If you’re still using Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, now is the time to consider an upgrade.  With CRM 2015, you can teach your CRM to do all sorts of new tricks that will make your team more productive. This is the fifth in a series of articles in which we have explored the benefits of upgrading to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015. To recap: we began with a basic introduction to CRM 2015, then we described the new navigation and user experience, after that we discussed 9 new features that have made CRM 2015 forms more useful and easier to use, and last time we discussed the new CRM processes for support sales, customer care and marketing.  In this article we will look at the new administrative features that you can use to expand what your team can do with CRM.  Don’t worry, we’re not going to get too technical.


imageBefore we get started, it is time to discuss the few potential downsides of upgrading to CRM 2015 if you are on CRM 2011.  You should be aware of these, and have a plan in place to avoid them, before moving forward with an upgrade.

  • Code Update: The way that code is written behind many of the customizations in CRM 2011 and earlier has been changed.  Microsoft has made these updates to enhance overall functionality.  So before you upgrade to CRM 2013 or later (or even the latest Update Rollup) you will need to upgrade any old code that you have in place.  C5 Insight always suggests testing these code updates in a temporary environment before making the migration.  There are also tools available from Microsoft that enable you to conduct “quick tests” to understand the magnitude of updates that may be necessary.  Work with your partner to get on top of this.
  • On Premise to Online: Many companies are using the upgrade to CRM 2015 as an excuse to stop hosting CRM on their own servers (or on servers managed in a data center by a partner) to hosting with Microsoft (called CRM Online).  It’s a great idea, but remember that there are a few things that you may have done on premise that won’t work online. One critical area to be aware of is reports.  Reports in CRM Online have to be written using a different approach (called FetchXML) because the way reports can be developed with CRM on premise could create security risks for all online customers.  If you have a large number of reports, then you’ll need to be sure to upgrade those reports.
  • Planning: As we mentioned in the introduction, if you are upgrading from CRM 2011, it going to be a whole new world for your users.  This is not the kind of upgrade you just want to “install” and expect your team to make the leap. Not only should you plan on training, but you should also plan on reviewing all of your old configurations to see if there is a better way to handle those items in 2015 – there are so many new features that you may be able to drop clunky work-arounds and replace them with new functionality.

Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

Calculated Fields

imageThe ability to calculate fields has been a gap in CRM functionality for years.  In CRM 2015, Microsoft has finally introduced this functionality.  No longer do you need to do reports or invest in complex configuration to calculate things like the total value of open opportunities for an account, or the total number of service cases that have been unresolved for a client.  CRM can can manage these calculations automatically.  You can add up the total hours spent on activities pursuing an opportunity (if you have your team enter this on activities) to understand how much you are investing in developing relationships.  Or you could store the total number of calls required to resolve an open case.  Or you could calculate compensation for mileage on an expense report.  The list is endless – and it will result in better analytics, decision making and faster data-entry for your entire team.

Business Rules

Business rules were introduced in CRM 2013 and received fairly significant updates in CRM 2015.  Business rules enable an administrator to customize forms and data entry in ways that used to require JavaScript.  Some examples of business rules:

  • A field can be shown or hidden.  For example, you may have a checkbox field called “Target Account”, if the field is checked, you may have 3 other fields that you want users to be able to enter.
  • A field can be set to required or optional.  In a similar example, you may wish to have the “Estimated Annual Budget” field be required if an account is a target account.
  • A field can be set to locked (read only) or unlocked (the user can update it).  For example, if you have a form for expense reporting, you may want to set the expense cost to read only if the expense type is “mileage” – that way you can calculate the expense cost without allowing the user to update the field.
  • You can also set a default value for a field or change the value based on simple calculations.  Calculating fields this way is not as flexible as the calculated fields described above, but it does enable you to update the field value in “real time” (without the user having to save the record before the calculation is made – which is the case with calculated fields).

Real Time Workflows

You’re probably already using workflows in CRM 2011.  In CRM 2015, you can now execute workflows in real-time.  As you probably know, workflows in CRM 2011 execute in their own good time – essentially, they wait for CRM to not be very busy doing other things, and then they execute.  In CRM 2015 you now have the option of making workflows real-time so that they execute as soon as they are triggered.

