Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Activity Feeds in CRM 2011

The CRM 2011 Update Rollup 5 has a very interesting feature called Activity Feeds. Having played with it for some time, I think there is tremendous scope in the context of daily professional use.

There are a couple of steps that need to be followed to get started before seeing the Wall updates. Let us go through them:

i) Download and install the Update Rollup 5 (duh!)

ii) Download and import the CRM Activity Feeds solution from pinpoint. Check the Activate processes and enable sdk message processing steps during the import process. Under Settings/ System, you will see 2 new nav links named "Activity Feed Configuration" and "Activity Feed Rules"

The Activity Feed Configuration is where you can define the entity that needs to be tracked, and whether you want the record wall to be displayed. Not all entities are enabled for the feed configuration though custom entities are supported. The Activity Feed Rules are scenarios that trigger the post to be made to the wall. These are pre-defined for each entity, but there is a workaround by adding scenarios through the workflow (I will explain in reference to the example below).

I am going to focus on the following business case: The Sales Manager wants to see on his wall a note when any open opportunity has an estimated revenue of greater than $100,000. The advantage of this approach is that the Manager can focus on the high value deals, and is a better option than getting an email or creating a task/ custom activity. And if further information is needed, the opportunity record is just a click away. In essense, we are aggregating information that is pertinent to the user, with the criteria set being customizable.

Lets take a look at the steps involved.

1. Go to settings/ Activity Feed Configuration, and select the New button.Enter entity name as "opportunity" and make sure the Enable walls for this record is checked.

2. Once you click save, you will see the associated list of Feed Rules for the Opportunity entity. These rules are predefined, and not all entities will have rules associated with them. In this case, none of the existing rules will support our business case. But the UI does not allow adding new rules for an entity.

Note that the entity has to be published before the record wall shows up!

3. The indirect way to create a rule is to use workflows. Create a new solution, and add Opportunity entity. Go to Solution, then Components/ Processes, and create a new workflow.

4. Select the scope to be user. For the "Start when" option, check when record is created option.

5. Add a Check condition step to check if the est. revenue is >= $100,000.

6. Under the check condition, add a "create Record" step. For the Create drop down, select "Follow". Click on Set properties. Select the opportunity as the Regarding value (if it is not done so automatically). Select the user who wishes the follow this opportunity. When setting up the workflow, do remember to follow the record, before the step where you make a post.

7. While still under the check condition, add another "create Record" step. For the Create drop down, select "Post". Click on Set properties. Select the opportunity for the RegardingObjectId lookup. Enter the following value for text:

High value opportunity! 

Est revenue is {Est. Revenue(Opportunity)}
Est Close Date is {Est. Close Date(Opportunity)}
The source and type drop downs are the default ones in this example. Modify as appropriate.

8. Activate the workflow. This is what the workflow looks like after these changes:

9. Create a test oppportunity with estimated revenue as $125,000. Save the opportunity. Once the workflow has completed, you will see a post on the Opportunity's Record wall. You will also notice that the user you selected in step 6 is listed as a follower of the opportunity record.

10. Go to the "Whats new" navigational link for that user. The post is available, with a link to the Opportunity. Under following, the opportunity is listed when you select the "1 opportunity" link. 

Using the steps above, there are limitless combinations of rules that can be set up outside of the default ones provided. It should also be possible to add the wall to a dashboard, as an iframe.   

A wish list of things i would like to see in the future:
a) Ability to follow any entity
b) Choose the entity from a drop down (in step 1), rather than a text field.
c) Allow custom Activity Feed rules to be set.
d) Ability to check the records a user is following from the workflow process (As if you try to follow the record more than once, you get an error).
e)Unfollow a record from workflow

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