One of the new features that came out in the November Service Release for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 was Activity Feeds. Activity Feeds are a Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 version of a LinkedIn or Facebook home page where it displays recent 'activities' or updates related to those entities in which you choose to follow. It provides an event-driven view of changes in your Dynamics CRM. A new lead is created, an account is reassigned, a case is resolved, an opportunity advances through the pipeline: these are all examples of the kinds of events that can be surfaced through feeds. They, however, are not social CRM and have nothing to do with social media. The current release is intended for an “internal audience”. It exposes information about Dynamics CRM records to Dynamics CRM users.
Some of the features are as follows:
* A What’s New area is added to your Workplace area.
* Share an insight with your colleagues or update your status
* Edit your personal profile and add a photo
* View who and what you are following in the Activity Feed area
* See other user's status updates
Activity Feeds are composed of the following components: Wall, Post and Follow.
The wall is where the activity feeds are shown activity feeds. Users all have a personal wall, which is what you see when you click What’s New at the top of the Workplace. Records can also have a wall – not surprisingly referred to as the Record Wall. If an entity is configured to have a record wall, you can access it by clicking Record Wall in the form navigation. You can enter a personal status in the Text Box at the top.
Posts are what make up your activity feed. Every item appearing on a wall is a single post record. Part of the power of the activity feeds implementation comes from this architecture: post is an entity. You can create advanced find queries for post and create workflows with posts and posts can trigger workflows.
If a record type is enabled for activity feeds you can follow it. For example, you might follow an account or an opportunity record that you’re particularly interested in. If you follow a record, any post made on that record’s wall will appear on your personal wall as well.
Most record types now have Follow and Un-follow buttons on the ribbon; they will only be clickable if a record type is enabled for feeds.
Configuring Activity Feeds
Activity Feeds are included in a managed solution package. Depending on your deployment scenario, you may or may not have to import the solution package before you can use them.
If you run Dynamics CRM 2011 on-premise, or Dynamics CRM Online with an organization that was setup before the November 2011 service update was released, you need to download the solution package from the Dynamics marketplace and import it. After importing the solution and activating processes, nothing is configured automatically, and you will need to configure activity feeds.
If you setup a new Dynamics CRM Online after the 11/11 service update was released, activity feeds are included automatically in your organization. In this scenario, activity feeds (Configurations) are enabled for several entities, and post rules are activated for the lead, opportunity, case and dialog record types.
After the solution is imported, you will see two new options in the System area of Settings: Activity Feed Configuration and Activity Feed Rule.
Activity Feed Configuration
Activity feeds are configured on a per entity basis. Basically, in order to enable activity feeds for an entity, you need to add a configuration record for it. After installing the solution, for example, you can follow these steps to enable activity feeds for the Lead entity:
* In the Navigation Pane, click Settings, and then click Activity Feeds Configuration.
* On the ribbon, click New. The Post Configuration form appears.
* Type lead in the Entity Name field, and select the Enable walls… option.
* Click Save & Close, and then publish the Lead entity as instructed.
You can enable activity feeds for most record types, including: Contact and Account, Lead, Opportunity, Case. Activity records such as Task, Appointment and Custom entities.
When setting up a post configuration (i.e., enabling an entity for activity feeds), you cannot browse to the entity – you need to type it in.
After enabling feeds for an entity you can follow it and you can post updates on a record’s wall (assuming the Enable walls… option is selected). You can also select multiple records and follow them all at once.
Activity Feed Rules
By itself, enabling activity feeds (i.e., creating a configuration record) for a record type doesn’t do anything except gives users the ability to follow records of that type. In particular, it doesn’t specify anything about the events that might cause posts to get pushed out automatically. That’s the job of rules.
Rules specify when posts will be automatically created for certain record types. You cannot create rules. Currently rules can only be created by the system, and they are only created for certain record types! Suppose you followed the steps in the previous section and enabled activity feeds for the Lead Entity. If you then click Activity Feeds Rules, you will see a New Lead created and A Lead has been qualified Rules which are automatically created.
Some items to consider considering rules:
* You cannot create rules yourself – there’s no UI to create or manage them. The system creates them automatically, but only for certain record types.
* Case, opportunity and lead all have post rules automatically created, as do the activity types task, appointment and phone call.
* Custom entities can be enabled for feeds, but they do not have any post rules created automatically.
* For the rules the system creates, you can activate or deactivate them, and you can also delete them.
* Post Configurations can be deactivated or activated. If you deactivate a configuration (e.g., for opportunity), any associated rules are deactivated. If the configuration is then activated again, ALL rules for that entity will be activated (even in cases where they are not all activated the first time you configure the entity).
* Configurations can also be deleted. If they are, any associated rules are deleted.
You can also follow Users. When a User is followed, the rules that are activated above will post items to your wall when the User you are following also makes changes to those entities.
In the next service update of Microsoft Dynamics CRM expected second quarter 2012, there will be a series of enhancements to the Activity Feeds feature: like/dislike, enhanced filtering and an updated mobile activity feeds client for Windows Phone 7.5.