CRM 2013 SP1: Case Creation and Routing – The Details

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Posted on 3rd June 2014 by Jukka Niiranen in Features

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In my previous post about the new functionality included in CRM 2013 SP1 / Spring ’14 release I laid out the big picture of how case creation and routing rules relate to cases and queues in Dynamics CRM. Now it’s time to take a more detailed look at how you would actually configure these rules to automate your case creation process. There are a few limitations that it’s good to be aware of before you jump into applying these new tools in your service management scenarios.

Case Creation Rules

As illustrated in the big picture of queue and case management in my previous article, Case Creation Rules are specific to a single queue. Also, you can only have one Case Creation Rule per queue – per channel. It is nevertheless a 1:N relationship between queues and rules, since a queue can have a Case Creation Rule both for email and social activities (the latter of which are not yet leveraged in this release). The Command Bar buttons on the updated queue form, labelled “Email To Case Settings” and “Social To Case Settings”, take you to the respective rule record.

CRM2013SP1_queue_settings

The Case Creation Rule form allows you to configure predefined conditions for case creation. Emails from unknown senders can be filtered away from case creation. Also the existence of a valid entitlement for the sender (contact) or the senders company (parent account) can be used as a filter. Finally, email related to an already resolved case can be set to generate a new case record, with a configurable “quarantine” time period. So, if you resolve a case today and the customer replies “thanks for your help”, this probably shouldn’t generate a new case, but a reply sent after 3 days to the same email thread might warrant opening up a whole new case record.

CRM2013SP1_case_creation_rule

That’s all the conditions you can apply for the automatic case creation. There’s an additional entity called Case Creation Rule Item that’s found in the “Specify Case Details” subgrid. What this feature allows you to do is specify a condition on the activity record (email or social activity) and set values for the newly created case’s fields. As an example, if the email subject contains word X, you could populate the case subject lookup field with value Y. So, you can’t use these Rule Items to determine whether a case will be created or not, but you can pass along some variables from the originating activity.

CRM2013SP1_case_creation_rule_item

The entity fields you can access in the Conditions box are limited to those directly related to the email (or social) activity. There is however one welcome exception and that is the Senders Account. This means that when the email is coming from a known contact, there’s a way to reach into the fields of the account related to the contact (related to the activity), to check variables like relationship status, customer category or other important pieces of information in a B2B service scenario. (more…)

CRM 2013 SP1: Case Creation and Routing – The Big Picture

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Posted on 24th May 2014 by Jukka Niiranen in Configuration |Features |News and events

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The latest Dynamics CRM Online Spring ’14 release is now rolling out to existing and new customers (starting from the US data centers) and the on-premises equivalent of CRM 2013 Service Pack 1 will soon follow is now available from MS Download Center (here’s the KB article for more details about SP1). The quickest way to check if your CRM Online organization is already updated to the latest release is on the About screen, accessible via the gear icon in the top right corner. If your version reads 6.1.0.575 (or 6.1.anything) then you’ve got the Spring ’14 release available and you can proceed to the Install Product Updates menu to enable the new features.

CRM2013SP1_version

This release, previously known by the codename “Leo”, focuses on enhancing the service management capabilities of Dynamics CRM. There’s a great “What’s New” page on CRM Customer Center that provides a detailed listing of the new features launched now, including an eBook of the changes in service management. Instead of repeating all of this information, I’ll try and provide an overview of how the features align with one another and specifically how they could be applied in real world scenarios for managing incoming service cases from customers.

Enhancements in Case Creation and Queues

I guess we’ll still need to first list the new options we need to be aware of when configuring the service module in CRM 2013 SP1 to handle emails and cases  via queues. First off, there is now support for server side synchronization of emails (and other activities) between CRM Online and Exchange Online, without having to use the old Email Router technology (no support for hybrid deployments, though). Then there’s a new feature called Case Creation Rule that allows you to automatically convert an email message or a social activity record placed in a queue into a new case record. Finally, we have Routing Rules that can be leveraged for moving items into queues.

