Shortly after CRM 2013 was released, my colleague Raj wrote a great piece entitled “Putting CRM 2013’s Business Process Flows to Work” that described Business Process Flows (BPF), and how they can be leveraged within an organization. The article provided an example of a simple BPF, based on a single entity, which demonstrated some of the basic concepts. I wanted to build on her post by discussing cross-entity Business Process Flows, while providing some guidance around how to design and implement them within your business.
In order to help kick things off, I provide a link to a free business process flow design template at the end of this post.
Analysis and Design
Begin by defining and documenting the business process flow you wish to model in CRM. While this seems like a ‘no-brainer,’ I have found that this process tends to lead to some interesting discussions and sharing around best-practices, efficiencies, and compliance.
Unlike single entity BPFs, cross-entity BPFs require that you identify the entities used to manage the process, and spend more time breaking down the process into Stages.
Keep in mind, BPFs are limited to 5 entities, and are designed to run from the parent entity. This is important when dealing with processes that may have different entry points. For example, an organization that does B2B and B2C sales, may have customer on-boarding process initiated from either an Account record, or a Contact record.
BPF Stages should align with logical breaks in the process, which are typically: changes in responsibility or accountability, changes in function, and / or achieving a significant milestone. As a rule of thumb, for cross-entity BPFs, you should have ~2-3 stages per entity, with no more than 10 in total. Stages should not cross entity boundaries.
In general, we have found that a simple Excel spreadsheet is sufficient for designing BPFs.
Implementing a Cross-Entity Business Process Flow
Once you have designed and documented your BPF, implementing it in CRM 2013 is quite easy. However, before you get started, for the entities you plan to include, ensure:
- Business Process flows have been enabled within the entity definition
- Entities that are to be joined in the BPF are related by a 1:N relationship
- You cannot traverse N:N relationships, or move from a child to parent record
- You are not creating a cyclic relationship between entities
- An exception to this is that the final entity may reference a previous record to close the process
Within the Business Process Flow editor (Settings > Processes), you can add / link additional entities by clicking the ‘Options’ button.
The ‘Add Entity’ drop-down shows the related entities available for linking. If you do not see the entity you are looking for, you may be missing a 1:N relationship. For each entity, configure the stages and steps as per your design. If you choose to close your BPF by linking to a previously traversed entity, click the ‘Options’ button, and choose from the ‘Close Process Cycle’ options available at the bottom of the drop-down.
By default, BPF does not create CRM records when transitioning between entities. You are, however, given the ability to lookup related records, or create new records from within the BPF.
To simplify things, we typically develop a simple workflow or plugin that automatically creates a record in the related entity, allowing the user to seamlessly continue through the BPF.
Cross-entity BPFs, provide an excellent tool for companies to guide CRM users to intended outcomes, in a consistent and repeatable fashion. BPFs are flexible and extensible, allowing for CRM to model complex scenarios and thereby bringing an organization’s business processes to life.
- Feel free to download our Catapult Business Process Flow Design Template to help you get started designing your cross-entity Business Process Flows.
- In addition, Microsoft has prepared a great document entitled “Process Enablement with Microsoft CRM 2013” that describes, in fairly great detail, when and how to use Business Process Flows within CRM 2013.