Integrating Microsoft Dynamics CRM With Microsoft Virtual Earth

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One of the best features of Microsoft Dynamics CRM is the ability to display external web pages in CRM via Inline Frames.  This capability allows you to grab almost anything with a web address and make it part of your MS CRM application.  Even better, it is possible to take characteristics from the current record, like Name, Address, a unique ID, and pass it to an external web page and display a result that is unique to that record.  We had an opportunity to do this for one of our not-for-profit customers, and the outcome was pretty slick.
We have a great customer that coordinates no-cost eye exams and eyeglasses for children in need.  Doctors and eyeglass providers donate a certain number of eye exams and eye glasses per month to the program.  Our customer uses MS CRM to track all the children, doctors, eye exams, eyeglasses, in the program... a great example of the xRM concept in action.  When making an eye appointment or arranging for pickup of glasses, the technician had to have some understanding of the area to know what was the closest doctor or eyeglass provider for the family.  This worked ok, but was not very efficient.  Additionally, this state-wide organization has plans to grow nationwide, and needed a solution less dependent on the technicians'  personal knowledge of the local area.  Using MS CRM’s Inline Frame capability and Microsoft Virtual Earth, we gave them a customized map that displays all the needed information.
We already had the address information for all the children, doctors, and eyeglass providers.  To make the mapping work quickly, we first had to convert all of the addressess to Latitude/Longitude.  For this conversion, we used a workflow assembly that would pass the address to a web service, which returned the Latitude/Longitude and saved it as part of the child, doctor, or eyeglass provider record.
Then when an eye exam was to be scheduled, we passed the Latitude/Longitude of the child as well as the doctors and providers to Microsoft Virtual Earth, and set the zoom factor to about a 20 mile radius.  Using custom icons for the child, doctors, and providers makes it easy to pick services that are close to the child’s location.  Additionally, numbers on the icons showed how many eye exams and eyeglasses were available that month.  Here are some screenshots showing our integration of Microsoft CRM and Microsoft Virtual Earth.
Prior to the Virtual Earth integration, the appointment process was very time consuming.  With this new integration, our customer claims they save over five minutes per appointment made!  With their team arranging hundreds of appointments a day, this capability has been a huge timesaver for them.  As the customer changes their focus from state to nation-wide service, this capability as well as the other tools provided by Microsoft CRM will be the key to making this incredible growth possible.

By Alan Camp, 2B Solutions – Alabama Microsoft Dynamics CRM Partner

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