Microsoft CRM Integration & Customization: SharePoint Document Gateway

Jul 14 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

MS CRM is very close to document workflow automation, including Microsoft Office documents: Words, Excel, etc. The document workflow was perfectly automated about 10 years ago in Lotus Notes Domino. In this small article we describe the solution based on MS CRM integration with MS SharePoint.

Microsoft CRM is new player on CRM applications market and it is gaining its market share. Having different paradigm in its design (it stakes on Microsoft OS and technologies and completely disregards alternative platform, such as UNIX, Linux, Oracle, etc. based). Microsoft CRM market is very diversified: from small (5 users) to large (several hundred MS CRM User licenses) and it serves variety of industries: Transportation, Logistics, Lawyers, Pension Funds, High-Tech, and many others. Deploying technologies, like Windows Active Directory, Microsoft Exchange 2003/2000, SQL Server, Crystal Reports Enterprise, Biztalk, Microsoft Outlook, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Great Plains and Navision in close future – makes CRM a beloved system for Microsoft oriented IT departments.

Let’s go right to the topic.

Major issue with storing documents in MS CRM in the form of attachments to Activity is inability to work on these attached files in cooperation with other colleagues, who do not have to use CRM. When several service people serve requests from the same client this is required. Currently you can use alternative way when you store office documents in the folders of your file system and when modifying document, you save it and reattach to CRM. This is inconvenient, because first it requires all your editing users to have CRM licenses, which delays CRM implementation.

We seem increasing popularity of document storage systems, like Microsoft SharePoint, Oracle Files, etc. Such systems, being implemented gives you time savings, related to documents revisions and versioning, approval cycles and workflows, web access through web-portals systems and the like.

The target of our product is Microsoft SharePoint integration with MS CRM for document storage. Let’s take a look at the high level technical realization details:

oMain modification from the MS CRM side is standard system behavior change when you open attachment in Activity. Standard unmodified CRM suggests you to store documents in the file system. Modified version sores document in SharePoint Document Library (the required library is subject for setup by MS CRM system administrator) or keep it in MS CRM as is (for documents of minor importance). From the moment of saving the document in SharePoint Document Library it is not stored in MS CRM – CRM will now store only the link/reference to the document. Also you are given the ability to open and modify the document at the place of opening, which speeds up MS CRM user performance substantially.

oTable, storing the links to the documents sits in separate database and doesn’t deal with MS CRM tables (you know that you are banned to do structure changes in MS CRM db)

oDocument saving into MS SharePoint process occurs in MS CRM and with its assistance – SharePoint bridge, which does addition and update for the existing document into destination Document Library with MS SharePoint Web Services calls

oUpon the addition into Document Library, MS CRM – SharePoint bridge registers the document in the special table for the future data extraction or notification mechanism registration

oThen, interested users can work with the documents just using MS Office 2003 or other programs/editing tools, assuming these tools have access to MS SharePoint

oFeedback is provided by MS SharePoint Event Handler component. This is special handler, inspecting document change status, transferred from MS CRM to document storage (SharePoint), and report Activity owner on the changes with home page notifications (User home page in MS CRM). User in turn can review the history of the document editing – who, when and where is the change

oOpening Activity, where document is “attached”, and in fact placed into MS SharePoint Document Library, and pressing opening button, MS CRM user gets live version of the data

oThis approach allows you seamless work with MS CRM document in the whole informational space of your company

oAdditional enhancements to this product might be document library management directly from MS CRM (web interface – meaning remotely), administrative interface for MS Sharepoint documents revision, ability to create reports on the document storage status, rights/access management (Author, Reader, Contributor etc) from MS CRM, portal pages integration into MS CRM to name a few.

Happy programming, implementation, customization and modification! If you want us to do the job – call use 1-630-961-5918, 1-866-528-0577! help@albaspectrum.com

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Transportation & Logistics – Top 7 Reasons to Use a Freight Forwarder

Jul 14 2020 Published by under Uncategorized

The other day I met a business owner and we begin to discuss the differences in LTL Carriers, 3PL’s and Freight Forwarders. I had asked him who he had better experiences with, and without hesitation he responded, “Freight Forwarders have been much easier for me to work with, although I use all three at my company.” He listed 7 reasons as to why Freight Forwarders have been better of a fit in his supply chain:

