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Had enough media players, games, and animated shapes with Silverlight?  How about integrating into some line of business applications?  Microsoft produces an application called Microsoft CRM, now in it’s 4th release (those closer to the CRM information can correct me if I’m wrong…I’m actually not too familiar with the roadmap/releases of CRM).  What is CRM?  What you’d expect, a customer relationship management system…define your use of those systems as you wish.  There are many CRM systems out there, but what struck me as interesting about MS CRM is based on a demonstration I saw about a year ago when v4 wasn’t yet released.

The presentation was from David Yack, a Microsoft MVP and Regional Director, during a meeting in the unbelievably gorgeous mountains of Aspen, Colorado.  David is a smart dude, but among his technical prowess I believe CRM sits pretty high up in his knowledge.  He’s built a company around CRM consulting and such and I’ve not come across people in my paths that have spoke with the type of authority that David does with regard to MS CRM.  In this meeting David actually didn’t focus on CRM as a product, but as a platform.  The way it is structured (you really have to experience it and I’m not going to do it justice by trying to describe it here) enables it as a developer platform, providing flexible entity models on the back end with great end-user customization on the front-end (read: no coding to change data models and interaction with certain data).  In his hour discussion I came to appreciate his knowledge even more about presenting CRM as a .NET developer platform above the product features it provides.

A few months later at MIX08, David sat me down and showed me some stuff he was tinkering around with regarding Silverlight 2.  This was < 1 day after Silverlight 2 Beta 1 was released at MIX.  Sitting on some bean bags in the open space area, he had created a Silverlight interface to CRM data.  Turns out, CRM provides a pretty extensive service layer for developers.  Of course he did hit some snags along the way given that the CRM services implement some features not supported by Silveright 2.  Have no fear though, it still is possible!  How?  Well, David’s done a lot of the work for anyone wanting to access CRM services using Silverlight in his book CRM as a Rapid Development Platform.  In his book (chapter 7 specifically) he talks about building different user experiences for CRM, one of which is Silverlight.  The companion source code for the book provides about a 20K library to access the CRM service features from Silverlight, taking the hard work away from you and providing you with the already-implemented work-arounds to access the services. 

If you are involved in customizing or even understanding Microsoft CRM as a developer, this is a must-have resource.  I was fortunate to have been provided a code that I could share with you here to get you $10 off the current price for the first 20 readers here to buy the book.  Does this sound like a commercial?  Well, sorry if it does, but I know David, I’ve read portions of the book (as I mentioned I don’t work in the CRM world, so some of it doesn’t make sense to me as the API isn’t something I work with daily), and I’ve seen him speak about the developer platform capabilities.  This is a must-have resource for CRM developers.  So go to www.thecrmbook.com and use code “timheuerblog” for the deal.  Thanks to them for hooking me up with the code.

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