One example might be when creating a new contact.  If they contact is not created by adding it to an account, then the address and other fields from the account will not auto-populate on the contact form.  With a real-time workflow, the address fields can be populated from the parent account once the account field has been populated on the contact form.  The user could enter a parent account, click the save button, and the address fields are immediately filled in for them.

Of course there is a performance consideration to keep in mind with real-time workflows.  Use them where it is important to give the user a real-time response, but avoid using them if it is not completely necessary.

Security Improvements

Microsoft has extended the security settings in CRM with every successive release since CRM 4.0.  In addition to the security settings in CRM 2011, security now supports more complex security models needed for larger enterprises that may have client confidentiality requirements, sometimes competing sales teams, and compliance requirements to ensure fair business practices.  There are so many options for security that Microsoft has created an entire settings area just for managing security.  New security settings include:

  • imageAccess Teams: Access teams are dynamic teams of individuals that can be assigned to accounts or opportunities in CRM.  Unlike the “Sales Teams” that first appeared in CRM 2011, access teams are not pre-defined.  Access teams are listed directly on the account or opportunity record and individuals can be added/removed from the teams as needed.  Access teams are assigned extended security permissions depending upon their role on an opportunity and are given specific permissions based upon that role.
  • Field Level Security: Field level security made its debut in CRM 2011, but there were limitations with securing certain fields.  In CRM 2015 those limitations have now been overcome and field level security can now be applied to any fields in CRM.
  • Management Hierarchy: Security can now depend not just upon the business unit hierarchy – but also on the management hierarchy.  So, for example, you can enable managers to see records for the individuals that they manage, but not records for individuals that they do not manage – even if those managers and all of the users are all in the same business unit.

Outlook Synchronization and Administration

imageOutlook integration has always been a staple of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.  In CRM 2015, Microsoft has added the ability to set synchronization fields.  So you can now sync more fields from your Outlook contacts and tasks to CRM.  You can now manage the sync direction (items can sync one way, or bi-directionally).  Appointment attachments and Outlook assigned tasks can also now sync to CRM.

With all of that new synchronization functionality, you may be afraid that users could get themselves into all sorts of trouble by changing synchronization settings.  CRM 2015 addresses this by adding some security role settings so that you can limit the ability of individuals to change these settings.  Moreover, for the first time, you can now centrally administer the integration between CRM and Outlook.  So, for example, if you want to sync all the contacts that a user follows (rather than just the contacts that they own) to their Outlook, you can make this setting centrally (without having to touch the settings on each user computer) and they will automatically update for each user.  Get to these settings by going to Settings | Administration | System Settings – and then click the synchronization tab.

Customizable Help

CRM 2015 now also includes the ability to add your own custom help.  This is done on an individual entity basis.  So, for example, if you have a highly customized opportunity management process, you can setup a custom URL that users are sent to when they click the help button.  The URL could be content that is hosted in CRM (in an HTML web resource) or externally to CRM (on your own servers, for example).

CRM Online in Office 365

imageIf you’re still using CRM 2011, then it means you’re not hosting CRM with Microsoft as a part of Office 365 (this is also known as CRM Online).  You need to get online.  Seriously.  There is hardly any reason to host CRM within your facility anymore.  It costs more.  It takes longer to get the support you need.  Backups are manual, if they happen at all.  Upgrades are not automatic (that’s why you’re reading this article!)  Your business doesn’t get value out of managing hardware, running backups, and installing upgrades – you shouldn’t have resources on your team focusing on those tasks.  Use the upgrade to CRM 2015 as your excuse to jump to CRM Online.

Not only do you get CRM, but you also get a lot of other Microsoft products through Office 365: Exchange, Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, Excel and all the other Office products.  You also get access to SharePoint Online.  SharePoint is much more than another piece of software – much like CRM, it is a platform that your team can leverage to collaborate together better and to build custom functionality that keeps you ahead of your competition.  The next article in this series discusses the CRM/SharePoint integration.

Almost Done!

We only have one more part in this series for those who are using CRM 2011 and are considering an upgrade to CRM 2015.  For our last article, we will have a look at some of the multiple device support now available, as well as some of the out-of-the-box integration with other applications that has been introduced since CRM 2011.  Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook to be notified when the last installment of the series is available!

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