The following is my own interpretation of how these three areas are aligned in CRM 2013 Spring ´14 Update / Service Pack 1. The picture illustrates how an email message from the customer would flow through the system automatically based on the configuration of the aforementioned features. It also includes a few bullet points about the supported actions for each component. (Feel free to click on the image to view a bigger version that won’t stress your eyes so much.)

CRM2013SP1_Queue_Case_Configuration_small

When going through the Leo release features I found it a bit challenging to get a clear view of the logical order in which the different functional areas found under the new Service Management settings menu should be applied. Also the relationships between them and the restrictions imposed on the number of records was something I only learned through trial and error. Hopefully this illustration makes it easier to identify the roles of case creation rules and case routing rules in the new release.

Rules vs. Workflows & Plugins

Looking at the picture, someone who has previously configured Dynamics CRM to be used in an email, queue and case based support process will surely find many familiar actions from the list. At the end of the day, pretty much everything here has already been possible with previous CRM versions. With those you just needed to leverage the workflow engine in the CRM platform to configure the case creation and routing activities. So, what’s really new here and why has Microsoft built this into the latest product release?

Behind the scenes, what the case creation and routing rules do is they create the workflow processes for you. This can be seen from the release documentation where the administrator of those rules is reminded about the requirement to have sufficient security roles for performing the corresponding actions via workflows. So, taking a very simplistic view, you could think of these new features available in the Service Management as a dedicated UI for configuring common process automation actions for customer service scenarios.

There’s definitely value in having these new features available right inside the core product. In previous versions, it has been far from trivial to build the necessary functionality for frequently encountered requirements, such as “email to case”. Several ISV add-ons have been developed to deliver such functionality and system customizers have surely spent a ton of time pushing the CRM workflow editor to its limits in an effort to automate the common tasks that a service organization would need to perform when managing cases in Dynamics CRM. Now there’s a new standard way to implement these processes via a method that is fully supported by Microsoft, which in turn will lead to far more customers taking a serious look at these case management capabilities in their business application platform.

CRM2013SP1_Service_Management_Settings

It’s important to keep in mind that these new features don’t replace any of the existing CRM platform functionality. They offer a default method to configure common features, but they will not cover every possible scenario that you’ll come across in real life implementation scenarios. That means you can still use workflows and plugins to extend the process automation for service case management. For example, while a case creation rule provides the possibility to set an auto response email to be sent to the customer upon case creation, there’s nothing stopping you from doing this via familiar workflow process if more complex business logic is needed than what the new Service Management UI in CRM makes available.

In the next blog post I will take a more detailed look at how the case creation and routing features can be leveraged in practice, so stay tuned!

Visualizing Your Progress with CRM Goals

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Posted on 11th May 2014 by Jukka Niiranen in Tips

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Dynamics CRM is a great tool for making your business processes more quantifiable. Sure, you can maintain a list of your open sales opportunities in an Excel sheet and plan your customer meetings with your Outlook calendar, as many organizations do. You can get a pretty good understanding of the current status with such personal productivity tools that come with your Office package, so why bother using any other software for it?

Things become a lot more challenging if you need to be able to track your progress over time, let alone manage a team of individuals who are all using personal tools instead of a shared information repository. “How did we meet the monthly sales targets during the past quarter?” “How many meetings did our sales reps have with current vs. potential customers?” Having an always up to date report of not only the historical results but also estimates of how you’re performing during the current measurement period may become an overwhelming task if you need to create such reports manually.

CRM_goalsDynamics CRM 2011 introduced the goal management feature that allows you to configure a specific measurement criteria just once, define a target value for a certain time period and user, then just sit back and watch the goal progress chart get updated on a daily basis. It’s a generic feature that can be utilized for calculating pretty much any results that are based on data stored and maintained on CRM entities. Sales quotas are a typical example of leveraging CRM goals, but you shouldn’t look at the goal management feature as something that can only be used for tracking formally agreed targets associated with individual employees. Any metric that can be reflected as a quantity in CRM data can potentially be turned into a goal record.

