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Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Track in Outlook? Using the Local Data Group in CRM

When Microsoft designed Dynamics CRM they added a cool feature called “Track in CRM” that gives you a way to flag data in your Outlook application to be stored and cataloged in the CRM system.  The great thing about the Track in CRM feature is that it gives the user almost total control over the data that goes from Outlook into CRM.

Unfortunately, the same functionality was  not built into the system for the opposite data flow – CRM to Outlook.  There is no “Track in Outlook” feature.  Data flow from CRM to Outlook is largely based on whether or not the user is the Owner of the record.  As large organizations implement CRM 4.0 they quickly learn that using the Owner value for synchronizing data can be problematic – too much data flows into Outlook or the data the user wants doesn’t flow since they are not the owner of it.  This is especially true regarding Contact records as there are large numbers of these in a big company.

Enter the Local Data Group (LDG) feature – problem solved.  The LDG provides an advanced find type of feature where the user can configure what CRM Contacts will flow into Outlook.  This is great, except many CRM users are never going to spend time building complex LDG query trees so that they can sync the contacts they want to see in their Outlook.  This is where it would be great to have a “Track in Outlook” feature that would give the user total control to flag Contacts they want synced to Outlook.

While we wait for Microsoft to build that into a future version there is another way to accomplish a similar solution that gives the user control of what contacts come into Outlook.

Configure your LDG with the settings listed below.  The “Customer Relationship” can be used as a flag to identify CRM Contact records you want to flow into Outlook.  The LDG settings shown here trigger CRM Contacts to sync to your Outlook ONLY when the Customer Relationship (Party 2) is owned by the Current User.  Or in other words, only when you create the relationship.

NOTE:  The LDG values are stored in the database and they can be managed at an organizational level.  A future post will talk about enterprise management of Outlook Client for CRM configuration values that are stored in the CRM database.

With this value set in the LDG, all that is left is to create the Customer Relationships on the Contacts you want to sync to Outlook.  The Party 1 value should always be set to the name of the Contact you want to sync (this will default if done within the Contact record).  Party 2 should always be set to your name.

NOTE:  For this to work, each CRM user must exist as a Contact in CRM.

The synchronization between MS Office and Dynamics CRM creates a very powerful set of tools.  Using the Customer Relationships and LDG settings described above is the next best thing to a “Track in Outlook” feature for Contacts.  The synchronization of other records (Tasks, Appointments, etc.) are still completely based on ownership and there is no feature to leverage for those.

Dynamics CRM 2011:  Unfortunately there is no “Track in Outlook” feature in CRM 4.0 or 2011.  I encourage you to vote for it using the Microsoft Connect service.  I submitted this as a feature request and you can vote for it.  Microsoft takes future features from their Connect forums.  https://connect.microsoft.com/

Microsoft Connect Feedback Title:  Add “Track in Outlook” Feature for Contacts in CRM

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About Tim Thorpe

Tim has worked with business application implementations at large, multinational corporations since 1992. His experience includes using software like Dynamics CRM to implement enterprise business solutions. Learn more about Tim at http://TimThorpe.org

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