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Microsoft Dynamics® CRM 2011 Recommendations for Rookies

By January 16, 2012June 7th, 2022Best Practices, Blog, Microsoft

Microsoft Dynamics® CRM 2011 Recommendations for Rookies

Last year I took on the responsibility of customizing our Microsoft Dynamics CRM, implementing the solution and training end users. I ran into some issues and figured out little tweaks along the way. Just to preface, I had never used a CRM before, nor did I really have experience customizing such an integrated database. On the other hand, I have made databases in Microsoft Access, I learned SQL and VBA in school and I consider myself a quick learner when it comes to software and interfaces. It’s safe to say, I’m a Rookie. From one rookie to another, here are my recommendations for customizing CRM.

Q: Should I add custom fields?

A: Yes! The forms that come with the program are nice. They include a lot of fields and titles that you use, some you may not. For example, at PEI, Pipeline Phase (pre-CRM) was a combination of close percentage and a hot, warm or cold designation. To avoid confusion, I removed the Pipeline Phase field and added three custom ones- Stage, Probability, and Rating. Stage lets us know where the opportunity is in the sales process, while Probability and Rating indicate likelihood of close and urgency respectively. By using custom fields our account managers do not need to speak in different terms than they are accustomed to, thus simplifying the training process and increasing utilization. Make sure you give your custom fields unique names and simple descriptions. I made the mistake of adding three fields called Connected and should have included what each connection meant. That may be confusing to future administrators.

Q: How do I choose a field type?

A: Options are your friends. Predefining the available options for a field will help standardize your data, reduce errors and quicken the data entry process. Keep in mind that consistent data is crucial to the reporting features within CRM. While customizing CRM, I edited some of the built-in pick lists and created new ones. We put pick lists in wherever they made sense, and for a few we added an additional text box should more detail be required. For example, we have a custom pick list for Industry but sometimes an account manager may want to specify a subcategory of the industry. Pick lists should only be used when the user must select a single value from an array of options. Radio buttons are most useful when the user must select from one of two options, like “yes” or “no.” Checkboxes are better for items where the user may need to make multiple selections. I’ve learned that text boxes are often necessary, but that doesn’t mean I like them. My rookie recommendation is only use text boxes when you have to as you are customizing CRM.

Q: How do you eat an Elephant?

A: One bite at a time! CRM is a big program. It’s a lot to digest so it is important to tackle it one piece at a time. Plan ahead by determining what fields you will use, what new fields you will need to create and how you want the information entered. When you actually go in to make the edits, do it one entity at a time. Several times I had to ask myself “What form needed that field,” “Did I put that under accounts or contacts,” and, my favorite, “Where did that just go!?” My slightly scattered approach left me searching for lost fields and bouncing between forms. Once you have the forms created, then start on custom views, dashboards, charts, reports and all that other good stuff CRM has to offer.

If you are attempting to customize your CRM solution, please contact us and maybe I can help!

Heidi Christensen, PEI


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