NetworkView: The “Drop The Microphone” Moment For Any Demo

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A bit over a year ago I wrote my “Tools for an Awesome Demo” blog where I talked about some of the bits and pieces I use for my demos. There is one other tool I am starting to use more and more, so I thought I would also give it a review. This is Scott Durow’s NetworkView.

There is a part of me that is reluctant to do this review because NetworkView is such a powerful tool for demos that I want to keep it all for myself but it would be a disservice to Scott not to promote this great tool for anyone’s toolkit. Besides Scott is a top bloke, generous, smart and always smiling, so anything I can do to promote his gifts to the community is a pleasure.

What It Does

NetworkView fulfils the promise of the CRM login screen giving a network view of the relationships between your records.

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Primarily using Connections and ‘standard’ record relationships e.g. Account-Contact, it links together records and then displays them in its own window for you to manipulate (image courtesy of Scott’s blog.

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This is the part which is often missing in CRM systems: the ability to visualize the network of information which is contained within the CRM database. It is also something customers are appreciating more and more, thus the increased demand for such a tool.

How Is It Installed?

Installing it is insanely simple. Firstly you need to download two solution files:

  • Sparkle Xrm: A library for Dynamics CRM development also created by Scott.
  • NetworkView: The solution file that holds the NetworkView bit

Then you install them in the same order and you are done.

Where Do You See It In CRM?

NetworkView appears as a ‘Visualize’ button on Account record menus.

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Playing to his audience, I note that Scott has ‘Americanized’ the button dropping the English ‘s’ for the American ‘z’. I must admit I do the same in my blog so I cannot be too harsh on him.

Pressing it launches the NetworkView window.

Can I Modify the Behaviour?

In the latest version Scott has provided a Web Resource (dev1_/js/NetworkViewConfig_1033.js) which can be modified to change the behaviour. For example, this allows you to add custom entities into the visualisation.

What Could Be Improved?

The thing that first struck me was that the Visualize button was only available on the Account entity. It would be great if it was available on all of the usual suspects e.g. Contact, Opportunity, and Case. It might be possible to add a button in using the Ribbon Workbench but I have not tried.

The other thing which makes life tricky is the configuration file. Because the file is in jscript it is a royal pain to modify, especially if you have limited development skills or tools, like me. On more than one occasion, a missing comma (with the error insisting I was missing a bracket) has been my undoing.

Dynamics CRM Cat, also involved in the NetworkView project, has been able to see the error in my scripting ways in the past but we cannot all rely on her generosity. A front end to the configuration file would be awesome. This being said I can imagine it is a lot easier to ask for such a thing than it is to generate it so maybe a set of sample configuration snippets would be more practical.

Conclusions

While modifying it can be tricky, installation could not be simpler and it works out of the box with minimal fuss.

If you are looking to demo any kind of ‘stakeholder management system’ where the prospect has mentioned ‘seeing’ the connections between records, this is a must have. In one demo I was able to literally recreate a prospect’s network view which they provided as an example of what they wanted to see (yes, we won the work).

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