Old and New

The roots of both platforms become apparent when we compare their respective searching paradigms. In one corner we have Dynamics, built on a legacy of the Microsoft stack. In the other corner we have Salesforce, a child of the Internet age. In essence,  it is the power and complexity of relational databases pitted against the Google search.

Searching Globally

The CRM is a wealth of data. There are various ways to mine the data. This post, however, is much more focused. We are not interested in reports, analysis, charts, graphs or dashboards. This post deals strictly with navigating CRM during daily, routine activities. It might be trying to recall a person with a particular name — or was it an account? Perhaps we need to check data for accuracy  — are there any accounts that have don’t have a value for the first phone number but not the second? (in other words, the number was put in the wrong place)

User Role

What a user does dictates the type of search he is most likely to perform. As a sales representative, Mark may spend his day looking up contacts, accounts and opportunities. Sara, working at the help desk dealing with IT issues, requires more expansive search capabilities. From my perspective, these two platforms appeal to a different spectrum of users. I suspect that Salesforce, being first and foremost sales force automation tool, clearly caters to the sales person. Dynamics, taking advantage of its database roots and more technical XRM beginnings, appeals to the IT persona.

Salesforce Global Search

It all starts with a single text box, but don’t be deceived. This is the doorway to an exceptional range of search capabilities that span all objects both standard and custom.

Taking a paragraph from the Salesforce How Global Search Works help documentation:

Global search searches more record types, including articles, documents, products, solutions, and Chatter feeds, files, groups, topics, and people. Global search also searches more field types, including custom fields and long text fields such as descriptions, notes, and task and event comments. Global search keeps track of which objects you use and how often you use them. Search results for the objects you use most frequently appear by default.

Salesforce matches items that you have most recently accessed as you type. For a sales or service representative this is invaluable. If the record you want does not appear in the list click Search. A new page opens with search results for a limited set of objects. The number of matching records is presented next to each object. To expand the search to all objects click Search All. Finally, the Options link allows you to filter the search to an exact phrase and/or items you own.

What is lacking here is filtering. According to an Idea Exchange post, the ability to apply a filter, such as “do not include out of business accounts”, has received little interest by the Salesforce user community. Another critical point to note: Salesforce is built on multi-tenant architecture, and there is a lag time between the addition of data and inclusion in the global search. Granted, this is generally much less than 30 minutes, but it can be a frustration if you are not aware of it.

Dynamics Advanced Find

As you might imagine, the pros and cons are reversed with this platform. Instead of providing a global search that covers all entities, Microsoft provides a powerful relational tool that focuses on an entity and all entities related to it. Ah, but did I forget something? Enter Dynamics 2015, and the long-awaited Multi-Entity Search. Before we get to Advanced Find, let’s take a quick look at this new Microsoft offering.

The Dynamics answer to a global search is stylish, simple and clean. Of course, it does not boast the richness of the Salesforce interface, and it is limited to a maximum of 10 entities. Is this a showstopper? I don’t think so. Perhaps it encourages the user to be more specific so as not to clutter the screen with matches, but for most purposes I believe it is more than sufficient.

Now, had this been the only global search tool Dynamics had to offer, I would not be so effusive in my praises. From my perspective this is icing on the cake. The real gem is Advanced Find.

The Advanced Find button is always accessible from the top bar. It is context sensitive. The above figure shows the state of the Advanced Find dialog when it is called from the Accounts page. Note that the current view, “My Active Accounts”, is automatically loaded into the dialog. We can immediately see that the filter is set by owner and status which makes sense based upon the view’s name.

Views are common to both platforms and allow the user to return a subset of the records for a particular object such as accounts. This topic will be addressed in a separate post. Microsoft has done an excellent job of encapsulating a great deal of functionality in one dialog. From here you can edit and create views, test them, and build upon existing views  for one-time queries.

What sets this apart from Salesforce is the relational filtering. All related entities can be included in the filter. In this case, we are selecting all accounts that have at least one contact in Seattle. Obviously we are only scratching the surface here. It would take several posts to simply review the capabilities of this tool. For a taste of what can be done with filtering, check out the Advanced Queries post on Surviving CRM.

And the Winner Is

Just kidding. These platforms to some extent cater to different audiences. Yes, I am enamored with Advanced Find, but I need to remember that I am a developer and consultant. As stated earlier, the real question is what type of user will take advantage of this functionality.

From my experience a busy sales representative would gravitate towards the Salesforce approach. She does not have the time to learn all the relationships and how to navigate them. It is the responsibility of the system administrator to set up views, reports and other one-click approaches to locate data.

On the other hand, power users, report writers and managers would (and should) take advantage of the more complex Advanced Find. Our clients use this tool daily and in a sense could not live without it.