Don’t forget your “Start Date” in Microsoft CRM!

In Microsoft Dynamics CRM, one of the most common questions we get is “Why is it so hard to see a chronological picture of the history of an account within the views CRM provides?”  More often than not, the answer lies in the fact that Microsoft CRM does not have a good default method for dealing with dates for activities.

For example, using out-of-the-box CRM, I can create a new Appointment, and it will default to “today”.  This will set the “Start Date” and “Due Date” fields to a value.  This behavior, however, does not automatically happen for Phonecalls, Tasks, or Emails.  This can leave the “Due Date” field blank.

To add more complications to the question, we found you cannot solidify your company on only enforcing “Due Date”.  Due Date is the “end” of the task.  So if you create a report or view, and you do not have room for both Start Date and Due Date, enforcing Due Date will only provide you with the “ending time” of the appointment.

Instead, we have created a 2-step approach.  First, we default the Due Date to “now” on all Phonecalls, Tasks, and Emails.  This way, if a user does not think to enter in a value, at least we enter the current date/time.  We do this with a Form OnLoad script:

//Automatically set DueDate if empty
function tcgSetDueDate() {
  if (Xrm.Page.getAttribute(‘scheduledend’).getValue() == null) {
     var date = new Date();
     Xrm.Page.getAttribute(‘scheduledend’).setValue(date);
  }
}

We then make a workflow that automatically sets “Start Date” for Phonecalls, Tasks, and Emails equal to the Due Date on the form.  So, the Start/Stop time of the phone call and task will essentially be the same:

The result is then for us to change all of the Activity Views of the system, and have Start Date as our primary date.  This allows us to have a unified view of History, in the most logical manner possible.  (Note:  This essentially gets you the same type of view you get when working with Salesforce.com, Goldmine, Act, Saleslogix, or any of the other commercial CRM applications.  Our opinion is that it should work this way without any customization, but it doesn’t).