Best Practices for Activity Management in Office 365 and Dynamics 365

Many of our clients ask us how best to handle the various activities available within the Dynamics 365 suite, especially with the crossover to Office 365. While there are no “set in stone” rules, we have put together some best practices suggestions, based on the functionality available within different programs.

So, the question is… What gets handled where?

EMAIL GETS HANDLED IN OUTLOOK

Outlook, as you can imagine, has far more email tools available than what you will find within Dynamics 365.  While the latest version of Dynamics 365 does include the ability to add Email Signatures to system emails, there is still no comparison to the many millions of tools Outlook offers.

If you set your options correctly in Outlook, you can still access all the special Dynamics 365 fields you need.

TASKS GET HANDLED IN OUTLOOK

Outlook has the best task management tools, such as the ability to set a reminder, ability to record time/mileage/billing info, and a task bar that shows right next to your email. And with the ability to use “Set Regarding” to attach a task to Dynamics 365, this is a win-win situation.

(Need to know more about “Set Regarding” feature? See this blog; Creating a New Record From Your Outlook Inbox.)

APPOINTMENTS GET HANDLED IN OUTLOOK

Okay, I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, and it’s still true that Outlook has the best tools for managing appointments. With advancements in the latest versions of Dynamics 365, even recurring appointments can be tracked in Dynamics 365 using the “Set Regarding” feature.

Working within Outlook, you still have access to all of your Dynamics 365 contacts, as well as special fields from those contact records. Because you’re in Outlook, you have access to your special plug-ins such as Skype for Business. You also have calendar access within your organization to help schedule those time-consuming meetings that everyone loves.

PHONE CALLS GET HANDLED IN DYNAMICS 365

Here’s where Dynamics 365 really starts to shine. Dynamics 365 gives you quick and easy access to a phone call record that has all the fields you need:

  • Is the call outgoing or incoming?
  • Did you leave a voicemail?
  • Is there a follow-up necessary?

If you have your Skype for Business connected to your Dynamics 365 implementation, then you can simply click someone’s phone number and these steps happen automatically:

  • A new phone call record is created, marked as outgoing, with the Contact’s name in the recipient box.
  • A new Skype for Business call is opened, with the Contact’s phone number ready to dial.

For people who love efficiency, Skype for Business is a must-have integration!

INFORMATION UPDATES GET HANDLED…….WELL…….

Information updates are all handled within Dynamics 365. The question is where to put the info so that it gets the most visibility.

Updates to an Account or Contact’s email/phone/address information, that will go in Dynamics 365 directly onto the Account/Contact form.

If it’s a Status update, and you want everyone who is interested in that Account/Contact to see the info, then use POSTS to save the info. Anyone who is “following” that Contact record will see the information. Also, shows on the Dashboard feed.

Temporary information that will only be relevant for a short period of time should be stored in NOTES. The more notes that are added, the further down you’ll have to scroll to find the info. Notes are not easily searchable, nor can they be reported on, and they don’t roll up to the parent record. This format is only good for temporary information, not for information that will need to be easily found at a later date.

If it’s info about action being taken, use TASKS. Task records can be searched, can be reported upon, and they do roll up to the parent record. This automatically gives them better visibility throughout the entire system. The more tasks you enter into Dynamics 365, the more ammunition you can take to your yearly review, to prove to your boss that you really are working hard!

What does it mean for a record to roll up to the parent record?

Let’s talk about the Bird and the Bees… Notice how when 2 of your friends get together and have children, you can see the attributes of the parents in the children? Same thing happens in Dynamics 365.

Account records are the top “parent” record. A contact is a “child” record of an Account record. Opportunities and Cases are “child” records of either an Account or a Contact (or both).

What this means in practical terms is that the “parent” record will show all the activities from the “child” records. This is the reason we suggest attaching emails to the lowest “child” record possible so that it’s visible on both the child record and the parent record.

