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Avoiding Duplicates in Dynamics

   Words by Joanna Garton

   on 16/04/2018 09:30:00

When we look at Data Management we have increasingly powerful tools with Machine Learning and connections to Online Services such as LinkedIn - however our end users are ultimately still human, and in the words of Alexander Pope “To err is human”, in which user error can result in duplicate records. 

Similarly 3rd Party Integrations with external sources/applications, logic bugs and other anomalies can also lead to some duplication of data.

To combat this Dynamics CRM gives us a handy tool in Duplicate Detection functionality under Data Management.

We can enable and start using this functionality by navigating to Settings and selecting Data Management in Dynamics:

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Our top option here is duplicate detection settings, the following pop will appear where we can select to enable duplicate detection.

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Our next step is to set our duplicate detection rules, here we can decide our criteria, (Hint: duplication rules are applied as AND statements!).

In this instance we are looking at the Contact entity record and we want the detection tool to alert us if the first name, last name and customer are an exact match:

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Once we are happy with our criteria, we can publish the rule to start this operating in Dynamics. (this behaves in a similar fashion to Activating or Deactivating a Workflow in Dynamics)

With the Rule Published, we can then see this in action in Dynamics - in the below image a new contact has been created, and upon trying to save the new contact, we see the following pop-up error message:

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Here we can see that there has already been a contact saved under the same details, we can then decide how we want to proceed.

This functionality is can be cumbersome as the warning is only shown on-Save of the record, as opposed to a search-as-you-type format; but the use of bespoke Rules allows for a huge degree of flexibility to Duplicate Check across different Entities (to check new Leads against existing Contacts for example), and to incorporate Checks into any new Custom Entities we add into our Dynamics Solution.

The Duplicate Detection logic can also be used as a Scheduled Task to produce a Overnight Report that highlights all duplicates within a specified time period.

So now we have walked through the basic fundamentals of the duplicate detection tool within CRM, It is important to note that the duplicate detection tool in CRM is useful in IDENTIFYING duplicates, however will not resolve these duplicates, this is up to the user on how to proceed.

For this however, Dynamics does provide us with excellent functionality for Merging Records as way of resolving duplicates.

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Whilst a useful tool to aid quality of data in CRM this Deduplication and Merge is not an entirely autonomous or intelligent system, so spelling errors and data imports may allow loop holes in how clean our data can be.

However as Machine Learning improves in how automated systems can look at data and identify previously unseen connections or problems, this could change in the future. 

We can see some of this functionality in place in the new Relevance Search in Dynamics 365, and how this brings Azure Search Analytics into Dynamics – and we could see similar functionality brought into the Duplicate Detection in the future.

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Further Reading

Microsoft - Set up duplicate detection rules to keep your data clean

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365/customer-engagement/admin/set-up-duplicate-detection-rules-keep-data-clean

The CRM Book – Keeping Data Clean in Microsoft Dynamics 365

https://crmbook.powerobjects.com/basics/data-management-in-microsoft-dynamics-crm/keeping-data-clean-in-microsoft-dynamics-crm/

The Marks Group – Dynamics 365 – Duplicate Detection Jobs & Merging Records

http://www.marksgroup.net/blog/dynamics-365-duplicate-detection-jobs-merging-records/ 

Quick Overview of Relevance Search in Microsoft Dynamics 365

https://community.dynamics.com/crm/b/magnetismsolutionscrmblog/archive/2017/10/10/a-quick-overview-of-relevance-search-in-microsoft-dynamics-365

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