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September 29, 2010

Data Integration Application for Microsoft Dynamics CRM

A couple of days ago, our team faced an issue when developing a custom application for data integration to Microsoft Dynamics CRM. We thought that sharing the problem and the solution will be useful for the community, so here it is.

Apatar developers had chosen PHP technology for that custom data integration application; I will explain why they had chosen PHP and not Java or Delphi in my next post. Meanwhile, please, keep in mind that this case describes accessing Microsoft Dynamics CRM by means of PHP NuSOAP.

The Microsoft Dynamics CRM Software Development Kit includes documentation that covers a wide range of instructive and practical information. Unfortunately, it does not provide the appropriate information on accessing Microsoft Dynamics CRM MetadataService (fields, tables, and their descriptions) and CrmService (accounts, contacts, leads). To be more exact, it provides the same URL formula for accessing both metadata and data services:

http://server_name_here/MSCRMServices/2007/service_name_here.asmx

where service name is either MetadataService or CrmService.

In the course of development, it became clear that this formula does not work for both services. So, the correct formulas are:

For Metadata

http://server_name_here/MSCRMServices/2007/MetadataService.asmx?wsdl

For CRM data

http://server_name_here/MSCRMServices/2007/CrmService.asmx

As you can see, to access MetadataService you have to add ?wsdl at the end of URL, and to access CrmService you don’t have to add anything.

Hope you’ll find this information useful!

September 24, 2010

Customer Data Integration Using RSS Feeds

Filed under: Data Integration, Database Integration — Tags: , , — Katherine Vasilega @ 7:45 am

One of the ways to improve your business management is to keep your CRM users better informed. You can send out emails to your employees when a specific event happens in CRM (new contact or new lead is added), but you can go further than that and provide the same up-to-date information without emails. Database integration with RSS feeds opens up great opportunities for customer service and workflow.

Database integration with RSS allows aggregating RSS feeds, filtering them by relevant keywords and providing the relevant content to a specific user. Database integration allows creating one generic feed or multiple feeds to give CRM users the option to customize the desired information. Let’s say you have five new customers a day – you can immediately inform sales managers of new opportunities and leads, alarm executives when opportunities close and new ones come in, send contacts’ details to your marketing department, etc.

You can use CRM – RSS feeds integration in another way. Database integration with news search RSS via Yahoo! News, Google news, CNET and other portals will help you gather information about your potential customers. You can immediately send out this information to sales people and give them something to talk about with possible clients.

Database integration with RSS feeds allows collecting relevant information and using it to update your CRM system, arm your employees with relevant information and improve customer service.

April 20, 2010

Understanding Data Integration in the Cloud Context

Filed under: Data Integration, Data Migration — Tags: , — Olga Belokurskaya @ 2:29 am

Today, cloud providers enable both small companies and enterprises appreciate cost-savings, scalability, and ongoing server support, moving their applications or parts of them to the cloud. However, data integration still remains among the challenges cloud providers and their customers face. According to a number of cloud experts (David Linthicum among others), this occurs due to the fact that data integration in the context of the cloud has not yet been clearly understood and elaborated.

  • Sadly, but data integration seems to be an afterthought for many cloud providers; they do not consider the need companies have for synchronizing data in the cloud with the on-premises sources.
  • Another issue is that there are still no common standards for data integration between different clouds. Companies have different business goals and they may use the services from different cloud providers. So, today, we speak about not just cloud-to-on-premises integration, but cloud-to-cloud integration, as well. Since there are a number of different cloud platforms available today, providers are expected to consider cross-platform integration as soon as possible.

So, in the context of the cloud, data integration means the possibility to integrate and manage data across all on-premises and cloud-based systems a company utilizes. Cloud provider should consider these options and give its customers such a possibility.

December 24, 2009

Data Migration: Challenges of Moving to the Cloud

Filed under: Data Migration — Tags: , — Olga Belokurskaya @ 8:35 am

Okay, the cloud seems to become a real trend, so now for many enterprises there’s no question whether to adopt the cloud, but how to do it better.  Cloud’s major idea, that attracts many organizations, is the possibility to move their applications out of internal data centers into the cloud, and let cloud providers take care about maintaining the applications. However (and it’s been mentioned not once), application migration and data migration to external clouds are not simple processes.

Not to become overenthusiastic and have a clear view on moving to the cloud, it’s good to know the challenges and questions that data migration raises.

Clouds possess different architectures, and thus require technical personnel to upgrade their skills to fit cloud requirements in terms of implementation and operation. This is the most likely-to-face data migration challenge when moving applications to the cloud.

Data security is also among cloud data migration challenges. In fact, moving data into some third-party provider’s servers, you’ll know about it that it is somewhere in the cloud. This somewhere may be anywhere; there were lots of talks this year about clouds lacking transparency. However, this doesn’t mean that data migration into the cloud is a bad idea. This only means, that what applications (and what data) to move to the cloud should be carefully defined.

As for lowering cost, yes, moving to the cloud is one of the solutions to cut company’s expenses.  But that won’t come immediately. Initially, data migration will demand investment, for either data migration tool will be necessary to perform on-premise-cloud data migration, or the need to pay for data migration service. What matters, is that there won’t be free data migration anywhere. Depending on what tool you will choose, the cost may be higher or lower.  Yes, I’m talking about open source solutions that are available today as widely, as proprietary tools. However, when making a decision about what to choose, you shouldn’t be driven by merely cost cutting ideas, but follow your business goals, and choose the tool providing best opportunities to achieve those goals.

So, moving to the cloud has become a trend, and it’s fair, for the benefits provided of the cloud are real. However, though it seems simple just to move enterprise applications and data to the cloud, data migration must be properly planed and possible challenges analyzed before making the first move.

December 2, 2009

Data Integration: Business Needs are Important

Filed under: Data Integration, Data Quality — Tags: , , — Olga Belokurskaya @ 8:18 pm

Have you ever thought that one of the serious issues that makes data integration initiative complex is the lack of well -defined user needs for data? No, let’s start differently. Why do companies need data integration and spent so much efforts and resources on this initiative? To get the full view and better understanding of company’s data. And this information, in its turn, is needed for business decision makers to make right decisions.

Back again to user needs, or better say, requirements for data. This may come as a surprise, but the «lack of well defined user needs” has been named on the third place among the reasons for the failed data integration initiative to deliver business important data to decision makers, according to a survey by Aberdeen Group.

So, why user requirements are so important for successful data integration? In fact, the goal of data integration is not simply to gather all the data from systems and applications used within a company in a single place, but to get the data that is important for business. They‘re business representatives who are the end users of data integration, because they make the decisions based on the data received. So to ensure the process of data integration was correct, specific business focus should be placed on data standards and requirements.

These business requirements should be taken into consideration and thoroughly defined before data integration is started. In other words, there should be clear definition of what data is critical for business.