How to Keep Microsoft Dynamics CRM Free of Dirty Data

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Often overlooked by marketing, sales, and membership staff, it is critical to keep your quantitative or “hard” data, clean and healthy. Hard data can be defined as the data your organization relies on for profiling, categorizing, and reporting on your customers, members, or constituents.  Your Dynamics CRM system is the means by which your users gather meaningful data about your organization’s relationships which ultimately drives your key business decisions. If left unchecked, poorly designed CRM entities and form designs can intimidate, confuse, and sometimes even prevent your users from entering accurate and complete data.

 We are going to take a look at some real world data capturing scenarios that we have encountered in which pitfalls may occur. We will also share best practices that can help you plan and design your forms so that your organization’s hard data will stay reliable.

 Avoid Redundant Fields

Many clients need to track multiple product or service interests in their Leads, Accounts, and Contacts for the purposes of marketing segmentation. One way to avoid redundant data capturing is to use fields for each product or service. Each field can represent a single product or service, displayed on your form as a Checkbox control. These fields can then be organized in a single “Product Interest” section on your record form, allowing the user to check “All That Apply”. This makes data entry easy on the end user’s eyes and easier for your marketing department to create accurate Marketing Lists.

 Another method is to create a custom Many-to-Many relationship from your product/services entity to your Leads, Accounts, and Contacts so that the user can associate multiple products or services to a single data record. A big advantage here is that you do not have to re-invent your “Product Interest” every time you add new products or services because it is dynamically tied to your product/service catalogue.

 Set Field Requirement Levels Conditionally

This seems like a no-brainer: if you report on a given data field, make it a “Required” field. This avoids potential gaps in your reports and queries. Required fields in CRM will force the user to enter a value before a new CRM record can be saved.

 We have helped many clients by setting requirement levels based on certain conditions such as Sales Stage. This allows new opportunities to be entered as needed, but will require the user to set the Estimated Revenue when the opportunity reaches the next Sales Stage such as requesting a quote.

 Avoid Using “Other” in Pick Lists

Picklists contain a finite set of items from which the user may choose a single value. This does not always fit the bill when it comes to quantifying options that may change over time. Moreover, picklists may not be able to capture every foreseeable option that a user may need to enter.  A better approach would be to use a custom CRM entity called “Social Networking Channel” instead of a picklist. Using custom entities as single data values via a lookup control on the Contact form allows for better management of multiple hard data values that can be added or removed as the social media channels change over time.

 Set Minimum and Maximum Values to Integer, Float, and Money fields

This may seem like common sense, but if you don’t set a minimum value of $0.00 for the Estimated Revenue field, you may wind up with opportunities on your Sales Pipeline with a value of $-10,000! You may also want to restrict values for product discounts, lest you start selling things for free.

 Maintain DateTime Fields using Workflow

Many DateTime fields are used to keep things like Start Dates and Estimated Close dates visible on your reports. But what if these dates get delayed, or if time passes and these benchmarks are missed? You can’t always expect all of your users to keep these dates current.  This is where Workflow comes in. You can create steps to check for dates that are soon to pass or expire, then create relevant alerts to your users to remind them to update the fields when appropriate.

 Keep Your Form Design Simple and Intuitive

Sometimes you need to capture a large amount of data on your CRM form. While such data gathering is necessary and unavoidable, the way in which you design your form layout can be instrumental in making the data entry easy and intuitive. We recommend the following best practices for form design:

1.)   Keep critical (required) data fields on the top of your forms

2.)   Design forms for multiple business roles

3.)   Streamline your forms

4.)   Automate data entry



In this blog, we detailed several issues most organizations run into when designing their CRM system, but it is by no means exhaustive. If you are suffering from the above or any other data integrity issues, please contact Steve Kane (301-634-2404, at BroadPoint Technologies, the largest Microsoft Dynamics CRM reseller in the mid-Atlantic. We can work with your organization to fully leverage the power of Microsoft Dynamics CRM to calculate, validate, and automate your CRM system so that your top-level decisions can be made against accurate and reliable data

by BroadPoint, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Virginia/Maryland Partner

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