Make CRM Activity Feeds easier to follow by creating custom groups

The functionality of the new Activity Feeds feature introduced in CRM Online R7 / CRM 2011 Update Rollup 5 is built around the concept of following specific records. This allows a very granular level of control for the users to select the specific items from which they wish to see posts on their personal wall. However, this does also force us to carefully plan for the scenario of a new user who logs into the Activity Feeds view for the very first time. What they will have in front of their eyes is an empty wall with just a few links to the online help material.

An empty wall greets the new CRM users

In order to make Activity Feeds a shared, trusted source of information on customer related events, the organization using Dynamics CRM needs to provide its users a path that they can follow to become a member of this community. Although it is possible to build custom business logic through the SDK that automates the following of records, wouldn’t it be better if teams of users could themselves choose topics that they wish to follow, and also broadcast their posts to other users following the same topic? You know, like #hashtags on Twitter. Well, there’s no built-in support for hashtags in the current release of the Activity Feeds solution, but here’s a description of one possible workaround which I’ve come up with.

In my previous post on the topic, I covered the general process of how to enable Activity Feeds for entities in Dynamics CRM. The natural choice for supporting a team collaboration scenario would be to use the default entity Team to display relevant posts for its’ users on the entity form. Unfortunately you can’t enable Activity Feeds for teams, since that’s not a supported entity. In fact, you cannot enable Activity Feeds for any organization-owned entities, even custom ones.

Luckily there’s nothing stopping your from creating a user-owned custom entity and enabling it for Activity Feeds, so let’s go ahead and create a new entity called “Group”. No need for new fields, just publish the entity, then create a Post Configuration record with the same entity name (new_group or something like that). After this you’ll need to go and adjust the form so that the Record Wall is directly visible when you open the form, by moving it below the first General tab.

New entity Group created for enabling mentions  /></p><p>Now you’re all set for starting to use the group entity in Activity Feed posts. No matter on which record’s wall (or your personal wall) you’re writing a post to, you can perform a mention by entering the @ character followed by the group’s name. In this case I’ve created a group called CRM, so I’ll add a mention of @CRM on an account record wall. You’ll see how that turns into a hyperlink to the group record.</p><p><img title=