EXAMPLE: Let’s say you have an email that is attached to Dynamics 365 (using Set Regarding) to an Opportunity record. You can open that Opportunity record and see that email. You can also open the Account associated with that Opportunity and see that email. The reason? Because the Opportunity is a “child” record of the Account’s “parent” record, and that email is rolling up to the “parent” record.

 

HOW/WHEN SHOULD I USE CERTAIN ACTIVITY FEATURES?

EMAIL

When you’re in Outlook and you want to track a message in Dynamics 365, use the “Set Regarding” feature instead of just clicking “Track.” When you use Track alone, you save the email with any contact record that Dynamics 365 can match to any email address in your outgoing email. However, using the Set Regarding does all that PLUS it gives you the ability to attach the email to a different type of record (such as an Opportunity, a Lead, a Case, or a custom entity).

Reminder: always attach the email to the “child” record, knowing that it will roll up to the “parent” record. (See the previous section for clarification.)

MARKETING

Campaigns allow you to manage multiple activities across a spectrum of time, as well as track any responses from the campaign (so you can gauge effectiveness). Want to advertise your monthly special by sending a postcard, followed by an email, followed by a phone call? One Dynamics 365 campaign can coordinate that entire effort, as well as tracking administrative activities and tracking costs.

PERSONAL OPTIONS (FROM WITHIN OUTLOOK)

  

REPORTING ON ACTIVITIES

Reports that come “out of the box” with Dynamics 365 give you loads of info.

  • Filter by activity type
  • Filter by MINE or ALL or TEAM
  • Filter by Status (Open or Closed)
  • Example View: All of MY TEAM’S Closed Activities in this fiscal period

You can also use Views and Charts together to create some really brilliant dashboards or track specific events.

CONCLUSION

There are multiple ways of handling all of these activities. Your best practice is to determine which program has the built-in functionality to give you the most tools possible, then use the integration links Dynamics 365 provides to make it all work together.


Watch Dynamics 365 in action! See how Dynamics 365 can help your business operate more efficiently and effectively.

watch axio videos

What versions of Dynamics CRM are compatible with other Microsoft software as of today?

If you were to setup these versions of Microsoft Dynamics CRM today, these are the other pieces of software that you would need to use with it in order to be supported by Microsoft.

As with all compatibilities, these are valid for the day of publishing but could change at any point after.

Office Version CRM 2016 CRM 2015 CRM 2013 CRM 2011
O365 Compatible Compatible Not Compatible Not Compatible
2016 Compatible Compatible Compatible Compatible
2013 Compatible Compatible Compatible Compatible
2010 Compatible Compatible Compatible Compatible
2007
SP2 or 3
Not Compatible Not Compatible Compatible Compatible
2007 Not Compatible Not Compatible Compatible Not Compatible

 

CRM Outlook Client CRM 2016 CRM 2015 CRM 2013 CRM 2011
2016 Compatible Not Compatible Not Compatible Not Compatible
2015 Compatible Compatible Not Compatible Not Compatible
2013 Not Compatible Compatible Compatible Not Compatible
2011 Not Compatible Not Compatible Compatible Compatible

 

Browser CRM 2016 CRM 2015 CRM 2013 CRM 2011
Edge 8
(Win 10)
Compatible Compatible Compatible Not Compatible
Edge 7 Not Compatible Compatible Compatible Not Compatible
Edge 6 Not Compatible Not Compatible Compatible Not Compatible
IE 12 Compatible Compatible Compatible Not Compatible
IE 11 (UR 17) Compatible Compatible Compatible Not Compatible
IE 11 Compatible Compatible Compatible Compatible

Note: Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10 are the currently supported versions of Windows for CRM compatibility.

For additional compatibility information, please go to these Microsoft support pages.

CRM 2016

CRM 2015

CRM 2013

CRM 2011

Top 10 Reasons to use IPM

IPM Project Management has a unique environment for managing the day to day operations of project staff. Presented through Outlook, but managed in a MS.SQL database, IPM is able to create, store and track all project communications, RFI’s, drawings and revisions, meeting minutes, change requests, subcontracts and purchase orders to provide a simple but sophisticated project management toolset.

