Can’t Get Interactive Service Hub to Work in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016?

You aren’t alone. But we have a solution for you.

Interactive Service Hub is new feature introduced in CRM 2016. However there’s currently a bug that causes the app to get stuck on loading and become unusable.  If you click on ‘Experience it now’ you will be taken to a non-working URL. Very frustrating!

Interactive Service Hub Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016

What’s Wrong?

The issue is that the app does not handle properly SSL offloading which is a common configuration used on many platforms. The workaround provided by Microsoft was to disable SSL Offloading, but this breaks connectivity with CRM Outlook client and causes other issues in ADFS so this isn’t a desirable solution.

Isn’t Microsoft Fixing It?

Microsoft has acknowledged that this is a bug, and they are working on a solution.  However, the fix from Microsoft may take some time. In the meantime, we at xRM have created a solution that adds the link to the service hub in a ribbon button available in all entities.

Interactive Service Hub Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016

Our solution has been tested and works for the following system scenarios:

Office 2013
Windows 10
CRM 2016

Android 5.1

Office 2016
Windows 8.1
CRM 2016

Contact us today to get this fix.

Want to read more about the Interactive Service Hub feature? Here are some handy links.

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The One Free Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Tool Your Sales Team Needs to Start Using Today

Does your sales team struggle to find current company and contact information for prospecting? And maybe you don’t have the budget to subscribe to Hoover’s or Dun & Bradstreet services. Well if you own Dynamics CRM Online, we have some great news for you. You already have access to a free tool that provides contact, revenue, size data and more.

Why aren’t more sales teams using this free tool? It’s been hidden with a title of “Insights”.  Pretty vague, hmm? Previously referred to as Social Insights, this tool is powered by InsideView, a powerful stand-alone data aggregator that has been fully integrated into Dynamics CRM.

Like it or not, when some salespeople hear “social”, they tune out. But the word “social” has taken on new meaning in the last 10 years. It has different implications and definitions depending on the context. We at xRM are frequently asked about “Social CRM”. What does it mean? And how does social integration work with the platform?

When it comes to native social integration with CRM Online, there are two primary offerings:

  1. Insights for Microsoft Dynamics CRM
  2. Microsoft Social Engagement

In this discussion, we’ll focus on Insights, the free tool, powered by InsideView.

Insights for Microsoft Dynamics CRM

What Is It?

Insights is a free solution that can that pulls company, contact, and social data into your CRM database. This data comes from a sources such as Reuters, InsideView, and Equifax. So salespeople can search for any company or person and find everything from company size, revenue, key people, recent news, and more. And, for contacts in your CRM database, Insights gives you easy access to Facebook profiles, LinkedIn profiles, and Twitter feeds. This is where we see confusion about the concept of “Social CRM”—but more on that in a bit.

How Does It Work?

Insights is free with a Pro license of CRM Online, but it doesn’t come preinstalled. Global administrators or CRM Admins manage the installation from the Office 365 portal. Microsoft TechNet provides useful installation instructions.

Once the solution is installed and configured in CRM Online, users will find an Insights area on forms of the following entities: Accounts, Contacts, Leads, and Opportunities.

The One Free Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Tool Your Sales Team Needs to Start Using Today

Insights window embedded in main Account form

The One Free Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Tool Your Sales Team Needs to Start Using Today

Insights window expanded from the form


Insights provides users with general info, financial data, employee information, and newsfeeds regarding companies where it can find a match. Much of this data, such as phone numbers, address, description, ticker symbol, and company logo, can be pulled directly into CRM Online records. As you can see in the image, you can even profile similar companies with the click of a button.

What Is It Not?

Insights is by no means a social network sales platform. By that I mean it is not a solution that integrates directly into your existing social media accounts and allows you to import your connections and contacts. It is not designed to push posts or tweets to social media platforms either. Microsoft makes no attempts to advertise Insights as true social platform.

What Does It Do Well?

