CRM 2013 Beta: Business Rules

Note: CRM 2013 is not due to be released until October 2013. The information provided in this blog might different from the final product.

CRM 2013 provides a new functionality called “Business Rules” (not to be confused with “Business Processes”). It gives non-technical users the ability to do several kinds of client-side validation that require Javascript (i.e. development) in CRM 2011. When I first heard of this functionality I was fairly excited. After all, the less scripts required, the less development required, the less gap to meet; that hopefully means cost-saving for the customer. What’s not to like?

However, I started to play with it in the beta release of CRM 2013 and I found the functionality somewhat incomplete. Let me elaborate in this post….

Business Rules

A business rule for a field on a form consists of 3 parts:

  • A set of conditions to check (e.g. the “Phone” field on the Account form does not contain data). Instead of checking for a particular value, the user can also compare one field against another field on the same form; just set the “Type” to “Field” instead of “Value”.
  • A set of actions to take if the condition is met
  • Description – a text field for further explanation of the conditions and actions

BusinessRule-01

Once the business rule is built, the user has to save and activate this business rule, and publish the form on which the business rule is set.

BusinessRule-02

Under the hood, CRM 2013 generates the required Javascript for the business rule that will always be run on the form.

From the front end, when a user edits the “Phone” field on an Account form and fills in a phone number does which not begin with 08450, then a little error message will be displayed after the phone field loses focus (e.g. when the user tabs out).

BusinessRule-03

Business Rule Actions Available

So far, there are 5 different  types of actions a user can choose to do if the condition is satisfied in a Business Rule. These are pretty self-explanatory.

BusinessRule-04

For example, the “Lock or unlock field” could be pretty handy if there is a business requirement to e.g. “Unlocks” the “Estimated Revenue” field on an opportunity form if an Account has been set in the “Customer” lookup field. For the most part, I have no problem with the bottom 4 actions. However, I was testing the “Show error message” and discovered several weaknesses to Business Rules.

Business Rules Limitations

  • The Business Rule action “Show error message” does not block the form from saving!! Using the previous example, if I set my “Phone” number to not begin with “08450”, the error message will be displayed to warn me of the problem, but if I ignore it, I can continue to save the record, hence sending the Phone number to the CRM database. Personally, the whole point of validation is to check for some conditions and ask the user to correct the action, before allowing them to save the form. Microsoft explains this lack in the pre-release forum  by saying that in Javascript it would have required 2 separate actions: (1) an alert displaying the error, and if desired, (2) to block the form saving event. While I understand the logic, I would very much have liked to put a block-from-saving action on the business rule to complete the validation. At the moment, this is not available.
  • All conditions in the Business Rules are evaluated with “AND”. There is no OR. This means a user cannot build a validation to check that Condition A “OR” Condition B is true. This is pretty limiting when compared with previous client side validation methods.
  • There is also no way to call Javascript (or other web resource) via the business rule editor. This means a user cannot plug any gap in functionality within Business Rule with client side scripting.

To be honest, I am less concerned about the third limitation as for the first two. At least there should be the “block form from saving” action or else it is very difficult to recommend this “Business Rules” functionality to clients as a complete simple validation editor with which they can build validations without writing a single line of code. So far Microsoft is saying little about this in the feedback. But let’s hope the product release in October offers some improvements.

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