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Dynamics 365
4 min read

Tracking and Synchronization of Communication Activities and Contacts using Outlook and Exchange Integrations in CRM

Dynamics CRM has the most comprehensive Outlook & Exchange integrations in the industry. We are leaders in the industry since the beginning with a COM add-in for Outlook – CRM for Outlook.

The tracking of customer and prospect communication is a key capability for any CRM system. In sales, the salespeople have to keep track of communication with their prospects and customers for new deals or opportunities. In customer service, email is one of the important channels of communication between customer service agents and customers for the issues on products and services.

Dynamics CRM allows tracking and synchronization of the data – emails, appointments, tasks, and contacts – associated with this communication. There are two ways to track this data in CRM.

Manual Tracking

This can be done using two clients. One is through our deep integration with Outlook using a COM add-in CRM for Outlook mentioned earlier. Second is through our new lightweight client – CRM app for Outlook.

CRM for Outlook supports actions to track the items like emails, appointments, tasks and contacts. For further details, please see Overview of tracking records in CRM for Outlook. All standard operations in Outlook and Exchange such as Create, Update, Delete are supported. The user can also perform other operations in Outlook – for example, assign task to another user, and have those updates flow through tracked items.

Our CRM app for outlook only supports tracking of emails currently. However, tracking of appointments, and contacts is on our future release roadmap. The app is supported across various browsers for OWA (Outlook Web App) including Mac & Windows platforms, and devices. It also works on Outlook desktop client. In future, we will also support it on outlook mobile app. It is a zero footprint client on the client devices using Office app extensibility platform. It also supports capabilities for getting contextual information regarding the email. For further details on CRM app for outlook, please see CRM App for Outlook User’s Guide.

Not only can you track these items, but you can link them, or set them “regarding” a specific lead, opportunity, case or even a custom entity.

Automated Tracking

There are two ways to do automated tracking for received emails. One is rule based tracking. There are three rules by which you can track received emails in your inbox – all emails, or emails from your contacts and leads, or emails that are in response to tracked emails. In CRM 2015, we introduced another method called folder based tracking. The folder based tracking allows the user to create folders in Outlook or Outlook Web app or Exchange. These folders may correspond to any CRM entity record such as Opportunity, Case, Account, etc. The user can either write automated rules in exchange or outlook to move inbox emails to these folders. Our synchronization capability picks up emails in those folders for synchronization. The biggest advantage is that it can also be used with native mobile device email apps by dragging and dropping the email into these folders. Please review Track Outlook email by moving it to a tracked Exchange folder for further details.

CRM also supports converting social feeds such as a tweet (from Twitter) to a case or opportunity either manually or automatically based on sentiment or intent using integration with Microsoft Social Engagement. For further details, please review Create a CRM record from a social post.

Data Synchronization

CRM supports two ways to do bi-directional synchronization of communication activities and contacts. The items tracked using manual or automated tracking described above are picked up by our synchronization methods to synchronize with CRM. One way is through our CRM for Outlook. It uses client side outlook synchronization to do bidirectional synchronization of data. Since CRM 2013, we introduced a new method called Server-Side Synchronization which replaces email router. The server side synchronization has many benefits including reduced administration costs for our online customers.

CRM for Outlook supports both synchronization methods, but, server side synchronization is preferred. CRM app for Outlook only supports server side synchronization. In bidirectional synchronization, the data is synchronized in both directions. The changes to CRM data based on user or organizational (system) filters are synchronized with Exchange or Outlook. The changes to outlook or Exchange data based on manual or automated tracking are also synchronized with CRM. The emails, appointments and tasks are synchronized with respective activities in CRM and Outlook/Exchange contacts are synchronized with CRM contacts. The delete operation in CRM or delete/track operations in Outlook & Exchange have specific behavior. For further details on data synchronization, please review Synchronize data with Outlook or Exchange FAQ.

The synchronization can be configured at the organizational level to provide flexibility for the administrator to synchronize fields of an item in one direction, or both directions or none (Do not Synchronize). All field level security is applied for both synchronization methods. Please review help article Control field synchronization between CRM and Outlook or Exchange for further details.

CRM also provides choice to our customers by supporting all four cases including hybrid scenarios – CRM online with Exchange Online & Exchange Onpremises, and CRM Onpremises with Exchange Online and Exchange Onpremises. For further details, please review help article Supported email service configurations for server-side synchronization.

In summary, our differentiators in outlook and exchange integrations are unmatched in the industry. In our fall release we will introduce a new way to track emails in our browser clients (web client) by incorporating untracked emails from contacts and leads into our activity feed. Our roadmap also includes innovation in this space using text analytics on email body to understand user’s intent by data mining of exchange emails to get relationship insights. We shall continue to innovate on manual or automated rules for tracking and synchronization using CRM app for Outlook and Server Side Synchronization.