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Integrating CRM with SharePoint 101: Document Management

Are you running both Dynamics CRM and SharePoint? Many organizations use both of these products but, for one reason or another, operate them independently.

However, there are numerous benefits to gain from integrating CRM with SharePoint , starting with the ability to manage SharePoint documents from within Dynamics CRM. Doing so provides a complete view of your customer, a single point of access (CRM), and in-context document management. In this post, I’ll provide an overview of the integration, walk through how to set it up, and touch on a few things to look out for.

Integrating CRM with SharePoint for Document Management: An Overview

In this context,  integrating CRM with SharePoint amounts to associating a document library with an entity of your choice in CRM (whether it be an account, contact, lead, or so on). So, when you’re in CRM, you will see something like this:

CRM Document Management - Account Example

What problem does this solve?

Without this integration, it’s likely that you’d use the attachment function in CRM and upload a document where it would get stored as an annotation. There are two problems with this: it’s hard to search within annotations and storing documents this way bloats your database. In addition, this method of storing documents can make future upgrades challenging.

What will you be able to do?

Once you’ve integrated CRM and SharePoint, below is a view of a CRM document library and some of the common elements you can expect to see.

Integrating CRM with SharePoint Document Library

As seen above, you can create and upload documents and can associate locations – all within CRM. Also, if you have a separate SharePoint instance that is relevant to this customer — let’s say quotes — you can also add another location and toggle between them.

This provides a really effective way of logically splitting up customer documents into separate libraries. You can even go as far as dividing security permissions so that only certain users can see the various libraries.

As far as the actual document management capabilities, you will now have a richer set up tools to work with, including: Storage in SharePoint, check-in/check-out capabilities, version control, the ability to set up review and approval workflows, and document sharing.

SharePoint Document Management Features

How to Set It Up

Using the out of the box SharePoint to CRM integration, you enable a Server-based connectivity between the two products. When a CRM record is created, a SharePoint folder structure is provisioned based on the CRM entity and record name.

Previously, facilitating this integration required in-depth technical knowledge, but now it’s much simpler from an administration standpoint. Now, it’s a native, out of the box integration that works for both system and custom CRM entities.

As a system administrator, you will:

  1. Go into Settings and enable server-side integration (that’s for CRM Online – for on premises you’ll have to use the list component).
  2. Once you’ve enabled that, you can set up the document management libraries by choosing the libraries you want to create related to accounts, contacts, etc.

For example, when you look at a contact like Kevin (below), it will automatically ask you if you want to provision a library and you can select “yes.”

Steps for Enabling CRM Document Management

Things to Look Out For

  1. Using the out of the box integration limits your ability to tailor the structure and hierarchy. It is a pretty linear folder structure. Also, by default, it does not leverage all of the SharePoint capabilities discussed above such as versioning, metadata, collaboration tools and more but these can be enabled by a SharePoint administrator. Enterprise implementations of SharePoint may want to consider alternative ways of working with CRM if you have portal and advanced taxonomy needs.
  2. Quick tip: Versioning has to be enabled for each library.
  3. Library access is derived from CRM role-based security. There is no easy way in CRM to say what types of documents people can see. If you have access to the record, you’ll have access to the documents. Or, for a more concrete example: you can’t split it up between Kelly in Finance and Tom in Sales in a single library. However, multiple document locations can be used for this.

Next Post: CRM SharePoint 101: Customer Service Scenarios

All in all, leveraging CRM and SharePoint for document management is only scratching the surface when it comes to understanding what’s possible when integrating these two products.

Be sure to check out my next post on how you can leverage CRM and SharePoint’s self-service capabilities. In that post, I’ll cover 3 scenarios, including: event management, customer profile management, and help desk / case management.

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