Business Contact Manager for Outlook 2007 provides extensive customization capabilities so that you can tune it to meet the specific needs for running your business. These customizations can be applied across different feature sets of the product. You can customize the following in BCM -

·        Add new user fields to BCM items like Business Contacts, Accounts etc.

·        Edit list values

·        Customize the BCM home page

·        Modify BCM reports

·        Create new Search folders

·        Add new views or modify existing views for BCM items

·        Share above customizations with other BCM users

Let us look at each of the above in detail –

Adding new user fields

BCM items come with a fairly extensive set of fields. However, everyone will feel the need to add that one extra bit of information they would like to track about their business contacts. Now you can do that easily by going to “Business Contact Manager” on the Outlook toolbar and then selecting “Customize Forms” -> “Manage User-Defined Fields” -> “Business Contact”.  This brings up a nice designer dialog where you can decide what fields to add. You can even decide what type of field it is and how the fields should be grouped. Additionally, you can specify whether the field should be placed on the left or the right column on the form. By choosing the Page (at the top of the dialog) where the field should be added, you can have your new field show up either on a special tab called “User-Defined Fields” or one of the common tabs like “General” or “Details”.

The image below shows what the add user field dialog looks like –

Add new field

 

Edit list values

You can also edit the list of drop down values available on BCM items. For example, an Opportunity item has the following pre-defined Sales stages – “Prospecting”, “Qualification“, “Needs Analysis“, “Proposal/Price Quote“, “Negotiation/Review“, “Closed Won“ and “Closed Lost“. You may want to track some other sales stages or you may not use all the ones listed above and so may want to remove some of these values. You can accomplish either of these goals easily by opening an Opportunity and then clicking on the drop down for Sales Stage and then selecting the last value in the drop down – “<Edit this list…>”. This will bring up a dialog that will let you add/delete/modify existing values. You can also select one of the values as the default. This will set the field value to this default when you create a new item. The image below shows what the edit list dialog looks like –

Edit list

 

Customizing the BCM home page

You can also customize the home page to view only the data you are interested in. You can do this by going to the home page and selecting “Add or Remove Content” from the top right corner. This brings up a dialog that lets you choose what items you want to view in the home page. You can use this dialog to set your options for each of the four tabs on the home page – “Home”, “Sales”, “Marketing” and “Projects”. Below is an image of the dialog for customizing the home page –

Add/remove content

 

Modifying reports

You can customize any of the reports that ship with BCM. Once you open the reports from the Reports sub-menu under the BCM toolbar, click on “Modify Report” in the report toolbar. This brings up a nice task bar by the side of the report that lets you choose which columns to view (including any user defined columns you created), the header and footer information and fonts for the text and a custom filter to specify additional constraints for the data shown on the report. A very useful feature here is the ability to specify custom header and footer information. You can use this so that your company name shows up in the report header!

In addition, you can save your changes by clicking on the “Save Report” button. This will prompt you to save the changes as a .bcmr file. You can open this customized report file in future by going to “Business Contact Manager” -> “Reports” -> “Open Saved Report” and then browsing to the location where you saved the file.

The image below shows the UI for modifying reports –

Modify report

 

Search folders

Search folders are a powerful way to filter the data you want to see in Outlook. For example, you can use search folders to see only those opportunities that you won in the last 3 months. To create a new search folder, right click on the “Search Folders” on the Outlook navigation pane and then select “New Search Folder” (see image below).

New search folder

This brings up the new search folder dialog. Type in a meaningful name for the new folder, select the BCM items to view in this folder from the dropdown and then click on the button labeled “Filter…”. This brings up the filter UI. You can select what items you want to view in this search folder and click OK here and then OK again in the new search folder dialog. That’s it! Now you can see items defined by your custom definition under the search folders as shown below!

 Sample search folder

 

Modifying & creating item views

You can view BCM items in a variety of ways. For example, you can view Business Contacts by zip code or payment status. You can choose the view you want by going to “View” -> “Current View” in the Outlook toolbar and then selecting the view. This is an extremely powerful feature. You can even customize the current view by selecting “Customize Current View…” from the above menu options. This brings up the Customize View dialog that lets you pick which fields you want to see in the view, how the items should be grouped, sorted etc.

You can even create a completely new view for yourself by selecting the “Define Views…” option from the above menu. This brings up a “Custom View Organizer” dialog. Click on the “New…” button in this dialog and choose the name and type of view you want. Click OK and then this brings up the same dialog as the one for customizing an existing view. You can specify your filter, grouping, sort order etc. from here.

Custom view organizer

 

Sharing Customizations

Okay, so you have gone through and customized the different facets of BCM. Now how do you share them with your co-workers? BCM provides a variety of solutions to share all these –

·        New User fields and list values can be shared using import/export. From the Outlook File menu, choose “Import and Export” -> “Business Contact Manager for Outlook”. Select “Export a File” from the first page and then “Business Contact Manager Customizations (.bcmx)”. Then complete the wizard. This will export your changes to a file that you can give to your co-workers. They can go to this same wizard and then choose “Import a File” from the first page and then “Business Contact Manager Customizations (.bcmx)” in the next page. They can then point to the file you just gave them. BCM will then apply those changes to your co-worker’s machine!

Import

·        While you are giving your co-workers the bcmx file, you can also hand them your custom report (.bcmr) files. They can copy the .bcmr file wherever they want on their file system. Then they can just open it from the reports menu and see your customized reports – that simple!

·        Deploying your customized views, search folders and BCM home page is a bit harder. Unless you are a developer and want to write a custom Outlook add-in, the easiest way to share these with your co-workers is to go over to their machines and help them set up the views exactly as you did on your own machine.

Advanced Customizations

For those who are willing to write some code, there are even more advanced possibilities for customizations in BCM. I will be posting a separate article on that in the next few days. If you are in a hurry to see what that looks like, you can go through the BCM SDK documentation on MSDN.