SUGUK Manchester – A Typical SharePoint BI Project

I recently had the pleasure of speaking at the SharePoint User Group in Manchester.  Mark Stokes does a great job of organising the group events in this region and always gets a good turnout. 

My session was titled ‘A Typical SharePoint BI Project’, and covers the journey of a project from my experience.  This journey starts with the valid question: Why Microsoft rather than any other toolset? I then walkthrough the Microsoft stack, from SQL Server, Analysis Services through to Excel and the SharePoint BI toolset.

It was sure a challenge to cover this all in one hour, and I did have some issues with my VMs which halted my demos.  However luckily Alex Pearce was at hand to resurrect this for me in time to give a reasonable showing of Excel and PerformancePoint –> thanks Alex!!

You can grab my slides over on SlideShare!

CRM 2011 Rollup 6–Plan It First!

Over the last few months I’ve been working on a CRM 2011 implementation for a customer of mine.  The customer is a heavy user and they have come across a number of issues, mostly with the Outlook plugin.  Microsoft Support now insist Rollup 6 is installed before tackling any issues and this is now considered the base build for CRM 2011.

Interestingly, Rollup 6 was originally release on Friday 13th January, and subsequently pulled – later to be released again around a week later.

Anyway, we have now installed Rollup 6 on client and server, but the process took about a week to properly plan, test and implement.  The bottom line is: don’t just go ahead and install this rollup!

Here are a few notes I thought Id share with my experience:

Client + Server Must be Patched Together

We ideally wanted to stage the rollup i.e. do the server first, and then clients bit by bit.  We had done this with previous rollups without issue.  However in testing we found the following:

– Rollup 6 Client would not connect to a Rollup 4 server

– Rollup 4 Clients did connect to a Rollup 6 server, but we experienced 404 errors when saving records.

Therefore my advice is to upgrade client and server together

Server Reboot Required

You will be asked to reboot your CRM Server after the server/email router/SSRS extensions Rollup 6 install completes. So be prepared for this. There is no need to reboot after every patch – I waited until the server, email router and SSRS extensions had all be done.

Rollup 6 Cannot be Uninstalled

There is no rolling back from Rollup 6 if something goes wrong – it cannot be uninstalled like some previous rollups.  The path back to your previous installation would be to rebuild your CRM Server.  Therefore its imperative to take a backup of your content database prior to attempting Rollup 6.  Of course if your server is virtual, snapshots can be your friend here.

Check CRM and SSRS Services Afterwards

I found on some occasions that one or more CRM related services failed to start.  This may have nothing to do with the rollup per say and maybe due to the required server reboot, but do check none the less.

Outlook Crashes

One of the main reasons we looked at Rollup 6 was the claim to fix ‘random Outlook crashes’. Unfortunately Outlook is still crashing on users’ machines following the Rollup – I am still investigating that one and I’ll update this post as soon as I get a breakthrough.


In short, this is a BIG release and a milestone of sorts, although it doesn’t solve every problem! But give it some respect and test the patch on a non production system first and plan the upgrade of your clients to co-inside with the server patching.

CRM 2011 Email Router–Event Log Error 23379

On a CRM 2011 installation I cam across an issue where the Email Router had ceased to send email and the Event Log was seeing this error each time an email was attempted to be sent from CRM:


The first thing I checked was the build numbers of CRM Server and CRM Email Router (I just looked at the properties of sample DLLs in each respective bin directory). I found these to be different.  The CRM Server was Rollup 4, whereas the Email Router was RTM.

After installing Rollup4 for the Email Router, and rebooting, the router immediately kicked into life and began firing the backlog of email.

In addition to this there had been a change to the Deployment settings and Claims+IFD had been configured.  Although the Email router configuration had the correct URL set and was enabled, I have a hunch that a reboot was required following this change…

SPSUK 2011 BI Dashboards Presentation

Its been a long time since my last blog post – too long.  Something that kept me busy of the past few months was SharePoint Saturday UK which I organised along with my buddies @WorTony and @Brettlonsdale.  This was a fantastic event and we had some amazing feedback.  Look out for more SharePoint Saturday and SharePoint User Group UK meetings in the New Year!

I also gave a session at the SPSUK event on a Business Intelligence case study of a project which has also kept me busy this year. This project was to deliver a prototype BI solution for TAFE Queensland using the Microsoft BI stack.  This was an extremely challenging but exciting project, and the aim of the presentation was to share my project experience and highlight some of the lessons learned.  I also demonstrated how to construct some reports from Excel when connected to an OLAP Cube, and also some of the PerformancePoint dashboards we delivered as part of the prototype.

My slides are available on SlideShare for your reference.  Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.

SharePoint Best Practices Conference – Football Tournament

That’s ‘soccer’ to North Americans and Australasians Smile


Yes, that’s right, I have decided to organise the traditional curtain raiser for the European Best Practices Conference – a five-a-side football tournament.  Game On!