Developed within current Microsoft technology, the IPM range provides users with a user interface that is familiar and easy to use. Operating from within Outlook© and with the ability to seamlessly integrate into Microsoft and other ERP applications, we believe that IPM provides a software solution that understands the needs and habits of today’s project management team.

Outlook Interface

  1. One of the most popular features of IPM Project Management is the interface within Microsoft Outlook®. The interface allows users to remain within a familiar and user-friendly environment that is both flexible and easy to access.
  2. Whenever you open Microsoft Outlook ® you gain quick and simple access to the IPM features that you need and use on a daily basis. This allows users are able to stay within a single program to manage their projects, emails, and calendar items.
  3. Access IPM from inside the program where project teams spend most of their time anyway!

Jobs are easy to setup and manage.

  1. The IPM Jobs setup screen allows the creation of the parameters for the project. From the basic address and contact information to details about insurances and bank guarantees, it can all be maintained in this area. The original budget for the Job is recorded here either manually or imported from an Excel spreadsheet.
  2. The approach of importing from an Excel spreadsheet uses a unique process that allows IPM to upload easily from most estimating applications.
  3. Job Contacts, Change Order Mark-ups and the evaluation criteria for RFQs are all accessed from the Job Setup screen.
  4. Contracts or Price Schedules are also maintained in this area and like the original budget, these can be imported from excel spreadsheets.
  5. Access your original budget and price schedules all from the one screen.

Document Control

  1. IPM ensures that every document sent and every response received is accountable and accessible from within that record. IPM automatically tracks incomplete documents through a user-definable status system.
  2. Once a document has been recorded, it can be viewed and retrieved instantly, along with the associated email communications. Search functions can also be used to search for all related communications. Both individual and system-wide workflows can be created by authorized users to facilitate follow-up processes.
  3. Utilize IPM’s database and Microsoft Outlook integration to create, attach, email and track documents all from the one screen.
  4. A small sample of the document types available in IPM:

Contract Control

  1. IPM makes Contract Management easy with better access to project data, quick links to contract information and a streamlined process that optimizes the approval of a contract. By utilizing the Outlook® integration, project managers can create, send and receive Change Requests, Change Orders and Subcontract Change Orders all from the one location. Risk can also be significantly reduced with built in workflow rules preventing common administrative errors associated with contract management.
  2. Record detailed information about each Change Request in the one form, from estimates and mark-ups to Subcontract Change Order Price Requests.
  3. …then use workflows to create Change Orders and Subcontract Change Orders from Change Requests.

Planning and Forecasting

  1. The Job Tasks Progress view is a powerful scheduling tool that creates a dynamic visual representation of every job within a project. Using an interactive Gantt chart, the Job Tasks Progress displays scheduling data, budget and costs information and detailed forecasts. With the IPM Job Tasks Progress view, all of the project information that you need to see is right in front of you.
  2. When you’re working with complex projects or have multiple projects on the go, the Job Tasks Progress view gives you a comprehensive picture of everything you are working on. In a single screen. you can view and edit the start and finish dates of tasks and jobs, view budget allocation details, view cash flow reports – all in real time.
  3. With IPM’s Job Tasks Progress view you will never lose track of your projects.

Resource Management

  1. Depending on the type of projects being managed in IPM, there may be a need to record resource usage. Resources can be people classified as employees, materials or equipment, and IPM Timesheet functionality facilitates the recording of resource hours by resource and day of the week. Timesheets can be sorted by either resource or job and can be copied from week to week. Users can also complete their own individual Timesheets in the My Timesheets section, which can then be grouped together with other Timesheet entries to create Timesheet batches for the job.
  2. Create a Timesheet batch for multiple employees and approve them using a two-step approval process for added security

