Microsoft CRM Common Components

There are components common to the three core modules contained in a typical CRM system. They are usually divided into four areas: Security, Workflow, Reporting/Business Intelligence, Customization and Integration/API. Microsoft CRM is no exception and version 4.0 showing improvements in many of those areas.

Microsoft CRM Security

Microsoft offers a role based security setup within Dynamics CRM that has become fairly standard among both SaaS and on premise CRM products. What Microsoft offers that is unique is that it applies those roles to all aspects of the system providing a near unlimited amount of flexibility but also an equal amount of potential complexity that might prevent things from being setup correctly. New with 4.0 is the ability to assign security at a variety of levels based on properties of the user. For example, you can limit visibility to Accounts and associated entities to a specific user based on their Business Unit. With this security configuration, each user will have accounts filtered to the Business Unit they are assigned to. You can also allow users to create their own rights for each account and determine who can read, edit and delete their specific accounts. This feature is not likely one that an enterprise-sized sales organization will want to provide to its end users, but it’s a nice feature for small organizations that want to provide end users with greater flexibility or control.

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Microsoft CRM Workflow

Although some MS CRM 3.0 users might argue that CRM Dynamics workflow has taken a step back with version 4.0, many industry analysts and new customers alike are impressed with its flexibility and depth. With version 4.0, Microsoft has made it easy to assign rights to create, edit and run workflows at a role level putting powerful workflow tools directly into the hands of end users. This can be a blessing and a curse, but having the option is a nice improvement to this version.

The core application workflow allows the standard set of workflow types to be defined and run either as an on demand option or scheduled to occur on a pre-defined schedule or when a specific event is triggered. These workflows can be created using an intuitive interface by an end user or administrator and published for end users based on the following triggers:

  • When a record is created
    (Account is inserted)
  • When the status changes
    (Lead goes from New to Qualified)
  • When any field changes from one value to another on a record
    (Assigned Resource = Current user)
  • When a record is deleted
    (Contact is deleted)

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The user can use event triggers to instruct the system to create a new record, update a value in a specific field on an existing record, assign a record to a specific user, send an email and check to determine if another condition is true. Each of these activities can be put into steps and then also combined into Stages to report the progress of a specific workflow by Stage.

Once created and published, these workflows can be run on demand or combined and run in sequence as hierarchal workflows. Another option is to scheduled workflows to be run on a periodic basis. An example where this can be particularly useful is for assigning leads in a specific geography to a specific salesperson and/or territory.

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If you require greater sophistication, Microsoft has leveraged its latest release of Windows Workflow Foundation (WWF) as the underlying architecture for the new Dynamics workflow engine. What this means is that Visual Studio developers can create much more complex workflows that could also allow access into other third party systems to check conditions and reflect changes in the CRM system. WWF is also Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) compliant, so it can be used in tandem with other BPEL systems to provide system to system workflow without the need to develop to web services.

When considering which edition and deployment method to use for Microsoft CRM, keep in mind that workflows for the CRM Live product are limited based on which edition is licensed.

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