Insights is a superb solution for B2B sales. Users can research accounts, research people associated with those accounts, monitor news feeds, and setup watch lists. When a user identifies an account they would like to reach out to, they can see contacts related to the account and potentially pull up their LinkedIn and Facebook profiles within Insights. This allows the user to see if they have any connections with that person, making reaching out that much easier.

The rich data Insights provides is what it does best. It is easy to sync with the Insights database to enrich your CRM Online data as well.

Learn how use Social to Track your Brand Easily in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online in our next blog.

Check out our xRM blog for more tips like this and our Success Portal, a library of over 400 free educational Dynamics CRM videos.

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3 Simple Tips to Tailor Microsoft Dynamics CRM to Your Business

Deploying Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online can be intimidating, especially for smaller teams. The platform has seemingly endless configuration possibilities, so knowing where to start may be difficult. At xRM, there are a set of common configurations we frequently apply to new deployments. A common theme in these configurations is familiarity. Changing CRM Online to match your business’s terminology and style can go a long way to easing new users into the system.

Here are three simple configurations you can make to tailor CRM Online to your business:

Simple CRM Tip 1. Customize Your System Views

What are views? Views are like reports, or an Excel table. “Active Accounts in California” is a view. Every record type, or entity, in Microsoft Dynamics CRM comes with a number of default system views—about 10 or so on average.

System views are available to all users, while personal views are created by individual users and can be shared with coworkers. The stock views that come with Dynamics CRM are good at showing you how views can be used, but typically aren’t very useful in your day-to-day operations. For example, “Opportunities Opened in the Last Six Months” is an out-of-the-box system view that rarely gets used.

Clean Them Up

As a Dynamics CRM admin user, you can clean your workspace by deactivating the system views that don’t use. This view cleanup goes a long way in simplifying the interface, making it easier on your new employees.

Modify Them

To modify system views, navigate to Settings > Customization > Customize the System. When the solution window opens, navigate to the entity you would like to change in the left pane. Let’s use Opportunity in this example. Under the selected entity, click Views.

In the View dropdown at the top of the window, choose Active Public Views. We’re about to deactivate views we do not have use for, but system-defined views have functions beyond just segmenting our data. So for starters, it is highly recommended to just deactivate the public views.

3 Simple Tips to Tailor Microsoft Dynamics CRM to Your Business

Once you’ve narrowed the list down to just the active public views, you can select one view one at a time, and then click deactivate to start clearing the noise. Note that you cannot delete out-of-the-box views from the system entirely, but this process will remove them from users’ dropdown list.

Once you are done with this, go ahead and publish your customizations for them to take effect.

Simple CRM Tip 2. Change the Entity Names

Language can be a barrier when adopting new platforms. One of the hardest things for new users to overcome is getting used to labels and wording that doesn’t match their established company or team terminology. As an administrator, you can change the names of the entities without compromising the functionality or structure of the CRM platform. And it’s super easy to do.

For this example, let’s change the name of the Account entity to “Company”. To do this, navigate to Settings > Customizations > Customize the System. In the solution window that opens, navigate to Account under the Entities dropdown. You can then change the Display Name and Plural Name to your liking, “Company” and “Companies” respectfully in this case.

3 Simple Tips to Tailor Microsoft Dynamics CRM to Your Business

Be sure to save and then publish your customizations for them to take effect.

Note that changing the display name will change the entity label in the navigation, but the names of the underlying views, forms, and fields will not change automatically. They will need to be changed individually.

3 Simple Tips to Tailor Microsoft Dynamics CRM to Your Business

Simple CRM Tip 3. Change the Theme

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online now allows organizations to customize the look and feel of their CRM platform. Navigate to Settings > Customizations > Themes. Here you can choose to modify the existing theme, or create one from scratch by clicking the New button.

3 Simple Tips to Tailor Microsoft Dynamics CRM to Your Business

Quick tip—rather than create a theme from scratch, open the out-of-the-box default theme, and then click the Clone button. This will make a copy of the theme which you can then modify yourself.

