Collaborate in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 using Links

Collaborate in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 using Links

As a Microsoft Dynamics CRM MVP and Solution Architect, people see me as an industry expert and believe that I am always working on 'complex' or highly technical functionality but before I became a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Expert I was a Microsoft Dynamics CRM User just like you and I am always looking for cool features or learning how can Microsoft Dynamics CRM increase collaboration and improve the performance of my team.

One of the features I loved since the day I discovered it was the ability to work with links of records instead of the records themselves. After training thousands of CRM Users I've noticed that these easy to use features can make a huge difference on the Adoption of Microsoft Dynamics CRM for an organization.

If you have been using Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 for a while you might know what I'm talking about and if you are already using this functionality I hope you keep reading this article, maybe you will learn something new or better yet, find something I missed!

If you are a new Microsoft Dynamics CRM User or maybe you have been using the system for a while but still don't know what I'm writing about here, let me show you what I mean:

These buttons are available via the Web and Microsoft Outlook client.

On this article, I want to discuss the benefits (and drawbacks) of using these collaboration tools within Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011.

First, the benefits:

  1. If you need to send a record's profile (I.E. everything included on the form of that record) or a list of records (I.E. All the records on a View); instead of printing the details of that record and then sending the attachment to a group of people or maybe extracting the results of a view to Microsoft Excel and then send the attachment to a group of people, why not send them a link instead?

    A link will not take as much space on your Microsoft Exchange (or other third party email) server, imagine sending a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with hundreds of results and a size of 2 MB. You send that to 10 people on the office and now the attachment occupies 20 MB on the users' mailboxes. 20 MB doesn't sound like a lot but imagine doing this dozens of times every year for a few years; we are talking about GBs of attachments stored on mailbox databases.

  2. Sending a link is more secure than sending an attachment, here is why:

     

    1. The results of a link can only be seen by a user with access (I.E. an Active User account) to your Microsoft Dynamics CRM Organization. If an unauthorized user ends up receiving the link (I.E. You just sent that 'classified strategic roadmap report' link of Coca-Cola, Co. to 'John Doe, VP of Marketing at Pepsi, Co.' instead of 'John Doe your company's COO') that user will click on the link and he/she will be welcomed by a "Log in to your Microsoft Dynamics CRM Organization" page and that would be the end of it. If you had sent the full report as an attachment, you would probably be in trouble. I know you could have password-protected the attachment but for the sake of this example let's say you simply forgot.
    2. Even if the user has access to your Microsoft Dynamics CRM Organization, security roles would apply to the results that are displayed once that user clicks on the link and logs into Microsoft Dynamics CRM; for example, if you sent a link of a record and a user clicks on it, they would either see the record or see an error message that reads "You do not have permissions to access this record"; the same applies to the results of a particular view, if you send a link to the "Open Opportunities" view to an outside sales rep by mistake, when that user clicks and opens the link he/she will only see their own open opportunities as you have limited visibility to only 'user owned 'records on the "Outside Sales Rep" security role.
    3. If it came down to a malicious user trying to guess a password (manually or via dictionary/hybrid attack); having a link will offer better protection because user accounts' (the one that the malicious user is trying to guess) passwords normally expire every few weeks. Having a password-protected file is different, the password on the file will never change, which means that I can turn on a tool that works 24/7 trying to find a password for the file; it could take weeks or even months to find it but I can wait plenty of time if I really want what's inside.

       

  3. A link can be reused: When I send a link, the users can keep coming back for the "latest info" on that link. For example, if I send the link to an open opportunity to my manager, he/she could keep clicking on the link daily/weekly to follow up with anything that has changed on that record. The same applies to a view, I could send a link to "Appointments on the next 7 days" and that user can click on the link any time he/she would like to see what appointments are coming up on the next 7 days. In other words, the results are dynamic and most scenarios require these kinds of results.

Now, the drawbacks:

  1. Information is dynamic; as described above, in other words, if you want to capture the way information looked like at any given time, sending a link is not going to work in most cases. A regular export + email with attachment works in those cases.
  2. Only users with Microsoft Dynamics CRM access can see the files, in other words, if you need to send something located in your Microsoft Dynamics CRM organization to a user outside the organization (I.E. Your customer just requested a list of closed activities on the last 6 months), sending a link is not going to work.

Other than those drawbacks, this functionality is awesome and you should use it as often as possible.

Let me show you a few scenarios where you can manually benefit from this functionality:

  1. Email a link of a record to a co-worker: In Microsoft Dynamics CRM, navigate to a view showing the record you need to email and select the record, after that, click on the "Email a Link" button on the ribbon and then click on "of selected items":

     

     

    This will open your Microsoft Outlook and populate the subject and some of the contents of the email for you; just add some extra comments and send the email out when you are ready:

     

     

    You can perform this step with multiple records as well; here is a screenshot of an email generated by the "Email a Link" functionality before being edited and sent, four records were selected:

     

     

  2. Email a link of a view to a co-worker: In Microsoft Dynamics CRM, navigate to the view you would like to send out and click on the "Email a Link" button on the ribbon and then click on "of current view":

    This will open your Microsoft Outlook and populate the subject and some of the contents of the email for you; just add some extra comments and send the email out when you are ready:

     

     

  3. Copy a link: You can copy a link of a record, group or records or a view, the functionality of this button is the same as the one described above with the exception that no Microsoft Outlook window will open up automatically. In other words, you can place the same amount of information you were going to email with the "Email a Link" button into your 'clipboard' and then paste it on a Skype or Lync chat box or use it yourself, for example, you can create a Shortcut on your desktop with the link to a view or report you use often. Instead of navigating your way around Microsoft Dynamics CRM into that view or report, you can create a shortcut and access it directly. Here is how you do that, for this example I have selected the "Account Overview" report to create a shortcut on my desktop:

    Once I copy the link of the report, I navigate to my desktop; right click wherever I want the shortcut and follow the wizard to create the shortcut:

    Paste the link on the text box and click 'Next':

    Provide a name for the shortcut and click 'Finish:

    Your shortcut has been added to your desktop:

    When you double click on the shortcut, you will be redirected to the report. If you haven't logged in to Microsoft Dynamics CRM recently, you will be asked to log in, if you are already logged in, the report will appear on the screen immediately.

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The scenarios above show you how to take advantage manually of these two buttons but if you are a system administrator within Microsoft Dynamics CRM, there is one more thing you can do to use this functionality.

If you have any workflows that send email notifications regarding records in CRM, you know that these emails will show the "regarding" record in Microsoft Outlook when they are received, as long as the user has the Microsoft Dynamics CRM client for Microsoft Outlook installed and configured. This means that if the user is receiving this email on a home computer or even their phone, they would have to wait until they are connected on a machine with the client configured; unless you paste the link of the record directly on the body of the email.

Let me show you how this works. Let's say you have created a workflow that will notify a user when a new Lead has been assigned to them:

On the configuration for the email being sent, once you have built the body of the email, click on the "Insert Hyperlink" button:

On the "Insert Hyperlink" menu, configure the fields to reflect your preferences, for this example I have selected the Full Name as the text to be shown, select the "Record URL(Dynamic)" on the URL field and click 'OK':

The Hyperlink will be inserted to the body of the email:

Once the workflow is active, you can test the functionality; here is the resulting email after I assigned a Lead to David Kohar:

Clicking on the Link opens the record automatically:

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Whether you are a Microsoft Dynamics CRM User or you venture into System Administration, look into exploiting the power of these collaboration tools included on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011.

If you have any comments or questions, please leave a comment below or contact me at http://about.me/gusgonzalez


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