• Michael Intravartolo

Microsoft Previews Task Flows in Dynamics CRM 2016: Guided User Experiences for Mobile

More closed deals is a business goal that an entire organization can get behind. And Microsoft Dynamics CRM

features business process flows to help companies formalize the way they take the clients all the way from first contact through the sale.

But what about the user-level goals and processes that go into making a sale (e.g., follow-up calls, meetings with prospects, writing proposals)? Can those be mapped and represented as processes in Dynamics CRM? Currently, the answer is no, but that could be changing soon.

Users and admins looking for ways to find the fields they needed at any stage of an opportunity, and they don't want to apply the typical forms-based approach from the desktop to a mobile interface. The solution is user-level task flows, currently in preview for Dynamics CRM 2016. (In past reporting on CRM 2016, we had referred to them as "mini productivity apps") Beth Steinke-Jester, a Dynamics CRM program manager with Microsoft, introduced task flows on the Dynamics CRM Team Blog. She elaborated for MSDynamicsWorld on the differences between business process flows and task flows.

"Task flows are a subcategory of business process flows. If you think of a business flow as the business goal, the task flow is the user goal that helps move forward toward the business goal...We take a lot to heart from educated users and admins, and both gave us the feedback that a very focused user experience on mobile is highly desirable," says Steinke-Jester. "[Task flows] are our first step toward trying to satisfy both user bases."

For example, a business goal might be to close a sale, but, there are numerous smaller goals and concise actions toward the larger goal, including:

  • reaching out to the customer;

  • attending meetings with that customer with the sales team;

  • and putting a proposal together.

"Right now the common way to interact with CRM is in forms and grids," says Steinke-Jester. "If you're looking for information like a phone number, you need to know if it resides in the contact entity or the account entity - which entity it is an attribute of. [Using task flows], the user doesn't have to understand the model; the data for the right entities is up there for them."

At present, task flows are for mobile use only, which perhaps represents the best use of task flows. On a device with a smaller display, task flows can optimize the space to help the user accomplish the task that is most important right now, says Steinke-Jester.

The opportunity: Moving goals forward

Business process flows and task flows are both intended to help move opportunities and cases forward. Task flows will help at the individual user level. In the case of product support, that might mean helping the user understand which pieces of data are required to move out of that research phase and into the resolution phase with a customer.

Task flows are also useful wherever a user might be helped by guidance, but a full form might be too much information.

"Generally, more information doesn't help. Just give them what they need when they need it, and they can generally get more work done," says Steinke-Jester.

In the preview, Microsoft has provided three customizable out-of-the-box task flow templates. They include:

  • One related to the appointment entity, which helps users follow up on appointments.

  • A second focused upon on the opportunity, with information from the opportunity as well as the account and contact, which brings that information into one place to move forward in the opportunity. Different information can be displayed based on the state of the opportunity.

  • A third around updating the contact entity with both business and personal information, such that the user doesn't have to understand the underlying data structure or where the data resides in the system.

In the example of updating contact information, the main phone number belongs to the CRM's account entity and the mobile number to a contact; but, the both are available in the task flow, sparing the user from being forced to navigate multiple CRM entities from a mobile device.

What do task flows do that business process flows cannot?

A good many users attempted to model user-level goals using business process flows, said Steinke-Jester, and found it impossible due to the linear nature of business process flows. In the blog, Steinke-Jester described some specific differences:

  • Task flows are user level. If two users launch task flow A on an opportunity, each has a separate experience but can be working through it at the same time. With business flows, there is a currently active stage applied to all users' experience.

  • Different users can work on different task flows for the same record.So, user 1 can launch task flow A on an opportunity while user B works on task flow B on the same opportunity record. Business flows allow for just one single active flow per record for all users.

  • Task flows can have editable controls from not only the primary record, but also N:1 (lookup) related entities. In this multi-entity context, you can edit information from multiple entities on the same page. Business flows, by contrast, enable you to have information from the current entity scope on any given stage.

  • Users can define conditional branching logic based on any primary and N:1 related entities. With business flows, branching logic must be based on the entity in the previous stage.

  • You can define business rules. There is support for conditions and actions on the primary and N:1 related entities, versus the single-entity context of business flows.

Where to find task flows

Task flows are currently a preview feature for customers using Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2016 Update. Some limitations:

  • They're available for mobile users only using the Dynamics CRM mobile app, on their choice of supported Windows, iOS or Android devices.

  • They're not supported for solution import or export.

  • They're not role based (so, a user's available task flows are based on permissions).

  • They cannot be used in offline mode.

A CRM administrator must enable this preview feature, under Settings > Administration, then choosing System Settings and clicking the Previews tab.


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