3 Simple Tips to Tailor Microsoft Dynamics CRM to Your Business

3 Simple Tips to Tailor Microsoft Dynamics CRM to Your Business

Once you have designed your theme to your liking, you preview it, and publish it.

These three customizations are relatively simple and quick to implement, but can go a long way in making your users that much more comfortable with the system.

Check out our xRM blog for more tips like this and our Success Portal, a library of over 400 free educational Dynamics CRM videos.

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Powerful Reporting with Excel Templates

Great news for you analysts and visualization gurus out there! With the recent release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2016, it has never been easier to deep dive into your data thanks to the new Document Generation feature. As expert Microsoft Dynamics CRM consultants, we at xRM can’t wait to help our clients leverage Document Generation to unearth valuable KPI’s in a robust reporting tool like Microsoft Excel.

Excel, Only Better!

Document Generation enhances the Excel Online integration that was introduced with CRM Online 2015 Update 1. Basically, it allows users to upload a templated version of an Excel report to CRM Online. Users can then open the template which is populated with up-to-date data, giving users deep insights into their business at the click of a button. Let’s see how it works.

1.   Preparing the Template

The first thing you need to do is set up a baseline view in CRM Online. In this example, I’ve created a view made up of sample data from an email campaign that captured metrics such as opens, clicks, and unsubscribes. I then click the Excel Templates button in the command bar, and then click Create Excel Template.

Powerful Reporting with Excel Templates

2.   The Create template from CRM data window opens. Notice that CRM Online gives us the option to filter by entities and to choose a previously saved view. Since I’m already at the view I want to use, I’ll leave the defaults selected and then click Download file.

Powerful Reporting with Excel Templates

An Excel file is then downloaded locally to my machine, containing the columns and data from the view. I can then design a report using Excel tools.

Good for Newbies and Experts Alike

If you are already an Excel wizard, try applying some of your favorite analytical tools to the data. If you’re new to this, I recommend some analyses that are difficult or impossible using the out-of-the-box reporting tools of CRM Online such as totaling sums and averages, conditional formatting, sparklines, and PivotTables. Don’t forget, you can create multiple sheets in your Excel template.

3.   Upload the Template

One you’ve prepared your report, save it locally. Back in CRM Online, navigate to the Create template from CRM data window. This time however, click the Upload button. Drag the Excel file into the upload box that appears. A confirmation window then appears and you’re good to go.

4.   Run the “Report”

Navigate back to the entity where you want to run the report. This time around, you’ll see your uploaded template which you can then open right in Excel Online, or you can download a copy of the latest data.

Powerful Reporting with Excel Templates

Here’s an example of a report I designed and can access right from the browser. In the first sheet I broke down the data with conditional formatting, something that cannot be done in CRM Online natively.

Powerful Reporting with Excel Templates

On a separate sheet, I have set up a simple pivot table and chart that breaks down the average number of clicks, opens, and bounces per campaign.

Powerful Reporting with Excel Templates

Create for One, or Create for All

These templates can be set up for personal use, or administrators can create templates for all users to consume.

You can let your imagination run wild with the reporting possibilities when a powerful database like Microsoft Dynamics CRM has such seamless integration with an analytical tool like Excel.

Want More Dynamics CRM Tips, Tricks and Tutorials?

Check out our xRM blog and our Success Portal, a library of over 400 free educational Dynamics CRM videos.

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Quick Admin Tip: Share Charts and Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online


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Quick Admin Tip: Share Charts and Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online can be intimidating to new users. It is such a powerful platform with a plethora of features that getting newcomers to adopt it can sometimes be an uphill battle.

Collaboration is a key ally for battling this resistance. Getting every single user to a high level of proficiency with the system immediately is unrealistic. However, getting a smaller number of users to a higher skill level, let’s call them “power users”, can be extremely beneficial.

