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Enterprise Deployment of Microsoft Dynamics CRM for Outlook (2013 or 2011)

I get many questions about enterprise deployments of the CRM Outlook client. When you are deploying the client to hundreds of users, there are some special considerations that apply. Microsoft does a great job of documenting the Outlook client deployment, but the relevant information is spread out between various sources. The goal of this post is to simplify finding the relevant information and add some details to help avoid some common mistakes.

 

Deploying the Outlook Client using SCCM

When deploying Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 or 2013 for Outlook to large numbers of users, the deployment can be automated using Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2007 or greater. The CRM Implementation Guide includes detailed step-by-step instructions for packaging the installation via SCCM. These instructions are applicable for CRM 2011 and CRM 2013.

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh699702.aspx

 

Downloading the software

The Outlook client installation files can be downloaded from the Microsoft download center. When you click the download button, you will have the choice of the 32 bit (386) and the 64 bit (X64) versions. The version you should download is based on the version of Microsoft Office installed on the user’s computer. If the user has 64 bit Office installed, download the 64 bit Outlook client. If the user has 32 bit Office installed, download the 32-bit client installer.

Link to the CRM 2011 Outlook Client download

Link to the CRM 2013 Outlook Client Download

 

Installing from a command prompt/batch file

Microsoft Dynamics CRM for Outlook can also be deployed via command prompt, so if you are using an alternative deployment packager, these instructions can be used to deploy the client remotely. Note that installation parameters allow for silent installation, as well as uninstalling the client.

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh699665.aspx

 

Consideration for Offline access

When deploying CRM for Outlook, special consideration should be placed on the role offline access will play in your deployment. You have three options to control how offline capabilities will be deployed via parameters you can include in your installation configuration file or SCCM package:

· Installofflinecapability will pre-install the offline components so users can immediately go offline. This is the option to use for users who you know will need to go offline. Note this will install SQL Express, so the deployment may take longer

· If you don’t include the above parameter, the offline components will not be installed. Users will still be able to enable the offline capability by hitting the “Go Offline” button, at which time SQL Express will be installed. This is the option to select if you expect most users will use CRM in online only mode, but may need to go offline at some time in the future.

· Disableofflinecapability is the option to select if you wish to prevent users from going offline and SQL Express from being installed on the local machines.

 

Automatically configuring the Outlook client

Deployment of CRM for Outlook is a two-step process. First the application is installed, and second the application is configured. During the configuration, CRM for Outlook is connected to your CRM environment and the plugin is enabled in CRM.

By default, the user is prompted to enter their CRM URL and select the organization name the first time Outlook is opened after the client is installed. This configuration can be automated (for on premise deployments).

To automate configuration of the client, the administrator can create an xml configuration file and specify the location of the file when calling the configuration wizard in a batch file or login script. Alternatively, the configuration wizard will look for the default configuration file in the non-roaming profile folder (%localappdata%MicrosoftMSCRM). See http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh699665.aspx#BKMK_Step2Configure for more details.

 

Special consideration for auto configuration of client with claims authentication/IFD

CRM for Outlook requires credentials of a valid CRM user to be configured. If you use CRM in AD authenticated mode, users will be automatically authenticated when they configure the client. This makes auto configuration of the client fairly painless.

If you have enabled claims authentication for IFD, even if users are on premise, the users will have to enter their credentials when the client is configured. The same applies if you use CRM Online.

If you follow the above instructions for automatic/silent configuration, CRM for Outlook will search the Windows credential store. If it doesn’t find stored credentials, it will prompt the user for credentials, making the configuration not silent.

It is possible to pre-load the stored credentials into the users credential store following these instructions: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/crmindia/archive/2012/12/23/silent-configuration-of-crm-for-outlook-client-in-crm-2011-claims-enabled-environment.aspx

Alternatively, you may consider doing a silent installation and training users to know what to enter when the configuration window pops up.

 

Avoiding synchronization surprise

Microsoft Dynamics CRM for Outlook synchronizes user’s contacts, tasks, phone calls, and appointments between CRM and Outlook/Exchange. Out of the box the system includes default synchronization rules, such as sync all contacts owned by the user. These rules are configurable by user.

It is very important that before deploying CRM for Outlook to a user that you verify that the business team has finalized the user’s synchronization rules. Otherwise, you may find that user unhappy with the results. For example, if a user has the default rule to move all contacts that he owns to CRM, and he doesn’t own any contacts, he may not see the contacts that he wants to see in his Outlook contacts folder after deployment.

Even worse, a user that owns many contacts may be unpleasantly surprised for find that she now has 10,000 contacts in her personal Outlook contacts folder after deployment, if she doesn’t want all those contacts to be synchronized.

Before you deploy CRM for Outlook to a group of users, verify that their synchronization rules have been set appropriately. The CRM synchronization is one of the most powerful features of CRM, but to make it work for your company, you will want to configure user’s synchronization appropriately.

 

Optimizing performance

Performance of CRM for Outlook is critical for successful user adoption of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Since the Outlook client directly touches individual users, if performance is not optimized, users may not be happy with their CRM experience.

Use the network diagnostic page for your CRM environment. This will give you the network bandwidth and latency from the user’s computer to the CRM server. This works for both CRM on premise and Online. The most important number is latency. CRM for Outlook is designed to perform optimally with latency of 150 MS or less. If your latency is higher than that, users may see slow performance, and adjustments should be made to settings like synchronization frequency to reduce network traffic by the client.

The client optimization whitepaper includes some great tips for optimizing performance of CRM for Outlook. Outlook Client performance and troubleshooting is also covered in-depth in chapter 16 of the CRM Field Guide.

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