CRM + SharePoint * Excel Services = Epic Awesomeness

What’s the best way to get someone to eat their vegetables? Force feed them ūüėČ

All kidding aside, CRM can be a pretty powerful tool and when people don’t want to use it we have to find creative ways to get them to use CRM. In addition to CRM usage, we have people who are absolutely married to Excel. And these aren’t your typical Excel files. These are files that legends are made of. Crazy formulas, vlookups galore; you name it, we use it. To make matters worse, they e-mail these Excel reports around all day, every day as attachments. So let’s kill two birds with one stone. We stop a big group of people from e-mailing Excel attachments and we get them to use CRM. Win-win for everyone (or at least that’s the hope).

  1. Save Excel file in an easy to find, easy to access place in SharePoint – doing this in SharePoint gives us all the doc mgmt benefits that we’ve come to know and love
  2. Configure your Excel REST API URL – I’ve made it pretty clear that I love SharePoint’s REST APIs in the past and the Excel API is no exception. You can read more about it here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee556413(v=office.14).aspx
  3. Create a new Web Resource in CRM – we’re going to iframe our Excel REST API URL call
  4. Choose Web Page (HTML) as the Type and then click “Text Editor”
  5. Click the Source tab
  6. Paste in your iframe code between the <body> tags. Your code should look like this:
    https://dude.com/sites/site1/_vti_bin/ExcelRest.aspx/Documents/Document.xlsx/Model/Ranges('Scorecard')?$format=html
    • Note the frameborder, height, and width attributes.¬†These are needed to eliminate the nasty border and to make scrolling work correctly.¬†iframe’s aren’t perfect and getting them to work feels “hacky” but the user won’t know the difference and it should perform relatively seamless in all browsers.
  7. Click Publish
  8. Now, navigate to the desired dashboard and add your new Web Resource, click Save, and Publish.

Users should now see the Excel spreadsheet in their dashboard:

If users do not have access to the spreadsheet they should encounter an Error:Access Denied prompt or a blank screen depending on the browser they use.

Extra Credit

In our case, the Excel spreadsheet scrolled FOREVER. I wanted to give users a pleasurable experience but I also didn’t necessarily want them resorting to Excel on the client right away.¬†I added a “Click to View in a separate Window” link in the iframe Web resource. Here’s what my code looked like:

<p><a href="https://dude.crm.dynamics.com/WebResources/new_iframe2">Click to View in separate Window</a></p>https://dude.com/sites/site1/_vti_bin/ExcelRest.aspx/Documents/Document.xlsx/Model/Ranges('Scorecard')?$format=html

All HTML Web Resources are web pages, so I linked directly to the web page. But notice I linked to new_iframe2? I didn’t want users seeing “Click to View” on every page so I made an identical web resource, except I removed the hyperlink from the top, making for a seamless experience for the user. There’s all sorts of other things I could have done on the new_iframe2 page. I could have linked to the Excel Web Access or even directly to Excel itself, but we’ll leave it like that for now.

Ultimately, I’ve gotten¬†the report builders¬†to stop e-mailing this specific report as an attachment, and now the audience of the spreadsheet has to go to CRM to view it rather than getting it e-mailed to them. Awesome.

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