Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 provides the ability to define relationships between entities using the Relationship feature. However it is only available for defining relations between Account, Contact and Opportunity. In Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 this concept has been expanded to Connections Roles which are relationships between any two entities including custom entities. (Note: In CRM 2011 - use Connection Roles in lieu of Relationship roles. Relationship roles will be going away in future releases of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.)
Connections can basically be used to define the relation or the association between any two entities. To give an example you can have an account with multiple contacts. With the help of connection roles you can define that one of the contacts is actually the partner in the company and another an employee.
You can define a myriad of relationships:
Family relationships (father, sister, brother, spouse/partner, cousin)
Social relationships (tennis partner, golf partner, club member, friend)
Sales relationships (champion, influencer, stakeholder, referrer, gatekeeper)
Business relationships (supplier, partner, consultant, contractor, competitor, former employer)
When you create a Connection Role, you select the CRM entities for which this connection role can be used. The system administrator can create a new Connection Role by performing the following steps:
1. Go to Settings, Business Management, Connection Roles
2. For example create a new role called Former Employee. Choose a Connection Role category.
3. Select the record type that this role describes. In this case it would be the Contact record type.
4. You are given the option of choosing matching Connection Roles. In this case, set one up for Former Employer that is associated with the Account record.
5. Save and close the Connection roles. It is now ready to be used.
Now… to create the connection for the related records:
1. Open an Account and go to Connections in the Common area
2. Click on the Connect To Another.
3. In the window, choose the Contact that you wish to associate as a Former Employee.
4. When you click on the lookup for the As this role, all of the roles associated with that entity type will be displayed. Choose “Former Employee” and then OK.
5. Click save and close.
6. The connection will be saved. In this case, a relationship for Former Employer will be set up automatically on the Contact record.