Set Your Own Recurring Goals

There are a few aspects about goal management in Dynamics CRM that may stand in the way of organizations truly starting to leverage the feature. First of them is related to how the goals are by default presented as records that you need to separately create for each and every time period where the measurement should be applied. This means that if you would be interested in tracking a goal on a monthly level, you’d have to enter 12 different records into CRM with mostly the same field values, with the only difference being the “From” and “To” date fields (or alternatively selecting the fiscal period as defined in CRM system settings). Even though you can leverage Excel export/import to create more goal records in bulk, it’s still a tedious sounding step that may keep you from even starting to experiment with the goal management feature.

If you’re not dealing with a hard variable like a sales quota that will have a concrete effect on someone’s salary, then there’s an easier way to get started with goals. Instead of configuring them for a fixed time period, you can set them to be dynamically measured for the last X months, next Y days and so on. I’ve introduced the topic in a previous post, so I won’t dig into the details here, but basically what you can do to create a continuous goal for a dynamic time period is to set the “From” and “To” values as wide apart as you want and then restricting the measured time period in your Rollup Query definition instead.

In my example, I wanted to create a goal record that would measure how many web forms have been submitted per month in an online campaign that leverages the ClickDimensions Web Forms for automating the process and, naturally, tracking all of the data into the CRM database directly. What I did was 1) add a new Goal Metric for counting the number of Posted Form records, 2) enter a bogus time period of 6 years, 3) set the target value that I want to achieve for monthly downloads and 4) create a new Rollup Query in which I defined the criteria to be “Created On in last 30 days” and defined a specific Web Form record that I want to track the submissions from.

CRM_2013_recurring_goal_configuration

Once I saved the record and clicked on Recalculate, I received the current count of Posted Forms that meet this criteria. From here on to eternity this goal will now show the count of submitted forms in the last 30 days, as well as a percentage indicator of how close or far I am from the monthly target of 10 forms. All it took was a few minutes of configuring the goal, now the system will take care of updating it every 24 hours to show the latest result. Time well spent, eh?

Make Your Goals Visible

Another potential pitfall with the goal management feature is that while the calculation engine behind the scenes will now maintain these metrics, there’s no guarantee that the users will remember to pay attention to this data. If they know where to go and look for the data, they can access the goal record in a view that will display target, actual and percentage values. If they are really advanced users, they may even know how to display the goal data on a chart that can be opened up from the right side of this view. And, if they have a great CRM administrator in their organization, he or she may have configured the relevant goals to be shown on their role based dashboards.

That’s a lot of ifs, though. Unfortunately it is quite common that not all of the skills required to get this process right, from business analysis to CRM system customization, may always be available to produce an outcome that would lead to the business value of goals being fully presented to the end users. As we know, user adoption is typically the bigger challenge that CRM system implementations will face, rather than the technical limitations of the underlying software platforms. If it’s not really, truly obvious for the users how the new system will benefit them and make their everyday lives easier, they are unlikely to invest time in frequently visiting it and browsing through the various views and dashboards to review the information available there. So, with the goals feature, is there any other way we could promote the usefulness of these automatic calculations to the users?

I’ve recently started working at a company called Digital Illustrated, which delivers solutions based on various Microsoft technologies, including Dynamics CRM. The guys at my new office have developed a cool new app for Windows Phone: CRM Goals. As the name suggests, this is an application that enables you to review your Dynamics CRM goal information via a WP8 smartphone screen. The really cool part about it is that you can select the goals you want to show as a Live Tile right on the Windows Phone start screen! For example, I can select the above mentioned eBook download campaign goal and choose a place for it among my other frequently used apps like Dynamics CRM and Yammer:

Digital_Illustrated_CRM_Goals_for_Windows_Phone

Now, instead of me having to remember to review the goal in CRM, it’s available to me one the place I visit tens of times every day: my smartphone start screen. The likelihood of me keeping an eye on the campaign target has increased to a whole new level – even if I was already an active CRM user. Also, the convenient presence of these metrics on my personalized mobile start screen can very easily spark up new ideas of other processes where I could leverage the Dynamics CRM goal management feature. All it took was placing the information from CRM into the context of my existing daily workflow.

If you’re using CRM Online and have a Windows Phone device, then why not go and grab the free CRM Goals app to better visualize your own personal goals?