Power Users Rule

In the early phases of training, we at xRM to emphasize simple shortcuts and features that will make a user’s life a little easier. Power users can make use of these shortcuts and lesser-known features, share them with their coworkers, all without ever needing administrative credentials. This helps those end users who may be reluctant to adopt CRM Online to see how much time they can save and can even get them excited about working with the system.

One of the features we love is the Share charm that can be found in a couple of different places. We’ll look at how to use the Share feature in a sales pipeline first.

Making Sense of the Noise

Oftentimes a complete list of your CRM data can be overwhelming. How do we know which opportunities to target without opening each one?

Quick Admin Tip: Share Charts and Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

That’s precisely why CRM Online has features such as views and charts—they help to cut through the noise. But we don’t need to rely on all of our end users to know how to create their own views and charts right off the bat. A power user can create and share them with the necessary team members.

Step 1

We’ll start by creating a new view using Advanced Find. It should be noted that a system administrator could create a system view that is available to all users that have access to the given entity, opportunities in this example. However, sharing personal views can be done by anyone. Advanced Find can be found by clicking the button to the right of the global search feature in the top-right corner of the browser.

Quick Admin Tip: Share Charts and Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Step 2

Once the Advanced Find window opens, we specify the criteria for our view. We want something that helps users prioritize top opportunities that are expected to close in the near future. Below is an example of a view that filters opportunities down to open records with an estimated close date in the next three weeks, with an estimated revenue equal to or greater than $10,000. Now, it’s time to share this view with a team member. We can click on the Saved Views button in the ribbon of the Advanced Find window.

Quick Admin Tip: Share Charts and Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Step 3

We should then see a list of all of our shared views. We can select the one we’d like to share, and then click the Share button in the ribbon.

Quick Admin Tip: Share Charts and Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Step 4

The Share saved view button opens. Just click on Add User/Team and search for users or teams to share this view with, and then specify the permissions we want to grant them. In this example we are sharing our view with Jane Doe, and we’re giving her permissions to open and share this view with other users. We can share this view with multiple users or teams at once if we so choose.

Quick Admin Tip: Share Charts and Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Step 5

Once the Share button is clicked, the user will find the view listed in their personal views. Just click the dropdown arrow on your View and scroll to the bottom section of “My Views”.

Quick Admin Tip: Share Charts and Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Share Charts Too

Sharing charts works very similarly. Notice below that I’ve already created a personal chart called, “Est. Revenue by Est. Close Date”. It’s broken down by opportunity rating. It can be accessed by clicking on the chart bar on the far right side of the browser window. We can click the More Commands button, which looks like an ellipsis (three dots), and then click the Share button.

Quick Admin Tip: Share Charts and Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

We are then given the same ability to choose which users and teams we’d like to share this chart with, and which permissions we’d like to give them.

Quick Admin Tip: Share Charts and Views in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Views and Charts Help You Zero in on What Matters

Once we’ve shared these tools, users can easily cut through the noise of the data and zero in on the opportunities that they should prioritize. This is how we help users see the value of CRM Online, and drive user adoption.

If you would like to learn more tips, tricks, and tutorials for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, please check out our xRM blog and our Success Portal, a library of over 400 educational Dynamics CRM videos.

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Query Relational Operator “Gotcha”

As a robust relational-database platform, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online offers numerous tools to sift through data. The Advanced Find tool is arguably the most robust as it allows users to create ad-hoc queries that can be saved and shared with other users. At xRM (, Advanced Find is often one of the first things we train our customers how to use, because its concepts can be applied to so many areas in CRM Online.

This is not a post about how to use Advanced Find. Instead, this is a warning about one of the key query relational operators in Advanced Find. Knowing this tip can prevent you from overlooking crucial data or designing a faulty Workflow by mistake.

First, you may be asking, “What is a query relational operator?” In layman’s terms, it is the middle portion of a criterion in a query in CRM Online.

