CRM 2013 Beta: Business Process Flows Part 1

CRM 2013 has introduced a new functionality known as “Business Process Flows” (not to be confused with “Business Rules”, “Real-Time Workflows” or “Background Processes” – they are all different functionalities in CRM 2013!). In this post I shall focus on “Business Process Flows” and why I think this is one of the most important new additions to Dynamics CRM 2013.

Business Process Flow

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 “Business Process Flows” essentially define a series of steps to guide an end-user through a data-entry process to achieve a particular business goal. The beauty of this functionality is that anyone can build a business process flow based on a defined business process, with no development involved (i.e. no coding). This is very important as it empowers the customer to tailor Dynamics CRM and edit any existing business process flows without having to wait through the development/test cycles necessary when updating any existing code-base.

Business Process Flows vs (Real-Time / Background) Workflows vs Business Rules

If you have been working with CRM 2011 (or earlier), you will be familiar with the concept of a workflow. In CRM 2013 workflows have been extended so they can either be synchronous (real-time workflows) or asynchronous (background processes). Two key differences between business process flows and workflows are:

  1. Business process flows have no ability to do conditional checks. That is, you cannot do an “if .. else…” conditional statement in a business process flow.
  2. The business process flow editor does not allow you to extend the functionality of business process flows by adding code directly within the editor. However, you can still attach code (e.g., plugins or Javascript) to form events or field changes that can be triggered by the business process flow.

Also, business process flows should not be confused with Business Rules, which is another new functionality introduced in CRM 2013. For more information, see a previous post here.

Example

For example, several business process flows are included in Dynamics CRM 2013 out of the box for the lead, opportunity and case entities. The activated business process flows for those entities will appear as a coloured cross section on top of the form.

BPF1-01

As in the above screenshot, each business flow process can have multiple “stages” (e.g. Qualify, Develop, Propose, Close). Each stage is made up of multiple “steps” guiding the user to enter relevant data on the form. For example, the “Qualify” stage for the lead entity has 7 steps. Each step representing a field on the form, e.g. “Existing Contact?”, “Existing Account?”, guides the end-user to look up information about the contact and/or account if this lead is an existing customer (whose data is already in the system).

Capabilities and Limitations

Here are some of the facts and limits associated with business process flows (at least in this beta release of Dynamics CRM 2013):

  • Business process flows can be created for most (system or custom) entities in CRM 2013 (but not for entities that have not been “refreshed” yet)
  • Business process flows can span multiple entities (up to a maximum of 5 entities) in order to capture a business process that moves e.g. from account creation to contact creation for capturing relevant information.
  • Each entity enabled for business process flow can have a maximum of 10 active business process flows associated
  • You can block a user from moving onto the next stage in a business process flow by enforcing “stage-gating”. That is, the user must enter all required information before moving onto to the next stage of the process.
  • It’s possible to associate security roles to business process flows. As security roles are usually linked to an end-user’s job responsibilities, you can ensure only those business process flows relevant to the end-user’s daily business tasks are displayed to that user, by controlling access via security roles.
  • You can essentially combine business process flows with business rules, plugins, javascripts, real-time/background workflows as long as all triggers for each type of processes, plugins and javascripts are clearly defined. E.g. you can define a business flow for an entity which has a stage containing a step (i.e. field) that, when its value changes, triggers either a javascript, plugin or workflow to create another entity record.
  • For a (refreshed) entity, once you turned on the ability to create business process flow via the “Entity Definition” screen in customization, you can’t undo this  as it creates several system attributes in the database, including “processid” and “stageid” which are unique identities linking the entity and the business process flow and stage.

BPF1-02

In the next post I shall provide an example of how a business process flow is built in CRM 2013.

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