Printing Invoices for customers in Microsoft CRM

I am implementing Microsoft CRM 1.2 for a small business. They currently have a standard invoice form in excel. We would like to move that function to CRM. However after investigating it looks like the only way to print out a professional looking invoice is to do a mail merge into word document template with the outlook client. Is this true? If so I could use some assistance in creating the template because I haven't done this before. The current excel invoice is quite detailed. The invoice in CRM seems to be quite bar bones in comparison.  I have been unable to find any reasonable documentation on this even on partner source.
port80Asked:
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preitmeyerCommented:
Port80,
In Microsoft CRM, you must customize the XML style form in order to do what you need.
In order to customize forms, you must be logged in as a system administrator and do the following
Open crm from the web-browser: http://crmsystem
from there go to the "Settings" button on the top left hand side
Click on "System Customization"
You will see a listing of Customizable forms, scroll down and click on "Invoice"
You will get a pop-up which has a button at the top left called "Customize Form"
From there you should be able to edit the Invoice form to your specific needs. I reccomend creating extra fields from the Deployment Manager to suit your needs in this case (since your requirements are so detailed). You will be adding fields to the "InvoiceBase" and "InvoiceDetailBase" tables within the MSCRM database on Microsoft SQL Server. This is ALL Done through the Deployment Manager scheme manager on the CRM server.
If you have any questions, please feel free to post again. As far as printing is concerned, I reccomend just using the "print" option once the invoice is completed within CRM.
Good luck,
Paul
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port80Author Commented:
Thanks for the info. Couple of follow up questions. A comment there is no virtual path in IIS for crmsystem however I can access the customize view form when logged in as the administrator thru the normal crm interface in system settings. On the customize invoice form screen it seems you can only customize the original invoice form. There is no save as or create new. You can create a new view but not a new invoice. And of course there is zero documentation.  I would like to have the original form for entry and another one for printing. I want to change as little as possible for now in the implementation. Any ideas?
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preitmeyerCommented:
The problem with that is CRM is not very customizable for creating "new" forms... if you need much more functionality, I recommend an add-on program called Axinom PowerTrack. This will allow you to do Mail Merges better from CRM as well as completely customize the work-flow and application processing. If you want to keep the old Form still there, save your current customizations through the Deployment Manager "open deployment manager, click on the top level of the hierarchy, and go to Save Customizations" this will allow you to revert back to the older version incase you screw up on soemthing. You CANNOT create a new form, only a new view, which wont help you at all. Views are only the way data is shown, they have nothnig to do with the way the form looks, nor do they have any bearing on the fields used to enter data. You will have to modify the original Invoice Form in order to do what you want. You can try SharePoint Portal Services to get what you need out of this, but that will require more time and customizations. If you are looking for the quick and simple "microsoft way" of doing what you need, you must modify the original form.
As far as "saving" your customizations, there is a process to do all of that, you must first create the new fields requried in the Deployment Manager. Then go to the CRM Customization table which we addressed earlier.. Once completed all customizations of fields etc. You must go to "View" (I believe), and then "View Preview" or somethnig of the like... After that is done, you must "Publish Customizations" through the Deployment Manager, and lastly, Do an IISRESET from the command line on the CRM Server.
Talk to your partner about different options for add-on products like Axinom PowerTrack, and possibly C360's add-ons and figure out what options will be best for you. I still recommend just customizing the Invoice Form.
If you have any more questions about this topic, please post... or accept this answer.
I appreciate it.
-Paul
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port80Author Commented:
Thanks for the detail. One quick question and then I'll accept.  I've learned about the publishing methods you describe. The only thing I was thinking of was using crystal reports. There was an invoice report that presented a single invoice that at least had some formatting. Unfortunately I'm getting crystal logon errors so I can't investigate further. In fact I'm probably going to post a secondd question.  What do you think about crystal for this off the top of your head.
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port80Author Commented:
Was able to get crystal going. It looks like I am going to see what I can do with Crystal. It has a reasonable print out for individual invoices.

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preitmeyerCommented:
Crystal Reporting is great if you have the time to print your invoices that way. For most customer service/sales offices they need the quick and easy automation of sales where running a crystal report in either a batch of reports for invoices or by single invoice would be a little timely. If you customize the form, you will be able to hit the "print" button once the invoice is completed.
I am glad you could get crystal working for you, and Im sorry that my solutions werent of more interest to you.
Good luck,
Paul
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port80Author Commented:
Paul,
  I appreciate you time. I know this is not an easy question. There are many ways to skin a cat. I've talked to 3 small business owners. These are small system vars or integrators. They all say that printing invoices quickly and that are customer presentable is probably one of the most important aspects of their business. Why......  Because if they don't then they won't get paid.  I showed all of them the sample printout and they all said totally unacceptable. So I find it hard to believe that this is not critical with at least small business owners who can't afford multiple systems.

Modifying the form is tricky. Because there are data fields that you may not want the customer to see that you want internal people to see. For example discounts or margins.  Having only one form means you everything on the invoice form would get seen by the customer. I don't think hidden tabs would work. Because they don't show up even for input but I have to look into this more.   If there were more than one invoice form it would be doable.  I'm going to look into seeing if its possible to create a 2nd invoice form in the schema.

Mail merge was suggested on a microsoft forum that is worth looking at because you can pull out specific fields and format you want the customer to see. But its still a pain. Just curious how does the company you work for do invoices? A separate accounting system??

I also did look at the products you suggested but neither of them made customizing easier. Axosoft had some .net stuff but that's more development. Thanks for thinking of that. Its possible that Great plains may have more stuff.

I just find it hard to believe, that myself and the 3 system vars are the only people who see this as a problem with CRM. Hey its version 1.2.  It is about where SMS 1.2 was. Some cool stuff with a lot of holes.

Thanks, Alan
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preitmeyerCommented:
Alan,
At my office we use a program called "Optio Fax" which takes input from our AS400 (yeah I know, we use AS400... and I hate it) from there we have customized forms to spit out faxes, emails, and printed versions (customer preference) of our invoices for the customer to receive and pay with. We do NOT use CRM to do our invoices. Now, I have 2 test-bed CRM environments which I would be more than happy to take a look at and see what I can come up with in the ways of customization. Also, one great part of CRM is the Mail-Merge technique. However, you cannot combine Account and Contact information very cleanly from it. I personally think it would be best for you to do the following:
Use SCRIBE or straight SQL Jobs to run a query once a day. From that query, take the CustomerBase table, the AccountBase table, (or it might be sufficient to use the "dbo.Account" view in CRM (which combines customer and account information) along with a join from the InvoiceBase table to pull all the data you want into a TAB dilimited text file. Then from that tab dilimeted file, use another program to pull the information into a form. Perhaps a word doc, or excel spreadsheet would work best for this (I believe the product called 'InfoPath' will do this for you).
Parse the output data for the day just like a Mail-Merge... and then make sure all the correct data is input into your better looking invoices, and then mail, email, or fax them off to your customers. This is a work-around, but it might be the best way for this to integrate with CRM.
Also, if you have SCRIBE, that program will do wonders for you in pulling data and placing it elsewhere. I highly reccomend taking a look at it: http://www.scribesoft.com is the website if I can remember correctly.
Good luck, if you have anymore comments or questions, feel free to post again.
-Paul
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