, and then in both accountsv4.html and contactsv4.html, make the following changes:

StraumannGroup must change to your org name
straumannsrvr2:5555 must change to your CRM server name and port (2 places)

and that should be it.

The original article is here:

Friday, May 09, 2008

Cheap case = hard upgrades!

Cheap Case = Hard Upgrade

Here’s a tip from my system builder days. I recently upgraded my workstation and made the mistake of getting a cheap case. My thinking was “Well it just sits under my desk, so who cares what it looks like??” BIG MISTAKE! I just tried to put in a new hard drive since VPCs eat up space, and what a gong show!
In order to get the new drive into the cheap case, I had to remove:
The other 2 hard drives
All the RAM chips
The Motherboard power supply cable
The IDE cables to the CD drives
The video card
The USB extension card

So what should have taken 30 seconds ended up taking me over a half hour. And of course the scary part of removing everything, is wondering whether I it all back correctly!

So, if upgrading and buying a new case, don’t judge a case by it’s cover! You might not care what it looks like but ALWAYS asks the folks in the shop about expandability and the ease of changing components.

Visual C++ Runtime Error

Visual C++ RunTime Error I did an upgrade from v3->v4 the other day and all seemed well until one of the clients encountered this error:


A little digging revealed that there is a HotFix that would possibly fix this:

and that fixed the issue.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Install Dynamics CRM 4 on SBS 2003 R2

Installing CRM v4 on SBS 2003 R2 with SQL 2005 Workgroup Edition

If you need to install on SBS 2003 R2 beware this error:

"Setup requires that cumulative update package 2 for Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Service Pack 2 be installed on this computer. This update is required when you install Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 Server on Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Workgroup Edition."

This update package is only obtainable from support via a web request. They actually responded to my request very quickly, but be aware of this and if needed request the HotFix in advance to be prepared!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Microsoft Dynamics Community

There is a nice new site for Dynamics here:

If you decide to sign up, please enter my user name, jstraumann, as your referral code!
Irresponsible Journalism

This morning while perusing my news headlines, one jumped out at me:

“Windows Vista Hacked at CanSecWest Conference”

However when I read the full article at

it turns out Vista *was not* hacked, Adobe Flash was! During the hacking contest, apparently the hackers were unable to crack Vista itself, unlike Apple OS X which fell in 1 day. It was only after the rules were amended to allow attacks against 3rd party software that runs on the OS that the flaw was found in Flash.
I do not understand how a publication can allow a headline which is completely untrue!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

“No returns…Exchange only” policies = BAD customer service!!
Some time ago I bought my wife some very expensive French undergarments at a nice local shop. I had guessed at her sizes and when she inevitably went back to the store to look at some other sets, she was told about the “no returns, exchanges only policy”. Today my wife bought some clothes for our 6 year old daughter at a retail shop near us that is part of a chain, and when she went back because the clothes didn’t fit, she was told “no returns…only exchanges.”

So my first piece of advice is to shoppers (caveat emptor and all that) ASK about these policies. Since the undergarments thing my wife and I almost always ask, but she was in a hurry and did not think for a minute that a chain store would have such a policy, but lo and behold, they do.

My next piece of advice is to the retailers to tell them that this is a very bad customer service policy. I think too often stores that sell tangible goods don’t consider themselves as a service business, but let me tell you this…if you sell ANYTHING to customers, you ARE a service business, and service is what keeps people coming back.

I was speaking to a small business owner one day about this topic, and this person said “Well a lot of small retailers cannot afford to have people returning things.” Hmmm, maybe a valid point, but my answer to that is “What can they afford more, someone returning something or someone NEVER coming to their store again?”

In the case of the French undergarments, the product was a very high quality and overall my wife was pleased with it, however I (we) will never shop there again. In my opinion (and I am a customer, therefore I am ALWAYS right J) if I buy something I should have a reasonable amount of time to return it for a full refund if I so choose. I understand if retailers do not want people coming in after 6 months to return things, but how about a 2-week or 1 month policy?

In speaking with some of these retailers, the mind set seems to be that once a sale is made, this policy ensures they keep the sale, but I guarantee in the end it is costing repeat customers. As anyone who works in sales knows, repeat customers are the lifeblood of any business, and for a small business the loss of even one customer can be significant.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I was working on a little callout assembly recently and all went well until I had to hook into the customer's Java web service. I used WSDL.exe to generate a proxy class and was able to successfully instantiate the object and call into the Java web service (thanks Adam!), but I could not for the life of me get the XML right! I needed to pass in CRM account data, which comes into a postcallout in a very nice XML string, but then when I passed that XML string into the java web service it puked. I tried all kinds of fancy .NET methods to build the XML, for example:

System.Xml.XmlDocument mydoc = new System.Xml.XmlDocument();
mydoc.LoadXml("" );
mydoc.LoadXml("" );

XmlElement newElem = mydoc.CreateElement("account_request");
newElem.InnerXml = postImageEntityXml;
mydoc.DocumentElement.AppendChild( newElem );

XmlElement resp = mydoc.CreateElement("response");
newElem.InnerXml = "";mydoc.DocumentElement.AppendChild( resp );

with no joy.

