Today's blog post was written by Ross Talbot, Principal Developer at Sonoma Partners.
Never underestimate the value of collaboration within your organization and Microsoft Dynamics.
In our previous post, we covered Activity Feeds as one option for promoting collaboration at your organization through CRM. Whether it is visibility regarding sales within your organization across functional areas in your organization or alerts within your team to provide status updates on deals in progress, both manual and automated options allow you to leverage Activity Feeds within your Dynamics 365 instance to enhance your team’s ability to collaborate.
Going through collaboration options in Dynamics (hereafter also referred to as "CRM"), we will be looking at Yammer in this post. Connecting Yammer to your CRM instance replaces Activity Feeds; the two cannot co-exist. It is important to note that there is not a native way to remove Yammer once it has been configured in your CRM instance, but more on that later. For now, consider testing this in an instance you can reset if you find Yammer just isn’t the right fit for your organization.
To get things started, we need a Yammer network to use. For this example, we have a new Yammer network and will link it to a CRM Online instance. Detailed configuration information from Microsoft can be found here. Yammer configuration is found in CRM under the Settings > Configuration section. You need an appropriate security role (we are using a System Administrator account) to continue.
Give your consent to link Dynamics CRM Online and Yammer in the configuration page, and now we are really ready to go. This approval will replace the Activity Feeds in CRM, commandeer the social pane on records, take over as the centerpiece on the out-of-the-box social dashboard, and become the behind-the-scenes target for your system and user posts going forward (so this is important if you are using Activity Feeds already).
You will want to consider your options for the next two choices, so we want to explore the downstream effects of your options. I recommend using a specific Yammer group. The default is blank, which will direct posts to the “All Company” group in Yammer. This group is not configurable on the Yammer side and all users (regardless of their user status within CRM) will see posts in this area. The decision point here should be focused on cutting down noise for non-CRM Yammer users since All Company is a group everyone sees. One of the benefits is that you may want all users to see those posts, but a group named after your CRM Production instance also helps categorize these posts so even if everyone joins the CRM group, it makes the posts more meaningful. You also may want all users to see posts regardless of their CRM Access, so you want to choose the option that fits your needs best. The goal is to give the posts focus when needed and ensure that people won’t miss something that is valuable to them.
Up in Yammer, we will create a group called “CRM Production Blog” for this example. The reason we denote it as production is that we likely have at least one sandbox/lower lifecycle instance of CRM and when we test auto-posting options, we will want to ensure it is clear which instance of CRM the posts belong to (again more categorization/noise reduction for your production users than anything else). This will be the default group, but that can be changed when posting to target a different parent group. Note that if you copy a production instance to a sandbox for testing purposes, this configuration will need to be updated to match the Sandbox group in Yammer at that time.
Never overlook the next setting option or assume its meaning, as public versus private posting is next on our list to review. Since the group is configured for all of CRM, or All Company if you choose to leave the default as is, this privacy setting may also be useful in cutting down the posts in CRM that may not apply to all of your CRM users. This setting only applies to Yammer in CRM though, as posts will be available in Yammer itself under the CRM Production Blog group in our example and all members of that group can see the contents. This is more of an obscurity setting than a security setting, so you want to choose the option that makes sense for your setup. Security itself is not shared between CRM and Yammer, so you will want to ensure that information you need truly private is stored in a place like CRM with more granular record security. Yammer does have private groups, but the default group linked to CRM would then need to include all CRM users for collaboration purposes which would defeat it.
Going back to the configuration, I recommend using public unless you have a need to switch this setting. Collaboration works best when more people are involved and if the content will be relevant, you want your team to see it. For this example, however, I will show what setting this option to private looks like so it gives you a better look at the CRM and Yammer possibilities.
To configure Yammer and CRM with the private setting, we just switch the setting in the configuration panel. Unlike so many places in CRM, there is no OK or Save button, and these options auto-save. I usually verify by navigating away and then back to the Yammer configuration page to ensure my changes stay in the system.
Let us now head to a CRM record to review what private configuration looks like to the user. The social pane will show Yammer posts on a record only if the current user is following that record. If a user is not following the record, they will see the message below. They will see a gap for the “missing post” on the Social Dashboard instead of this message.
