Tip #641: Die, subject, die!

Categories entityWith the exception of the Queen who, according to Oscar Wilde, “is not a subject”, subject entity has always been a subject for complaints. Simple search on Dynamics CRM Feedback site shows a long wishlist where people wanted to filter the subject tree, being able to type in subject lookup, have multi-lingual support, use it in dialogs, etc.

But inability to customize the subject entity is arguably the biggest drawback of them all. In short, with the exception of a very few narrow scenarios concoted in early naughties,

Subject entity is next to useless and delivers nothing but a substandard user experience and pain for administrators and customizers

Enter sparkling Category entity, available in CRM Online 2016 Update 1 and CRM 2016 Service Pack 1 (on-premises). Don’t get the location of the entity under Settings > Service Management > KB Management to fool you. The only thing KB articles get that you can’t is native N:N relationship. Here is the short list of features of the entity designed to, uhm, categorize CRM records.

  • Customizable with the exception of N:1 and N:N links. Custom properties, views, business rules and even dashboards
  • User owned (read: security and tree filtering)
  • “Normal” lookup dialog with typeahead and other features
  • Auto-numbering
  • Hierarchy with the ability to order children using SequenceNumber attribute (some assembly may be required)
  • Need many-to-many? Enable categories for Connections and link away
  • Use it in dialogs, plugins and processes (cannot itself be enabled for business process flows though)
  • Anything else?

I’m sure there is more to it and we’ll be seeing steady migration from the subjects. But is it too little too late and everybody has already implemented their own taxonomy?

3 thoughts on “Tip #641: Die, subject, die!

  1. Robin says:

    I’m interested if there are examples of people using neither Subjects or Categories and just having a new option set? Reason being it looks better in the D365 app for mobile as its the minimal number of taps to get the right information into the field.

    Wondering if I’m missing something like the additional functionality presented with Categories that an option set lacks maybe?

    great site by the way, only come across it recently but wish I had earlier in development of CRM in our business!

    • Subjects are hierarchical but clumsy, Categories were supposed to fix that but someone decided that KB is the only entity needing N:N with Categories. Optionset is not hierarchical though multiselect is a reasonable compromise for N:N, except that you can’t properly record or use it in charts… Sigh…

      And thank you for the kind words!

  2. Andrew Perkin says:

    Categories have a pretty good UI and are a nice concept but presenting it as a simple lookup on entities such as Case completely spoils that. Unless I have missed something.

    You need to see the category hierarchy so ideally Microsoft need to provide a new custom control element we can add to the form when categories are in use to deal with that.

    We will have to revert to subjects as users find the categories confusing due to lack of lookup hierarchy. Had considered a third party control but that’s more customisation than we want to do ta the moment.

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