Microsoft Dynamics CRM Activity Feeds vs. RSS Feeds
Yesterday I had an interesting question—What is the big deal about Activity Feeds? We’ve had the ability to have RSS feeds in CRM since version 3.0, but they weren’t widely used. What makes Activity Feeds different or better than RSS feeds?
Before we started using activity feeds, I had a similar response—why do we need that? We could use RSS feeds and notes. I thought this was mainly social hype.
However, once I saw the light of how activity feeds could work and what the user experience is like once you have the appropriate auto-post rules configured, I became a big fan.
The main differentiators between activity feeds and RSS feeds that I would highlight are:
1. RSS feeds are passive—you can’t do anything with them—you can’t click on them to go to the record, you can’t get more information. You can’t comment on them.
2. RSS feeds are lists of records—you see the title/name/subject of the record. Given that activity feed posts can be written in a more conversational way, they can be much more meaningful. For example, with RSS feeds you will see a list that has company A, company B, company C, it is just a list of records.
With Activity Feeds, your feed post can say “John Smith closed a deal at company A for $100,000.” The Activity Feed post tells you a lot more, and you can click on any of the records mentioned in the post, so there are so many different ways you can go with it.
3. RSS feeds are based on views—this is good if you want a list of records of a certain type; however if you want a combination of notes, activities, opportunities, or cases all in the same rss feed, you can’t really do it.
4. RSS feeds are separate from the application, and the reason a lot of my customers never used them was that for an on-premise deployment, additional work was necessary to make the RSS feeds available externally to your network or on a mobile device. Activity feeds are more “part of the application” than RSS feeds were—they can be viewed inside of the application, in the mobile app, and this will increase all the more with cross browser support.
Maximize the usability of Activity feeds
To really appreciate the promise of activity feeds, I recommend the following:
- Create auto-post workflows based on the most important system events (the ones that are most important to you, that drive your business)
- Follow the records that are important to you (the users on your team, your employees, the projects you work on). Have the auto posts appropriately add mentions to make the messages show up on multiple levels.
- After a day or two, you will have a list of system events that are important to you. This is when the light comes on, when you see actionable notifications in one list, with the appropriate actions.
I equate this experience with the notification center on your smartphone—a single place where you can see what is going on and what is important to you to know now, and one where you can comment on the notifications, which will spur discussions within your group.
I don’t consider activity feeds to be “permanent” records, like activities or contacts. I consider activity feed posts to be a lighter type of record that is used for notification or internal communication/discussions. For example, I still recommend to my clients that if you have information regarding an account that you want to be visible when a new sales representative inherits the account in 5 years, use a note; however if you have a discussion regarding an issue you are having with the sales process, activity feeds are a great venue.
I’ve also found that Activity Feeds are very useful for monitoring user adoption. Granted, CRM can audit when people log into the system, but that doesn’t tell me that they actually did anything. Given that Activity Feeds give me a fairly easy way to automatically record event specific actions, I can define auto posts around the most important system actions based on my priorities, and see how active various users are in doing the system actions that are most important for my business.