Welcome to my next post aimed at helping people prepare for the MB2-712 exam (Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 Customization and Configuration). In this post I’m going to continue my series by looking at connections.
There are many situations when you want to “link” entities but you don’t wish to relate them without actually defining a “fixed” database relationship. This concept is of particular importance in CRM systems when it might be useful to know how our customer base and contacts are related. In traditionally database solutions we define fixed relationships. These denote “facts” that in turn drive functionality in the system. Examples might include a quote relating to an opportunity or products that relate to an invoice.
But what if we want to note that our primary contact on an account is married to the CEO of another company. Or maybe that contact used to work for an organization or has been known to influence purchasing decisions of an “unrelated” account. Connections allow us to create these types of unstructured relationships in CRM.
Below I have shown how I have connected my contact “Anne” to “City Power” as a former employee, that she has a child called “John” and “Nancy” is a colleague. Hopefully this demonstrates that connections can be with multiple types of entity and that each one has a role. It is often easy to think of connections in terms of how accounts and contacts relate but keep in mind that any entity can be related to any other entity in this manner.
John is the child of Ann. Looking at John’s connections shows us the two sided nature of connections. As on John’s contact record we can see that Anne is his Parent. Therefore, the role has two sides. Another example might be “Husband and Wife” or “Supplier to and Customer of”.
The concept of noting that someone is a family member in CRM can be useful. This connection unlike a traditional relationship doesn’t suggest any physical / transactional relationship. But knowing that Anne is John’s mother might still be useful information when meeting with John. Maybe your salesman could remind John that Anne’s birthday is coming up and better still maybe he could sell John a present to give to her!
Before we can connect anything we need to define the possible connect roles. Luckily out of the box CRM ships with many pre-created connection roles. So often a role will already exist.
For an entity to be enabled for connections it will also need to have the connections property selected. Many system entities are enabled by default but you may need to enable connections on a custom entity before creating your connection role(s).
To access the connection roles (and create your own) use the connection roles option that can be found in the business management area of settings.
As you can see below many connection roles exist out of the box. Including former employee, former employer, referred by etc etc .
To illustrate how these roles work it is possibly easiest to look at the example I have already given of parent and child. Below you can see the connection role for parent.
Notice that each role is given a category. Categories include business, family, Social, Sales etc. The category is simply used to group connection roles, it has no other functional purpose.
Having given the role a name and category you will then decide if it should be available on all entities or more commonly you select the entities it applies to. In this example the only entity selected is contact. As only a contact can be a parent. (An email, case, or campaign are unlikely to have children!)
Next notice the optional connecting connection role. In this example we want one side of the relationship to be the parent and the other to be the child. Having a connecting role of “Child” allows us to achieve this.
If we look at the connecting role of child you can see that it is also only available on contacts. And in turn that it connects back to the role of parent.
Creating a Connection
Once the connection role exists adding a connection to an entity is simply a matter of navigating to connections and adding a new one. You will find a connections option in the navigation area of any entity enabled for connections.
Next you can select to connect the entity to you or to connect it to another entity.
Next you search for the entity you wish to connect to and select a role for the connection.
Optionally you can enter a description specific to this connection. For example, I have commented that Rene and Anne have been friends since school.
In the details section you can also see the matching connection role, if one exists. And also optionally give assign a start and end date. For example, the dates might be useful when connection someone as a former employee as you could say when they were employed.
I hope this post has given you a flavor for the functionality associated with connections that you will need to know for the MB2-7123 exam. As always I will stress the importance of getting some hands on experience, so I encourage you to create several connection roles and test out how they work.
I have now covered all of the aspects of relating record in CRM, in my next post I will start to look at more of the customization options by reviewing form customization. J