Thankfully, a programmer at the customer lent a hand and as anyone who programs for a living knows, those extra eyes *really* come in handy! The end string that worked looked like this:
String myXML = "" +
"" +
postImageEntityXml +
XmlElement element = mydoc.DocumentElement;

Which without the formatting ended up at 3 lines. Nice. Keep It Sweet and Simple...isn't that what the acronym KISS stands for?? :)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

CRM v4 Unleashed!

The book has been released and is available now:

Friday, March 21, 2008

I got tagged with the latest chain Meme!

Menno has tagged me as part of the latest chain Meme that is going around in the blogosphere!

Here are 8 random facts about me.

Here are the the Meme rules:
Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
People who are tagged need to write a post on their own blog (about their eight things) and post these rules.
At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

My 8 things are:
I used to own a pizza shop and coincidentally weighed 260 lbs
I really want to move back to my homeland
I miss playing rugby like a limb, a part of me is gone
My ultimate fantasy is to play for, speak before, whatever...a crowd of 100,000 people
I have had surgery 10 times and am facing #s 11 and 12, yet I am surprisingly upright
An indulgence I only occassionaly allow myself is to buy new books
I have no idea why my wife married me
I miss my parents terribly

Here are the 8 people I would like to see post their 8 random facts:
Jim Glass
Al Fournier
Simon Hutson
Matt Wittemann
Anne Stanton
Michael Höhne
Ben Vollmer
Bill Gates

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

CRM - it's not software, it's a state of mind!!

As someone who works with CRM solutions, my goal is always to help my customers improve their relationships (translate: loyalty) with *their* customers. CRM is not software, it is a state of mind that needs to be practiced by everyone in an organization. Companies must view *every* customer contact as a chance to impress their customers and therefore keep their existing customers, or cultivate new customers. Let me illustrate this with an example.

Our Ford Explorer is getting on a bit in years, and our driver side power window recently broke. While the window would not move up or down, it was wedged in place and so we left it alone whilst our friend who works on our car looked for the parts to fix it. Unfortunately on the weekend we used a valet parking service and the guy, despite the fact that the window button was covered in tape, pressed the button which left the window wedged downward a centimeter or so, resulting in a very pleasant (NOT) whistling noise whilst driving.
So I figured we need to get this sorted out and on Monday morning I called a local Ford dealership. We usually use a dealer a bit far from our house so I decided to try one closer, here is the transcript of that call, names omitted as I do not want to get sued:

Ford guy answers gruffly "Hello?"
Me: "Oh, I was trying to reach X Ford Service"
Ford guy: "This is It"
Me: "Oh, OK. Anyway our power window is broken and I need to get a service appointment to get it sorted out. It's a 2000 Explorer and as far as I can tell the window has detached from the brackets that attach it to the power mechanism...."
Ford guy cuts me off and says "You need parts, I'll transfer you"
Me: "Wait, I want to make a service..." cut off, transferred to Parts
Ford Guy #2, again gruffly: "Hello?"
Me: "Um, I was talking to service and they said they had to transfer me to parts, is this the right department?"
Ford guy #2: "No, this is the body shop"
Me: "Oh, can you transfer me back to service"
Ford guy #2: "No, I don't know how to do that, you have to call back." Hangs up.

You know the expression "You never get a second chance to make a first impression"?!? Wow, what an AWFUL introduction to their dealership. Here they had a golden opportunity to get a new service customer, and possibly a new customer for a new car sometime in the future, and they flat out blew it! No software in the world could help these folks because they don't practice the right attitude of customer service. I have always told my customers that in many ways I think service is more important than sales force automation, as it is service that retains customers and impresses new ones!

So, after this dealership goes through customer relationship training from The Straumann Group - if you're interested in this training you can email me here: - let's see how this scenario *could* play out:
I call:
Ford guy: "Good morning, thanks for calling X Ford, how can I help you today?"
Me: "Hi, I have a problem with a broken power window on my 2000 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer and I need to schedule an appointment to get it looked at"
Ford guy: "Wow a broken window in winter, that cannot be fun! What's your name and phone number sir?"
Me: "John Straumann, 123-456-7890"
Ford guy: "OK Mr. Straumann, I do not see you in our database so it seems you have not been to our location before"
Me: "That's right, I have not"
Ford guy: "Ok Mr Straumann, in that case I am going to waive the initial service fee to check the window. We pride ourselves on our service and we are always happy when we have the chance to meet new Ford owners!"
Me: "That's great, thanks"
Ford guy: "So I have an appointments open at 10 AM and 12 PM today. Do either of those times work for you?"
Me: "Sure, 12 PM is great."
Ford guy: "Perfect, do you need me to send you directions to our store and will you need a ride home from our courtesy van?"
Me: "No I know where you are and I do not need a ride, thanks"
Ford guy: "OK, thanks for calling and we will see you at 12".

Anyone see a difference in the dialog as compared to my actual experience? Now let's take this one step further. This ultra courteous and "proud to be a Ford guy" guy hangs up and begins creating the service request. He notes the car is a 2000 Explorer, and it occurs to him that it being 2008 this car is likely getting on in years....Hmm, could Mr. Straumann be a potential new customer?

