Word Templates are a new feature of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2016. Microsoft has great documentation on how to create the templates. I am not going to go into detail on “how” you create them but rather “why” I would choose to use a Word Template over a Mail Merge or custom report.
I am frequently asked to modify system reports for various reasons. It is common to want the Quote report modified so it is branded with your logo, colors and appropriate fields. Mail Merge and custom reports were typically the ways to accommodate this request prior to Word Templates. Though these are still legitimate ways to solve business needs, let’s take a look at each to understand why I feel a Word Template is the better option in this instance.
Mail Merge is great when a user needs to distribute personalized documents to a list of customers. A user can build it on their own, and customize it with values from Dynamics CRM. Users start running into the limitations of Mail Merge when it comes to needing more than just a basic 1:N relationship with a pre-defined number of records in the related entity. If you are trying to reproduce the Quote Report with Mail Merge, you will quickly realize that once the user adds more products on a Quote than the number of rows allotted in the Mail Merge document, products will be omitted from the Quote document. Mail Merge is quite restrictive in how you can pull in additional entities. Users will not be able to display additional 1:N relationships using a Mail Merge. Finally, one of my biggest pet peeves with Mail Merge, is the fact it takes so many clicks to get to the final document. Users are always asking for fewer clicks, and Mail Merge does not deliver.
The next option normally considered is a custom report. A custom report is by far the most powerful option, but it can be expensive. You may wonder how simply adding a logo or changing some fields around on a report that’s already been built could be expensive. Remember that we are dealing with Dynamics CRM Online. Custom reports must be written using Fetch XML for Dynamics CRM Online. All system reports use SQL, therein lies the problem. In order to re-import any changes to a system report, the report must be completely re-written to use a Fetch XML data source. To recreate the Quote report exactly using Fetch XML can take even the most experienced report writer upwards of 40 hours to build.
Word Templates are awesome! They are more powerful than a Mail Merge and far easier to create than a custom report. Word Templates allow you to have more than one 1:N relationship, and the tables displaying those relationships can grow as needed. It only takes one click to go from Dynamics CRM to final document. It doesn’t take an expert to create a Word Template. The beautiful thing with Word Templates is that Dynamics CRM users are able to create personal templates on their own with the proper permissions. Your System Administrator can build system templates available to everyone. Word Templates may not be right for every situation, but they are a much welcomed feature that should save time and money on your implementation.
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By: Jon Angell for RSM