Microsoft Dynamics CRM Ribbon Customization Made Easy

Customization is key to a user experience that is intuitive, familiar and is an aid to productivity. From an implementation professional’s perspective, it is vital in establishing and maintaining high user adoption rates.

Any virtually well-known CRM (and in our case Microsoft Dynamics CRM) – is a platform made to be all things to all people. In other words, any business that has customer relationships that need to be managed and maintained, can utilize a CRM solution.

 

How XRM factors in

What’s more, the new “XRM” concept abstracts that a step further by removing the “customer” concept from the equation. Now, the door has been opened to organizations that manage clients, students, parishioners, volunteers, donors, members, etc.  

With all these concepts for whom a CRM can serve, if you are a user it can make it very difficult to get your head around how the software solution applies to your needs, your work life, and your challenges.

A truly useful user interface must take all those ambiguous principles of “relationship management” and focus them down to concepts and features that work in a specific industry / vertical / segment to be an effective tool.

 

Getting control over Dynamics CRM

Fortunately, Dynamics CRM offers an incredible level of control over the entities, language and processes that make each organization unique. When user interface customizations are well-executed, Dynamics CRM can look and feel like a purpose-built custom software product. 

In fact, customizations are so streamlined and easy, that it is well within many “power users” abilities to do additional customizations without any MS Partner assistance at all.

However, one area of the GUI to which it has always been difficult to make changes to is the “ribbon”. The ribbon is the horizontal strip of icons and button at the top of all Microsoft desktop products since the inception of Office 2007.

By now you’ve likely memorized the location of every feature you regularly use when in Excel, Word, Outlook, and even Dynamics CRM. In Microsoft’s opinion, it’s the common thread between all their products that comprises “the Microsoft look-and-feel”.

In Dynamics CRM, until now you’ve had to have a guru-level command of XML to do such simple tasks as add a button, disable a button, change the label, etc. For some reason, the beautiful point-and-click interface created to make system customizations just was not extended to editing the ribbon. That is until now.

 

Customizing the Dynamics CRM ribbon bar

Recently (and obviously because enough CRM people have experienced this frustration), several 3rd party solutions have popped up that aim to address this gap in CRM functionality.

One I’ve used is the The Ribbon Workbench (www.develop1.net).

The Ribbon Workbench is a free download, and installs like any solution, right into your CRM deployment. It provides an intuitive and visual way to make in-depth modifications to CRM’s ribbon, without cutting a single line of code.

Often without the help system you are able to add a new button to the ribbon, give it a new icon and label, and determine when it should be enabled / disabled.

With a little more discovery, you can also apply “Display Rules” that allow you to add security to a particular ribbon item. For example, are only managers allowed to close an opportunity?

 

Dynamics CRM Ribbon Editor

It is also possible to do more advanced things, like embed Javascript function calls behind a button to pop up a warning, pass parameters to a dialog box, and do general housekeeping.

It’s just even easier to customize now then before

Of course, this was all possible prior to GUI-based ribbon editors like the Ribbon Workbench, but it is now so much more elegant and so much less error prone.

As with anything, once the tools are easy to use, it is natural to want to push the envelope more, and “have some fun” with them. This is perhaps the true value of Develop 1’s product.

It exposes you to a level of customization in Dynamics CRM that can help make the user experience even more intelligent, and even more focused.

Ultimately, it’s the development and improvement of customer relationships that matter most in CRM implementations.

And one of the things that I enjoy the most about serving customers is making their lives as easy as possible when they are using CRM.

As the name suggests, the Ribbon Workbench is another tool in the developer’s “workbench” to accomplish just that.

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