Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Publishing reports externally

It's been a while since I last posted. Things got a little busy over the summer. Anyway, during that period I collected quite a few tidbits here and there and hope to be posting them over the course of the next few weeks. We'll see how it goes.

As anyone who has been using CRM for a while knows, CRM reports can be published externally as shown in the screenshot below. Note: this option is only available to CRM On Premise since there is no report server accessible via online.

After the report has been published it is copied to the Org_MSCRM home page in the report server i.e. http://reportserver/Reports/Pages/Folder.aspx?ItemPath=%2fOrg_MSCRM&ViewMode=Detail. Navigating to this location you will see the result of your publish action - the report along with any sub-reports that it referenced will be published as shown. In this case, the published report contained 3 sub-reports resulting in 4 reports being published.

But the question has to be asked - seems like a nifty little piece of functionality - but what is the practical application of it? To compound it further - if you try and run this report from the reporting server location - it will only work for a CRM user that has access to the CRM database. And therefore why would you not just execute the same report from within CRM? The latter option provides you with the CRM pre-filter option and a generally much better overall user experience - so there is no reason that I can think for a CRM user to execute the report from anywhere other than from within CRM.

In light of all of the above, the only reason that I can think of for using this feature is to provide a report that can be accessed by non-CRM users. There are a number of scenarios in increasing degrees of complexity:

  1. Just provide a URL for external users to be able to access the report
  2. Use workflow to send out a report link to non-CRM users based on a given business scenario
  3. Use workflow to email a PDF document based on an externally published report

As will be demonstrated over the next few posts, each of these builds on top of one another. And an issue that we'll have to contend in both cases 2 and 3 is one of context sensitivity i.e. typically if you're automating something you're going to want it to generate a report that is specific to the quote, order, invoice etc. that it was generated from.

The first thing we need to deal with is giving access to an externally published report. Because, if you've been paying attention, there is an inherent contradiction - externally published reports cannot be accessed by non-CRM users... By default.

In the next post, I will walk through the steps for allowing external users to access the CRM published report.

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