Unlocking The Power Of Microsoft Dynamics CRM: Middle Entities

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By Mike Smith, The Resource Group

The ability to create custom entities and relationships in Microsoft Dynamics CRM is virtually limited only to one’s imagination.  Lately, I have seen an ever increasing need to capture data specific to the relationship between entities.

A common example of this is the relationship between Accounts and the Products they own, capturing specifics about this relationship such as serial numbers, lot numbers, and other specifics such as purchase date. Another Example would be Contacts and Classes (a custom entity) and tracking class start date, class end date, and pass/fail information.

If a 1:N relationship is used between entities, say Accounts and Products,  an Account can have multiple Products related to it, but specific data such as serial or lot numbers cannot be recorded.  Any data captured on a 1:N relationship would be the same across all Account to Product relationships, specific data could not be captured.  This would not be the ideal situation where specifics on the relationship between two entities are needed.

The key to collecting the data needed is to create a “middle” entity that has N:1 relationships with both Accounts and Products (or any other entity where collecting this type relationship data is needed.)  The “middle” entity allows us to relate two entities via look-up and capture specific information on the relationship such as product purchase dates, product service renewal dates, product serial #s, product lot #s, product versions, class start date, class end date, and pass/fail information from the above scenario of Accounts and Products or Contacts and Classes.

In this example, we will use the Account to Product scenario.  Create a new entity called “Account Product Detail”.  The next step is to add the desired attribute fields “Serial Number” and “Lot Number”  to the new “Account Product Detail” form, along with the new look-up fields to Accounts and Products.

The end result will be a form that has a look-up to Accounts, a look-up to the Products, and our custom attributes Serial Number and Lot Number.  Products can now be related to Accounts and specific data captured on the relationship.  Workflow can be used to update the Primary Attribute with pertinent information such as Account Name & Product Name (click the image below to enlarge):

The details area from both the Accounts and Products provides easy insight into what Products an Account owns, and the Accounts that have purchased a designated Product when this new relationship is used.   Below the modified Associated View shared between Accounts and Products (click the image below to enlarge):

Use of the “middle” entity provides quick insight into relationship details that would otherwise need to be captured in a disparate system, spreadsheet, or by other means.  “Middle” entities provide fast reference into each related entity and the data collected on the entity.

Learn more about Microsoft Dynamics CRM by attending a free Microsoft Dynamics CRM Lunch & Learn Event or contact The Resource Group at 425-277-4760.

By Mike Smith, The Resource Group – Seattle, Washington Microsoft Dynamics CRM Partner

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