Connections have been with Dynamics 365 (CRM) for quite a while, replacing the old Relationship Role function. Relationship Roles allowed a user to link Accounts, Contacts, and Opportunities together whereas Connections allow the user to link practically any record.
Like quite a few features in Dynamics 365 (CRM), Connections has not really changed since its inception. While very flexible, the big problem with Connections is they are not very intuitive.
In the above example, it is not immediately obvious to an end user who is the parent and who is the child.
Even in the view, things are not much better.
So what can be done to improve this?
A Better Approach
I cannot lay claim to coming up with this brilliant idea. That title goes to one of my clients’ business analysts. She had the idea of mixing things up a bit. What if we move the Connection Roles and record names around to read more like English. In the above example, we get:
All we have done is swapped the order of the Role and Name fields on the form and slightly adjusted the Role name. So now, instead of reading “Neil Benson, Child” (a harsh characterisation in my opinion), it reads “Child of Neil Benson” which is much better.
Similarly on the Connections grid, who is the child and who is the responsible parent becomes a lot clearer.
All of these changes are simple and transform the Connection into something much more intuitive to use.
What About Advanced Find?
Using Advanced Find to query Connections is never easy and this trick does not help with the deciphering of Connection (To/From) and Role(To/From). For this particular client our solution is to create a series of System Views which handle the Connection navigation and, with these, the users can extend them to address their queries.
In all my years of working with Connections, this simple trick had never occurred to me which shows the power fresh eyes bring to a solution. If you have a client working with Connections I strongly encourage you to implement this simple change. The creation and management of Connections will become simpler and the users will have less confusion about how the relationships work between parties.