Monday, October 22, 2012

Creating quotes in word

I really love CRM but as with all things you love, there are also areas where there are areas of improvement. One of these areas concerning Dynamics CRM is the functionality to create quotes by sending CRM data to a word document by using the mail merge functionality of word. Until Microsoft have fixed this, there are a few good options.

The basic functionality really consists of two parts. The first part is being able to create a document without being a programmer. The built in functionality of Dynamics CRM requires you to open the document press Alt-F9 to see the "backend" of the document and then be really savvy with Word template programming to make it work for you. The basic problem with it is handling subtables, like quote rows in a quote. As the data being sent from CRM to word is a large table with one row for each of the detail rows. The problems with this are:
- You cannot have two sub-tables
- As the word for-each functionality works in such a way that it loops through all the rows and when the cursor points to the row after the last, it will leave the for-each-loop. The header data is copies as fields to all rows. This means that you cannot, using the normal logic of a template, have a template that first shows all quote rows and then the total after the table, as the latter comes from the quote header. Microsoft have solved this by some rather intricate programming of the template that makes it almost unmodifiable for normal user and programmers not used to advanced word template programming.

I have tried one product and know of another that I have not had the chance to try yet, that try to rectify this.

The first one is DocuementCorePack from MSCRM-Addons in Austria. It has a very CRM-like addon to Word where you easily can insert the fields you like from the entities and related entities. It also has special logic for handling sub-tables and to save the document back to CRM or SharePoint. The installation program is also exemplary! It is very easy to install. They also have some additional tools that jack into to this program like the AutoMerge. The company behind it is a very stable company that has been making addons to Dynamics CRM since version 1 and they have even helped me make special adaptations to the program when I have had customers requesting this.

The second one is QuickBix Document Suite from the Swedish company QuickBix. I havn't had the chance to try it yet but they have shown it to me and it has some very good features. They also have some impressive customer references. I have tried once to install it which I was sad to say was unsuccessful. This might however have been fixed or I might just have been unlucky. The people behind the company are very friendly and are always eager to help.

The prices vary for these products and I suggest going to their web sites or send them an email to find out the details.

In conclusion I never demo the built in functionality for generating quotes to word in CRM and I really hope Microsoft will fix this as it is rather fundamental to sales force automation (SFA). Until that time, and maybe also after, there are some very good alternatives at reasonable prices so do check them out!

Gustaf Westerlund
MVP, CEO and owner at CRM-konsulterna AB


  1. I recognise what you are saying about this being a bit fiddly if you are not comfortable with editing Word field codes, and generally getting formatting right the "proper" way (eg paragraph spacings, tabs and indentation, keep with next).
    However, the implementation of a single table where each row is a quote product and also has all the header information on (and any other fields from the Account or User records for example) is quite neat, and enables you to put this information wherever you need it. You absolutely can put the totals below the detail of the products, and you can put the customer details and address at the top and the user details at the end if you wish - you just have to make sure you are inside the right field to do so. Maybe I need to write up a blog post on how to go about this...

    1. Yes, of course it can be done, but it is not just a bit fiddely especially if you view it from the perspective of normal users I still find it way too complicated. Please do write a blog article about it if you find it easy! I would very much like to read it myself. The addon products still use Word so you are not loosing any functionality, just adding some.

  2. I will try to get round to writing this up. I might have to include lots of links to other people's articles about some of the Word formatting stuff, rather than re-write the wheel completely.
    Easy? Not really, I agree. Do-able? Yes.
    My perspective may be a bit warped as I have spent lots of years building "proper" templates in all Office apps and in more recent versions taking advantage of things like content controls (rather than fields) and building blocks. Cracking open the zip file of an office document and editing bits of the xml is not pretty, but the sort of thing I have sometimes had to do to see the underlying code and work around it (or to do things like replacing a company logo image in several places in a PowerPoint template with a new one).

    I think the thing with the Quote templates in CRM is one of those where once the penny drops as to the fundamental 'trick' to it, the details are easy. The formatting can still be a bit painful since it is back to old-school methods like aligning things to tabs rather than using tables, but the sample templates are a good start to see how this works.

    As for whether this is an end-user task, it may be that you have end-users who are more expert in Word than the IT / CRM team. I worked in the legal industry for several years, so again my perspective is skewed since the level of knowledge of using the features of an application like Word is typically much higher in that arena than is typical. In most industries I find that the technical team are often amongst the weakest in skills for using the software they deploy (like mechanics who can make or fix cars but are bad drivers).


    1. Yes, you might be right. I do like the normal mail-merge functionality though (using Excel + word) but I might only be scratching the surface. Looking forward to your post! Let me know and I will link to it!

  3. XperiDo by Invenso might just be what you're looking for. It's server-side (on premise or on Azure), powerful, and it doesn't use any MailMerge. Check out the teaser video on YouTube
    or the XperiDo website

  4. Hello Gustaf

    Do you have any product for Quoting Software which will enable to search and select Products from the Catalog and calculate the prices and revenue?

  5. CognosK: Well, CRM does most of that, and you can add additional functions yourself if you like. Otherwise QuickQuote from Experlogix is a Product I have heard many people like. I havn't tried it myself though.