One of the benefits of using Microsoft Dynamics CRM is the Outlook integration. With just a few mouse clicks, you can synchronize Outlook items like emails, appointments and tasks directly with CRM Activities. However, there are some things to know and best practices to keep in mind when tracking activities in CRM.
Note: There are many more advanced tracking topics regarding tracking like using tokens, foward mailboxes, etc. This post only deals with basic synchronization features. Want to see more advanced topics? Let me know in the comments!
For one-click tracking, you can simply click “Track in CRM,” or in some places simply designated “Track.” When you track an item, CRM creates a matching Activity record and keeps it in sync with your Outlook item. It also automatically searches for records that it thinks are related to the item. The main way it does this is by email address. For example, if you track a message from email@example.com, CRM will automatically associate the activity with any records have an email field containing firstname.lastname@example.org. Out of the box, that means Leads, Contacts and User records typically match up. If they have multiple email fields out of the box (like CRM Contact records), it will check all the fields for a match. Custom entities will also be checked, provided you let CRM automatically create the entity’s Email field instead of creating a custom one. The email will show up under Closed Activities for each associated records.
To track things more specifically, you can click “Set Regarding.” When you do that, it asks you to associate the activity with a specific record in CRM. This is a great way to track an activity that does not get auto-tracked appropriately, or can’t be auto-tracked by email address. For example, this is commonly used to associate activities with Accounts or Opportunities in CRM.
If you’re in a contact record in Outlook, instead of “Set Regarding” you’ll see “Set Parent.” That’s because Contacts can only be regarding Accounts. Otherwise, it works the same as “Set Regarding.”
- “Track in CRM” may result in tracking too many records. For example, it will probably track against your User record and your Contact record because they are tied to your email. Don’t sweat it! It only stores one copy of the email, so no worries about storing too many copies of an email.
- Don’t waste time using “Set Regarding” if “Track in CRM” will find your target record! This is typically the case with Leads and Contacts. Why bother if it’s already associated?
- Be aware that you can only choose one single record when you use “Set Regarding.” If you do it a second time, it will no longer be associated with the previous selection.
- Make a solid attempt to “Set Regarding” to the most specific record possible. For example, if an activity is for a specific Opportunity, be sure to track it at the Opportunity level, not the Account level.
- If you’re tracking contacts from Outlook, be sure to use “Set Parent” so they are correctly associated with their Account record in CRM. If you just “Track in CRM” it will be an orphaned Contact record with no parent Account assigned.
- If you’re using CRM 4.0, you must click “Track” before you can “Set Regarding.” In CRM 2011 and up, “Set Regarding” automatically tracks the record as well, so you can skip that step.