To SharePoint or Not to SharePoint

One of the most common questions we hear from our clients is “what is the best way to handle documents within Microsoft Dynamics CRM?” Almost every one of our clients wants to attach documents into their CRM implementation. The simplest way to do that is to use the Notes feature in CRM, but is that the best way?

Notes is a feature that is available on multiple entities. The Notes feature in CRM allows you to enter text or attach a document which is stored against an entity. A time and date stamp is applied to Notes when they are saved. This means that over time you can see a chronology of Notes, when they were created and also who created them.  While Notes is simple and easy to use, it provides very limited document management functionality. You can’t even search for a document that is added in Notes.

Microsoft SharePoint supports the whole lifecycle of managing a document, including document creation, version control, review, publishing, and finally document disposal or retention. For more robust document management we often consider implementing Microsoft SharePoint alongside Microsoft Dynamics CRM, due to the ease of sharing and searching for documents between these two systems. Microsoft SharePoint allows users to store documents that are contextually related to records in CRM, and then to search for these.

There are a number of ways to integrate CRM and SharePoint together. The simplest way is to use the out-of-the-box integration provided by Microsoft. This causes a folder to be created in SharePoint to house documents that are associated to a record in CRM. Records can then be seen either in CRM or directly in SharePoint. Alternatively, IFRAMEs can be used to show SharePoint pages in CRM, or CRM pages in SharePoint. Another option is to utilise Business Connectivity Services in SharePoint to connect to CRM or to search entries in CRM. A final option which is used less often is to build custom code to integrate SharePoint and CRM.

While documents can easily be attached to CRM records using the Notes functionality, it is not always the best option. If your organization needs to be able to easily find and retrieve documents related to CRM entities, consider using SharePoint to meet your needs.

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