CRM 2011 – Where’s The Business Value (Part 1)

Posted by Optimation Editor on 8 September 2011

Use CRM 2011's built in custom charting to quickly and easily visualise data the way you want.

In this series of posts we'll look at some of the different areas within CRM 2011 where genuine business value can be derived. There's currently a lot of information out there on all the features and functions of CRM 2011, but I'd like to focus on the business value that these features can provide.

There are a lot of facilities within the new Microsoft CRM 2011 platform that can add value to your business, whether it be better visibility of what is happening within the organisation (Dashboards, Reports and Charting), cost savings due to greater control and automation of business processes (Workflows and Dialogues), or the consolidation of various disparate Line of Business solutions onto a single cohesive platform (building an xRM system).

That's a lot of value to cover, and information visibility is what is covered in this post, but watch this space for additional posts which will cover some of the other areas.

Firstly, one of the nice aspects of the latest Microsoft CRM offering is that CRM Online now offers an identical experience and benefits to the on-premises version. So you're not sacrificing anything by going to the cloud based version. And taking that further, all the options for viewing data are also available from within the Outlook CRM plug-in module, allowing users who live and breath Outlook to view all lists, data, forms, charts and dashboards directly from within their Outlook client.

This flexibility means businesses have options as to how they deploy CRM to their end users, and can pick a CRM client based on how the user works, rather than forcing users to use a specific tool to access the information. This in turn helps with user adoption by ensuring a better fit to user needs.

Most CRM solutions offer some degree of visualisation or reporting facilities, and will include various pre-canned charts, reports and dashboards. Inevitably these will not match your actual day to day business needs and may be lacking in providing users, team managers, and senior management with the critical information they need for making day-to-day, and strategic, business decisions. Traditionally you've needed to pay for an external CRM expert to come in and build the various custom data views and reports the business needs (or hire someone to work full time on this).

With Microsoft's CRM 2011 users are able to view the same data in multiple ways, as well as being able to easily customise each of the viewing options, which means the business has better access to the critical data necessary for making the correct business decisions.

Some of the various options for data access and visualisation include:

  • Views - Much more than just a list of search results, views can provide customised lists of data based on business criteria defined by the user, who can also control what data (i.e. columns) is shown based on the query logic. For example a view can be created (in seconds) to display all opportunities due to close in the current fiscal period with a status of "qualified".
  • Charts - the power of CRM 2011 charts is twofold, firstly they can operate on any view (system or user created), so the above example view can be visually enhanced by looking at it via a view. Secondly the user has the ability to drill down into the view (real time) to isolate any section of data and chart it in more detail based on different criteria. This makes charts a powerful and flexible tool for quickly spotting various business trends and drilling down into a trend for more information.
  • Dashboards - allow users to view from a single screen a collection of different visualisations including charts, views, and custom web resources. Administrators can create predefined dashboards, and users can also create and share their own personal dashboards.
  • Reports - the standard selection of pre-canned reports, however the report creation tools are extensive with options to build your own report using the built in CRM Report Wizard, or generate more complex reports using the full power of SQL Server Reporting Services.
  • View Filtering - any view can be further filtered on the fly by using the filter capabilities in CRM 2011. This works in exactly the same manner as filtering in a MS Excel spreadsheet, allowing the user to quickly and easily drilldown to the specific information they require.
  • Excel Exports - where users are more comfortable working with MS Excel when slicing and dicing large sets of data, CRM 2011 makes it very easy to export any view/list into excel and then work with the data within excel. As you would expect from Microsoft, the integration between the products goes further by also allowing Excel to be linked to CRM 2011, so the user can update the exported data (directly from CRM) by a CRM data export toolbar added directly into Excel.


The breadth of options CRM provides users with for viewing and visualising data means that critical business information is much more readily accessible, and at users fingertips, which in turn means users (whether a sales person orsenior manager) are able to make much more informed decisions for the business.

Having recently completed a CRM migration from a competing platform, one of the things that repeatedly struck me with CRM 2011, was how much more easily important information was visible, without having to make a concerted effort to dig it up. A good part of this is simply due to the range and ease of use of the data visualisation options described above, particularly when you combine various options such as the chart and filtering facilities.

At the end of the day, quicker access to critical business information means more informed workers, who are spending less time searching for the information they need, and spending more time acting on the information they have received.