As I prepare for my MB2-716 exam I’m producing a series of blog posts that collectively should help others revising for the MB2-716 Certification. (Microsoft Dynamics 365 customization and Configuration.) This time I will look at connections.
There are many situations when you want to “link” entities but you don’t want to actually define 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 Dynamics 365.
Below I have shown how I have connected my contact “Debra Garcia” to several records.
- Her contact record is connected to the account “City Power & Light” as they are her former employer.
- She is connected to “Hammy Hamster” as he is her pet. (!!)
- John Grey is her child.
- And Matt Manchester is her 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.
Hammy Hamster is the pet of Debra! Looking at Hammy’s connections shows us their two sided nature.
As on Hammy’s contact record we can see that Debra is his owner.
Therefore, the role has two sides. Other more “normal” examples might be “Husband and Wife” or “Supplier to and Customer of”.
The concept of noting that someone is a family member, former employee or “whatever” in a CRM system can be really useful. These connections unlike a traditional relationship don’t suggest any physical / transactional relationship but knowing how all of your contacts and accounts are networked together can be very handy.
Enable an Entity for Connections
For an entity to be enabled for connections it will 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).
You should be aware that once an entity has been enabled for connections this property cannot be disabled.
Before we can connect anything we need to define the possible connect roles. Luckily out of the box Dynamics 365 ships with many pre-created connection roles. So often a role will already exist.
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 owner and pet. Below you can see the connection role for owner.
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 an owner of a pet. (An email, case, or campaign are unlikely to have pets!)
Next notice the optional connecting connection role. In this example we want one side of the relationship to be the owner and the other to be the pet. Linking to a second connecting role of “Pet” allows us to achieve this.
If we look at the connecting role of pet you can see that it is also only available on contacts. And in turn that it connects back to the role of owner.
Viewing and Creating Connections
Once the connection exists viewing connections is simply a matter of navigating to connections. You will find a connections option in the navigation area of any entity enabled for connections.
Selecting this option will show a list of existing connections and allow you to maintain them.
Next you can select to connect the entity to you or to connect it to another entity. (Tip, the connections option can also be found in the main ribbon on any form!)
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 MB2-716 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.