Wednesday, August 24, 2011

CRM 2011/SharePoint Integration Overview

One of the most compelling features for upgrading to CRM 2011 is the tight "out of the box" integration that CRM has with SharePoint 2010. While it was possible to integrate CRM with SharePoint in previous versions, that involved developing a custom solution. Whereas in CRM 2011 the built in integration capabilities offers a nice, clean way of integrating these two applications and provides a great alternative for document management directly through the CRM user interface.

To some extent this integration is the one of the "holy grail" enhancements that we have been eagerly awaiting... for a very long time. The problem has generally been that while CRM has the ability to store documentation in attachments, it is by no means a "document management solution". And trying to leverage CRM as a document management solution is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. On the flip side, we have this other great technology solution called SharePoint which among multiple other capabilities is a very strong platform for content and document management. So in 4.0 while there were various creative ways of handling the document management conundrum within CRM, they were just that - workarounds...

CRM 2011 is only part of the requirement for this integration solution. You will of course need to have or upgrade to SharePoint 2010 in order to be able to leverage this out of the box capability. SharePoint Foundation 2010 is available freely with the purchase of Windows Server 2008 which should make this option very feasible. Of course, if for whatever reason your organization does not want to use SharePoint 2010 or is not ready to upgrade to that environment, you will need to fall back to one of the creative solutions.

It should also be mentioned that the CRM/SharePoint out of the box integration only offers integration between CRM entities and SharePoint libraries in it's current incarnation. Meaning - it does not currently offer integration between a CRM entity and a SharePoint site. The good thing about integrating at the library level versus the site level is that it does tend to keep things nice and simple. But I can understand that there may be some situations where it would be preferable to connect at the site level and if that's your requirement... well, for now, you're fresh out of luck. At least using the out of the box option that is... As the CRM and SharePoint are in my opinion strategically aligned solutions, I would expect to see the level of this integration to deepen in future versions/upgrades of these products and wouldn't at all be surprised to see an integration at the SharePoint site level at some point. But that is purely based on my subjective view of the world. Time will tell if that prediction pans out.

While the integration between these two solutions is out of the box, there are various options in terms of configuring how this integration can be set up. I will outline these options in follow up posts and suggest some best practice considerations for configuring them.

Next: CRM 2011 Document Management Settings

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