Stay in the Loop with CRM’s Activity Feed Solution

Stay in the Loop with CRM’s Activity Feed Solution

Written By: Josh Behl

from September 25, 2012

One of the key challenges within organizations is keeping people “in the loop.” Making sure people stay informed can be done in many ways with Microsoft Dynamics CRM: Run reports, open up Microsoft Dynamics CRM records and look at information, create views, examine dashboards, and the list goes on. The reality is some of these simply take too much time for some users.

Solution

In Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 with Update Rollup 5 installed, Microsoft made available the Activity Feed Solution. Essentially it is an internal Twitterlike tool within Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 that allows users to see tidbits of information occurring in various parts of an organization. Users can choose to follow particular records (for example: Opportunities, Cases, Accounts, and Contacts), comment on those records, and engage in dialog about those records or topics with other internal Microsoft Dynamics CRM users.

Configuration

The first thing to note about configuration of the system (other than importing and publishing the solution) is that once the solution is imported, the entity to use this functionality with needs to be configured. It is important to mention that not all entities can be used with the activity feed. Those entities which can be used with the activity feed functionality include:

  • Account
  • Appointment
  • Campaign Activity
  • Campaign Response
  • Case
  • Contact
  • Contract
  • Custom Entities
  • Dialog Session
  • Email
  • Fax
  • Goal
  • Incident
  • Invoice
  • Lead
  • Letter
  • List
  • Opportunity
  • Phone Call
  • Queue
  • Quote
  • Recurring Appointment
  • Recurring Appointment Master
  • Sales Order
  • Service Appointment
  • Task
  • User

    For details on configuring entities,
    reference Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Resource Center’s Set up and Configure Activity Feeds article.

Using Activity Feeds

The most interesting aspect of using activity feeds is the ability to easily follow/un-follow, comment, and post on Microsoft Dynamics CRM records and users.

Following:  If a record type is enabled for activity feeds, its records can be followed by users. When following  that record, any post made on that record’s wall will appear on the user’s personal wall as well. Most record types have Follow and Un-follow buttons on the navigation ribbon. These two buttons will only be enabled if a record type is enabled for feeds. For more details on how to follow records and users, reference the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Resource Center’s Follow Colleagues and Records with Activity Feeds article.

Posting:  Posts are the elements that encompass an activity feed. Another way of looking at it would be that a Post in the activity feed functionality is conceptually the same as watching Tweets or Facebook posts. Every item appearing on an activity feed is a single Post record. Posts can leverage workflows, be queried in Advanced Find queries, utilize charts, and be interacted with just as any other entity within the system.

The Wall:  The Wall is found in two primary places: The Workplace under What’s New and the record level on the Record Wall. From both places, users can keep track of, follow, and comment upon the posts. The Wall is probably the more interesting piece of the entity.

Configuration Options

Establishing an entity to utilize the activity feed functionality is fairly straightforward. Where there may be a bit of confusion is with Activity Feed Rules. On the surface, it seems users can create new rules that dictate how the configured entities would function. Unfortunately, the rules that exist are out of the box rules. If a user adds a new entity to the mix they cannot create rules through the interface. But don’t lose hope—users simply create workflow rules that can automate the generation of these activity feed posts.

Practical Example

Consider the following banking scenario: A bank uses Microsoft Dynamics CRM to manage their sales process on the retail, retirement, commercial, and wealth sides of their business. They want to enable all bank employees to keep up to date on important actions occurring on customer records. But internal policies and other compliance constraints do not allow all bank Microsoft Dynamics CRM users to have access to details conveyed in the actual Microsoft Dynamics CRM records. Activity feeds were used in a combination with workflows to enable users to see high level basic information about high profile sales opportunities or other important developments to be communicated in an automated and consistent fashion.

There is potential with Activity Feed Rules that can add another element to the overall Microsoft Dynamics CRM solution. Activity Feed Rules allow Microsoft Dynamics CRM users to determine what information to keep tabs on; can be a mechanism to inform people of hot developments in a consistent fashion, and depending upon how creative a user is – there could be other tangible uses as well.

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