REVIEW: Microsoft Dynamics CRM Activity Feeds

Today I will be taking a look at the Activity Feeds customisations that Microsoft have released on to the Microsoft Marketplace. When I first stumbled across the customisations I instantly thought Facebook status messages inside CRM. Cool, thats a neat idea but whats the point in it? Do I really need to know that one of the companies salesman has started work to a cup of tea and toast?

With that thought in mind I decided to check out the customisations. The product description, taken directly from the Microsoft Marketplace is as follows…

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Activity Feeds provide real time notifications and quick sharing of information that the team cares about via quick and short updates. Activity Feeds enable a user to follow and listen in on important activities that take place around the people, accounts, contacts, leads, opportunities or anything else that they care about.

Feed status updates can be posted manually by users or automatically based on pre-defined system rules through workflow. Activity Feeds can also be posted to by external applications through the Microsoft Dynamics CRM web services API. Activity Feeds expose Microsoft Office Lync real-time presence functionality so that users can initiate communication activities such as IM, phone calls and emails.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Activity Feeds will work with all deployment models for Microsoft Dynamics CRM including on-premise, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and partner-hosted.

The installation of the product was a simple import of a single solution. However you do have to make sure that you are running rollup 5 for the customisations to install. As you do, my first port of call was to check what has been deployed in to my organisation. I was extremely surprised to find over 500 components had been added to my system for what I would call a small set of customisations. I can’t say I was happy about all the components but they are self contained within a managed solution after all!

The customisations work straight out the box for system users and any user with Administrator rights. However to get the feeds working on any other system user you have to assign them a security role that comes as part of the deployment. In order to get the feeds working on other entities, including custom ones you can to create a configuration record that contains the name of the entity you wish to allow feeds on. Automation then fires behind the scenes to set up all the required components. Now the configuration is complete we are ready to post messages!

Activity Feeds
Landing Page

When you first browse to the to the whats new tab you will be able to upload a profile picture for your system user. You will also be able to post status messages! The profile image is a neat feature and when you start picking up feeds it looks impressive.

Activity Feeds
Uploading A Profile Picture

However, out of the box you will not pickup feeds automatically. Like Twitter it is down to yourself to find records that you wish to follow and choose to follow them.

Activity Feeds
Following Records

Once following records that have posted messages you will start to pick up their messages. Just like with Facebook the customisations allow you to place comments against the status messages. The user that posted the comment can remove the comment however, I’m not sure if the original message poster can remove the comment.

Activity Feeds
Message Posts

That, is pretty much it, as far as I can tell on what the activity feeds allow you to do.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Activity Feeds
The installation is simple. Just a single solution import. There is some additional configuration required to get the activity feeds work against other entities but again this is very easy to configure.
The activity feeds is a great little product. I think it would go down a treat in a demo to potential clients. I can also see that the product is great for keeping track of a records status. I think there might be issues getting people to fill in the extra data. Also I'm not sure if a client would be happy to validate the progress of records based on feed updates. If we were to further extend the product to include automated messages the validity would be much better.
Value for Money
As far as I can tell its free!
The only issues I had with the product were a few javascript errors and permission errors when I accessed CRM with a different URL to that specified in the Deployment Manager.
The customisations come with documentation but it is very brief.
The customisations sit neatly in CRM and are very easy to use. The layout and system is familiar to many social media sites so users shouldn't have an issue with using the feeds. I think the issue lies with trying to convince people to spend time to post messages to make this more than a demo piece.



I have opened up on a discussion on the visual ribbon editor. If you want to share your experiences you can add your opinion here.

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