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Reporting and Analysis

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CRM systems capture data about your customers' interactions, and your database will quickly grow to thousands (or millions) of data records about your customers. Although it's beneficial to capture these customer interactions in a database, this customer data provides real value only if you can easily extract it and present it to your users in a simple and easy-to-read format. Microsoft CRM systems capture data about your customers' interactions, and your database will quickly grow to thousands (or millions) of data records about your customers. Although it's beneficial to capture these customer interactions in a database, this customer data provides real value only if you can easily extract it and present it to your users in a simple and easy-to-read format. Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 offers multiple reporting and analysis options, and you can decide which tool to use based on factors such as the desired output format and the type of user who will create the analysis.

One thing we've learned from implementing Microsoft CRM at various companies is that not everyone defines the expression report the same way. When people in information technology departments hear the term, most of them immediately think of powerful report writing tools such as Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services. However, most non-technology users such as managers and executives think of reports as simply getting their data; they typically don't care how they get it, as long as they get it on time and accurately. The Microsoft CRM user interface uses the term report to refer any type of data analysis file, regardless of its origin and type. Therefore, a report might be a Microsoft Office Excel file, a SQL Server Reporting Services report, a third-party reporting file, or a link to an external Web page report.

Note Although Microsoft CRM does not explicitly refer to entity views and the Advanced Find feature as reports, we consider them important data reporting and analysis tools because of their flexibility and ease of use. Therefore, we'll discuss their use as a reporting tool in this article.

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