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Using Tasks between Microsoft Teams and Dynamics

   Words by Paul McQuillan

   on 21/04/2020 10:00:00

Organising Teams is crucial to having a good working environment that gets things done – but there are a plethora of ways of doing this, and many organisations get lost with having a range of colloboration tools all running a bit disconnected from each other. 

This can sometimes actually make running a good team worse (“which tool am I using now?”), or lead to an organisation where every team or division works a bit differently from having adopted a different tool, or just gets everyone confused and so defaults back to good old email.

One way we can fix this is by having a good common platform to how we manage our work.

From a Microsoft perspective, we can do this using Dynamics 365 and Teams.

So say I have a brainwave and pick up a requirement in my business for a Task that I want one of my colleagues to focus on.

Now, its rare that I have a Task in isolation to anything, it will generally be related to a Project or an area of my business – so rather than just create a Task and then throw some wording together, I’m going to want to create the Task in relation to something.

This gives a narrative to what the Task is about, why it matters, and that helps connect what I’m doing to how the Task will be received by the person I’m allocating it to.

Whilst simple, this is key to good workflow.

We want our Tasks to be part of something, to be part of a Team working to a common goal – and not just someone throwing around to-dos.  This is the crooks of good colloboration and building an outcome-based culture instead of a ‘but thou must’ culture.

How do we do it in practice?

Well, I can start by opening Dynamics 365 and finding the ‘thing’ that this Task is about – so in my example, say a Project we are running for Business Development.

I can navigate into this Project Record in Dynamics and add the Task.

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This Task is then saved against our Project for what it is regarding, and will integrate to Outlook and our internal Workflow in CRM.

This workflow including two clauses:

  • Showing a Notification of the new task in the Microsoft Team and Channel for the Business Development Project
  • Showing a Reminder to Jade Smith in Teams on the date that the Task is Due.

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Looking at Notifications via Chat in a Microsoft Team’s Channel dedicated to that Project

Its a handy reminder, but why does this help collaboration more than just any other task reminder?  Well, the connection with Chat makes this more of a game changer – anybody connected with the Task is automatically linked in via the @Mention and can then exchange messages in the new thread that has been created -  or start a new Video or Audio chat to discuss the task.

This ability to go straight from the Reminder and into the ways we can collaborate on the Task gives a leg-on to working as a Team without having to reach for Email to keep in touch.

The Reminder also can use URLs so we can easily click from Teams and into the Task in CRM. (or Case, or Opportunity, or any other concept that we might want to track in CRM and then share via Teams)

In Microsoft Teams can also use Tabs to bring information from Dynamics into Teams—and so in our example bring the Project Record in CRM into the Channel as way of having everything easily accessible in one place:

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Embedded our Project Record in Dynamics within our Microsoft Team

This means we can raise Tasks in Dynamics for the Project without ever really leaving Teams, and then see the collaboration on those Tasks in the same shared Team workspace.

This ability for our Team to have one workspace here is a known driver of a shared mission and productivity – as our brains inherently work by linking events and tasks together, and having a workplace that reflects that makes for an easier workplace and so better productivity without micro-management trying to force people into the right focus.

Why not Planner?

Microsoft Teams comes with a great mini-project management tool in the form of planner – so shouldn’t we use this?

Well, in my opinion, if you use Dynamics, then no.

The problem with Planner is Tasks are captured but not related to any other concepts in our business outside of the Team or Channel that the Plan is located within.

This means that the Tasks exist outside of any Workflow we have in our CRM, and so starts building a ‘shadow’ Task Management system outside Activities in CRM.

Initially this can seem okay as we could draw a clear dividing line between keeping Tasks in Planner, and other concepts in CRM – but when we look at other common areas in CRM for Opportunities and Cases, we typically want these in CRM but they form a key part of our Task Management, and so the half-and-half approach of Planner + Dynamics becomes fragmented.

Ultimately we want our Task Management to be integrated with the core concepts of our business, and not existing outside of them.

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Planner – it’s great but does it create silos?

From first hand experience – its better to have our collaboration and teams structured meaningful in Microsoft Teams, but keeping the Transactions (whether they be Orders, Cases, Opportunities or Tasks) inside our CRM with a level of integration into our Teams and Channels.

One thing to note, when Planner and Dynamics are integrated with each other – well, then this will be a different story!

Summary

I’ve been working on Dynamics and SharePoint Projects for a range of businesses and sectors since 2005, and so have seen the challenges with User Adoption and getting tangible benefits of technology for some time.

with CRM, I’ve seen a good number of great projects but I’ve often struggled to see and implement a good Intranet alongside CRM to better join up both the internal and the external for a business.

The main drawbacks were that SharePoint could often be over complicated, and the lack of quick and easy collaboration tools to generate content could be limit the effectiveness of an internal intranet – particularly in smaller organisations that struggle to have time to share content that keeps an Intranet from feeling a bit empty. (similar to traditional websites vs social media in the more consumer world)

I think Microsoft Teams goes a long way to closing this loop and realising the benefits of a shared workspace – and joining pp with Dynamics and SharePoint for CRM and Document Management respectively allows an Organisation to achieve much better results.

So launching solutions incorporating the 3 systems in the Microsoft Cloud as a one-stop-shop Workplace Solution is pretty exciting.

We’ve got a variety of resources here on the CRMCS Blog dedicated to Teams, and how we integrate Dynamics and SharePoint with Teams that may be good follow-on information.

Integrating Microsoft Teams with Dynamics

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We’ve added Teams Integration into our App for integrating SharePoint and Dynamics – DocDrive365

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