One of the features that makes Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online so popular is its flexibility, and it is Entities that allow CRM Online to be so adaptable. All the components of CRM Online are represented by individual Entities. Entities are similar to marked containers; they hold information of a specific type, and there are different containers to suit different needs.
There are three main types of Entities in CRM Online: System, Business, and Custom (there’s also a unique “Activity” Entity, which we’ll cover in more detail in another post). System Entities define basic functions of CRM and cannot be customized (similar to the foundation and utility services of a building). Business Entities are categories of data that are helpful to nearly any business model (such as the Contact, Account, and Vendor entities), but they can be customized to better fit your organization’s industry and workflow. Custom Entities, the key component to CRM Online’s flexibility, are Entities that you create from a blank template and modify to fit your individual needs.
We can use a car dealer to illustrate how custom Entities work within CRM Online. The dealership needs to track cars, employees, reports, contacts, vendors, mechanics, etc. In CRM Online, Business Entities, such as Employees, Reports, Contacts, and Vendors, already represent several of these categories. However, to suit the particulars of the retail car business, the dealer needs to create Custom Entities to represent the cars and mechanics, categories that aren’t standard in CRM Online.
Creating a customized Entity for a car is like creating an inventory list specifically tailored to that product. Once you create a customized Entity for “Cars”, you can create Records to store information relating to those cars. Records are like entries in the list; every entry has the same blank fields available, and you fill out the specific information for that specific entry. In CRM Online these blank fields are referred to as Attributes.
Every Entity in CRM Online can have a different corresponding set of Attributes. All Entities have similar mandatory Attributes such as “Name” and “Owner”, but different, more specific Entities such as “Car” might have Attributes such as “Color” or “Model”.
A blank Car Record with custom VIN#, Year, Manufacturer, Model, and Color Attributes.
You can customize the Attributes on each Entity. Furthermore, you can customize what types of values can be entered as a response to the attribute. Traditional response types such as checkboxes, drop-down menus, textboxes, and more are included.
As you’re probably realizing, Entity customization starts simple but can quickly get complicated as you start configuring multiple Entities and Attributes. If you’re looking for guidance you might consider CRM training from xRM or hire a Microsoft CRM Partner to create or customize Entities for you.