Query Relational Operator Gotcha

In a query, such as the one in the screenshot above, users specify the field on which they’d like to filter, the query relational operator, and then specify the parameters of the filter. Using the screenshot above, the query reads,” Show me all Accounts whose Account Name fields have a value that Begins With the letter ‘A‘ or ‘a’.” The available query relational operators change based on the field type. For example, a Date and Time field will present options such as “Before” or “Last X Months”. The query relational operator we’d like to focus on is the “Contains” operator.

CRM Online users learn early on that when searching for records using the quick find bar, the asterisk, commonly referred to as the “wildcard” character, can be their best friend. If when searching for an Account called “Some Sample Company “, a user enters the phrase “sample”, they will not get the Account record they want. If they use the phrase “*sample” (note the asterisk) they will get Some Sample Company in the results.

CRM Online searches based on character order. Since the first search in this example didn’t begin with the word “some” CRM Online didn’t see it as a match. The wildcard tells CRM Online to search the whole string to find a match, much like one would assume a Contains operator clause would behave.

Now we’ve arrived at our “gotcha”. If a user were to write an Advanced Find query like the one seen below, they would not get Some Sample Company in their search results. But why?

Query Relational Operator Gotcha

Because the Contains operator is already acting like a wildcard. The Advanced Find we just wrote above is literally telling CRM Online to search for an Account record that has an asterisk followed by the word “sample” in its name. Users unaware of this often get frustrated when they don’t see the results they are expecting. More dangerously, it can lead to users overlooking key data and making ill-informed decisions.

Workflows, which are automated background processes, commonly use these kinds of queries to trigger automated actions. Perhaps it’s necessary to automatically assign all Account records that contain the word “sample” in their name to a specific user. If the person who designed the workflow used an asterisk, CRM Online would fail to recognize Accounts it should be automatically assigning.

CRM Online is a powerful solution that is capable of meeting the needs of complex organizations and their data. Little oversights such as this one can have potentially harmful ramifications. Don’t be afraid to seek the assistance of CRM Online professionals at xRM to learn how to avoid pitfalls like this one.

If you would like to learn more tips, tricks, and tutorials for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, please check out our xRM blog and our Success Portal. If you would like to receive training from our team of experts, please inquire about our QuickStart Training.

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Modifying Global Search in CRM Online

A Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online instance can amass quite a complex database over time as users continue to input data. It’s important for users to be able to find their data quickly later. CRM Online has seen improvements in its search capabilities over the years, especially with the introduction of the Global Search feature in CRM Online 2015. Global Search is different from Advanced Find. Often seen as a sort of “CRM search engine” by end users, its functionality can be misunderstood. We at xRM ( receive questions from our clients about the search results of their respective organizations being less than ideal. This is because Global Search hasn’t been optimized yet for their individual needs.

It’s important to understand that while Global Search is the closest thing there is to a “CRM search engine,” it does not search against everything in a CRM Online database. It is however, a powerful tool that allows user to query across multiple entities at once.

CRM Online administrators should take a few simple steps to optimize Global Search for their businesses.

Let’s use a common scenario to highlight some key settings. Pretend we’ve added a custom entity called “Project” to our CRM Online organization. We as the System Administrator want users to be able to search for Project records using Global Search. The first thing we have to do is tell the system to query against Project records when users enter a global search. Navigate to Settings > Administration > System Settings. The System Settings window then opens. In the General tab, under the Set up Quick Find area, we see two options.

Modifying Global Search in CRM Online

We want to click the Select… button next to the Select entities for search option. This opens the Select Entities window. We can then choose the entities we want Global Search to examine by adding them to the Selected Entities column, up to a maximum of ten. By default, eight are selected and the admin can remove any they choose. In this example, we’ll add Project as a selected entity. We can also move the items in the list up or down to set the order in which the results are displayed. When we’ve made the desired adjustments, we can click OK to close the Select Entities window, and OK again to close the System Settings window.

