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Tracking Your Data Using Microsoft Dynamics CRM Dashboards

Tracking Your Data Using Microsoft Dynamics CRM Dashboards

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Business users often need to keep a real-time pulse on their customer data . This includes knowing what data changed, when it changed, and whether there are hotspots that need further investigation. With Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Dashboards, putting your finger on the pulse just got a lot easier!

In this blog I will show how the charts and dashboard capabilities in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 can be used to track what’s happening with your customer information. I will use a simple business scenario to illustrate the capabilities – A sales manager, Kevin, wants to know when the various sales-related items his team works on were modified, and what state they are currently in. The entities that Kevin and his team are most interested in are: Accounts, Contacts, Leads, Opportunities, Orders, and Quotes.

With the powerful charting and dashboard capabilities in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, it is very easy for business users to create such dashboards. In the rest of this blog I will provide a step by step guide to creating such a dashboard. The steps outlined in this blog are currently available in the beta version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011.

Step 1- Identify the business problem you are trying to solve

The sales manager, Kevin, will use this dashboard to answer simple business questions such as:

1. When entities I am interested in were modified?

2. What does my lead and opportunity pipeline look like?

3. Are there any accounts that have been deactivated?

4. How many leads were disqualified recently?

5. Have we lost any opportunities?

6. How many orders are in the pipeline? Have any orders been cancelled?

7. How many quotes are we working on? Have any been cancelled?

These are the kind of questions that regularly help Kevin drive the business forward. The availability of a dashboard that gives him a single page summary of this information will help Kevin in quickly getting a pulse of his business. More importantly, Kevin will also be able to identify hotspots and alarming trends using such a dashboard.

Step 2- Check whether there are any OOB charts and dashboards that can help you solve the problem

Before proceeding to create your own charts and dashboards it is always a good idea to check whether any of the Out of Box charts and dashboards can help you solve your problem. There are around 50 out of box charts that can be used to answer a good range of business questions. There are 7 out of box dashboards that cover the typical scenarios in sales, marketing and service.

It is likely that some of the Out of Box charts and dashboards in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 may meet your needs. All charts in Microsoft Dynamics CRM can be accessed by clicking the collapsed chart pane on the right side of any grid. All dashboards can be accessed by navigating to the Dashboard node in sitemap.

Step 3- Identify the Entities, Views and Charts that you would like to track using your dashboard

As stated earlier Kevin, the sales manager, would like to track entities such as Accounts, Leads, Contacts, Opportunities, Orders and Quotes.

In this case Kevin would like to track the records that have been modified in the current month. We would like to see these entities on a chart that shows the records grouped by 2 criteria; date of modification and current status.

The following table summarizes the information that Kevin would like to track using the dashboard.

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Step 4 – Decide which other users need to use these charts and dashboards

If the dashboards and charts that you are creating would be useful for all users in the organization, it will be a good idea to create system owned components. If these are going to be used by a single user, or a group\team of users then creating user owned charts and dashboard will suffice. Since Kevin is a business user he can create these dashboards and charts and share them with other teams and users.

Step 5- Create the views needed to solve your problem

We need to create a new view for each of the components described above. Creating new views is straightforward. I have created a new view for each of these entities with a filtering criteria that says: “Modified On Equals This Month”.

Step 6 – Create the Charts needed to solve the problem

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 comes with an easy to use chart designer that can be used to create the most commonly used business charts. The following different charts types are supported: bar, column, pie, line, scatter, and funnel. The Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 charts designer supports one level of grouping.

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We can use the charts designer as a starting point for creating the chart definition. Let’s see how this can be done for the Accounts entity:

1. Go to Accounts entity in the solution explore

2. Go to the Charts Node

3. Click on New Chart

4. Create a chart by giving grouping criteria as the “Modified on”, and set the date-grouping to day. Set the name of this chart as “Daily Account Status”

Step 7- Create your dashboard

Now that our views and charts have been created we are now ready to create the dashboard. Here are the steps –

1. Go to the dashboard node within solutions

2. Click on create new dashboard

3. From the template gallery that is shown, select the first template that has 3 components on each of its two rows

4. This opens the dashboard designer canvas

5. Click on the charts icon in each of the placeholder cells, and add the 6 charts to this dashboard.

6. Give a name for this dashboard – “CRM Tracking Dashboard”

Dashboard Template Selection:

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Dashboard Designer Canvas:

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Dashboard Component Gallery:

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Using the dashboard

Here is a screenshot of the dashboard that we just created and published.

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Here are the salient features in the dashboard:

1. It tells us when each of the entities that we are interested in were modified within the last month

2. A quick look at the dashboard gives an idea of how many records for each of these entities have been modified recently

3. Drilldowns can be performed directly from the dashboard, for example a quick drilldown on the cancelled orders, can tell us the reason for these orders getting cancelled

Using Charts and Filters

Using navigate to view link on the top right hand corner of each chart on the dashboard; it is possible to directly navigate to the view from which the chart has been created. The window that opens shows a list view of the records as well as the chart. From this view it is possible to perform additional analyses such as:

1. Applying Filters – Filters can be applied using the filters icon in the main ribbon tab for each entity. These filters are similar to excel filters which most business users are familiar with.

2. Drilldowns – By clicking on a region of the chart users can drilldown into further details regarding their data. Performing a drilldown updates the grid by applying appropriate filters. Conversely, applying filters on the grid updates the chart.

3. Total Record Count – As you proceed with analysis using filters and drilldowns the total record count at the bottom left corner of the grid keeps you updated about the total number of records in your current working set.

Conclusion

It is evident from the above steps that the charts and dashboards features in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 are both easy to use and powerful at the same time. These dashboards can be created by business end users in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. We hope the steps outlined above will help your organization make good use of these features. We will have more blogs in the future to showcase further analytics related capabilities.

Cheers,

Siddhartha Rai



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