In my previous posts I’ve already mentioned differences in security model and business model configuration. When we deal with large CRM system we will face with huge amount of data. It is impossible to perform some kind of analysis without visualization and smart data grouping. So, dashboards and reports help to solve this problem.

From the very beginning I want to split dashboards and reports purposes. In Dynamics CRM it is a little bit confusing. You can achieve with reports the same results as with dashboards but you always have to think why and what user want to see in the result and, of course, who the user is (top manager or sale representative).

Report is a set of records that meet a certain criteria. Although it may have different visual representation it always show piece of information which has something common. Dashboard is a snapshot of key metrics. It helps to gain valuable insight quickly. It must be actionable, meaningful but not overdone. Dashboards can include different kind of information but their parts also combined logically.

Let’s start with reports. Salesforce provides you a set of out-of-the-box reports that can be modified or you can create a new one from scratch. System has a report builder which is simple enough for work. All reports are created with mouse clicks and you don’t need to write any line of code. There are 4 report formats available: tabular, summary, matrix and joined (you can see more information about them here). They are really good and help to show different kind of information (you can set up filters, grouping and so on). After creating your report you can add a chart to it and build into the dashboard.

Dynamics CRM has very similar functionality. You can create a filtered view, select a chart for it, build this chart into the dashboard. The nice feature that both system supports is drilling down. In designer there is a few standard chart types available: Bar, Column, Pie, Line, Funnel. But as Dynamics is using the .NET 3.5 chart control you have more than 20 chart types for visualization (moreover you can play with color, dimension and other chart properties). You can checkout these dashboards overviews in Dynamics CRM (this is tutorial for 2011 but there is no significant changes in later version) and Salesforce.

But except options that mentioned above Dynamics CRM integrated with SSRS and it means you have a very powerful tool for creating a complex analytics. With Business Intelligence for Visual Studio you can create sophisticated reports that based on SQL queries or FetchXml and provides you additional flexibility. After are reports are created they can be uploaded to the CRM organization and after that as well as charts can be built into the dashboards directly or as set of links to them (which is usually more suitable option) and, of course, all data on reports are provided with respect to security roles settings.

FeatureDynamics CRMSalesforce
Available chart types25 chart types7 chart types
Charts: drilling downYesYes
Charts: filtered viewsYesYes
Add chart to the dashboardYesYes
Add chart to the object formYesYes
Integration with SSRSYesNo

Conclusion

Although Salesforce makes configuration very easy through Report Builder and provide better user experience Microsoft Dynamics CRM has really great set of tools for creating reports and business analytics. Except of different charts types which available in Dynamics chart designer you can use features of .NET chart control and integration with SSRS. It may help you to aggregate information from a range of data sources and create reports of different levels of complexity. But keep in mind that not all can be done through the system UI and very often it requires additional development.

You will achieve much better result if will concentrate more on your product and team and provide solving these problems to out great specialists. Centaurea's team has large experience with CRM systems and we are ready to offer you our services: CRM development, consulting. We are looking forward to start working with you!

P.S. We are glad to receive a feedback from you. If you have noticed any mistakes in the article or have suggestions about it please let us know.