Few weeks ago I taught Course 8912A: Customization and Configuration in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 and a student asked an interesting question:
How should I integrate SharePoint and CRM?
Here are some of my advices and experiences on this topic.
Scenario 1. Integrating CRM with SharePoint (SharePoint to CRM)
- Problem: CRM is really great application but it lacks document management capabilities (this will probably be shipped with CRM 5.0). You do have an ability to attach documents to CRM entities but you cannot change these later on.
- Benefits: Each CRM user needs to produce a document that is related to a CRM entity (e.g. Quote). Users will benefit from the ability to see both quote financial information (stored in CRM) and the document itself (stored in SharePoint) from the same application.
- How to implement it?:
Scenario 2a. Integrating SharePoint with CRM (CRM to SharePoint)
On the other side, you can use CRM to extend your SharePoint site.
2A. Profiling documents
If you are storing your customer related documents to SharePoint (e.g. Project proposal, project plan, vision scope, quote…) you probably want to uniquely connect each document to a customer from your CRM database. This is easy to achieve. You can use Business Data Catalog to create custom, business columns, which connect to your CRM system directly. With this custom business column, you can profile your documents with the unique values coming from your CRM system.
- This solution is easy to setup and manage
- You do not need to duplicated your CRM data (e.g. Accounts and Contacts) in SharePoint lists
- By using SharePoint filtering and search you will find your documents in no time…
- Business Data Catalogs is a feature of SharePoint Enterprise
2B. Enterprise Search
When it comes to search, CRM built-in search capabilities are somewhat limited (you can only perform entity by entity search). SharePoint comes to the rescue here, allowing your users to use single query across all entities from a familiar search interface.
- SharePoint is more powerful search engine
- Familiar SharePoint search interface
In next post I will go deeper to explain how you can implement these scenarios…