Technology

Microsoft CRM Integration and Customization: SharePoint Document Portal

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 short article we describe the solution based on the integration of MS CRM with MS SharePoint.

Microsoft CRM is a new player in the CRM applications market and is gaining its market share. Have a different paradigm in its design (bet on the Microsoft operating system and technologies and completely rule out the alternative platform, such as UNIX, Linux, Oracle, etc.). The Microsoft CRM market is highly diversified: from small (5 users) to large (several hundred MS CRM user licenses) and serves a variety of industries: transportation, logistics, law, pension funds, high-tech, and many others. The implementation of technologies, such as Windows Active Directory, Microsoft Exchange 2003/2000, SQL Server, Crystal Reports Enterprise, Biztalk, Microsoft Outlook, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Great Plains, and Navision in the near future, makes CRM a system appreciated by Microsoft-oriented IT departments.

Let’s get straight to the topic.

The main problem with storing documents in MS CRM in the form of Activity attachments is the inability to work on these attachments in cooperation with other colleagues, who don’t have to use CRM. When multiple service people service requests from the same customer, this is required. Currently, you can use an alternative way when you store Office documents in your file system folders and when you modify the document, save it and reattach it to CRM. This is inconvenient, because it requires all edition users to have CRM licenses first, which delays CRM implementation.

It seems that we are increasing the popularity of document storage systems, such as Microsoft SharePoint, Oracle Files, etc. Such systems, when implemented, give you time savings related to document revisions and versions, approval cycles and workflows, web access through web portal systems and the like.

The focus of our product is the integration of Microsoft SharePoint with MS CRM for document storage. Let’s take a look at the high-level technical realization details:

oThe main change on the MS CRM side is a change in standard system behavior when opening an attachment in Activity. Unmodified standard CRM suggests that you store documents on the file system. The modified version stores the document in the SharePoint document library (the required library is subject to configuration by the MS CRM system administrator) or is kept in MS CRM as-is (for documents of lesser importance). From the moment the document is saved in the SharePoint Document Library, it is not stored in MS CRM; CRM will now store only the link or reference to the document. You also have the ability to open and modify the document at the point of opening, which substantially speeds up the performance of the MS CRM user.

oTable, the storage of the links to the documents is in a separate database and does not deal with the MS CRM tables (you know that you are prohibited from making structure changes to the MS CRM database)

oThe process of saving documents to MS SharePoint occurs in MS CRM and with its assistance: the SharePoint Bridge, which adds and updates the existing document in the target document library with MS SharePoint web service calls.

oAfter addition to the document library, MS CRM – SharePoint Bridge records the document in the special table for future data extraction or notification mechanism registration.

Interested users can then work with the documents simply using MS Office 2003 or other editing programs/tools, assuming these tools have access to MS SharePoint.

oFeedback is provided by the MS SharePoint Event Handler component. This is a special controller, which inspects the change status of the document, transfers from MS CRM to document storage (SharePoint) and informs the activity owner about the changes with notifications from the home page (user’s home page in MS CRM). The user, in turn, can review the document’s editing history: who, when and where the change was

oOpen Activity, where the document is “attached” and actually placed in the MS SharePoint Document Library, and by pressing the open button, the MS CRM user gets a live version of the data

oThis approach allows you to seamlessly work with MS CRM documents across your company’s information space

oAdditional enhancements to this product can be document library management directly from MS CRM (web interface, i.e. remotely), administrative interface for MS Sharepoint document review, ability to create reports on document storage status, rights/access management (Author, Reader, Contributor, etc.) from within MS CRM, integration of portal pages into MS CRM, to name a few.

Happy programming, deploying, customizing, and modding! If you want us to do the work, call 1-630-961-5918, 1-866-528-0577. [email protected]

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