Whenever a new version of Dynamics CRM and now Dynamics 365 (the XRM part) are released, the first thing you should review is the “what’s new” documentation that Microsoft produces for three different audiences: users, admins/customizers and developers. For the “December 2016 update for Dynamics 365” a.k.a version 8.2 of what used to be called CRM, these articles can be found from the following links:
- Dynamics 365 Help & Training: What’s new
- What’s new for administrators and customizers in Microsoft Dynamics 365
- What’s new for developers: Microsoft Dynamics 365
As always, there’s way more goodies in there that a single blog article could ever hope to cover in meaningful level of detail. One area that deserves a mention in terms of the core XRM platform enhancements is the way activities can now be presented in the UI, so let’s focus on those in this here post.
Display the associated activities of the related entities
If you’ve happened to read my ancient CRM 2011 era blog post about how subgrids ain’t what associated views used to be, then the concept of activity rollup may be familiar to you. The way Dynamics CRM has worked up to this point is that for out-of-the-box core entities like Account and Opportunity the activities from under the child entity were presented also under the parent entity’s Associated Activities View. If you created a custom entity under the Account, though, then none of the activities linked to it would show up in the rollup view. A major inconvenience for any XRM scenarios where you then had to instruct the users not to track their activities against any of the child entity records but rather put them all to the Account level.
In v8.2 this limitation has now been addressed by the product team:
“We added a new flag called Rollup View in the customization user interface, on the Relationship Behavior form. It lets customizers indicate that associated activities of the related entity should be included in the Activity Associated View for the primary entity.”
Woo-hoo! Let’s go and try this one out in an example scenario with a custom entity called “Account Plan” that we’ve linked to the standard Account entity via N:1 relationship. Meaning: there can be several Account Plans (per year, for example) for a single Account. Being the “plan” and all, you’d find it pretty natural to track tasks and other upcoming activities against this record, but also would probably prefer to have access to them from under the parent Account of this plan.
When we open up the relationship configuration screen and have a look at the Relationship Behavior section, we find our usual list of actions where cascading behavior can be configured. Down at the bottom there’s a new option: Rollup View. This is where the magic will happen for activity rollup between the two entities. (Note: if the field is disabled, make sure your entity is enabled for activities before trying to enable the Rollup View.)
With the Rollup View behavior set to “Cascade All”, we can now go and do some activity entry on the Account Plan form. Let’s use the Social Pane to add some tasks that are set regarding this particular plan. Normally this would be the only place where we’d see them (aside from the owner’s My Activities view and their task list synced to Outlook, of course), but thanks to our cascading relationship behavior this will no longer be the case. Let’s navigate up in the hierarchy towards the Account record.
Now, in addition to the activities that have been either directly set regarding the Account or one of the built-in roll-u enabled child entities, we also see those activities created from the Account Plan form listed in the Social Pane of the Account record. A tiny step towards the mythical “Customer 360”, but a major improvement nonetheless for ensuring the complete communication history for a particular customer account is easily accessible for the Dynamics 365 end user. In case you were wondering: yes, these child entity activities also roll up the account hierarchy, so a global group’s top account may end up having a BIG list of emails in its Social Pane.
As for another follow-up question related to the article from five years ago: no, the activity subgrid still won’t show any of these “special” relationships. The feature is specific to the Activity Associated View, which is also a “special” thing in the XRM platform, supported by another “special” component called the Social Pane. The implications from this are laid out bare in the feature documentation:
“The primary entity for the relationship must be Account, Contact, or Opportunity. This is because these are the only entity forms in the system where the Activity Associated View appears. You can’t specify any other primary entity for activity rollups.”
So, this is not a generic Holy Grail to presenting activity data in XRM just the way we’d want to, but one big rock rolled in the ditch from that long road at least.
Control how activities are sorted by date
Another new feature in v8.2 that touches upon the same functional area is related to the Social Pane configuration options. Traditionally, these words would not have existed anywhere near each other – aside from the countless feature requests on
MS Connect CRM Ideas forum. Everybody liked the CRM 2013 feature in terms of rich presentation and inline editing capabilities, and simultaneously loathed it for being a completely uncustomizable component placed smack in the middle of most XRM entity forms.