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Posts tagged ‘Dynamics CRM’

Fast, Secure Access to Cloud CRM with a Custom API

In recent years, CRM systems have gone from managing client details and interactions to providing a platform for client services. While this makes it easy to track client details, it can also introduce challenges if clients want to access their service provider’s database.

Security issues and data complexities can make it hard for service providers to give clients direct access to their CRM database. One solution is to build a custom API for external applications to plug into. The API does the hard work of collating details and managing security, and clients easily get secure real-time information.

InaPlex recently built a custom API for a major Realty Adviser that provides a property appraisal service for banks. Implemented by Clarus IT Solutions, the service is setup in Dynamics CRM which has been heavily customized to manage the entire appraisal process. Documents associated with an appraisal are stored in SharePoint,  a web-based, collaborative platform that integrates with Microsoft 365.


When a bank requests a property appraisal the Realty Adviser raises a work order in its internal CRM system and assigns the work to a certified appraiser. There are many approved appraisers per bank, and the same appraiser can be used across several different banks.

The appraisal process is tracked from beginning to end through the work order. There can be multiple reviews of an appraisal and many different companies and people involved, all of which need to be logged, documented and tracked. A hard-copy report and supporting documentation are provided weekly to the banks for reconciliation against their internal records.

One Bank, a major client for the Realty Adviser, wanted to have access to work order details in real-time from its own internal systems. Its staff needed to know whether the work order was open or closed, its current status, and view any associated documents and appraiser details. It also needed access to be online, responsive and available 24/7.

Giving the Bank direct access to the Adviser’s database was problematic. Not only was it difficult to restrict enquiries to the Bank’s information (especially as some details, such as appraisers, can be shared between banks), but the process of locating and extracting associated SharePoint documents was sometimes complicated.


Clarus IT Solutions, with its deep understanding of the Realty Adviser’s Appraisal Service, realized that the most flexible and secure solution would come from developing a custom API. InaPlex was asked to assist with building the API because of its strong Azure platform expertise and deep API experience.

InaPlex created a web services API that isolated the Service provider’s database from the Bank and built functions that could retrieve information on request, even where this involved consolidation across the CRM and SharePoint systems. Information included:

  • A list of all appraisals
  • Documents associated with any appraisal
  • Details on any particular appraisal
  • Details on all appraisers certified to work with the Bank
  • Documents associated with any particular appraiser

It was straightforward for the Bank to incorporate these API functions into its existing applications and give staff access to real-time enquiries from their internal interface.

As a result of this approach, the Bank now gets work order details quickly, easily and seamlessly, even though they are stored in a third party database and distributed across different applications. There is no longer any need for manual reconciliation, and Bank staff is able to respond rapidly and accurately to problems and enquiries. Meanwhile, the Realty Adviser is delivering a vastly improved service to a major client for a lower cost, and without any risk to the integrity of its own data.


As John Jenkins, President of Clarus IT Solutions, noted, “Direct access to our client’s complex CRM setup would have been a security nightmare and difficult for everyone to implement. Instead, by building an API, we delivered exactly what the client needed without jeopardizing data integrity. Given the clear benefits, I see this sort of approach becoming increasingly common, especially with cloud based CRM solutions.”

Without an API, viewing the Service Provider’s data would have been messy, time consuming and risky, as well as more expensive to setup and maintain. A custom API for accessing cloud databases can be a tremendously effective way of providing secure, real-time visibility of external information. For companies offering client and/or Partner services, or complex field updating, developing a custom API as a gateway to the cloud may well be the smartest approach to take.

Clarus IT Solutions specializes in Managed IT Infrastructure and CRM Consulting Services, in particular all aspects of IT infrastructure management and CRM implementation, management and support. Clarus IT is a certified InaPlex Partner.


How to Succeed in CRM Integration and Migration: Database Reverse Engineering

Moving data to CRM systems - for a migration or ongoing integration - can involve poorly defined databases. This blog shows you how to reverse engineer a database for successful transfer of data to the CRM system.

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GoldMine to Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Post III: Migrating Customer Details

This Post is the third in a series of four about migrating from GoldMine to Microsoft Dynamics CRM. It details system preparation and migrating contact details, including email and web addresses. The final post will step through the process of migrating activities, history, emails, attachments and opportunities.

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GoldMine to Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Post II: Project Management of CRM Migrations

Migrating GoldMine to Microsoft Dynamics CRM (MS CRM) presents a range of challenges. This second post, in a series of four, focuses on the Project Management of CRM migrations. Drawing on extensive experience in this field, David Evans, CTO InaPlex, presents some key factors to consider when managing a migration project.

