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Unraveling the Entity: Part 1

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In our last post, “What is an Entity”, we talked about Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and the incredible flexibility that its Entity-based model provides. Today, we’re going to take a look at the different Entity types in CRM Online and then we’ll take some initial steps towards unraveling Entities. Once you understand how they operate, you’ll be able to adapt them to your exact business needs. If you are unfamiliar with Entities, Records, Attributes, or Values, we recommend reading our prior post before you begin unraveling.

There’s no shortage of Entities in CRM Online. As a matter of fact, CRM Online is made up of over 250 Entities. It’s important to note that there are four different Entity Types in CRM Online: System, Business, Custom, and Activity.

If CRM Online is a house, System Entities are that house’s foundation. They comprise the most basic functions of CRM Online, and they cannot be customized. Because System Entities cannot be customized, we won’t be discussing them much further in this series.

Activity Entities store information on activities such as e-mails, phone calls, follow-ups, etc. Activity Entities are a special type of System Entity, although the rules on customization differ slightly here. Already existing Activity Entities cannot be customized, although you can create new custom Activity Entities.

Most Entities in CRM Online are Business Entities. They are standard components of CRM Online, and they are customizable. Most users find utility in several of the Business Entities included, such as Contacts, Accounts, and Reports without any need for customization. If you do need to customize a Business Entity, any of its Attributes can be completely changed to match your needs. You might even add additional Attributes to an Entity to supplement its already existing Attributes.

Custom Entities look and act just like Business Entities except that they are unique Entities that you create by customizing CRM Online. Custom Entity creation is straightforward. You can create one yourself from scratch, you can copy another Entity as a starting point and then make changes, or you can import a pre-designed Custom Entity created by a Microsoft CRM Online developer.

Now that you’ve been given the primer on the different Entity types, let’s start unraveling! CRM Online customizations take place in one location, the Solution window. Let’s open the Solution window.

In CRM Online (see below), navigate to Settings > Customization > Customizations and click Customize the System.

 Unraveling the Entity: Part 1

The Solution: Default Solution window opens (see below). This is where 99% of the magic happens in CRM Online customizations! There’s quite a bit going on in this window, so let’s stay focused. Click Entities.

 Unraveling the Entity: Part 1

The window refreshes with a view of Entities that are customizable (see below). Since we haven’t created any new entities, and we know that Business Entities are the only Entities included in CRM Online that are customizable, we know that this view is exclusively showing us Business Entities.

 Unraveling the Entity: Part 1

At this point, you should feel free to open some of the Entities in the view by double-clicking them. If you’re already a CRM Online user, you’re probably familiar with most of the Entities in this list, although you’ve probably never seen them from this perspective.

Here’s a tip for the less technically savvy; This is where things start to get complicated. If you need help customizing Entities you can get free CRM training through the Success Portal for Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Next week we start customizing! We’ll repurpose the existing Product Entity into something a car dealership might find useful. Until then, stay tuned.

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