Customize CRM to suit any task

We are experienced in transforming CRM into systems for Property Management, Support Ticket Management, Project Management, and Risk Assessments.

FORMS

Bring your business forward into the digital age

RELATIONSHIPS

 

Manage, analyze, and chart the relationships between data

PROCESSES

Provide user assistance, and automate repetitive tasks

STYLING

Improve the readability and usability of forms

DATABASE

Canadian Microsoft-hosted disaster protection

SECURITY

Manage permissions to data, stored in a Canadian cloud

MAPPING

 

Convert addresses into GPS data to view activities on a map overlay

MOBILE

 

View and edit records anywhere, also with offline sync

 
 
Forms

Out-of-the-box Dynamics CRM comes with a robust Service package including entities such as Contacts, Accounts, and Phone Calls. We build off of these out-of-the-box features to maintain compatibility and accelerate development.

Forms are how users interface with data, providing the layout on which fields are displayed. Forms are where real, physical work is turned into information by the users. A good form should be intuitive, so that users can easily input data, while also being robust enough to provide users with informative tools to gain insights and awareness of different aspects of a record. Forms are typically a balance between clarity and utility. They should be elegant, but also direct towards a purpose.

Our development process for forms typically includes creating custom "entities" (a CRM term which refers to the collection of forms, fields, and relationships surrounding a given record type), to make full use of Dynamics CRM's central strength: Relationships management. While the application has evolved over the years, the beginnings are based in Customer Relations Management. A more recent term for the application is "xRM", which means "Anything Relations Management", representing the flexibility of the system. Today it is titled "Dynamics 365", which denotes the flexibility of the platform, as well as the potential strength that resides in the system.

We typically get started with a new client by 'digitizing' a paper form — creating a digital version of an existing form or business process. This form is usually identified through a need to manage a specific realm of data better by the client.

Forms are the focal point for data management in Dynamics 365. How forms are designed typically depends on how the form will be used by the users. Do the users want to input data in the field, using their mobile phones? Or will data entry be a more deliberate and focused process, to be engaged with at a desk work space? The circumstances of the form's use will determine how the form can be designed, and limit or encourage different ways of use. They can be designed for the default Dynamics 365 web browser application, or for the mobile on tablets and phones. The goal is to make something that fits into how users currently work, but also brings them forward into the future of data management.

 
Relationships​

The Dynamics 365 platform contains a robust 'relationships management' core feature, which enables users to associate specific records with others, according to defined relationship paths created during development. For instance, you may associate a given Contact (person) with a Project, by putting that Contact into a custom field titled "Contractor". Setting this association might bring additional key fields across, such as that Contact's quoted charge, their previous Projects done with your organization, or any other potentially relevant information.

Relationships represent the links between information — one piece of data may relate to others at any point in the future, for instance, during auditing, or when doing analytics on past actions. Relationships also serve as quick links between records, allowing users to instantly traverse to an associated piece of information. 

The CRM "Notes" feature allows users to attach messages to records, and even add quick links by using the '@' prefix, such as by typing '@User' or '@Account'.

Notes will show up on each referred-to record in Dynamics 365.

Relationships tie into Charts, where field values can be compared against each other to perform analytics. Charts in Dynamics 365 are provided out-of-the-box as "self-service analytics", where any user can construct their own charts relatively easily directly through the Dynamics 365 interface, using the information they have permissions to. System charts can also be created, and even deployed onto forms.

Self-service charts are useful for user bench-marking, or assessing trends across records. Charts are more useful when the records contain consistent and multi-purposed data.

Processes​

Dynamics 365 Workflows are often customized to fill obvious gaps in data using deductive logic, and reduce the amount of tedium that the users need to perform. Workflows can be run either in the background, automatically triggering according to specific criteria, or else available as an 'On-demand workflow', available to be run by certain users on a certain record type.

Timers can be set to send reminders, or even execute data retention policies by clearing data after time has passed.

'Business Rules' can be set to lock, clear, calculate, show, or hide some fields when other fields are set to certain values or ranges. For instance, if a given record is associated to a specific User or Contact, then the primary record can be modified in any of the aforementioned ways. Business Rules take effect immediately as a field is changed.

'Business Process Flows' are the mid-point between automatic and manual processes, where the system can be built to recommend or guide users through defined paths. Each path can have a different array of required fields.

'Business  Process Flows' can route records into branching stages, with different field requirements.