Absolutely! It just so happens I am currently looking at new cars, and the Ford Explorer is on our short list because our 2000 ha been rock solid! However in today's very competitive market that short list still has about 10 cars on it, so the manufacturers really need to impress me!

Meanwhile, the Ford guy forwards my info to their star sales guy.

Ok, so now it is 10:30 AM and I get a call:
Ford guy #2: "Mr. Straumann?"
Me: "Yes"
Ford guy #2: "Good morning. This is Peter from X Ford and I work in the new cars sales department. I saw that you are bringing in your Explorer for service today and I wanted to say hello."
Me" "Ah, ok"
Ford guy #2: "Mr Straumann, since your Explorer is a 2000, it occurred to me that you might be considering a new car purchase sometime in the near future. Since your car is going to be in our shop today, I'd like to offer you the use of a 2008 Eddie Bauer Explorer while we fix your car. Would you be interested in that?"
Me: "For sure, that would be great"
Ford guy #2: "That's great, are you coming to our store alone or is your wife coming with you?" Me: "Actually my wife is coming with me"
Ford guy #2: "OK, well we are always happy to meet loyal Ford owners, so since you have had your car for almost 8 years, when you take the 2008 Explorer I will also give you a coupon to have lunch on us! So you and your wife take the car, go have lunch and have fun! Hopefully that will alleviate some of the inconvenience while your window gets fixed, and you can go enjoy a free lunch"
Me: "Wow that's great, thank you very much"
Ford guy #2: "Ok, I will come and see you at the service counter at about 12:10 PM to give you time to get your car checked in."
Me: "Sounds good, see you then."

Wow, what a difference,. Not only am I getting great service from the repairs department, now I am also being courted by the sales department but in a very subtle way. Peter did not call and go straight for the pressure sale, he introduced himself, made it very easy for me to test drive the new Explorer, and bought me lunch. Peter is building a REALTIONSHIP!

Statistics say it costs car manufacturers about $500 just to get someone to walk in the front door of a dealership. In this case the Ford dealer has used a service call to cultivate a potential new customer, and even factoring in the free lunch, their costs are a heck of a lot less than $500!

So at the end of all this of course I might not buy the Ford, the market *is* very competitive, however through the application of Customer Relationship Management principles, this Ford dealership has greatly increased the chances I will buy another Ford Explorer. Further, I will be very likely to relate this story of great service to people I interact with, and everyone knows word-of-mouth is extremely important to anyone in business.

Happy CRMing!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Hi all:
As soon as I saw the alerts on the web that Windows Server 2008 RC1 x64 with Hyper-V was out, of course I HAD to have it. So I grabbed the download and began installing on my lab serer, only to be slapped with a rather cryptic message: “A required CD/DVD device driver is missing. If you have a driver floppy disk, CD, DVD or USB flash drive, please insert it now.”

Hmmm. I tried 3 DVD drives I have in my lab here but had no joy with any of them. This is a less than auspicious start!

Stay tuned…

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I know v4 is out, however the other day I faced the task of creating a “mirror” of a v3 production system for development purposes. I posted a question in the newsgroups and go back a very helpful response, so I thought I would post the steps and my experiences here. The steps are numbered, and my notes are prefaced by JJS>>.

1. Export all customizations from the production implementation.
2. Install the RedeploymentTool on the dev environment. JJS>>Found on the install CD in \Server\RedeploymentTool
3. Copy the databases from the production environment to the dev
environment.JJS>> For this step I simply copied over the latest backup set created by SQL. To get the DBs onto the DEV system I created “shell” DBs in SQL with the same names as the production databases, and then I did a “restore” with the “force overwrite” option selected.
4. Create domain accounts for CRM user if the domain differs from
production environment to the dev environment.JJS>> This is an important step. I discovered that the redeployment tool will want to map the users from the source CRM system to users in the target system. Note that the user names do not have to be the same, however there does have to be the same *number* of accounts on the target as existed in the source. I found the easiest way was just to create accounts in AD on the target that matched the AD accounts on the source, and then let the RedeploymentTool do an automatic mapping.
5. Run the RedeploymentTool. (Please refer the documentation in the
RedeploymentTool folder for details)JJS>> Very easy, step-by-step, wizard.
6. Run setup for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 Server and choice existing
database as a database.
7. Import and publish all the customizations.JJS>> I found that I did not have to do this step, all the customizations were brought over to the dev system by the redeployment of the Metabase.

And that was it. The process was actually quite painless.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

If you're like me and you get frustrated by scratches on your shiny new laptop, you'll appreciate this story. I was picking up Leopard for my wife's Mac when I noticed a product by Speck ( This ingenious deice is a hard-shell plastic case which fits perfectly onto the MacBook Pro, protecting it from scratches, dings, etc. What a great product! I just got a new Dell XPS with a very nice Red MicroSatin finish, and what do you think the chances are someone out there has produced such a product for PCs? That's right, zero. :(

Check it out:

Hi all:

I just finished the technical edit for "Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 Unleashed" due out soon...Click the image to see the book on