MS CRM is very close to document workflow automation, including Microsoft Office documents: Words, Excel, etc. The document workflow was perfectly automated about 10 years ago in Lotus Notes Domino. In this small article we describe the solution based on MS CRM integration with MS SharePoint.
Microsoft CRM is new player on CRM applications market and it is gaining its market share. Having different paradigm in its design (it stakes on Microsoft OS and technologies and completely disregards alternative platform, such as UNIX, Linux, Oracle, etc. based). Microsoft CRM market is very diversified: from small (5 users) to large (several hundred MS CRM User licenses) and it serves variety of industries: Transportation, Logistics, Lawyers, Pension Funds, High-Tech, and many others. Deploying technologies, like Windows Active Directory, Microsoft Exchange 2003/2000, SQL Server, Crystal Reports Enterprise, Biztalk, Microsoft Outlook, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Great Plains and Navision in close future – makes CRM a beloved system for Microsoft oriented IT departments.
Let’s go right to the topic.
Major issue with storing documents in MS CRM in the form of attachments to Activity is inability to work on these attached files in cooperation with other colleagues, who do not have to use CRM. When several service people serve requests from the same client this is required. Currently you can use alternative way when you store office documents in the folders of your file system and when modifying document, you save it and reattach to CRM. This is inconvenient, because first it requires all your editing users to have CRM licenses, which delays CRM implementation.
We seem increasing popularity of document storage systems, like Microsoft SharePoint, Oracle Files, etc. Such systems, being implemented gives you time savings, related to documents revisions and versioning, approval cycles and workflows, web access through web-portals systems and the like.
The target of our product is Microsoft SharePoint integration with MS CRM for document storage. Let’s take a look at the high level technical realization details:
oMain modification from the MS CRM side is standard system behavior change when you open attachment in Activity. Standard unmodified CRM suggests you to store documents in the file system. Modified version sores document in SharePoint Document Library (the required library is subject for setup by MS CRM system administrator) or keep it in MS CRM as is (for documents of minor importance). From the moment of saving the document in SharePoint Document Library it is not stored in MS CRM – CRM will now store only the link/reference to the document. Also you are given the ability to open and modify the document at the place of opening, which speeds up MS CRM user performance substantially.
oTable, storing the links to the documents sits in separate database and doesn’t deal with MS CRM tables (you know that you are banned to do structure changes in MS CRM db)
oDocument saving into MS SharePoint process occurs in MS CRM and with its assistance – SharePoint bridge, which does addition and update for the existing document into destination Document Library with MS SharePoint Web Services calls
oUpon the addition into Document Library, MS CRM – SharePoint bridge registers the document in the special table for the future data extraction or notification mechanism registration
oThen, interested users can work with the documents just using MS Office 2003 or other programs/editing tools, assuming these tools have access to MS SharePoint
oFeedback is provided by MS SharePoint Event Handler component. This is special handler, inspecting document change status, transferred from MS CRM to document storage (SharePoint), and report Activity owner on the changes with home page notifications (User home page in MS CRM). User in turn can review the history of the document editing – who, when and where is the change
oOpening Activity, where document is “attached”, and in fact placed into MS SharePoint Document Library, and pressing opening button, MS CRM user gets live version of the data
oThis approach allows you seamless work with MS CRM document in the whole informational space of your company
oAdditional enhancements to this product might be document library management directly from MS CRM (web interface – meaning remotely), administrative interface for MS Sharepoint documents revision, ability to create reports on the document storage status, rights/access management (Author, Reader, Contributor etc) from MS CRM, portal pages integration into MS CRM to name a few.
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