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Keeping Data Organized and Duplicate-Free with Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Microsoft Dynamics CRM offers a wide variety of options for managing the potential impact of duplicates on data quality. Anne Stanton, author of Sams Teach Yourself Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4 in 24 Hours, explains the ways Microsoft Dynamics CRM protects against duplicate entries and finds duplicates that may have been created.
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In a collaborative environment sometimes it is hard to keep up with the speed of new accounts, contacts, and leads that an empowered sales team and company can produce. One of the negative symptoms of such a great collaborative environment is data quality issues from duplicated effort. Consider for instance a team of people working on the same accounts and meeting the same contacts. If they are really busy they might easily assume that an account or contact has not been entered, or perhaps they just don't have time to use the available advanced search to even look to see if a contact exists before creating it. Accounts, contacts, and leads are also not the only item that can be duplicated. It is not unusual for a person to mistakenly enter a duplicate invoice or opportunity or even for a person or different people to create a duplicate quote or order. Duplicates can be a real problem for many systems.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM offers a number of different ways to both protect against duplicates and to find duplicates that may have been created. This not only includes a proactive review of accounts and contacts on create or update, but it also offers you the ability to build in simple or complex rules to check for duplicates in other entities such as leads, activities, orders, opportunities or invoices. Additionally you have the option to check for duplicates during a data import or if you use the Microsoft Outlook client when you go from offline to online.

To simplify getting started using Microsoft Dynamics CRM duplicate checking, the system ships with three standard rules which you can modify, utilize, build onto, or expand. These include a rule to check for duplicate leads which have the same e-mail address, a rule to check for duplicate accounts which have the same e-mail address, and a rule to check for duplicate contacts which have the same e-mail address. These default duplicate rules can be used in a new duplicate job, changed, or deleted.

There are three parts to duplicate checking in Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The first part is found under Settings, Data Management, Duplicate Detection Setting. This option controls when duplicate detection rules run, including the following optional options:

  • when a record is updated or created
  • when Microsoft Dynamics CRM Outlook client goes from offline to online
  • during data import

The second part of duplicate detection is the defining of the duplicate detection rule or rules. It is also found under Settings, Data Management and is listed as Duplicate Detection Rules. Rules can be very simple, such as asking the system to check for all accounts with an exact match between account names, or the duplicate detection rules can be extremely complex and composed of many different variables. An example of a complex duplicate rule might include only marking an account as a duplicate if the first three characters of the account name match, the city and state are an exact match, and the area code and first 2 digits of the main telephone number also match. The more complex duplicate checking rules allow for the system to check for duplicates where the account name might have significant variations. For instance "Watches International," "Watches Ltd.", and "Watches Incorporated" might really all be the same account, but an exact match on the account name would not flag them as duplicates. A more sophisticated rule that looks at the first 6 letters of the account name and a secondary check on another variable in the account record would flag the item and allow the user to review.

Once the duplicate detection rules are defined and published, there is a third part to the functionality: the creation, review and management of the duplicate detection job or jobs. You have the option to run a duplicate detection job on demand or to set a duplicate detection job to run at regular intervals. The duplicate detection job runs one or more of the duplicate detection rules that you defined. A new duplicate detection job is setup using a specific wizard from either, Settings, Data Management, Duplicate Detection Jobs or from My Work, Duplicate Detection. When you create a duplicate detection job you can limit the data that is checked using features that mimic the advanced find functionality. For instance, you can limit a duplicate detection job to all accounts within a specific zip code or all accounts owned by a specific person. Once you limit the data you want to check, you then specify how often you want the duplicate detection job to run, when the job should start, and who should be notified when the job is completed. The system can send an e-mail to a specific email address when the duplicate detection job is finished.

What happens when a new account is entered and a duplicate account exists? If a duplicate detection rule exists and a duplicate detection job is enabled on create or update, then the system will warn the user that a duplicate exists and it will list all the potential duplicates in a review window. The user then has the option to either ignore the warning or to choose the duplicate from the review window and update it with the information that they are trying to enter. When they choose the duplicate it would discard the data that has been entered up until the duplicate check indicated a problem.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM offers a wide variety of options for managing the potential impact of duplicates on data quality. In addition to a powerful search to check for a set of duplicates prior to entering a duplicate record, the software also offers automatic checking on create and update based on user defined rules and user defined duplicate checking jobs. If these features are correctly configured and surrounded by good business process, firms have the ability to significantly increase the quality of their existing data. They also have the ability to not only prevent duplicates, but to check for them if they are imported from other systems.

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