Modifying Global Search in CRM Online

We also need to configure which attributes of our custom Project entity Global Search examines when searching. In this example, there are three fields that we want users to be able to query against to find Projects: Customer, Project Stage, and Deployment Date. To do this, we need to add these fields as Find Columns for the Project entity. We want to navigate to Settings > Customizations > Customize the System. We then drill down into the Project entity (or whichever entity you would like to modify) and select Views. The view we want to open is the “Quick Find…” for the entity in question.

Modifying Global Search in CRM Online

In the View window, notice that there are Add View Columns and Add Find Columns options.

Add View Columns controls which columns display in quick search results for the given entity. It also controls what displays in Global Search results. Each result in Global Search is displayed in a tile. Each tile shows three fields for each record. It’s the first three columns of the Quick Find view that dictate the fields displayed in the tiles of the Global Search results.

The Add Find Columns option is what designates fields as searchable. Using the screenshot above, unless we add Customer (a lookup field to the Account entity) as a find column, Projects will not display as results in Global Search when we search for an Account name. It is not enough that Customer is listed as a view column.

Once we have selected the necessary find columns and set the view columns, we can click Save and Close. We have to publish our customizations before the changes go into effect.

Modifying Global Search in CRM Online

Now when we run a Global Search by entering a portion of the name of an Account record, we will get Projects related to that Account in the results.

You can learn more tips, tricks, and tutorials for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, please check out our xRM blog and our Success Portal. If you would like to receive training from our team of experts, please inquire about our QuickStart Training.

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Measuring Repeat Business in CRM Online

As CRM Online consultants at xRM (, we listen to the needs of our clients and then make their vision a reality. This goes beyond implementing requests verbatim. It is important to take in the requirements, understand the driving factors behind them, and deliver a solution that meets the objectives beyond the explicit request of the client.

Recently a client expressed a need to differentiate revenue between first-time and repeat customers. Technically, a simple option set would accomplish this. The requested label of the field was “Client Type,” and the options were simply “New” and “Existing.” However, this solution would lead to less-than-reliable data as it would require user input to set the value. The client was concerned that in adopting a new CRM platform, users would often forget or not have time to verify whether the opportunity was new or repeat business. Fortunately, we settled on a simple way to systematically track repeat business by using a custom rollup field and a workflow.

For those of you uninitiated, a rollup field calculates an aggregate value computed over the child records related to a parent record. In this example, we use a rollup field to count the number of won opportunities related to an account. The process is quite simple.

From the entity in question, Account in this scenario, create a new field. (See below.) In the Type section, select “Whole Number” as the Data Type and “Rollup” as the Field Type. Next, click the Edit button.

Note that once you click the Edit button, CRM Online creates the field and the Data Type field can no longer be modified.

Measuring Repeat Business in CRM Online

The Rollup Field window opens. (See below.) In the RELATED ENTITY section, we choose the entity on which we want to perform the calculation, “Opportunities (Account)” in this example, which means any Opportunity records related to the Account record that has the rollup field. Next, we can optionally specify any filters. In this situation, we define an existing customer as any Account with one or more won opportunities. Therefore, we filter the Opportunities with “If Status equals ‘Won’”. Lastly, we set the aggregation, which will count the number of Opportunities that pass the filter, and then we click Save and Close.

Measuring Repeat Business in CRM Online

It’s important to understand that rollup fields operate on an asynchronous process, and the roll-up is performed every hour. A rollup calculation can be manually triggered by clicking the refresh icon in the actual rollup field on the form.

For testing purposes, it can be good to place the newly created field on the form somewhere to verify that it is calculating correctly. However, the field does not need to be present on any form for the Workflow that we will design shortly to function properly.

Before we can create the workflow, we need the “Client Type” field to exist. The customer in this example wanted the field to reside on the Opportunity entity. This is a simple option set where the values are “New” and “Existing”.

Once the necessary fields are in place, we can design the Workflow. This workflow is triggered whenever a new Opportunity record is created.

The first step is a Check Condition that checks if the Parent Account of the Opportunity has a Won Opportunities value greater than zero.