You now want to follow the record in CRM to make the posts visible in both places. We can now see posts related to the record made by other users and can reply with additional posts or comments of our own. The social activity dashboard will show posts in the CRM group for records you follow or posts made in the group itself unrelated to records.
Down in the record’s Yammer feed, we can change the target group of our post in addition to adding our post text to ensure we get the visibility we need. We now add our post to the record’s feed. It is now visible on the record wall, social dashboard, and in Yammer for those who have access to each location. This will get eyes on the post that are not members of the CRM Yammer group.
Never miss an automation opportunity, either. Configuration posts can target Yammer as well, so the automated posts from Activity Feeds can be updated to post to Yammer from CRM. We navigate to Settings and choose Activity Feeds Rules. Opening the rule for a New Account, we note that the checkbox is checked for “Post to Yammer Activity Stream” on the form. This shows in CRM as a system post in a record feed and in Yammer under the Recent Activity section on the right side. The automatic posts work the same as Activity Feeds, and if you want to customize the content of these posts, you will need a workflow assembly or plugin to do so. This can give awareness to users in different areas of your business about new customers that different business segments should be looking to target or opportunities with customers shared across segments.
Going into more detail on the CRM and Yammer record links, this is built on Open Graph objects. The link contains a few actions and whether you are looking at this in CRM or Yammer, these functions pertain to Yammer. We will start with the options shown as you hover over this link as shown below.
To start, you will see a “Follow” link which is similar to a concept in CRM, but they are not related. The Yammer Follow shown here will follow the thread in Yammer only. If posts are made in a record’s thread and your integration option is set to Private, you would still need to follow the record in CRM to view the record’s wall. The Yammer follow affects posts and comments you see when you filter your Yammer feed to Following as opposed to All or Discovery.
Run back to the link options, and let’s look at share next. Again, this is a similar concept to CRM but unrelated. Sharing in this Yammer context allows you to send the link as a private message to a Yammer user or to share a copy of this link in another Yammer group. Share is only a visible option when viewing this link in Yammer and not in CRM.
Around the right side of this list, we see a “Go to Page” option. Clicking this launches the full thread for the graph object. The name of the record, the type, creation timestamp, and link to the record in CRM appear at the top of the thread. Posts and comments regarding this record are shown in this thread with new posting options similar to posting in a Yammer group. You also will see additional posting and commenting options that are not available with the Yammer feeds embedded in CRM (for example attaching a file) when viewing threads and groups in Yammer itself.
And there are more options just below the link as well, although most are only visible in Yammer so I will list them at a high level. Like, Bookmark, and Email Me should be self-explanatory, and reply will just add a comment to the thread. Share functions the same as the link, but with the post’s thread instead of the graph link. Stop Following will remove your follow from this post. View conversation will open the thread in its own window, but unlike the page this is for the post’s thread not the graph object’s which can contain multiple posts and their replies. Adding topics will add hashtag topics to the post for increased search ability. Delete will only show if you have permission to delete the post, otherwise there will be a “Hide Conversation” option instead to remove it from view. Note: Only the Like, Reply, and View Conversation options are visible from CRM.
Desert Yammer if you feel this is not the right fit for your organization. CRM does not actually give you the option to remove Yammer from your CRM instance (and that is the reason for the title of this post), however the OrgDBOrgSettings tool found here can accomplish this with a button found just under the list of settings. Just install the managed solution from Codeplex, and you can switch your organization to another method of collaborating if Yammer isn’t a fit for you.
You want to select the right collaboration tool for your organization and in summary, Yammer provides a bit more than Activity Feeds as far as options are concerned. Yammer gives you the ability to include users outside of CRM in your collaboration. It gives users the ability (if desired) to see posts about records they may not have access to so they are aware of high level information, such as an opportunity from another department for a shared customer. Yammer provides the ability to have non-CRM related conversations as well for interests other than work (sports, movies, music, you name it). Yammer also provides similar functionality to Activity Feeds, so if you have non-CRM users that you want involved in your collaboration, Yammer might be for you. You also may have heard about some upcoming changes with Yammer, and you may be aware of other collaboration options within Dynamics, so stay tuned for more updates here!