During my days as a Dynamics CRM Developer I have found many times the requirement of creating reports to meet the user needs of information. It is a basic functionality that all CRM systems share, the ability to display their data in a “user- friendly” way. Because of the very nature of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, the one that makes it so customizable, reporting can be a complicated thing because of all the possibilities that are available to suit the business demands. The book that I am about to review in this article with the title: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 by MVP Damian Sinay, http://www.packtpub.com/microsoft-dynamics-crm-2011-reporting/book, comes to provide us some help and guidance when entering this world full of possibilities.
The first thing we can notice about Damian’s new book is that his intention is to make the book accessible to as many people as possible, beginners will find this book perfect to learn many of the different options of Reporting for Dynamics CRM, and the experienced developers on the other hand will have a very useful guide in order to remember those limitations or configurations that you just normally don’t remember.
The book contains 10 chapters and 1 appendix, starting from the fundamental basis, such as CRM Report Types and Report Configuration in CRM, and ending in interesting things like “Failure Recovery and Best Practices” and reports in Mobile Client. The book also includes some useful chapters, especially for beginners, about Database and Entity model basics and explore the possibilities of integration of the Reports in several scenarios such as CRM Forms, ASP.NET websites, etc…
From the point of view of Dynamics CRM Online or On Promise, the book provides explanation of the different ways of doing things, the second chapter enters in more detail and explain us the different capabilities of FetchXML comparing it with SQL. I think this is a very important part of the book as many developers are still writing their reports using SQL, which cannot be used in Dynamics CRM Online, it is very important for the people building reports for the first time that they adopt FetchXML as their main way of developing because in a couple of years the Online part of Dynamics CRM will become more and more important. It is true although that FetchXML has its limitations, but hopefully it will get to a point where it can look face to face to SQL in a reporting way of speaking.
Damian also explains the 3 different ways that we have to build our reports in Dynamics CRM:
- Report Wizard.
- Report Builder. (On Premise only)
- Visual Studio.
I was happy to see for example an explanation of the different parameters that we can use when building a report with Visual Studio, such as “CRM_FilterText” or “CRM_URL”, as I always tend to forget them and I ended up having to search for them in Google or Bing.
The last part of the book explains what can we do with our reports once created, like the ability of embedding them on a CRM Form or using them in a Dashboard, I can’t count the number of times I had to deal with that, again it would be really useful for beginners because that is a requirement that almost for sure they are going to face.
At the end of the book we also have ASP.NET and Silverlight capabilities and what for me is really important, Best Practices and Common Errors, that section will definitely save someone’s life and time.
My opinion about this book is that is a perfect manual for any person that would like to introduce itself in the world of Reporting for Dynamics CRM, it is also a very good guide for people, like myself, that have been playing with reports for a couple of years and want to refresh or remember a certain detail that we may have forgot.
It is very easy to read the book because of all the screenshots and steps that it contains, also the language is very simple and easy, my mother tongue is Spanish and I was able to understand every single word of it.
This book will not make you an expert in reporting, only time and building millions of reports can give you that, but if you have never played with Microsoft Dynamics Reporting it is definitely a must have to understand how Reports work.