The general idea is to bring together as many conference attendees, speakers and organisers together for a fun afternoon to catch up, play some football or simply spectate and grab a beer from the bar.  Many people will be travelling on Sunday from all over the world to meet at THE No1 SharePoint Conference, and this is a great way to meet up and literally ‘kick-off’ the week.

Here are the details:


Powerleague London City – 5-a-side pitch, all weather outdoor, bar on site (nice).  It is located between Old Street and Liverpool Street tube stations (about 10 minute walk from either).


Sunday 10th April, 4pm-6pm


Last years ‘World Cup’ didn’t pan out to well thanks to the infamous Ash Cloud, and I have decided this year will be more of a Wacky Races style event with teams as follows:

– Combined Knowledge

– Lightning Tools

– Team US

– Team UK

– Team Rest of the World


I currently have a list of approximately 15 people who have expressed a wish to play.  If you do wish to play, please get in touch ASAP via email ( or Twitter (@m_macrae) or via a comment on this post.

I will contact all players shortly to inform them of kit requirements etc.


The more the merrier – just turn up if you can make it.


Obviously none of this comes for free.  Currently my organisation Intelligent Decisioning Ltd are sponsoring the pitch hire, but if anyone would be interested in sponsoring the SharePint afterwards for example, please let me know.



Importing CRM 4.0 Organisation Fails while Adding Users

Every now and again I’ll get stuck on a problem and it will consume me for days.  In these situations, there are scraps of information on the InterWebs but not quite that killer blog post which nails your problem.  Well I’m hoping this is going to save some others a few days of madness…


You are attempting to import a CRM 4.0 organisation from one deployment to another. In my case, I was trying to import a copy of my production organisation into UAT.  During the import, the process fails with the following error in the import log:

10:55:16|  Error| Failed to add user using the DistinguishedName = CN=test test,OU=Test Users,OU=Restricted,DC=XXX,DC=local, Account Name = XXX\testSystem.Reflection.TargetInvocationException: Exception has been thrown by the target of an invocation. —> System.DirectoryServices.DirectoryServicesCOMException (0x80072035): The server is unwilling to process the request. (Exception from HRESULT: 0x80072035)
10:55:16|  Error| An error occurred when populating Microsoft CRM user groups. Ensure that CRM user accounts are accessible from the current domain and run the wizard again.System.Reflection.TargetInvocationException: Exception has been thrown by the target of an invocation. —> System.DirectoryServices.DirectoryServicesCOMException (0x80072035): The server is unwilling to process the request. (Exception from HRESULT: 0x80072035)


I was pretty confident this was a permissions issue on Active Directory due to the ‘System.DirectoryServices’ signatures in the error.  However the following checked out to be true:

– Account running the Import had rights on the destination OU and subsequent security containers to create objects (users) for the new deployment.  I double checked by running AD Users & Computers on the CRM Server as the account I used to run the import.  I then manually created some user accounts inside the CRM Security Groups e.g UserGroup_GUID

– Both source and destination deployments were on the same RollUp (Rollup 8 in this case).



So the AD security all checks out.  Why on earth was the import failing??? During my frantic Googling, I came across a comment which suggested that the account used to run the Import MUST be in the same Domain as where the CRM deployment is based! 

My account wasn’t! This may sound strange, but the reason was that the CRM deployments originally lived inside the LONDON domain.  The production deployment was moved to a SWISS domain, but the CRM Users remained in the LONDON domain, including the CRM Admin user.  This was the guy I was using to run my failed import to UAT.  The domains were trusted both ways, and as I mentioned above, I had no problem manually adding users into the UAT security groups?

However, when I ran the import wizard using an authorised user account native to the UAT deployment’s domain, hey presto – the import was SUCCESSFUL!

I still do not understand why this matters, however I hope the solution helps someone out there one day!

SharePoint 2010 BI Tools Round Up

Recently I have given a presentation on the Business Intelligence tools available for SharePoint 2010 and its related infrastructure (e.g. SSRS).

I delivered this session at the inaugural SharePoint Saturday UK event which I also co-organised earlier this year.  Also more recently, I delivered this at the SharePoint User Group in Cambridge.

The key points I try to get across to the audience are as follows:

– All Business Intelligence tools built into SharePoint are only available with Enterprise CALs BUT its still a far cheaper alternative to the other big players. 

– For non Enterprise and even Foundation users, SQL Reporting Services (SSRS) is your friend.  If you have a Standard SQL 2008 R2 licence, make the most of SSRS to deliver dashboards, reporting and geo-spatial mapping.  You even have a top quality report authoring tool in Report Builder, and all your content can be managed like any other document (workflow, versioning etc).

– Again for the non-enterprise, take a look at the Google/Bing APIs for charting and mapping. 

– Lots of tools to solve quick (tactical) problems for BI in SharePoint such as the Chart Web Part, Status Lists

– Use PerformancePoint when you have OLAP Cubes as your data source.  It is the best tool for ‘exploratory’ reporting.

My presentation slides can be found on slideshare here: Business-Intelligence-Armoury-Whats-the-Best-Tool-for-the-Job