IPM Mobility

  1. IPM Mobility takes IPM Project Management software to field personnel by allowing IPM to be run on the most popular mobile devices on the market today – iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry and Windows.
  2. IPM Mobility is a cloud-based solution that gives you the option to mobilize any IPM function and customize screens to be designed around a user’s profile. For the greatest flexibility, create multiple user profiles and can give certain team members access to specific IPM functions depending on their work requirements. Access to IPM Mobility is also easily customizable so you can give more or less access to team members later on if their jobs or requirements change.
  3. Mobilize site diaries and daily reports so employees on-site can update site information, delivery details, job progress, change requests and orders, incidents and weather all from their iPad, iPhone, Android or Blackberry. You can also give site personnel access to RFIs, risks, issues and any other function IPM offers. The information entered into the app is integrated with the main IPM database, so everyone on the team is working from the same page.

Progress Billing

  1. Due to the complexity of Progress Billing, most companies have in the past used spreadsheets to manage this process. IPM changes this by making the progress billing process simple time efficient and accurate and allows you to link any expenses, purchases and payments to the quote.
  2. With IPM, there is no need to worry if you have properly calculated the right invoice amount because it is automatically generated based on the completion percentage that has been entered. Submitting progress billing using IPM takes the stress out of managing your projects and ensures that you get paid the right amount and on time.

Developed for Project Managers

  1. Operates how you already think.
  2. All documents, drawings, questions, activities and emails are attached to the Job.
  3. Folder-level tracking in Outlook interface means all emails related to the Job are in one place and are being tracked as soon as they are sent or received. No more full inboxes!!
  4. Visual tools give “at-a-glance” functionality and speed.

Integration

  1. Fully integrated into Microsoft Office Outlook.
  2. Works with many of the most popular accounting programs
    1. Dynamics (NAV, GP)
    2. Sage 300
    3. Spectrum
    4. SAP B1
    5. Primavera
    6. Quickbooks
  3. Integrated scheduling with Microsoft Project.
  4. Collaboration Access Point (CAP) gives your vendors a place to log in and download drawings, enter pricing information, get Job updates.

Creating a New Record From Your Outlook Inbox

Using Dynamics CRM, you can quickly and easily create a new record from an email in your Outlook inbox. If you also have IPM project management, that functionality extends to all the IPM record types as well. With a few simple clicks, you can move from your Outlook inbox to creating new records, and then be right back in your email – all with a single sign-on.

Here is an example of how it works:

You receive an email with a question from a client (Alfred). You decide to create a new RFI record to hold the information and to send out inquiries. Right from within the email itself, you can create the new record.

To create the RFI:

1. From within the email, select “Set Regarding” in the menu bar.

2. Choose the type of record.

  • In our example, we’ll choose RFI as our record type.
  • You may see the record type you want in the drop-down list. If this is the first time you’re choosing a specific record.

 

  • Email

3. Select the type record. (For our example, we’re choosing RFI.)

4. To create a new record, select “New.”LOOKUP WINDOW

5. The new RFI form appears on the screen.

  • Fill in as many details as you want, being sure to fill in the required fields at a minimum.New RFI

6. Close the new RFI.

7. The RFI you just created will be highlighted in the Lookup Window. Click Add.

8. The email is now attached to the new RFI record you created. It will appear in the Activity Feed on the record.

ADDITIONAL RFI FUNCTIONALITY OFFERED BY IPM

If you have the IPM software within your Dynamics CRM, you also have access to even more functionality designed to make your job easier and you more productive. When you send out an RFI request (by clicking the “send email” button on the RFI record), IPM creates an email with all of the RFI information included.

Even better, it also includes space in the email for a response and recognizes the response in a return email. If you have the email scraping feature enabled, IPM will pick up the return email and copy the information in the “Response” block to your RFI record in IPM.

RFI Response

EXTEND THIS IDEA TO OTHER ENTITIES

Although we used an RFI in this example, you can add any IPM or CRM record from your Outlook Inbox by using this method. When the lookup window appears, you will have the option to select any entity in use in your system (step 3 above).

%d bloggers like this: