If you are new to Microsoft Dynamics CRM, the jargon workflows and dialogs can be confusing. There are plenty of excellent resources that compare Microsoft Dynamics CRM workflows and dialogs from a technical perspective, but perhaps you are looking for a basic overview that helps you understand why you would use Workflows or Dialogs from a business perspective.
Both workflows and dialogs fall into the category of “Processes” in MSCRM because they are technologies that are designed to support and automate business processes. They can BOTH be found in the Settings area under Processes.
Dynamics CRM Workflows are automated processes that you design to run in the background. They can be triggered manually by the user, or they can be triggered automatically by something occurring in the application such as the value of a field changing, a record being assigned to another user or team, or a record changing status. After a Workflow is triggered, it can do a number of actions such as create a record, update a record, send an email or launch another workflow.
Workflows that are running or have run can be seen from the left navigation on a given record. While Workflows are running, the user may watch here to see the status change from In Process to Succeeded. However, the user will not *see* workflows running per se.
Here are some very simple examples of what Workflows can do:
- When a new Lead is created (trigger), send an Email to the Owner who is assigned to the Lead (action). See an example of a Microsoft CRM workflow for lead notification.
- When an Opportunity closes as Won (trigger), update the Account Relationship Type from Prospect to Customer (action).
- When the user fills in the Last Status field (action), copy that status to a Note related to the record (action).
- Select a group of contact records in a grid and run a manual Workflow (trigger) that creates a phone call activity for those contacts (action).
Of course, those are simple examples, but multiple triggers, actions, and branching conditions can be combined to create rather robust Workflows to support more complex processes such as routing a case through the resolution and escalation process or facilitating automation around the sales process.
Dialogs, which are new in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, can be best be thought of as "wizards"—think "next, next, next, next, finish." They do not happen automatically in the background, but rather they are something you design for the user to walk through on the screen. The users start the Dialog, and they are prompted for input and/or decisions before clicking Next. Based on what the user selects, Dialogs can call Workflows to do things automatically in the background.
Dialogs are initiated by the user and the user interacts with them on the screen.
Examples of dialogs might be:
- Call script: User initiates a Dialog when making an outgoing call. Each page in the Dialog feeds the user information on what to tell the recipient, and has fields for the user to collect information from the recipient. Based on this, a Dialog may also call a workflow to update the phone call or contact record with notes or information collected during the call.
- Lead qualification: The user initiates a dialog when creating a new lead to walk them through questions about whether the lead is qualified and to gather qualifying information. Based on this, Workflow may update the lead record with qualifying information or even convert the Lead into an Account/Contact in CRM.
- Microsoft Dynamics CRM dialog for processing a credit card on an order. When taking calls to process orders, a dialog may walk the user through selecting the ordering contact, selecting the credit card, and creating the credit card transaction.
As with workflows, these are very simple examples, but very robust Dialogs can be created to support and automate very complex business processes, which is all part of the extensive configurability of Microsoft Dynamics CRM and why we love it!