10+ ways to create reports in Microsoft Dynamics CRM

There are many ways to get data for analysis in Microsoft Dynamics CRM. For all occasions. But needs, as known, can vary. In this article I'll try to describe the most common approaches for creating reports in CRM, and then give a comparative description of them (most likely there will be a separate post).

For convenience, the main approaches are grouped as follows:

  • Reports within Microsoft Dynamics CRM
  • Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) reports
  • Reports by Microsoft Office
  • Developing custom reports platform
  • Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services reports

 

Reports within Microsoft Dynamics CRM

  1. Advanced Find. This standard feature of the system unfairly overlooked when it comes to reports. In fact, functionality of the advanced find allows you to create fairly complex criteria for filtering CRM data, the results of which can be referenced as the simplest reports. And the ability to save user search filters and instantly use it (for a single click, selecting a view), makes Advanced Find the number one tool of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
  2. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Advanced Find

  3. Report Wizard is a built-in reporting tools in Microsoft Dynamics CRM. As a step by step wizard, creates reports adjusted according to your needs. Allows you to build simple and average complexity reports (with aggregated values, child tables).
  4. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Report Master

  5. Reports based on Microsoft Excel (static lists and dynamic pivot tables). These types of reports discussed in more detail in "Reporting by Microsoft Office" section, CRM database in this case is the source of data for Excel.
  6. Built-in form reports (will be presented in the next version of CRM)

 

Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) reports

  1. Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services. When we say "reports in CRM", it is primarily meant reporting by SSRS. With Reporting Services you can create reports of any complexity: interactive, tabular, graphical, or free-form reports from relational, multidimensional, or XML-based data sources.

    In the latest versions of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM SDK appeared separate Report Writers Guide, dedicated to developing SSRS reports for CRM.

  2. Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services Report Builder is a application that comes with the SSRS. Allows you to create various reports using a visual editor and query designer without using special tools and skills.

    Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services Report Builder

    Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services Report Builder 2.0 delivers an intuitive, Office-like report authoring environment enabling business and power users to leverage their experience with Microsoft Office 2007 products. Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services Report Builder 2.0 supports the full capabilities of SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services including:

    • Flexible report layout caabilities of SQL Server 2008 Report Definition Language
    • Data Visualizations including charts and gauges
    • Richly formatted textboxes
    • Export to Microsoft Office Word format

    An excellent description of using SSRS Report Builder to create CRM reports: Reports for CRM 4.0 using SQL Server 2008 and Report Builder 2.0

 

Reports by Microsoft Office

  1. Microsoft Office Excel static tables. The easiest way to fetch any data from CRM to Excel - creating an Excel worksheet with records from the selected view (all or pre-filtered rows). What you see in the view in CRM, that you get on Excel sheet - the same columns, same rows.

  2. Microsoft Office Excel PivotTable. The most powerful of all these methods, doesn't requiring any development costs. This reporting approach should be considered in the second turn (at first - Advanced Find).

    Microsoft Office Excel Pivot Table

    A PivotTable report is an interactive way to quickly summarize large amounts of data. Use a PivotTable report to analyze numerical data in detail and to answer unanticipated questions about your data. A PivotTable report is especially designed for:

    • Querying large amounts of data in many user-friendly ways.
    • Subtotaling and aggregating numeric data, summarizing data by categories and subcategories, and creating custom calculations and formulas.
    • Expanding and collapsing levels of data to focus your results, and drilling down to details from the summary data for areas of interest to you.
    • Moving rows to columns or columns to rows (or "pivoting") to see different summaries of the source data.
    • Filtering, sorting, grouping, and conditionally formatting the most useful and interesting subset of data to enable you to focus on the information that you want.
    • Presenting concise, attractive, and annotated online or printed reports.

    More information about the features of Microsoft Excel PivotTable and samples can be found at Office Online Portal

  3. Microsoft Office Word Mail Merge. In fact, this is not a real reporting tool, but I think it necessary to mention about it. The Mail Merge function allows you to create Microsoft Word documents filled with the data from CRM based on a specified template. This can be automatically generated letters to business partners (invitations, notifications, congratulations, etc.), offers, information materials for products and company services, contracts forms, finally. I.e. absolutely any Microsoft Word document which will be filled with data from Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

    Here an example of creating a Word Mail Merge template and using it with CRM: Dynamics CRM 4.0: Create a New Microsoft Office Word Mail Merge Document & Upload a Mail Merge Template to Dynamics CRM 4.0

  4. Microsoft Office Snap-in. In 2006 Microsoft announced the release of Microsoft Dynamics Snap - a collection of add-ons (snaps) for Microsoft Office products family. This technology allows Microsoft Office users to interact with data and business processes from certain Microsoft Dynamics applications as they create documents, collaborate and manage their calendar – all without having to leave Microsoft Office.

    Snap-ins are extensions that are implemented on the base of Microsoft Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO). Typically, this is different taskbars and wizards (like a step-by-step merge wizard).

    Microsoft Office Snap-In

    For more information on VSTO opportunities see Microsoft Office Developer Center.

 

Developing custom reports platform

ADO.NET has not been canceled, and nothing prevents you from write a report engine for any needs. At this point each in his own way - SQL-query to database, CRM API-methods calling, viewing in WinForms, WPF or ASP.NET, document generation in Microsoft Office, XSL-transformations...

Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services reports

A more thorough business analysis involves the use of the service Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services to build Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) cubes. Analysis Services enables you to analyze large quantities of data. With it, you can design, create, and manage multidimensional structures that contain detail and aggregated data from multiple data sources.

 

Comparative characteristics and recommendations for the use of a particular approach to creating reports in Microsoft Dynamics CRM described in this post.

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Nice Summary

Thanks for writing up such a nice summary

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