 
Styling​

Adding polish to a form helps with user acceptance, by making the form smoother to use and adding visual definition to key areas.

Styling for CRM is done through CSS. 'Custom Style Sheets' are a browser-based code language similar to HTML, which loads with the CRM form. CSS is supported by all web browsers. With CSS, we can style section borders, color specific sections or segments of text, or add shadows around boxes. Styling can define section borders, key content areas, and activity areas.

Our strategy for styling is to apply light code in a way that is compatible with all web browsers, as well as being compatible with CRM updates. Light styling can have the greatest effect, while also being performance-friendly and not put a strain on users' computers. It can be easily removed and replaced. Our method aligns with how Dynamics has been designed over the years, enabling developers to apply soft, display-level code to enrich the interface without obstructing internal mechanisms.

CSS Code can be added to your forms to improve the clarity and aesthetics of your page. This type of code is light and easy to change.

 
Security

Dynamics 365 has an highly robust array of security options to protect records, fields, and field content. It is routinely used by government organizations around the world to manage data. Some of these methods are implicit in how the server is hosted, and others can be customized to fit specific security requirements, such as data retention plans or user-specific security. Field security can even be set up to hide sensitive fields within a record, such as SIN numbers, which may be required by certain processes but not relevant to most users.

Audit logs can be optionally enabled on any field or record type, to track who changed a record, what that record was before, and what it was modified to.

Permissions can be optionally organized by teams, each having access to specific record types. Field security can also be customized to redact certain fields unless a user is part of a specific team.

Adding security to a Dynamics 365 deployment not only helps keep data secure, but it is often also used to trim down the interface to personalize it for user teams. By limiting the number of entities that are accessible to each team to just those which they work with day-to-day work, their user interface becomes much simpler.

Dynamics 365 Online stores its data for Canadian clients in Toronto and Quebec City, ensuring that Canadians' data never leaves Canada.

Database

Microsoft is a highly trustworthy brand, and its Azure cloud servers boast an availability of 99.99%. Dynamics 365 is hosted in the same way as Azure, and in our years of working with both Dynamics as well as SharePoint, we have not experienced an outage from Microsoft-hosted servers.

Disaster recovery can be accomplished by backing up your Dynamics 365 to another data center, within or outside of Canada. There are two data centers within Canada, making a Canada-only Microsoft-hosted disaster recovery system possible.

Dynamics 365 can be run either online via Microsoft data centers, or on-premise. We have experience working with both environments, as well as working between 'Development' and 'Production' servers, where projects in-development can be tested thoroughly and fully built before deploying to a client's live Dynamics 365 environment. Development is done via 'solution' files, which are how Dynamics packages customizations including processes and forms. Solutions can be built in one Dynamics deployment, and then transferred over into a secondary deployment quickly and relatively seamlessly.

Dynamics 365 exports and imports record data as Excel tables, providing simple migration into and out of the system.

Dynamics 365 can be used to manage records and reduce the amount of paper and stationary used in business. A central advantage of putting data into a computer system is that analytics can be performed. Putting data into a system like Dynamics 365 allows you to measure data to make conclusions about the causes of phenomena and about how business might be improved. Dynamics makes analytics easy, by provide self-service analytics directly to users, as well as formatting data such that it can be exported and utilized elsewhere by additional reporting products such as Power BI.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM portals can extend portions of your database to the public web, allowing users you have curated to view and access specified data within your CRM, without using the CRM interface. Public users can even fill in web forms to create records in Dynamics 365, complete with CAPTCHA anti-bot technology.

 
 
Mapping

By translating addresses to GPS coordinates, you can build a table of records with latitude and longitude defined. From there, you can embed a Bing Maps app to a Dynamics form, and display each record's location. Possible applications of this might be for real estate, location research, assessing the spread of activities, or visualizing the location of assets or contacts.

Mobile

Specialized mobile experiences can be set up using the Dynamics 365 app for tablet and for phone, providing users with a touch-friendly interface. This interface can be designed to complement, or even replace the web-based Dynamics 365 interface.

The Dynamics 365 tablet interface works horizontally, with users swiping to view additional field sections. Forms can be configured to make especially good use of this mechanic.

Dynamics 365 Online can be set up with mobile-offline sync, which stores records of defined types (within the user's access) to the local device, allowing them to make changes, and then synchronize those changes when they next go online.

With an online Dynamics 365 environment, users can access and manage records from anywhere.

 
Call us at 604.917.0444
Email us at info@smartdata.ca