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Extending Inaport – Example of a Custom Function

Following our previous post on extending Inaport using custom functions, Justin Knieling of Grand Canyon University kindly shared an example of a custom function he has written. The function assigns new users a security role in Microsoft CRM 2011.

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Inaport 7.3 – Dramatically improving matching performance using local cache tables

With the rise of CRM systems such as Microsoft CRM 2011 which are accessed via web services, performance becomes more of an issue. Analysis of Inaport projects indicates that for a typical import into a web hosted CRM system, up to 99% of the time may be spent in the web service calls to the target CRM system.

An important objective, then, is to minimize the number of web services calls as far as possible. This post describes some techniques available in Inaport 7.3 that can dramatically reduce or eliminate the cost of  matching on the target system, by removing the need to make any web services calls.

While these techniques have the biggest impact with web services based systems, they can also be very useful for on premise based systems such as SalesLogix.

It is a long and moderately technical post. A subsequent post will provide some examples of using these caching techniques. If you have any questions, it is likely that other readers do as well – feel free to ask for clarification in the comments, or to contact InaPlex direct.

The basic technique is caching the primary key of the target records in the source database. This can be done by one of:

  1. updating the source record with the primary key of the matched record in the target;
  2. using a cross reference table, that stores the primary keys of the source and target records, along with match information;
  3. building a match table that stores the primary key of the target, along with required match information.

Each of these techniques is useful in different scenarios.

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Microsoft CRM – Moving Views Between Development and Production With Inaport

At times in chez InaPlex, we are slightly dumbfounded by where our users take our product.

Guest blogger Justin Knieling of Grand Canyon University has been pushing the boundaries for a while, but now he has excelled himself. In this post, he describes using Inaport to move MSCRM views from one organization to another. Please note that in this particular scenario, he is using a SQL connection to the source CRM system, as he has it on premise. This might not work, or may need modification, if you are running hosted.

Over to Justin…

We often find ourselves needing to move system views from one Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 organization to another. A recent example of this was when we had a department who wanted to start using the case entity in CRM. They developed views to display their department’s cases along with some other views for activities related to the cases. Overall, I think there were about 15 views they created in our development environment.

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Importing Leads into Microsoft CRM (and other CRM systems)

This post demonstrates importing leads, an important first step in the sales process for many (most?) organisations. Leads can be gathered from many sources, which can lead to multiple problems such as poor quality data and duplicates.

Inaport can be used to:
  • Assign a quality score to each lead, allowing us to block low scoring leads, and rank the ones imported;
  • Use better matching techniques to prevent duplicates being imported.
While this post uses Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 as the target CRM system, the principles discussed can be used with Sage SalesLogix, SageCRM, ACT! by Sage, and GoldMine.

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Inaport versus Scribe Workbench

Normally we would not mention a competitive product, but with the release of Inaport for Dynamics CRM a common question is “why use Inaport instead of Scribe Workbench”.

This is a fair question, because Scribe is probably the incumbent player for import/migration/integration projects with Dynamics CRM.

(I might parenthetically point out that a few years ago Scribe Workbench was the incumbent for Sage SalesLogix; now InaPlex is a Sage Endorsed Development Partner, and Inaport is the only endorsed integration product for SalesLogix.)

One obvious answer to the question is pricing. Inaport starts at $450 for an entry level 30 day license through to $3,495 for the unrestricted Professional Edition; there are no seat count restrictions, and no limit on the number of systems it can be installed on. This makes it very competitive against Scribe Workbench, which is $3,995 (server) + $1,295 (adapter) + $995 (user pack) = $6,285.

However, the British have a saying “penny wise, pound foolish”; the American equivalent is “you get what you pay for”. It would be short sighted to save a few thousand dollars on the software, to later discover that either it cannot get the job done or it adds significant time and complexity to the project. Integration projects are already tough enough without also battling your tools.

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Inaport for Microsoft Dynamics CRM released

Inaport for Microsoft Dynamics CRM has been released.

This build has full support for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.x, both on-premise and hosted, and can be used to:

  • import into any entity or set of entities, with full matching (including fuzzy matching)
  • migrate legacy systems such as ACT! or GoldMine
  • integrate with other enterprise systems such as Accounting or ERP

The adapter supports advanced features such as:

  • run SQL queries against the Dynamics system during import;
  • populate pick list fields from incoming values if not already there;
  • optionally, automatically add a field to entities for storing an import id for matching.

Of course, the complete set of Inaport features are available: automation, logging, error handling, preview of data before import, and many more.

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