Measuring Repeat Business in CRM Online

If the Won Opportunities is greater than zero, then the workflow updates the Client Type to “Existing”. Otherwise, the Client Type is set to “New”.

Measuring Repeat Business in CRM Online

This workflow takes the human error component out of properly categorizing repeat business per these specifications. There is not only one way to design this workflow. The requirements of the scenario should dictate how the workflow should be written. What defines a repeat customer? Is there more than one way to establish a customer in CRM Online than with a won Opportunity? What other kinds of automation can be implemented from this logic? These are all important questions that need to be answered. As expert CRM Online consultants, xRM can help you achieve the optimal solutions.

You can learn more tips, tricks, and tutorials for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, please check out our xRM blog and our Success Portal. If you would like to receive training from our team of experts, please inquire about our QuickStart Training.

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Option Set vs. Two Options in CRM Online

When creating custom fields in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, the most important step isn’t the field name, nor the placement on the form. The most important part of creating a custom field is selecting the correct data type. As CRM Online consultants at xRM (, we work with clients in analyzing their data to ensure that the fields in which their data is entered are set up for optimal scalability and reporting capabilities.

In this post, we want to focus on two specific data types with similar sounding names but different uses: Option Set and Two Options. The former is a field that houses a predefined set of Options, sometimes referred to as a picklist or drop-down menu. The latter is quite simply a binary input.

One example of an Option Set could be a list of 50 Options representing the states of the USA. Such an Option Set is great for reporting because it prevents users from inputting inconsistent values intended to mean the same thing, compromising the data integrity. For example, three users could input the state in three different California addresses differently: “CA,” “Cali,” and “California”. This would become disastrous for reporting. Say a user were to run a report that asked, “Show me all accounts that are located in ‘CA.’” Accounts whose addresses had been recorded as “Cali” or “California” would not be returned as results, thus reporting a faulty number.

Two Options fields on the other hand can only house two inputs. By default, the values are “Yes” and “No,” though they can be modified. Two Options fields can also be rendered as radio buttons, a list, or a check box.

There we have it—two different data types for two very distinct purposes, right? Actually, in scenarios where the input seems to be only two values, it might not always be clear which data type to use.

A common mistake we see is administrators creating a Two Options field to collect data that seems like it only has two values but really needs three. Why is this a mistake? Let’s pretend the question is, “Do you like vegetables?” While this is a “yes” or “no” answer, configuring the attribute as a Two Options data type and displaying the field as a checkbox on the form means the input already has a default value, either checked or unchecked, yes or no. That would imply we’ve already asked the question and recorded the response. If the default is “No,” we assume no one likes vegetables until they indicate the affirmative. It also becomes impossible to know which records have indeed answered the question, since neither “yes” nor “no” means “unanswered”.

An Option Set allows administrators to create a field that has no default value and can still provide the user two options to choose from as input. In reality, no default selection means there is an additional (empty) input, which becomes the default. Such a field makes it clear which records have indeed indicated a response to either question we posed previously, because if the field is empty, it means the user hasn’t made a choice. If we also set the field as required on the form, we can force the user to make a purposeful choice, because a form cannot be saved while a required field is empty.

It may seem silly or superfluous to dwell on what appears to be a minute detail. But understand that once a data type has been specified for an attribute, it cannot be changed. To resolve a change from a Two Options field to an Option Set would require creating a new custom field, migrating previous values (if you deem them still reliable) to the new field, and updating any views, charts, dashboards, reports, workflows, mappings or other features that depended on the old field. That’s quite an effort to correct a mistake that seemed minute initially.

It’s very important to have an understanding of the purpose of a field before designing it. What questions will it answer? What workflows will it trigger? These are questions that xRM can help you answer if you need such assistance.

You can learn more tips, tricks, and tutorials for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, please check out our xRM blog and our Success Portal. If you would like to receive training from our team of experts, please inquire about our QuickStart Training.

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