Flexibility- Freight Forwarder’s provide a service typically using an Agent network. Many cringe when the word “agent” is thrown around in terms of Logistics, because of the bad reputation that they have received throughout the years. Many customers think that if you are using an Agent network it increases the chances of product being loss, damaged, or stolen- not true. What many don’t understand is that the Agent concept has been around for quite awhile. All carriers have some type of relationship with agents, even the larger carriers such as UPS and Fedex have an agent network in place in some parts of the country. What truly separates companies are their bonds and communication with their agent alliance. When you examine the “good” forwarders they have sound, strong bonds with their agents, and ironically sometimes even better than if they were dealing internally within their own company. To understand this fully you have to realize that these agents survive by looking to provide exceptional service to their carrier partners. The better job they do the more business they will receive. So they want to impress, they want to be accurate in their pickup and deliveries, but it’s the carrier’s job to make sure their(agents) are kept on their toes in terms of performance, accountability, and reliability.

Manageability- Typically when working with a LTL carrier or a 3PL their sometimes tends to be a “loss” of control for customers. If a shipment happens to go astray it often times takes an act of congress to recover and redeliver it to the proper address. A good Forwarder has the ability to use their network to retrieve, recon sign and redeliver to the correct address often times without missing a beat. Many clients strictly use F.F. simply because of this added benefit. The ability to “Quarterback” your shipments the whole way through lies with a Freight Forwarder. LTL companies have too many hubs and processes to deal with which doesn’t allow the flexibility and manageability that a Forwarder can demonstrate on a single shipment, and often times customers find this out the hard way.

Versatility- Options! Options! Options! During today’s economic times customers are finding that having a company that can provide them with viable options allows them the ability to maintain control, reduce costs, and increase efficiencies in their supply chain. When you are looking for your Forwarder examine the services that they can offer and relate them to your business needs. A good forwarder can take the primary shipping role or be used as a supplemental asset when the need arises. Allowing your business to adapt quicker and be more responsive to customer needs as they develop.

Versatility- Often times many companies will state that they are in fact a One Stop Shop, but if you ask enough questions you can determine if this in fact is true. Do they have the real time tracking and tracing capabilities? International? Warehousing and Distribution capabilities? Reporting capabilities? As your business grows these could be things that could help make the difference in your business progress. These help add to being able to allow a customer to grow their business with the least amount of financial output.

Vested Interest in Your Business- When a carrier can become an extension of your business, when they think about ways that you can improve your supply chain more than you do, that’s what a great carrier is made of. So often in business companies spend 90% of their time looking for the company with the cheapest cost whether then the company that can add immediate and consistent value to their supply chain.

All carriers strive for this, but not all reach this point. Reason being is that it takes the WILL to want to be the best carrier, and to want to help your customer beyond single shipments given to you on an Ad Hoc basis, a good freight forwarder weeds through the “stuff that doesn’t matter” to get to the core of the clients goals. How can they make your business run smoother is their main concern. And please understand that this doesn’t always mean being the CHEAPEST carrier in the door, but what it often refers to is being able to look at a company’s Logistic setup and determining can they add efficiency, and reduce cost as a whole.

Cost Savings- As I mentioned in the previous paragraph a good freight forwarder will make it one of it’ main goals to save their customer money, but interestingly enough many times the savings doesn’t come from just giving the customer dirt cheap rates. As a matter of fact if you speak to a top forwarder they will often times tell you that their pricing is fair to moderate? Reason being is that many times being able to provide a solution to an issue might take employing more resources and increasing cost on the front end to achieve for example expedited transit, better customer satisfaction and more efficiency. For example a company shipping from California, who is trying to beat their competition to the punch on the east coast might need to implore the use of a warehouse and distribution facility let’s say in Chicago. Adding this resource will give more control, shorter transit, and a more competitive drive for the Cali Company, and of course as I mentioned earlier increasing customer loyalty.

Quick Thinking- One freight forwarder I spoke with presented an example of how he added value to a new customer by just being inquisitive. The customer had been using UPS ground shipping out product weighing somewhere in the area of 50 lbs. for 10 boxes going to one location, cumulative weight of 500 lbs. Many companies who might have run across something like this would have run away because of the name recognition and reputation of the boys in brown. But not this owner, he realized that he would be able to put together a very strong program for the client based on the cumulative rate of 500 lbs. versus UPS rating the shipment on a per box basis. The bottom line was that he was able to save the customer 30% on his shipments with a much faster transit time.

I always preach that in this day and age the most important thing for a business to understand is their own “business needs…” If they understand the time sensitivity of their product, marketplace, and the needs of their industry they will be able to pick the right company for their logistical needs.

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