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There are many reasons why an organization would desire to store employees in a customer-focused implementation of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The most common reason is that employees (some being non-users) are a part of a process such as assigning a record to employees, notifying employees, or inviting employees to a meeting. In this blog we will discuss different options for storing employees in CRM 2011, as well as the considerations when doing so.


Note: Sometimes an organization will use Microsoft Dynamics CRM as a platform (a.k.a. XRM) to develop an HR application; however, this blog will not discuss that use.

Why Use Contacts
Using Contact records in Microsoft Dynamics CRM to store employees is attractive because it allows you to use some of the most powerful capabilities of CRM–for example, the synchronization of contacts between CRM and Outlook. CRM acts as a single list of employees that everyone can share and keep up to date. With synchronization with Outlook, then the employee list is in Outlook AND potentially on mobile phones and other devices if they are being synchronized with Microsoft Exchange. Often times, this is not an organizational decision, but rather users start putting their fellow employees in CRM to get this benefit.

In addition, mass communications to employees is easy using the CRM tools, such as Marketing Lists, Email Templates, and Mail Merge. Since only leads, accounts, and contacts can be on a marketing list, using the Contact record seems like a natural fit when an organization is hoping to reach out to their employees.

Lastly, “testing” of customer communications and processes is a common reason that employees end up in CRM as contacts. Whether sales, service, marketing or other processes, users commonly want to test on themselves or other employees before sending communications off to the client!

Email Tracking
It may not be recommended to keep employees as contacts in a customer-focused implementation of Microsoft Dynamics CRM because of the perceived problem of email tracking from Outlook. When you track an email from Outlook, it will track the email against the CRM record of everyone on the email (either sender or recipients). When you have an employee as a contact in CRM, that contact record will show all the email the employee ever sent or received under Closed Activities. You can see from the example below that this employee has 1122 emails in the closed activities on her contact record—many of which she may not be aware.

storing employees in CRM 2011

How does this happen? The person sending the email may track the email (on purpose or inadvertently) and the recipient may not know it is tracked. Once a single Email is tracked, the response and the entire chain may be tracked in CRM (depending on individual’s Outlook CRM settings). Therefore, anyone on an email chain may send something thinking it is “confidential,” but really it is being tracked in CRM for others to potentially see.

In the example below, these employees emailed their boss or their team about their absence—probably not anticipating the details could be shared in CRM.

Why is this just a perceived problem? Interestingly, this exposure of “confidential” emails is always a risk regardless of whether employee records are stored in CRM because employees can always track email in CRM without the sender or recipient knowing it. All the employee contact record does is “catch” these tracked emails and aggregate them under closed activities, which can create an alarming feeling when the employee sees it!

Email Duplication

Now, database administrators might be looking at this kind of email tracking with concern about how often the same email is being duplicated. When an email is tracked in CRM, it is NOT duplicated for each contact it is tracked against. A single email is merely ‘related’ to each contact. However, there is increased potential for duplicate records when you have employees in CRM. That is because when an employee sends and email to another employee and tracks the email, it may be tracked again when the 2nd employee receives the email.

If You MUST Track Employees in CRM

If you must track employees, there are some options for you to avoid the email tracking conflicts described above.

Option 1 – Use Contacts but Create Email Aliases
Use the contact record for employees, but create an email alias for each employee that is used only for CRM. Since CRM uses an exact match on email address in order to identify which contact to track email against, an alias will fool it. The email will not be tracked against the employee UNLESS it is Set Regarding the employee contact directly.

Option 2 – Use Users
Some organizations are uncomfortable with a single person having two records (Contact and User). To resolve this, they enter all employees (even non-Users) into CRM as users and then deactivate the users who do not need licenses. If choosing this route, employee lookups would need to be modified in order to include inactive records. This may make some tasks difficult, such as updating the employee records, either with workflow or manually. Since they are inactive, then they would be read-only.

Option 3 – Creating a Custom Entity
By creating a custom entity for employees, it gives you the flexibility to edit the records easily, but also to NOT have to create an email alias. Custom entities can be email-enabled so that email notifications can be sent manually or via workflow.

Final Thoughts

In considering how best to store employees in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, don’t forget to consider security. Determine who needs to access (view, edit, and delete) employee records, and who does not need to access. If you repurpose contacts or users for employees, you will have less control over security because your security model must support multiple uses of the same entity. By creating a custom entity for employees, you can control the rights separately.

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Happy CRM’ing!

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Joe CRM is a CRM superhero who runs on pure Microsoft Dynamics CRM adrenaline. As the face of PowerObjects, Joe CRM’s mission is to reveal innovative ways to use Dynamics CRM and bring the application to more businesses and organizations around the world.