Microsoft Dynamics CRM has quite a few “out of the box” activities that can be leveraged, i.e. Phone Call, Task, Email, etc. One of those activities that not everyone is familiar with is called Service Activity.
For starters, I like the Service Activity in Dynamics CRM. I think that Microsoft had a great idea when they built this but they missed a few key components. I think that the Service Activity was designed to handle the basic underlying needs of a Professional Service organization. When you have a team of resources with a finite number of hours available, equipment available and locations they serve, there is a great need to manage the logistics of providing those services to clients. This is where the inherent functionality of the Service Activity comes into play.
When you create a Service Activity, of course it has a Regarding field which allows you to link to any entity that handles Dynamics CRM Activities. Aside from this, it also has a Customer field which allows you to link the overall Parent Account record that is affiliated to the activity – aside from the Regarding entity. Along with this, you can assign a Service that is being offered, based on the out of the box Service entity, as well as the physical resources that will be assigned to perform the activity.
One of the best features about Service Activity is the fact that it acts as a central repository for all like-natured events. It affords the ability to go to one place in the system to look at everything that is happening for a given time period and then drill down into smaller subsets of the overall work being done. With that said, this also happens to be one of the places where Microsoft missed the target.
When you go to the Service Calendar for starters, the graphical user interface is not at all pleasant on the eyes. When we all think of a calendar, we think of a view with square boxes for each of the days during the month with lists of activities in each daily box. Well that’s not the case with Dynamics CRM. In Dynamics CRM, it gives you a very clunky linear view of activities with calendar blocks so small you can barely see or understand them. They force you into scrolling over the blocks to see what is written so at a quick glance, you really cannot decipher what the schedule is. Of course they give the option of a daily, weekly or monthly view, but it just makes each of the linear views more and more difficult to navigate as you scale up in timeframe.
Aside from this, they give you a list of out of the box views to drill down into the set of all Service Activities. This is not configurable, which is my next complaint. The list they give does not provide any value to the end-user, especially being non-flexible. It simply gives a few options on how you want to view the calendar, by Resource or by Service. At the same time, none of these views improve the look and feel of the Service Calendar. This also completely prevents you from leveraging any of the customization you performed on the Service Activity itself which is often required for the unique needs of your business.
One other point of oversight on Microsoft’s behalf, is the fact that they did not upgrade the Service Activity entity to the newly designed graphical user interface format of Dynamics CRM 2013. When it comes to user experience, the user will go from a sleek, tile based navigation with disappearing menu drop downs to the old school basic looking layout with left sidebar navigation when opening a Service Activity. This can be very confusing to the end-users from a navigational and functional standpoint.
Now as far as improvement, I’d like to see the graphical user interface of the entity replaced to match the rest of the system to avoid any further confusion. Also let’s completely replace the Service Calendar with one that looks like a calendar using the infamous Outlook Calendar as the model by which it is designed. I want to see an interactive graphical user interface that allows you to drag and drop Service Activities for scheduling purposes. It should also allow creation of new Service Activities by double-clicking on empty space in the calendar. It should be laid out visually so that you can read at least some small detail about each activity as it sits on the Day/Week/Month view.
I would also like to see more configuration options with respect to the views of the calendar. You should be able to design custom views that are filtered in a way that the user can control. Those views could then drive what the Service Calendar looks like and which Activities populate it. When businesses customize this entity, they can then also configure their visuals to meet their needs which is where the true benefit lies.
All in all, Service Activities certainly have a solid place in Dynamics CRM. Despite their lacking, they still serve a great purpose to those businesses who rely on a centralized scheduling mechanism. Don’t let the poor aesthetics dissuade you from leveraging their functionality, hopefully Microsoft will get back on target and put some time and effort into this entity for future releases.
If you require more robust service and schedule functionality, then I’d recommend FieldOne. Contacts our professionals today for a Rapid Assessment® of your professional services needs – firstname.lastname@example.org or 855.437.7202. We can help you evaluate your needs and plan for long term growth.
By: Chris Witham – New York Microsoft Dynamics CRM partner