Microsoft Dynamics CRM is an incredibly flexible solution. But you may have already discovered this truth: with flexibility comes complexity. In this blog we will discuss how to navigate the complexity of tracking activities and notes in CRM and how to ensure nothing is “lost” because it was tracked in the wrong place.


Working with Activities

When tracking activities (Email, phone calls, tasks, appointments, etc.), best practices is always to track against the most specific record. If you have an opportunity or case (or any other record below the contact), that is going to be the most specific record. If there is nothing below the contact record, track against the contact. The only reason to track against the account is if there were no people involved in the activity.

Tracking Activities and Notes in CRM

The reason you want to track against the most specific record is because the visibility of activities rolls up. Visibility does not roll down. For example, if you track an activity against the account, you will not see that when looking at the opportunity. If the activity is on the opportunity, it rolls up to the account and is visible in the activities or closed activities on the left navigation. When looking at activities on an account, the “Regarding” field shows which child record is related to the activity.

Working with Notes

It is often recommended to NOT use notes in Microsoft Dynamics CRM because they do not roll up. Notes on a case, for example, are not visible on the account and vice versa. This might work well because notes on a case may be temporary and not critical information that needs to be shared with others. However, when using notes for everything, it’s possible for critical information to get “lost” because they are kept where others may not see them.

Another reason to not use notes is the user may have more than one place to go in order to see notes. For organizations that standardize on keeping all notes on the account, for example, the users still have to look at both the activities and the notes. Heaven forbid users are keeping notes on multiple different records, multiplying the number of places to go to see what is going on!

Lastly notes do not have any additional attributes for reporting. Many organizations like to track how many phone calls and appointments are had with contacts, but tracking these types of activities as notes means they are not reportable.

But Users Love Notes

It’s really difficult to train users NOT to use notes. They are so easy to enter and they provide date/time stamp along with a scrollable history. One idea is to allow users to use notes, but they also use workflow to copy the note and put it into the activities so that they roll up and are visible on parent records.

Another idea is to create a quick note feature on your records, which allows users to enter a note on any record and a workflow saves the *note* as an activity so that it is visible on parent records.

This is a great solution because it simplifies the notes and activity tracking for the user while maintaining consistency in where data is stored and visible. It also gives you more flexibility for tracking the activity type and other attributes.

Have Your Cake and Eat It Too!

So, train users on the best practices—use activities, don’t use notes, and always record activities on the most specific record. But what if users make a mistake and track something in the wrong place; can it still get lost?

Well, there’s one last thing you can’t live without! PowerObjects has developed a solution called PowerOneView, which rolls up all notes and activities (as well as all related records you configure it to show) into a single chronological view. Not only will all users appreciate ALWAYS having only ONE place to go to see what’s going on, but this tool ensures that even if someone puts a one-off note in an odd place, it still rolls up into the chronological view.

With this solution, you can’t go wrong! It’s also important to track the last activity date on all your contacts to determine who needs follow-up. For more best practices from PowerObjects, see the pre-recorded webinar on Best Practices for Using Leads.

Happy CRM’ing!

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Joe D365

Joe D365 is a Microsoft Dynamics 365 superhero who runs on pure Dynamics adrenaline. As the face of PowerObjects, Joe D365’s mission is to reveal innovative ways to use Dynamics 365 and bring the application to more businesses and organizations around the world.