We often have clients asking how they can leverage Microsoft Dynamics CRM to generate letters that have the same content but contain fields that are updated with information like recipient’s names and addresses. This is usually in situations where they want to email or print out the documents after they are generated.
While email templates can do the trick, if you want to be able to generate well-formatted, branded documents that are also editable, then we recommend considering the Mail Merge template feature in Dynamics CRM.
However, the out-of-the-box mail merge functionality isn’t always a fit for everyone.
Why Consider Alternatives to CRM Mail Merge Templates?
In my experience, the two main reasons for why you would want to consider alternatives are:
1. Ease of Use: Based on the feedback I’ve got from several users, most find it an extremely “clicky” process that takes a while to get used to. Because of that, they fail to adopt the feature and end up asking for custom solutions.
2. Complexity of templates: Let’s say you need to send a letter addressed to John Smith and Bob Wilson, both of whom you’ve signed a contract with. This is a standard letter you send to all your new clients and would like to set up as a template in CRM.
John and Bob exist as contact records in CRM and both are related to a contract record. So you have a Contract entity that is related to Contacts via a N:N relationship, i.e., a contract record can have multiple contacts related to it and vice versa.
Ideally, you would be able to define the template on the contract entity and then pull in the names of the related clients. Except that the out of the box mail merge feature does not allow you to do that. It only allows you to traverse a certain depth of the data model and that excludes 1:N and N:N relationships.
Comparing Alternatives: SSRS Reports and ISV Add-Ons
Two alternatives to mail merge templates are custom SSRS reports and ISV add-ons like MSCRM Addons’ Document Core Pack. Both options do come at an additional cost – you would need assistance from a developer to create the reports or to purchase the ISV solution.
In addition to the added cost, there is other criteria that will determine which solution is the best fit for your organization.
The out-of-the-box Mail Merge feature is undoubtedly quite powerful and serves well in cases where the frequency of usage is low and the templates are pretty simple. But if your organization has a high number of documents to work with and you use them frequently, your users might prefer the custom options. Find out more about these custom options in Catapult services.