Tip #1126: Recycling Entities Does Not Always Make Sense

To all our American comrades – Happy Independence Day!

My current project is for a university. People enrol, they study, they graduate and become alumni. On a couple of occasions I have met with internal staff who have ideas on Dynamics design. Those that come from a pure database background seek to devolve every interaction into an intersection of three tables: Party 1, Party 2, and an interaction type. For example, a Student and a Degree with an action of Enrollment.

Those that come from the business side and have some knowledge of the Dynamics structure seek to apply their business model to existing Dynamics structures. For example, isn’t a student enrollment similar to a sales Opportunity? We have a customer, we have products, which are like Degrees, and enrollment is like closing the Opportunity, right?

While well meaning, both positions miss the mark. In theory, a three table interaction could be generated within Dynamics and this may well be “best practice” in database design. However, it throws away all the richness Microsoft has built into Dynamics. For example Automated Lead to Opportunity conversion, Outlook and Office integration, and in-built dashboards and templates are rendered useless and have to be rebuilt from scratch.

Similarly, in trying to over-recycle existing entities, we tangle ourselves up in this richness and it becomes baggage to work around. Degrees do not work like Dynamics Products and the things we need for one do not apply to the other (what is the Product equivalent of a degree course, for example?) While in other systems it is hard work to generate custom entities, and this is often the motivation for recycling, it is quite easy in Dynamics and should not be feared.

Finding the balance of where to build new structures and where to use existing ones is often more art than science and relies on the experience of having tried it in the past. This is one of the reasons why when asked what the best thing you can do to ensure the success of a Dynamics implementation is, I reply get a Microsoft partner (or MVP) involved. Let their past successes (and occasional failures) guide you.

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